The regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will go down in history as among the worst in terms of providing education. While dropout rates are common in other presidencies, it was only under Arroyo that the dropout rates for elementary and high school surpassed 10 and 15 percent respectively.
By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
MANILA – With only a year left before it presumably ends its term, the regime of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is certain to go down in history as among the most divisive, the most scandal-plagued and the most repressive.
It will also earn the distinction of having had the highest dropout rates in recent memory.
“The Arroyo years are characterized, among other things, by unprecedented dropout rates,” said Antonio Tinio, chairman of Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT). These rates, he said, “were not seen during the terms of previous presidents.”
During the terms of past presidents”, enrolment rates were at least able to catch up with population growth,” Tinio added. “Under the Arroyo presidency, that is no longer the case.”
Data from the Department of Education (DepEd) show that the highest elementary dropout rate for the period 1990-2000 was 8.01 percent, which was recorded in 1996. The highest secondary dropout rate for the same period was 10.81 percent, recorded in 1999.
These figures, however, were surpassed under the Arroyo regime, particularly during school year 2005-2006. The dropout rates for that year were 10.57 percent for elementary and 15.81 percent for high school.
It was only under the Arroyo presidency that the dropout rates for the elementary and secondary levels surpassed 10 and 15 percent, respectively.
A recent fact sheet from the DepEd places the 2007-2008 dropout rates at 6 percent for the elementary level and 7.45 percent for the secondary level. Education Secretary Jesli Lapus has himself admitted in several media interviews that while there has been a “significant drop” in dropout rates, “the figures are still high.”
While there are indeed reductions in dropout rates from 2005 to 2008, the numbers have yet to return to their 1990 levels. The lowest dropout rates between 1990 and 2008 were registered in 1990, with 1.65 percent for elementary and 5.88 percent for high school.
“The main reason (for the dropout rates) is poverty,” Tinio said. “This is proof that Filipino families sunk deeper into poverty during Arroyo’s presidency. Arroyo’s presidency was marked by frequent increases in the prices of basic goods and services, the imposition of the Restructured Value-Added Tax (RVAT), and a rise in joblessness. All that, as well as the effects of the crisis in agriculture resulting from liberalization – all those have led to drops in enrolment.”
The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (Unesco) recommends that each country spend the equivalent of at least six percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education. Based on the 2008/2009 Philippine Human Development Report, education spending in the Philippines amounts to the equivalent of less than 3 percent of the country’s GDP.
Education is recognized as a fundamental right under the Constitution, which states that “the State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”
Tinio criticized the Arroyo administration for reinforcing the educational system’s colonial orientation, through the implementation of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), also known as the Millennium Curriculum.
Tinio said the 2002 BEC places a disproportionate emphasis on English, Mathematics, and Science as the core subjects. “This is in line with the promotion of labor export and business processoutsourcing,” he said.