“For poor students, education is their ticket out of poverty. But will their dreams come true under the destitute condition in their schools?” – Salinlahi
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – A child rights group said President Benigno S. Aquino III has been deaf and blind for four years to the real situation of public schools in the country, and has neglected the Filipino children’s right to education.
This glaring government negligence is reflected in the sentiments of public school children in a survey conducted by the Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns. Students decried the overcrowded classrooms and insufficient educational facilities and materials.
“To think that these are basic problems of the education system that government – from the past up to the present — has not addressed,” said Salinlahi secretary general Kharlo Manano, as he presented the result of their survey in the forum “Education for all: a myth or reality?”
The forum was held on July 9 at Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines-Diliman.
The survey had a total of 440 respondents in four schools in Metro Manila: 100 from the Batasan Hills National High School (BHNHS), 105 from the President Corazon Aquino Elementary School (PCAES), 105 from the Bagong Silang High School (BSHS) in Caloocan City and 130 from Tondo National High School (TNHS).
The first survey was conducted at the BHNHS on June 6 at PCAES on June 18, at BSHS on June 19 and at TNHS on June 20.
Manano said the survey result showed that students want Aquino and the DepEd to answer very basic school needs: to ensure that each student has the appropriate set of textbooks, construct more classrooms to address the overcrowding, repair dilapidated chairs and classrooms, and provide clean comfort rooms.
Contrary to Aquino’s claim that the government has addressed the classroom shortage for school year 2014-2015, the survey in the four schools showed otherwise.
Asked whether the proper ratio of 35 students per class was observed in their school, a large majority of the respondents answered “no” comprising 97 percent of respondents at the Tondo National High, 86 percent of the students in PCAES, 84 percent in BHNHS, 85 percent in BSHS.
Manano said some respondents in Batasan Hills National High School said that their classroom was even divided into two. “The students said a regular-sized classroom has as much as 80 students. To solve the overcrowding, the school administration put up a plywood divider to split the room. However, half of the room was filled by 60 students and the other half with the same number, or a total of 120 students in one classroom.”
“At the Pres. Corazon Aquino Elementary School, grade 1 pupils are cramped in a small classroom. Their desks are so close together, making it difficult to move around. At this age, children should have enough space to move around because they are still developing their motor skills,” Manano added.
Majority of the respondents in three schools said they do not have comfortable and well-ventilated classrooms: 80 percent of respondents in BHNHS, 67 percent in BSHS and 79 percent in TNHS. Respondents from Batasan Hills even said that “there is only one electric fan in the classroom.”
Manano said the respondents demand additional electric fans in the classroom.
Among the elementary students surveyed, 49 percent said they do not have comfortable classrooms.
“Having a good-sized classroom is one thing, whether students are comfortable is another,” Manano said. “We all know that if classrooms are not conducive to learning, students will not absorb their lessons.”
Shortage of books and lack of learning materials were also noted by the respondents. “The K to 12 program has been implemented but there are no books provided to teachers, let alone to the students,” Manano said.
The students surveyed said there are enough chairs in their schools. Manano said that while the student-to-chair ratio stands at one is to one, the chairs are already dilapidated.
Manano stressed that more basic than the change in curriculum, what the Filipino children need is a school that is conducive for learning to attain quality education.
“It is through education that children are honed to achieve what they want to become someday. For poor students, education is their ticket out of poverty. But will their dreams come true under the destitute condition in their schools?” Manano said.
Manano said the current educational system is failing to develop children and it even worsened under the Aquino government.
K to 12 program
Manao said they also asked the students on their thoughts about the K to 12 program. “They expressed their disappointment in the K to 12 program. One student said the government should address first the lack of classrooms, chairs and books before they implement the K to 12.”
Another student said the program is worthless. “Our money is just being wasted, address the shortages first.” One respondent said it is “just a burden to poor students.”
Manano said the students under K to 12 program have to photocopy teaching modules and the expense is shouldered by the parents.
John Vincent Diaz, 13, a grade 7 student of Bagong Silangan High School said life is very difficult these days and more families are in crisis due to the increasing prices of goods. “My mother and father are already trying to do everything they can to have food on our table.”
Alex Legaspi, a grade 7 teacher from Pinagbuhatan National High School and national council member of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) meanwhile said the DepEd may have patterned the K to 12 program from other countries, but it does not address the problems of the education system. He said the past presidents each have their own curriculum, and Aquino’s K to 12 is just one of the many.
“We are now seeing the consequences of the hasty implementation of the program,” Legaspi said.
Manano said the K to 12 program even did “more damage” as it was “arrogantly” implemented by the government. “The program only molds children and the youth to be subservient to the needs of foreign countries while adding two more years of burden to parents, students and teachers.”
Salinlahi called on the Aquino government through the DepEd to make public education genuinely free and accessible, and to scrap the K to 12 program.
“The government has the primary responsibility to provide for children’s right to education and should have heeded the demands of children and their families. But Pres. Aquino seemed unconcerned with the ugly truth about the Philippine education system. It is urgent for the people to collectively take action against Aquino’s neglect of children’s rights and welfare,” Manano added.