Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 15              May 19 - 25,  2002                     Quezon City, Philippines

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State of Education and the Pedagogy of Subjugation

How can a teacher explain the reality of widespread poverty in the midst of rich natural resources? How can a teacher discuss nationalism as the nation is gripped by fears of a U.S. permanent military presence? Even within the educational system, there are glaring contradictions that reflect the social irony of plenty for the few and misery for the many.


I learned our government must be strong,
It's always right and never wrong,
And that's what I learned in school today,
That's what I learned in school.

Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner
Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)

Education is said to be an important foundation for national development, but why is it not given the attention it deserves? Why does government continue to ignore the teacher's rights and welfare as age-old, education-related problems persist?

That education is inaccessible to many may be gleaned from official statistics. As of SY 2000-2001, preliminary data from the Department of Education (DepEd) show that the completion rate has been pegged at 66.13% (elementary) and 70.62% (secondary, based on First Year). (See Table 1)

Table 1: Selected Basic Education Data
SY 2000-2001 a/

  Elementary Secondary Total


7,509 47,793





















Public School Teachers b/




Participation Rate



Completion Rate



(based on Grade 1)
(based on First Year)

Dropout Rate



Achievement Rate
(mean percentage score or MPS)












Hekasi/Araling Panlipunan






Gross Teacher-Student Ratio



Source: Office of Planning Service, Department of Education
a/ preliminary data as of 31 August 2001
b/ not including laboratory schools

The table shows that out of 10 pupils, only seven can finish elementary education. And out of the seven, only five can finish secondary education. In other words, only half of those at the elementary level can graduate from high school.

This is the case even if 15.9 million students (or 88% of total enrolled elementary and high school students) go to public schools. Elementary and secondary public schools, which provide free tuition, account for 84% of total schools in the country.

Even if these public schools provide free tuition, parents or guardians cannot sustain the education of children due to low wages and high cost of living.

Indeed, there is a need to distinguish between free education and free tuition. Government may have been able to provide for the latter but parents or guardians still shoulder the daily expenses of children going to school.

As of April 2002, Bulatlat.com computations show that a family of six living in Metro Manila needs P530.01 to fulfill food and nonfood requirements for one day. In areas outside Metro Manila, daily cost of living for a family of six is pegged at P395.63 (agriculture) and P416.25 (non-agriculture).

This means that each month parents living in Metro Manila must have a combined income of at least P15,900.30 to survive. For agricultural and non-agricultural areas outside Metro Manila, the monthly family income must be at least P11,868.90 and P12,487.50 monthly, respectively. (See Table 2)


Table 2: Cost of Living
for a Family of Six
(as of April 2002)
  Daily Monthly
Philippines 434.67 13,040.10
Metro Manila 530.01 15,900.30
Areas outside Metro Manila


395.63 11,868.90


416.25 12,487.50
Bulatlat.com computation based on the
April 2002 consumer price index (CPI)
released by the National Statistics Office (NSO)

The current minimum wage rate cannot fulfill cost of living requirements. In Metro Manila, for example, the P280 daily minimum wage only translates to a monthly gross pay of P6,160.

A public school teacher with the position of Teacher 1 belongs to salary grade (SG) 10 and consequently receives a gross monthly salary of P9,939.30. This is clearly not enough to provide for the needs of a family with six members. The situation is even worse for a government employee who belongs to SG 1 since he or she only gets P5,082 monthly.

That teachers are overworked and underpaid may be proven by looking at the hard facts. School facilities are wanting due to the government's inadequate support for education.

The allocation for education (P102.8 billion) only accounts for 13% of the total national budget for the year 2002. Debt service, however, accounts for 27% with a whopping P210.5 billion.

Last year, there was a shortage of about 36,000 classrooms and 3.5 million desks nationwide. There are also 10,738 barangays (villages) that have incomplete elementary schools. The list of alarming education-related statistics is endless.

It is ironic that government is wont to blame teachers for the low achievement rate of elementary and high school students. The mean percentage score (MPS, or proportion of the number of correctly answered items to the total number of questions) is only pegged at 51.73 (elementary) and 53.39 (high school). (See Table 1)

However, should the teachers be blamed when they are doing their work under punishing conditions? Shouldn't government create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning by providing the necessary funds for the development of public schools and by ensuring just wages to teachers?

In the eyes of government, however, teachers and other workers do not need higher wages, among others. Although government has time and again declared “war against poverty,” its statistics does not at all reflect the real situation. Economic authorities believe that a person with only P37.87 can meet food and nonfood requirements in one day. Under its 2000 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) only 39.4% of Filipinos are considered “poor.”

Perpetuation of docility

It is in this light that one must analyze the kind of educational system that government wants to impose. At present, it is for the interest of government to maintain docility instead of vigilance among the country's youth who will eventually join the country's labor force.

In the final analysis, the Millennium Curriculum which government wants to impose next school year only seeks to perpetuate a social order mainly characterized by blind obedience to the powers-that-be. It promotes a pedagogy that subjugates instead of liberates.

The controversial integrated learning area has been euphemistically called MAKABAYAN (nationalist), but it is nothing but a hodge-podge of unrelated subjects geared toward, among others, reducing the number of textbooks and ensuring continued education even at a time of zero economic growth (i.e., which implies less budgetary allocation for education).

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has been consistent in its struggle for teachers' rights and welfare and quality education and has provided a comprehensive critique to the Millennium Curriculum.

It is not necessary to repeat what has been argued before. One only needs to remember that opposition to the Millennium Curriculum does not mean that the status quo must be protected.

Indeed, education can either be an instrument of liberation or subjugation. It can promote either "popular culture" characterized by obedience and conformity or "counter-culture" characterized by resistance and change.

Government has chosen the former, so it is up to concerned teachers to act and contend as they strive for an educational system that is nationalist, scientific and mass-oriented. Bulatlat.com

This article is based on the author's lecture entitled "Overview of the National Situation and the State of Education" before delegates to the Leadership Training Seminar sponsored by the Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) at the Strawberry Hall, Benguet State University, La Trinidad last May 13.

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