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Volume IV,  Number 15              May 16 - 22, 2004            Quezon City, Philippines


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DepEd Using Wrong Solution to Wrong Problem

An elementary school diploma is not enough for those who intend to enroll in public high schools.  They still have to hurdle another obstacle on May 24 – the High School Readiness Test.


The High School Readiness Test is scheduled on May 24. According to the Department of Education (DepEd), its objective is to “enhance the capacity of public school entrants to derive maximum benefits from the First Year curriculum.”

Grade VI graduates who get low grades from this test will be made to go through a Bridge Program in English, Science and Mathematics which will be implemented starting schoolyear 2004-2005. In other words, they need to pass this program first before entering First Year High School effective this school year.

According to its concept paper, the Bridge Program “addresses the learning gaps of high school entrants as evidenced by their low performance in National Diagnostic Tests. The results of these tests reveal the need for mastery of basic concepts and fundamental skills in English, Science and Mathematics.”

Aside from Science and Mathematics, the administration’s priority is improving the students’ command of the English language. If the administration is serious in improving the communication processes within the country, wouldn’t it be better to focus on the development of Filipino as the national language? Added to this, studies conducted by the UP Integrated School have shown that mastery of Filipino enhances the learning capacities of students in grasping and mastering concepts and fundamental skills.

Notwithstanding the past results of the National Diagnostic Tests, the inclusion of English in the Bridge Program is directly related to the policy statements of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo that English should be the primary medium of instruction.

Lack of preparation

The DepEd claims that the planning for the Bridge Program took two years. However, the DepEd Memorandum No. 147 which announced the implementation of the Bridge Program was released only last March 18. In another memorandum (i.e., DepEd Memorandum No. 165 dated April 2, 2004), the training for teachers and facilitators under the Bridge Program was conducted last April 12-16 (for Luzon-based teachers) and April 19-23 (for Visayas and Mindanao-based teachers).

The preparation for teachers who are involved in the Bridge Program is too short. Can five days of training provide the necessary knowledge in remedial classes for the entire schoolyear? Even if the teachers already have experience in teaching the three subjects, the remedial classes are still different in terms of nature and orientation. Students who are under such classes are most likely slow learners, thus the need for teachers to be creative in their approach and methodology. A five-day training seminar cannot provide the standards for teaching remedial classes.

Analyzing the rationale

The lack in preparation is just one of the many issues against the Bridge Program. There is also a need to analyze the rationale behind the Bridge Program.

The problem in student competencies cannot be merely attributed to a lack in the number of years in elementary education.  It is a result of factors ranging from inadequacies in teacher training to the meager budget earmarked by government for education leading to gross shortages in classrooms, books, and learning materials.  At best, the Bridge Program is a palliative measure, which does not address the crisis in the public school system.

For the parents of students under the Bridge Program, this is an additional expense. Instead of sending their children to school for only four years, there will be an additional one year. Given the high cost of living, public school education is still expensive since the administration only shoulders the tuition of students. The parents still have to provide for their children’s daily allowance and other school-related needs. 

Furthermore, what will happen to those who will be part of the Bridge Program and will still fail the High School Readiness Test in the future?  Inadequacies in learning the fundamentals being taught in six years of elementary education cannot be covered by another year of remedial classes.  The Bridge Program will benefit only those who are in the borderline.  But what will happen with the majority of students who fail to grasp and master the basic concepts and fundamental skills?

In the final analysis, one cannot help but think that this is a way for the DepEd to lessen the number of students who will go to public high schools. Given the dwindling budget for education, it is in the administration’s interest to decrease the enrolment in order to save more.

It may be recalled that in schoolyear 2001-2002, there were 4.5 million high school students in public schools while those in private schools numbered 1.2 million.

In the past, DepEd officials stressed that parents who do not want their children to take the High School Readiness Test may just send them to private schools. Of course, given the latter’s high cost of tuition and other expenses, this is impractical for those belonging to poor families.

Re-enacted budget

There is also the issue of the re-enacted budget for the year 2004 and even DepEd officials admit that “a re-enacted budget robs our people of much-needed additional resources as far as Education is concerned.”

Due to the administration’s decision to merely reprise the 2003 appropriations for this year, the DepEd lost P4 billion which is earmarked for, among others, building 2,500 new classrooms, scholarship for 200,000 deserving students enrolled in private schools, 10,000 new teacher items and 1,666 principal items.

Indeed, there is a reason for the High School Readiness Test on May 24 which explains the haphazard manner in which it was organized. Bulatlat.com

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