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

Vol. V,    No. 17      June 5 - 11, 2005      Quezon City, Philippines











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Copyright 2004 Bulatlat


Back-to-School Woes Worst Ever
Per capita budget for education is P5,200 vs Japan’s P210,481, Thailand’s P46,314

The government has adopted a “business-as-usual” attitude in explaining preparations for the school opening. For progressive students and teachers, however, they will take the government to task for its abandonment of education as they provide an alternative analysis of the country’s educational system.


Some 22 million elementary and high school students are expected to go back to school on June 6, faced with recurring problems that beset the country’s educational system.

Education Secretary Florencio Abad said that the government is prepared for the school opening. At the same time, progressive students and teachers are also getting ready on Monday to present their alternative analysis of the state of education.

SCHOOL OPENING: 22 million students like
 the high school coeds in photo taken in Manila
begin trekking back to school this week.

Photo by Aubrey SC  Makilan

Government data show that 18 million students are enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools and only four million are in private schools.

The dismal state of classrooms and facilities and the severe shortage of teachers in public elementary and high schools nationwide say otherwise. No less than the Department of Education (DepEd) admitted that this school year, classroom shortage is pegged at 51,000; teachers, 27,000; and desks and chairs, five million.

The same problems continue to haunt the education sector year after year.

Worst ever

Cacai Vasquez, 16, an incoming senior at the Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo High School in Quezon City and chair of the high school chapter of the youth group Anakbayan, said that she expects the worst this school year. Instead of being excited about the opening of classes however Vasquez said that it would be another year of discomfort and dismay for public school students.

Inaasahan talaga naming mas malalala ngayon. Kung dati kulang na yung mga upuan, baka ngayon yung natitira sira na” (We are really expecting things would get worse this year. If last year there was already a shortage in chairs, we fear that the remaining few are already damaged), she lamented.

Vasquez said classroom chairs are on a “first come, first serve” basis, especially in a class of 55 students. “May experience ako dati sa school na sobrang dami namin sa loob ng classroom. Ideally 25 lang yung classroom size, pero pinagkakasya kaming 55 na estudyante. Yung building maliit at kulang sa classroom” (I experienced being in an overcrowded classroom. Ideally, the classroom size was only 25, but there were 55 students of us there. The building was small and lacked classrooms).

She complained that the classrooms were not only overcrowded but also poorly ventilated. “Mainit. Grabe talaga, para siyang oven toaster! Kay liit-liit ng room, dalawa lang ang bentilador na hindi pa gumagana ng maayos o minsan sira pa pareho. Hindi siya conducive for learning” (It was hot. It was so bad that we feel like we’re inside an oven toaster. The classroom is so small, there were only two electric fans that either do not function well or do not work at all. It’s not conducive for learning.), she said.

But Vasquez said the situation in other schools was even worse. In San Francisco High School in Quezon City, every classroom accommodates more than 70 students.

Kahit sa Ramon Magsaysay Cubao at sa Rizal High, yung mga schools na napuntahan ko, pati sa stairs may nagka-klase” (Even in Ramon Magsaysay Cubao [High School] and Rizal High [School] which I personally visited, classes are held on the stairs.), she narrated, she said, adding that classes are also held under a tree if there are no other spaces available in the school building.

The actual class size in Philippine public schools is 60 to 110. This pales in comparison to
Thailand (18), Malaysia (19), China (24), Taiwan (14), and Indonesia (22).

The shortages in classrooms and chairs worsened with the transfer of students from private to public schools. Many middle-income families that cannot afford the high tuition in private schools are transferring their children to the public schools, which offer free tuition and books.

The DepEd said that public schools nationwide are in decrepit conditions. Some 80 percent of them have no running water, 60 percent have no toilets, 40 percent have no ceilings and 50 percent have no electricity.

Meanwhile, Vasquez said that among the poorest high schools in Quezon City are Batasan National High School, Payatas High School, Culiat
High School, San Francisco High School and Balara High School.

Government neglect

Vasquez said that the huge reduction in the education budget is the main reason for the dismal state of public education in the country.

The DepEd’s budget for this year is P112.5 billion ($2.06 billion, based on an exchange rate of P54.49 per US dollar), almost P5 billion ($91.76 million) lower than previous year’s figures.

This year, education spending dropped to 14.9 percent of the national budget from 19.3 percent in 1997. On the other hand, government spending on debt payments shot up from 15.9 percent in 1997 to 33.2 percent of the national budget at present.

In addition, the country’s per capita budget for education is only P5,200 ($95.43). On the other hand, per capita budget for education in Australia amounts to P216,407 ($3,971.50); Japan, P210,481 ($3,862.74); Singapore, P85,997 ($1,578.22); Taiwan P56,969 ($1,045.49); and Thailand P46,314 ($849.95).

There are only 464 personal computers for the more than 13 million students scattered in 37,000 public elementary schools, or a ratio of 1:25,995. High school students, numbering above five million in 4,830 high schools have to share among themselves 45,221 PCs, or a ratio of 1:111.

Yung gobyerno mismo ang nagtutulak sa kabataan na huwag mag-aral” (The government itself is pushing the youth to stop studying),” Vasquez said. “Hindi mo naman masisisi yung mga estudyante na ayaw ng mag-aral lalo pa kung ganito yung kalagayan ng edukasyon sa bansa” (We can’t blame students if they want to stop studying especially with the current plight of education in the country).

Double shift class session opposed

Vasquez also chided the DepEd for increasing the maximum number of students per class from the current 56 to 65 and implementing the double shift class session in public schools this year.

She said the DepEd’s move does not address the real problems of the education and will only lead to further decline in the quality of education in public schools.

Vasquez added that while DepEd claims it will save a lot of money under the two-shift policy, the new scheme will not effectively teach students with the reduction of class hours.

Abad claims the education department would only need P1.7 billion ($31.2 million) to pay the honoraria of the teachers, some of whom would be taken from the private sector, compared to the P7 billion ($128.46 million) needed to construct 44,000 classrooms nationwide.

Recently, the
Philippines ranked 3rd from bottom among 54 countries in the International Mathematics for 13-year-old children. The country ranked lowest in the Asian region for the same test. Students answered only 50 percent of the national achievement test.

Teachers still miserable

“Apparently, nothing has actually changed,” retired elementary teacher Thelma Lazaro, 73, commented. Lazaro served for 37 years as a teacher in Montalban (now Rodriguez), Rizal.

Kulang pa rin sa classrooms. Kung dati, pinakamalaki na yung 75, ngayon may mga klase na umaabot na sa mahigit 100” (There is still shortage in classrooms. Before, the biggest class size was 75, but now, some classes even reach up to more than 100 students.), she said.

She said that students before were also asked to bring their own chairs due to lack of desks and chairs and were forced to hold their classes under the tree. “Matapos ang ilang dekada, mas lumala pa” (Decades have already passed, the situation became even worse).

Miserable pa ring maging teacher. Natural mas malaki na yung sweldo ngayon, kumpara sa natatanggap ko dati, pero pareho pa ring maliit. Dati napagkakasya pa namin, kasi mura lang ang pamasahe at bilihin dati, pero ngayon hindi ko na lang alam” (A teacher’s life is still miserable. Of course the salary today is bigger compared to what I was receiving before, but it is still small. Before we can still make do because the transportation fare and the prices of goods were cheaper, now I don’t know), Lazaro said.

A teacher’s starting salary is only P9,939 a month, a little higher than the minimum wage in Metro Manila. In April 2005, the family living wage in the latter – the amount needed to fulfill the needs of a family of six – was pegged at P618.09 ($11.34) daily or P18,542.70 ($340.30) monthly.

Because of low pay, teachers are forced to borrow money. The average loan of every teacher is P50,109 ($919.60), according to reports. The combined loans of teachers from Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) have already reached P15 billion ($275.28 million).

It does not come as a surprise therefore that some of the best teachers continue to migrate to other countries because of the prospects of higher salaries.

It is in this context that the Alliance of Concerned Teachers and militant student groups led by the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) are gearing up for massive protests this month to reiterate their call for P3,000 ($55.06) across the board salary hike for public school teachers and government employees and higher state subsidy for education. Bulatlat




© 2004 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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