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.
By CARL MARC
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.
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
SCHOOL OPENING: 22 million
the high school coeds in photo taken in Manila
begin trekking back to school this week.
Photo by Aubrey SC
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
The same problems continue to haunt the education sector year after year.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2004 Bulatlat
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