by: Pathricia Ann V. Roxas
For the past decades, the education sector had been struggling with unresolved issues: lack of instructional materials, poorly paid but overworked teachers, lack of facilities, and in some instances, absence of schools in far flung areas. But in the 2013 State of the Nation Address (SONA), it can be remembered that President Benigno Aquino III stated that the goal of “raising the quality of learning so that our children can seize the opportunities now opening” has been accomplished. He even lauded education secretary Armin Luistro for successfully erasing some of the long-standing problems the sector faces.
During the first quarter of 2013, the backlogs in books and chairs inherited from the previous administration were erased, according to Department of Education (DepEd) reports. The department also reduced the 135, 847 shortage in sanitation facilities to 98, 196 and the 99, 628 deficiency of teachers to 11, 648. By February 2014, 66,813 classrooms were turned over to elementary and secondary public high erasing the 2010 shortage.
Inside the 309 billion peso 2014 budget for the DepEd is a 7.45 billion item intended to help families who are sending their children to private schools. In the latest government report, more than 800, 000 students in private school have been assisted by the Government Assistance for Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) program. The programs enables eligible students to pursue secondary schooling in private schools through a fixed annual subsidy covering tuition and other school fees.
However impressive the numbers are, the present and perceived situation of public education, shows otherwise.
When DepEd announced that the classroom shortages were resolved, many resort in disbelief. Students, teachers, and even school principals themselves have proven DepEd wrong. During the opening of classes last June 2, the number of students ranging from 50-80 per classroom attested the deceitful information, as overcrowding in schools is still synonymous to lack of classrooms and insufficient education budget.
Even with DepEd’s GASTPE, 30 to 40 percent of pupils earlier enrolled in private schools transfer to public schools due to the high cost of tuition and miscellaneous fees. This just proves that no scholarship or student loan will really make students finish studying and go up to college without spending so much.
“GASTPE is actually GASTOS. These dole-outs only show that DepEd and especially the Aquino government are saying that public education has not been funded well, and that to get the ‘quality education’ that parents want for their children, they may opt to go GASTPE for financial assistance,” National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) National President Sarah Elago said.
On the other hand, in line with the K-12 Program, CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 20, series of 2013, created a new General Education Curriculum (GEC) that reduces the number of units for General Education (GE) courses from 63 to 36. The memorandum became controversial as educators and advocates of Filipino and Philippine Literature have expressed anger over plans to drop the mandatory Filipino subjects in the revised general education (GE) curriculum.
One serious consequence of the policy is threatening the jobs of teachers. It will cause over 10,000 full-time and 20,000 part-time professors be displaced and lose their jobs or income, and until now, no concrete plans were administered by CHED on this matter.
Just as the present basic education difficulties require careful analysis and logical solutions, so do the problems confronting tertiary education. Prominent among the problems of higher education are quality and accessibility. Despite the decrease in quality, tuition and other fees continue to increase which makes higher education inaccessible for a large percentage of Filipino youths.
This veracity may not sound new to many. Despite receiving the highest budget among other departments, it is crucial to note that the increase remains grossly insufficient in addressing the needs of basic education. This insufficiency forces some State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) and other schools to pass the burden of making ends meet to the students and parents. Efforts exerted by the education department will remain unfelt unless genuine determination be intensified to make every Filipino youth believe that quality education is a right, not than a privilege.