March 30, 2010
“The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.”
– Article XIV, Section 1
1987 Philippine Constitution
More than two decades ago, the so-called constitutionalists crafted a provision, giving ALL Filipino citizens access – oh, THE right – to QUALITY education. Every person might deem the words in Article XIV music to the ears as it gives each and every Juan dela Cruz the birthright to be properly educated.
Yet, 23 years after, our educational system is in disarray. Dropout rates are soaring, the lack of resources continues to hamper the delivery of quality education and the gap between Filipino students and the rest of the world widens by the minute.
It is election season and again, it is “high time” for politicians, especially presidential candidates, to make promises here and there in improving the quality of education for Filipinos.
One said that he will add another year in college for our students to be able to cope with other countries. The other stated that we should make pre-school compulsory, as it prepares children for life in grade school.
Whatever it is that they want to add or subtract, the first things that the next president of the Philippines should do are to multiply the budget allotted to education and divide the corruption that is the perennial impediment for the proper conduct of education in the country.
While the United States has allotted around Php 2.1 trillion (which is, actually, way bigger than the Philippines’ total budget of Php 1.514 trillion) for its Department of Education alone, our country has reserved merely Php 159.28 billion for all levels of education.
Likewise, the “Pearl of the Orient” has used only 3.1% of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for education, mediocre even in Southeast Asian terms, surpassing only the similarly impoverished countries of Indonesia (1.2%), Cambodia (1.8%) and Laos (2.8%). Meanwhile, the small nation of Brunei spends 9.1% of its GDP on the intellectual development of its citizens.
This almost total neglect of Article XIV, Section 1 has led to the Philippines’ poor performance in academics compared to other countries.
In the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), our country ranked 42nd in 45 nations in the Science aptitude test while finishing 41st in Mathematics in the company of African states Botswana, Ghana, South Africa and Morocco. On the other hand, our neighbors Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea topped the study.
Corrupted books, noodles
Actually, more than a hundred billion pesos for our education could somewhat suffice giving every Filipino student a decent education. The sad thing, however, is that the measly budget our government allots for education more often than not goes straight to the pocket of certain officials, who value self-ambition than national interest.
The Department of Education (DepEd) has been beset by corruption issues that have undoubtedly left a negative mark on the once-venerated institution. Yes, the DepEd was chosen the Least Corrupt Government Agency (with its former Secretary Jesli Lapus being selected as the Least Corrupt Cabinet Secretary) in a Pulse Asia survey last year. But until it gets rid of grumblings in topics like tainted text books, overpriced noodles, and red-tape, the department would definitely not be able to get out of the rut where it’s in.
Well, what do you expect from a country wherein government agencies are rated by its level of corruption?
Not too late
As HARD as it may seem right now, I believe that there is still hope for our dysfunctional educational system. Major tweaks in its organization and a leader with a clear vision of the future and an understanding of what is needed to be done would surely help this cause.
What we can do as students is to do our job, to study well and to inspire others to put education as their priority. It is true that education could be this planet’s greatest social equalizer.
As one presidential candidate has envisioned, “a college graduate in a family would be enough to lift one out of poverty.”