Or, Greed Over Education
(This is actually my response to attybenji’s comment on Teachers, Don’t Leave Us Kids Alone!)
You may recall that Mrs. Arroyo refers to college education as the ‘great Filipino dream’. Indeed she’s right this time considering that, as the DepEd says, out of 10 students entering Grade 1, six will complete the elementary course, four will get through high school and two will enter college. If these two would finish college and if they would get a job is another story, or another dream!
The country is “on the verge of take off” Arroyo told us during her SONA 2005. And she talked about increased government spending on education for “better trained teachers in more classrooms; 30,000 additional classrooms and computer access to more than 3,000 high schools in the past four years; and a “healthy start” breakfast program for young schoolchildren.”
The truth is, the education sector continues to suffer from yearly budget cuts. The results are poor state of classrooms and school facilities and the severe shortage of teachers in public elementary and high schools nationwide.This is the worst crisis in public education. According to Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), in this school year, “classroom shortage is pegged at 57,930; teachers, 49,699; and desks and chairs, 3.48 million. Until now, 445 barangays (villages) in the country still have no elementary schools. Six municipalities still have no high school.” Based on these facts, I would rather say that the country is on the verge of a crash.
Education is supposed to narrow down social divide, hence foster social equality and justice. But it seems that in our country, the present state of education widens the “social scissor” ever more. A good education fosters social mobility, the absence of which fosters poverty and social alienation. And many of those who have made it through college have already left the country and many who are left at home are contemplating to leave, on the “verge of take off.” This is probably what Mrs. Arroyo meant. For as she said in her visit to Singapore in 2001, the Philippine economy will remain heavily dependent on Filipino overseas workers sending home some eight billion US dollars annually (stand of 2001). Last 2007, the OFW’s remittances amounted to about 14.7 billion dollars. Today, she still promote labor-export policy. Though the Philippine economy profits from these remittances, this kind of labor- policy is a clear sign of defeat on the part of the government, of failed politics and poor national housekeeping. It’s a proof of our third-world status. According to The International Monetary Fund, the Philippines is the third largest recipient of remittances among developing countries next to India and Mexico (World Economic Outlook Report in 2005). For Ninoy Aquino it is elusive justice after 25 years, for millions of young Filipinos it remains an elusive dream after twenty-one years of 1987 Constitution to go to college as unabated hikes in tuition- both in public and private colleges- continue to plague tertiary education due in part to the Education Act of 1982, particularly Sec. 42. Tuition and Other Fees.- “Each private school shall determine its rate of tuition and other school fees or charges. The rates and charges adopted by schools pursuant to this provision shall be collectible, and their application or use authorized, subject to rules and regulations promulgated by the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports”. This has led to continuous hikes in tuition.
The crisis in our public education is aggravated by the fact that the Arroyo’s education budget amounts only to two percent of the GDP, which does not even meet the minimum standard prescribed by UNESCO which is six per cent of GDP. This is certainly not in accordance with Article 14 of the Constitution which mandates the state to provide for the highest budgetary allocation for education. Arroyo spends very little for education, yet brags of “coffers” in her SONA 2008 filled with monetary reserves to meet the food and fuel crises and insists on rice rationing to feed the poor and malnourished pupils with her breakfast program, capitalizing on and misusing the result of the Asian Development Bank study that poor nutrition among children whittles down the IQ by 10 to 14 percent. This is nothing but deception of a bigger scale, opportunism and showmanship only, insulting the poor Filipino people and the OFW who send billions of dollars annually to the country. Arroyo is certainly not an educator but more of a politician from showbiz that brags than a graduate economist of reputable universities. This again is the logic of greed dominating education.
Given the present situation, it is indeed a great Filipino dream to study in college for millions of our young people. Arroyo is right this time. And for the tens of millions who are jobless, left alone without a future in their homeland and wanting to find a job abroad, the country is definitely on the “verge of a take-off” to Middle-East, Japan or the USA. Arroyo seems to be always right on things that should not be.