Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The decline in quality of Philippine education

ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces
The Philippine Star

Our country’s educational system has undergone several stages of development from the pre-Spanish times and the American and Japanese colonization and occupation. Education during the early years of the pre-Spanish period was inadequate, suppressed, and controlled. Spanish missionaries served as instructors and education was religion-oriented. Only a privileged few, the elite, had access to education then but this was later liberalized through the enforcement of a decree which provided for the establishment of at least one primary school for boys and girls in each town.

During the period of American rule, beginning in 1898, English was introduced as the medium of instruction and a public school system modeled after the US school system was introduced. Several colleges and universities were established with the primary purpose of training teachers initially. Primary education through grade seven was funded by the government and free to all. Private universities and colleges were also established during this time. The relatively non-elitist system of higher education practiced during this period meant that access is practically available to everybody.

Because of the influence left by the United States on our educational system, our country has been regarded as a leader in the region with respect to achievements in education. Students from different countries were enrolled in our universities. Our economy then was second only to Japan and we were the envy of our Asian neighbors.

The quality of our education, theoretically, started its slow descent during the Marcos era. Widespread graft and corruption took its toll heavily on our economy. Because of the failing economy and lack of job opportunities then, our highly-educated workforce, including teachers, were left with no choice but to search for greener pastures in other countries. Teachers lacking the required specializations and experience were the ones left. Meanwhile, families unable to cope with increasing poverty, were forced to stop educating their children. Sadly, this has been the trend up to now.

Statistics show that our students consistently perform poorly in the National Admission Test or NAT; highlighting the current sorry state of education in our country. The NAT performance for school year 2005-2006 showed 54.66 percent and 44.33 percent average scores for sixth graders and senior high school students respectively. The students performed poorly in the three core disciplines – Math, Science, English, and also in Filipino and Hekasi (social studies, civics and geography). House Deputy Majority Leader Eduardo Gullas recently stated that at present, there are 23,866 lecturers in secondary levels teaching math and science subjects without the required specializations. In math alone, only 20 percent of these teachers took the subject as their major during college. A nationwide test also showed that most grade school and high school students only had 45 to 60 percent mastery levels of the core disciplines – way below the 75 percent minimum set by the Department of Education.

Our students today are going to be our country’s leaders tomorrow. We have to ensure that they get the kind of education that will prepare them for the challenges of the future. It is good that our government has identified the problems afflicting our educational system and are taking steps to address these. If we cannot do something about this, then our country’s competitiveness in an ever-increasing global community will eventually erode. As what Claude-Adrien Helvetius, a French philosopher, once said: "Education made us what we are."

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