presidentiables stand on improving philippine education

THE COUNTRY’S spending for education as a percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) is shrinking compared with those of other countries in the region. Partly for this reason, the Philippines suffers from a shortage of classrooms even as participation rates deteriorate. The elementary-school participation rate dropped from 96.8 percent in school year 2000-2001 to 85.1 percent in 2008-2009, while the high-school participation rate slipped from 66.1 percent to 60.7 percent.

Academic performance in Science and Math among elementary and high school students remains dismal.

We can glean from the answers of the presidential candidates to the following questions how the next administration will address the challenge of improving Philippine education:

How will you arrest the declining school participation rates?

How will you solve the classroom shortage?

Will you increase the budget for education under your administration?

By how much?

How will you improve the quality of education in the country?
Are you in favor of an additional year (a total of 11 years—7 years elementary and 4 years high school) for basic education? Why? Why not?
What about teachers’ salaries?

Benigno Aquino III
Liberal Party

ONE OF THE REASONS FOR the decline in school participation is the poor health of pupils. The health program must be supplemented by a feeding program. But where do you get the money?

You build 40,000 schools or enroll about a million students in private schools. If you enroll the same class in a private school instead of building classrooms, chairs or blackboards the price difference is P100,000 per classroom, which can fund the feeding program.

The facilities are already there and the private schools become your partner in taking care of the overhead.

The ideal education budget is 5 percent (of GDP) but we are only around 3 percent today.

Before I spend money, I’ll make sure that I already have it. We’re targeting to increase the tax effort by 2 percentage points or about P150 billion, depending on the deficit that will be bequeathed to us.

And then you have P280 billion lost to corruption, which could have been used for policies, programs and projects.

Increasing the number of school years is also our position. The 10-year program is compounded by the fact that we have ‘‘shifting.” What was once eight hours a day of classes is now down to four hours.

And then the students are hard-pressed. I asked education officials during the budget hearings in the Senate because it was said that science and health concepts were being discussed [in the same period]. Does that mean they tackle three subjects in one sitting?

“Do [students] have this book called ‘English for You and Me?’ ” I asked. “Yes,” they replied. “Do you do this every year?” I said. “No, every five years,” they said. “How come after five years, you still come up with a book that has 500 errors?” I asked. They never gave a good answer.

On teachers’ salaries, we have the Salary Standardization Law-3 which the chief executive has to implement. At the same time, for the entire bureaucracy, you want the concept of meritocracy to be the prevailing mode governing promotion and increases. Interview by Philip Tubeza

JC de los Reyes
Ang Kapatiran

IMPROVEMENT IN EDUCATION as well as in the delivery of other basic public services rests largely on eradicating graft in government. This way more funds can be made available to address the need for more classrooms, teachers, books, an increase in teachers salaries, and more state universities.

Theodore Roosevelt said: “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” Hence, the Ang Kapatiran shall:

Build a nation of character and promote the integral development and total well-being of all Filipinos through values formation.

Discourage the glorification of sex and violence, pornography, dishonesty, vice, materialism and hedonism, and replace them with structures of virtue, peace, responsibility and achievement.

Actively promote responsible parenthood and natural family planning.

Encourage media to foster values that contribute to the formation of a national commitment that is maka-Diyos, maka-buhay, maka-bayan at maka-tao.

Promote the culture of life, peace, active nonviolence and progressive disarmament.

Declare as contrary to public policy, morals and interest, good customs and the common good the glorification of the culture of death and violence.

Enhance investments in human resource development, especially by strengthening education in the sciences, mathematics, engineering and English. Interview by Jerome Aning

Joseph Estrada
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino

CHILDREN STOP GOING TO school because of hunger. We have to ensure that there is enough food for our people.

Doesn’t the Department of Education have a feeding program? They give instant noodles to the children. But even the money for the noodles is stolen. It still boils down to food security and addressing corruption.

We will use the military’s engineering corps to help build classrooms, and give more freedom to women to plan their own family size.

Of course (I will raise the education budget). I gave the biggest per capita budget to education. You can check the records. During the first week of my administration, I raised the allowance of teachers.

I’m in favor of an additional year. The disparity between the rich and the poor continues to grow. The rich families are able to send their children to nursery, kindergarten. The children of the poor go directly to Grade 1. The children of the poor have no chance of competing. In San Juan (when I was mayor), I put up daycare centers that provided free preschool education to the children of the poor. Interview by Norman Bordadora

Richard Gordon

WE ARE GOING TO MAKE sure that our children will get the best in education. I want to attract better teachers by raising the monthly salary to P40,000. I want our children to get Kindle (a device that can store electronic versions of books and other references) in schools instead of error-ridden textbooks.

I will get the needed funds for these by imposing a 50-centavo tax on text. If we impose a tax on some 2 billion text messages sent every day, we can raise P365 billion in one year. That is the contribution of every Filipino, rich and poor, so that my maid’s son can have the same education as what my grandchildren have.

I will also subsidize the salaries of private schoolteachers as long as they show a good record. The fund will be administered by a health and education acceleration program. It is not really a tax but our contribution to education and health. If people discover that the text money goes to improve education, I’m sure they will text more.

I will use the P170 billion originally allocated to education (in the national budget) in improving classrooms and health. We will address the shortage of classrooms. This budget will also cover food in schools.

I agree to adding two years to basic education but not immediately because we will need more budget for that. But I’d like to do it within my first three years as President, especially if our tax on text will be successful.Interview by Edson C. Tandoc Jr.

Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal

I SUPPORT THE STRUGGLE FOR an educational system that is not only accessible and affordable to the great majority of the Filipino people, but also one that serves to enlighten them in nationalism and a spirit of selfless service to the country.

We need to support Philippine education by canceling at least P160 billion a year in unfair foreign debt and trade payments.

In this way, we will be able to provide free education in state-run preschools, elementary and high schools, as well as colleges and universities.

Funds will also go to the construction of more classrooms and other school facilities to give more substance to the democratic access of poor children to adequate education.

But beyond this, we need to provide more substance and depth to the education of young Filipinos in genuine nationalism.

This includes debunking the anti-Filipino, neo-liberal economic doctrines fostered by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank and other foreign vested interests, educating students about the hidden roots of underdevelopment through unequal trade, and inculcating in them a nationalist vision and mission.

I will also push for the production of textbooks on nationalist topics.

I will work for the raising of the Department of Science and Technology budget to over P75 billion, or at least 1 percent of the country’s GDP as recommended by Unesco to promote high-productivity jobs instead of low-productivity call-center jobs for college graduates.

I will raise the monthly salaries of public schoolteachers by at least P9,000 during a three-year period, or P3,000 immediately.

I will also establish a zero-interest lending fund for teachers. To enhance their health, I will reduce the student-teacher ratio and push for the enactment of a Magna Carta for public schoolteachers. Interview by Jerry Esplanada

Nicanor Perlas

IF STUDENTS ARE DROPPING out because they’re hungry, I will continue the Arroyo administration’s program of providing conditional cash transfer (to the poorest of the poor.) So food is free as long as students attend classes.

But the more important thing is to change the educational paradigm. Our education should not be shallow and backward. We’re only developing 2 of our 12 capacities as human beings: linguistic intelligence and logical-mathematical intelligence.

So even if you graduate from college, there is no capacity. For example, we’re having a lot of environmental problems because our naturalistic intelligence is not educated. We have a lot of corruption because our moral intelligence is not developed.

We also have to make education fun and creative for the young.

We set up a school together with some friends in Iloilo and 80 percent of the students are poor. There are no dropouts.

Most schools make the mistake of not using play as a methodology. But in fact, for a child, from age one to six, or preschool and kindergarten, the most effective way for him or her to learn is through play. If you keep using an intellectual approach, the kids will be bored to death. From 7 to 14, the main mode of education is artistic. So if you’re just there with an IQ approach, wala.

Decreasing the ratio of students per classroom can address the classroom shortage. But for me, this is the no-brainer side that you can do at the quantitative level, the infrastructure level. So, the hardware is there.

But I will focus on the software of education. Lack of classrooms is easier to address. Pupils can make their surroundings their classroom … Teacher training is also very important.

Yes, I will increase salaries, but it has to be connected to targets, outputs and performance.

Definitely, there will be an increase in the education budget … but it will have to be on the condition that there’s also a transformation of the quality of teachers and of institutions. Interview by DJ Yap

Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

WE WILL EXPAND THE COVerage of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program from 700,000 families to like a million. The main goal of the program is to send kids to school, rather than use them for work.

The classroom shortage will take some time to solve because of lack of funds. We lack about 20,000 to 30,000 classrooms, and about 8,000 to 9,000 school buildings. We could ask for donations from the private sector and make them tax deductible. We could also do distance learning.

Right now we can’t promise that we will increase the percentage share of the budget for education because all departments are stretched to the limit. What we can try is increase government revenues so we can adjust the share of education in the national budget.

To improve the quality of education, we will introduce literacy training in preschools through our barangay daycare workers and implement the Basic Education Reform Roadmap. We will also offer a student-loan program so schools can be reimbursed fully for the cost of education, and increase the share of bona fide masters degree and Ph.D. holders in research and development.

No choice (but to add one more year to basic education). Why? Because our curriculum is lacking, and we have to align ourselves with international standards. Assuming there’s no shifting of classes, 10 years is difficult. What more if it’s shifting? And the teachers will not have the time. Interview by TJ Burgonio

Eduardo Villanueva
Bangon Pilipinas

WE WILL TRY TO IMPLEment the Millennium Development Goal that says the education budget should be at least 6 percent of the GDP. Now it’s at 2.4 percent.

We’ll overhaul the education system so it can be functional. Where can you see a doctor studying to be a nurse or a botanist who works not in a laboratory but in a call center? We’ll also tackle the curriculum and textbook errors.

Every province should have a modern and well-equipped state university. We will give the provinces adequate budgets because I’m an educator by heart.

I used to be a regent at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines but I didn’t get a single centavo. That’s why from the very start my heart lies with state colleges and universities.

We’ll raise our teachers’ salaries. Our teachers are forced to have sidelines because their salaries are so low. We should also have medical insurance for them.

We can overhaul the education system because we’ll dismantle the apparatus of corruption and we have the formula to do it.

Let’s maximize the school calendar year and increase the hours and not the years because they have shortened the school hours due to lack of classrooms and teachers. They have also removed sports in elementary. In Bulacan, the number of drug addicts has increased because there is no more sports. That’s a blunder. So, I will reinstate sports in schools. Interview by Dona Pazzibugan

Manuel Villar
Nacionalista Party

AFFORDABLE EDUCATION IS the key to arresting the decline in school participation because socioeconomically disadvantaged students suffer from high dropout rates.

I will ensure that there will be sufficient funds to build more classrooms, especially in the countryside. One way to do it is to mandate that the pork barrel of congressmen and senators be used for public classrooms for one year.

The Constitution mandates the government to allocate the highest proportion of its budget to education. However, the Philippines still has one of the lowest budget allocations for education among Asean countries. So, increasing the budget for education is something that I would seriously look into.

We need to strictly apply standards of the education department in the allocation of teachers and depoliticize the teacher deployment process. We also need to continually assess teacher-training needs and improve the curricula.

My priority is to improve the quality of primary education and children’s readiness for learning upon entering Grade 1. It has been long established that the fastest learning curves for children are during the earliest years.

I filed a bill in the Senate that recommends higher salaries and benefits for teachers. If we are really serious about improving the quality of education, we should ensure that the teaching profession attract and retain highly qualified professionals through adequate remuneration and benefits. Interview by Michael Lim Ubac

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