By: Dr. Renato G. Mabunga

On Accessibility and Affordability:

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Various studies on the current student dropout rates show that of the 10 pupils entering grade 1, 66% would eventually finish grade six; 43% would graduate high school; and, only 20% would successfully finished college.  Of the statistics, there is a stark 80% of the 55 million considered out of school youth or 57% unable to fully access the right to education in the Philippine today.   One major reason for this is poverty.

The latest report released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) pegged the Philippine poverty incidence at 20.9% in 2009.[i]  In such situation, a Filipino needs Php974 monthly to meet his/her food needs and Php1,403 to stay out of poverty; a family of six has a daily and monthly requirement of Php277 and 8,421, respectively.  For the National Capital Region (NCR) however, a family of 6 needs to earn Php9,901 monthly or Php326 daily to live above the poverty threshold.  This means that the government demands each Filipino to live with Php41.25 a day.  This computation is based on the Refined Official Estimation Methodology series of 2006 as demanded by the Executive Order 352.  This methodology defines poverty threshold, as the cost of minimum basic needs, food and non-food; and, the ‘poor’ is as those whose income fall below the official poverty threshold defined by the government.  In April 2011, the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey revealed, “some 20.5 percent of Filipinos or about 4.1 million families are going hungry while more Filipinos are considering themselves poor”[ii].  A family of six in the NCR with a monthly  minimum wage of Php11,076 (Php404 minimum wage + Php22 ECOLA as approved in May 2011 x 26 working days) will spend almost 64% for food alone and the remaining 36% will be subdivided among healthcare, rentals (including housing), water, electricity, clothing and education among others.  It was estimated that in the first quarter of 2011, 51% of the population considered themselves poor.  Though basic education is provided free, essential needs such as food, shelter, clothing plus transportation and other incremental expenses in schools made it unaffordable for many.

Another issue on the accessibility of right is the number and location of schools.  The Department of Education reported to have almost covered all municipalities and barangays in the whole archipelago with 55,260[iii] elementary and secondary schools both public and private.  The disparity in number between the two is highlighted with the gap of 34,462 schools from 44,846 elementary schools to 10,384 high schools both private and public for the school year 2009-2010.  This is despite the officially reported teacher-pupil/student/room ratio of 1 to 36 and 1 to 38 respectively, which according to the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) is actually 1 to 45 and 1 to 60 ratio for school year 2010-11.  No wonder that in Metro Manila alone, three shifting of classes are done in a day to rationalize the lack of schools/classrooms, teaching personnel, and accommodate large number of pupils and students.

In the 2011 budget allocation, the government vows to construct school buildings and classrooms with P12.4 billion under DepEd’s; while, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) asserts, the country needs additional 61,343 classrooms to accommodate more than 21 million students this year.  Last November 3, 2011, the National Statistics Office (NSO) stated that there are 6.24 million Out-of-School-Youth in the country in 2010 whose age ranges from six to 24 years old.[iv]  The survey pointed to the high cost of education and the lack of interest in learning as the main reasons.

On Quality Education:

There are three perennial problems confronting the Philippine education system when it comes to provision of quality education, namely: teachers, classrooms and textbooks.

The September 2010 records of the Department of Education shows 500,596 teachers employed in Public schools around the country.  Each of whom receives a monthly pay of P 17,099 starting June 2011 which includes the third tranche of the P6,500 total pay increase (released in four installments) approved during the Arroyo administration, according to TDC.[v]  But even with the latest pay hike, teachers could hardly feel relief after monthly deductions incurred through the years of living below poverty line.  As Congressman Antonio Tinio of Teachers’ Partylist representative puts it, “current teachers’ pay does not ensure a decent standard of living for themselves and their families”.  It is estimated that a family living wage in NCR is P957/day or P21,054 monthly.[vi]

Filipinos are known to work comfortably well with children.  This shared cultural value is best exemplified by teachers’ dedication in the formation of their pupils and students.  It fulfills them to see their students learning and provides them a strong sense of continuing commitment to make all ends meet as they cope-up with the heavy workload and government’s neglect.  It is this shared value which moved the then Secretary of Education Florencio Abad to conclude that the teachers are the Philippines’ secret gem[vii]. They are the country’s vanguard in developing “human personality and individual talent, a sense of dignity and self-worth, and mental and physical ability.”[viii]  It is however unfortunate that the long overdue attention to the developments of teachers has impacted the quality of education in the Philippines today.

At present, a Filipino teacher is handling a class of 60 to 70 students in an average of two shifting a day.  This is way beyond the ideal teacher-student ratio of 1:25 or 1:40 government’s official standard, and, far worst to ensure a suitable condition for learning.  Daily realities in schools are cramped classrooms and makeshift classes in open spaces or gyms.  Unnecessary noises and commotions not only distract the attention of learners, they hardly make the instructions audible.  Teachers are forced to shout and exert much effort to retain control of the situation.  Handling big classes and taking charge of two or more sections and subjects also overstretched the competencies of teachers.   It demands from teachers, lengthy preparation and mastery of topics.  In totality, the condition poses problems in the management of subjects and the total development of students.  Thus, there is an urgent need for teachers’ continuing trainings and best compensation package. Benjo Basas, Chairperson of TDC “believes that in order to attract the best available talents in the profession, teachers must be paid enough to live a decent and dignified life… education reform measures would fail without seriously considering the welfare of the teachers.[ix]

The non-prioritization of teachers’ basic needs also mirrors the need for facilities to ensure best condition conducive for learning.  These are classrooms, chairs, instructional materials, water and sanitation, up-to-date facilities among others.  In the latest estimates of the Department of Education, there is a shortage of 66,800 classrooms for the school year 2011-2012 based on 1:40 teacher-student ratio.[x]  This is an increase of more than 26% from last year’s 52,660.  School year 2010-2011 estimates the need for 3.48 million chairs, 113,951 water and sanitation facilities.  Provision of these facilities for education is very crucial in ensuring quality education.

Adding to the dismal situation in the Philippine education system is the lack of textbooks.  DepEd (SY 2010-2011) estimates 34.7 million textbook deficiency for 23.43 million students of which 86% are in the public school system.  A study conducted by a team of professors from the University of the Philippines-Diliman also noted major errors in current textbooks, which accordingly were evaluated by the Instructional Materials Council Secretariat (IMCS).   IMCS are supposed to evaluate manuscripts before they are published.  DepEd explains that lapses in the evaluation is primarily a result of the Republic Act 8047 or The Book Publishing industry Act of 1996 which abolished the capacity of the department to produce and print their own textbook for school use.  It paved way to bidding process by publishing companies which according to Socorro Pilor, Director of IMCS, have poor quality and questionable authors’ capabilities.  In her response to Dr. Dennis Gonzales, chairperson of the National Book Development Board (NBDB) on the proposed removal of textbook-evaluation function from IMCS, she opined that the problem of error-riddled textbooks is far deeper than the secretariat.  She said; “the quality of textbooks used in both public and private school systems is a reflection of the quality of authors and the publishing industry… [if they] are well-equipped and capable and… have competent staff… there may not even the need to have manuscripts undergo the rigorous content evaluation process.”[xi]  Professor Maria Serena Diokno of UP-Diliman however, suggested, “The government should set up a body composed of specialists from the various disciplines and teachers from the ground that would formulate the curriculum and review the textbooks.”[xii]

(To be continued…)

(2011 Right to Education Situation: Philippines (1st of 3 series)

[i] Dr. Romulo A. Virola. 2009 Official Poverty Statistics (Powerpoint presentation). National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). February 8, 2011.

[ii] GMA News. SWS Survey: Hunger up to 20.5%; Poverty Rises to 51%. April 8, 2011.

[iii] Department of Education. Factsheet: Basic Education Statistics. September 23, 2010.

[iv] National Statistics Office. 2010 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (APIS). November 2, 2011.

[v] Philippine Daily Inquirer. June 2, 2011.

[vii] Florencio Abad. The State of Affairs of Philippine Basic Education and the Direction of the Present DepED Leadership.

[viii] Defining the Right to Education.

[ix] Philippine Daily Inquirer. Latest Pay Hike No Relief for Public School Teachers. June 2, 2011.

[x] Department of Education. Press Release, October 14, 2011.

[xi] Socorro Pilor. IMCS Response to NBDB Chair’s Message re: Textbook Quality for the Next President. May 10 2010.

[xii] Philip Tubeza. Erroneous Textbooks Still Rated Perfect by DepEd. Philippine Daily Inquirer June 21, 2010.