By Renato G. Mabunga, Ph.D.

  

The 2011 Education Budget

Appropriate budget to fuel the implementation of Education agenda plan is crucial.  For this year’s appropriation, the DepEd is given P207 billion pesos.  This is 19% higher than the 2010’s 175 billion amount.  P12.4 billion of the budget pie is for the construction of school buildings; P1.8B needed to purchase 32.3 million textbooks;  P1.6B for hiring additional 10,000 teachers; P8.6b for scholarship, training grants and student loan programs under TESDA, CHED, DOST, and DepEd; P21million for Every Child a Reader Program (ECARP); P727.5M for science and mathematics equipments.[1]  Major intent of the allocation is to propel implementation of Aquino’s 10 Point Education reform which includes the universal kindergarten to achieve the “Education for All” commitment of the government by 2015.  The stress on kindergarten program for 5-year old toddlers in 2011 marks the groundwork for the K-12 project of DepEd.

Going deeper into the budget allocation vis-à-vis deficit in our education system, the current budget is still found wanting.  It hides under the pronouncements of ‘austerity measure’ and maximization of ‘meager resources’ to cover-up automatic appropriation amount for debt servicing.  More than thirty-seven percent (37.50%) of the total 2011 budget is allotted to pay the current P4.712trillion debt of the country (combined domestic and foreign).[2]  The budget for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) was cut by P367.2 million in 2011; DepEd school-building program was halved in 2011; it boast  of building 13,147 new classrooms for 2011 — yet the backlog of public school classrooms is some 113,000.[3]

Critiques suggest that Congress revisits the General Appropriation Act (GAA), scrap the automatic allotment for dept payment and channel the money for social services, instead.

Under the banner of ‘austerity measures’ the government embarks, through its Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2011-2016, Public-Private Partnership (PPP), in both infrastructure and social services, and Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) as major strategies to achieve inclusive growth.  While PPP in infrastructure and social services aimed at generating “high and sustained economic growth” and “equal access to development opportunities” respectively, CCT through its ‘Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program’ (4Ps) is thought as a “responsive and effective social safety nets”.  Accordingly, the expected growth is translated into reducing poverty and increasing employment.

Translated in the education sector, Education Secretary Armin Luistro insists on firming up more partnerships with the private sector.[4]  He recognizes the need that government alone is insufficient in catching up with the decades of neglect of the sector and DepEd alone cannot implement the Administration’s 10-point Education Agenda.  An Inter-Agency Task Force on K+12 composed of representatives from the executive and legislative branches in government is set up.  The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is tasked to support the education agenda through the provision of CCT grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14.  A child is entitled a P3,000 cash per school year or 10 months or P300/month for educational expenses. A maximum of three children per household is allowed.  To qualify for the educational cash grants, beneficiaries’ 3-5 year old children must attend day care or pre-school classes and 6-14 year old children must enrol in elementary or high school at least 85% of the time.

 

Conclusion:

The right to education is basic and indeed, it is for all.  This has prompted the United Nations through its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to prescribe the improvement of the quality of education by 2015.  It further sets a standard budget provision of at least 6% of the member-state’s Gross National Product (GNP) for the realization of the right to education.

Based on facts and data on Philippine education system, it is clear that the country logs behind the provision of accessible, affordable and quality education for all.  The question is, are we on the right tract this time?

Looking at P-Noy’s 10-point Education Reform Agenda at its face value, the plan layout is great.  Its goals echo the dream of every Filipino to rise above poverty through knowledge and skills development – culturally and socially acceptable and globally relevant.  To consider it at the present context however, would be a great challenge.

One, the government must lay down concrete working plans and detail out achievable targets in each phases as stepping-stones to the achievement of final goals.  Resources must be made available.  A unity of command must ensure that all related agencies of the executive department discharge of their duties in line with the achievement of the agenda while not losing sight of their mandate in the overall framework of the national government.  The legislative branch must be able to lend a hand in crafting needed laws and policies that would facilitate legal framework of the agenda implementation.

Two, corruption has become a culture in Philippine politics and bureaucracy.  This has made public service a flourishing business for individuals and clans.  Breaking down this culture is a must and yet a very painful process.  Expectedly, divisions and various political realignments would result from this cultural deconstruction to bring leaders to the very essence of public service.  The President cannot do this alone.  Politically, he would cling to his party and build up alliances on the grounds of concrete political platform.  But then again, are the political parties in the Philippines including emerging partylist mature enough in propelling good governance and public service?  There is a need to re-orient party formations as democratic expressions of governance.  It must be necessary upon any party accreditation their political platform as basis of party unity.

Three, much as it would like to be a participant to the achievement of worthy government agenda, the civil society remains largely an observer to the process.  There is much for the government to do to attract civil society participation.  Primarily, the government must learn to appreciate the role of civil society organizations (CSOs).  It must win them by not trying to co-opt them.  It must engage them on ideas, philosophies and practicalities of the emerging world and tap their expertise on various fields.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for one are swift to criticize government actions or inactions.  This is so because they carry with them experiences of people in the ground.  Intimidating, harassing and/or ignoring them are tantamount to building blockades for non-participation and non-cooperation for the general good.

Fourth, peoples’ welfare must always be center of the agenda.  What is good for them; what can make them better; what best their future generation can inherit from them.  The application of intergenerational law must serve as guide. Consideration of the world and environment must always be a part in planning for peoples’ future.  What best can an agenda be without the people and community being constant part of the process of consultation and decision-making?  Let the plans be the peoples’ agenda; where they identify with; own it; defend it and implement it with the government and CSOs at their side.

Fifth, the administration must wield enough political will.  Its decisions and actions must be empowered by the people and empower the people in return.  It must look beyond its term and set a national highway of progress and continuity. The Philippines must venture into a national strategic plan for the 21st century where the current framework constitution is a living guide.

With all the five basic elements in propelling and achieving goals, the 10-point Philippine Education Reform Agenda will have a future.  Can P-Noy administration face-up the challenge?  And, are the Filipinos ready for the future?

#######

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

2011 Right to Education Situation: Philippine (2nd of 3 part series)


[1] Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines.  Briefer on the President’s Budget Message for 2011.

[2] Freedom from Debt Coalition. Prospects under P-Noy: Decoding Aquino’s PDP. September 2011.

[3] Ibon News.  SONA 2010 vs. Performance: Facts and Figures. July 26. 2011.

[4] Department of Education. DepEd Welcomes Budget Increase; Focuses on Universal Kindergarten.  Press Release. January 3, 2011.

Advertisements