Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Why Is There A Classroom Shortage?

The Dept. of Education's 2007 Fact Sheet provides a nice set of statistics on the basic education sector in the Philippines, composed of the public and private schools at the elementary and secondary school levels. The Fact Sheet shows that there are about 11.9 million students in 37,161 public elementary schools and just under 1 million in 4,788 private schools. In secondary school there are 4.9 million enrolled at 4915 public high schools and about 1.3 million in 3,372 private high schools. School started for the public schools Monday this week with the same or worse classroom shortage as last year, estimated to be between 6,000 and 25,000.

Even though the Public Schools are tuition-free, almost every family that can afford it will send the children to private schools usually run by religious congregations dedicated to high quality academic and moral education. At the elementary level the ratio of enrollment is 12 to 1 in favor of the government-run schools. But in high school that same ratio is down to 5 to 1. And the overwhelming majority of college students graduate from private colleges and universities.

No one denies the fact that public schools in the Philippines at the grade school and high school levels offer a generally low quality of education, typified by 99% failure rates in national elementary and secondary achievement tests, and cellar-dweller status in international tests like Timss (Trends in Mathematics and Science Study), which show academic achievement levels similar to those of Botswana and Somalia and way behind its Asian neighbors.

Some people attribute the sorry state of the public schools to a perpetual lack of government funding. Even though education gets the biggest single chunk of the 2007 budget at 162 billion pesos, for example it is claimed that the National Government is violating a Constitutional mandate to give education the highest budgetary priority. (How can the government possibly spend more on education? Why, stop paying the national debt, some demand. But I doubt that such Balashubasism would offer any permanent relief.


WHY IS THERE A CLASSROOM SHORTAGE? There IS a classroom shortage in the public schools. It is so severe a shortage that the Education department (DepEd) has adopted a double and even triple shift system at many schools, where classes are held in hallways and comfort rooms or outdoors under the mango trees. The Mass Media usually has a field day with true horror stories about the sorry state of public education in the Philippines during Back to School Season, which started yesterday, in case you didn't notice.

But WHY is there a classroom shortage at all?
I am amazed few people ever make the following simple observation. In 2007, the DepEd Budget totals 134.8 billion pesos, broken down as follows:
Salaries (109.8 billion)
Operating Expenses (17.4 billion)
Capital Expenses (3.4 billion)
GASTPE (2.4 billion)
School Building Program (1.8 billion)
There is a classroom shortage NOT because we don't have the money but because we are spending it on something else -- paying the teachers to teach the material in the Basic Education Curriculum. What most people do not realize is that there are billions upon billions of pesos allocated to non-essential subjects in the BEC.

Most people are not aware of this connection between the classroom shortage and the basic education curriculum until they realize the Curriculum is a Spending Program, a shopping list of educational subjects with a definite allocation of classroom time, and therefore budgetary resources.

My basic assertion here is that if we wanted to double, triple or even quintuple that measly School Building Program, the money is there in just a few minutes of some non-essential subject in the curriculum probably in the badly congested Makabayan super subject.

In yesterday's front page headline article, Education Crisis Deepens the Philippine Daily Innuendo mournfully gives the impression that the public schools have removed Music and Physical Education subjects:
Music is gone

Concert pianist Reynaldo Reyes, 73, grieves that music has been effectively scrapped from the school curriculum. He is critical of how music had been taught, which essentially was about organizing rondallas. But, he says, “at least, it was there.”

The little time allowed for Physical Education has deprived the nation of a pool of athletes to choose from in fielding representatives to the Asian Games and the Olympics.

For a nation that has been left behind by its neighbors in manufacturing and agriculture, its services sector should be strengthened, experts say. But when call centers can only accept 10 applicants out of 100, there is something terribly wrong somewhere.
But take a look at the Basic Education Curriculum:

2007 BASIC
EDUCATION
CURRICULUM

1

2

3

4

5

6

I

II

III

IV

Medium
of
Instruction

ENGLISH

500

500

500

400

400

400

300

300

300

300

English

FILIPINO

400

400

400

300

300

300

200

200

200

200

Filipino

MATHEMATICS

400

400

400

300

300

300

300

300

300

300

English

SCIENCE

0**

0**

200

300

300

300

400

400

400

400

English

MAKABAYAN
Sibika at Kultura (1-2)
Heograpiya, Kasaysayan (3-6)
Araling Panlipunan (I-IV)

300

300

300

150

150

150

240

240

240

240

Filipino

MAKABAYAN
Musika, Sining, PE, Health
(Mapeh)

--

--

--

100

100

100

240

240

240

240

Filipino

MAKABAYAN
Teknolohiya, Pangkabuhayan
at Ekonomiya (TLE)

--

--

--

150

150

150

240

240

240

240

Filipino

MAKABAYAN
Edukasyon sa Kagandahang Asal at
Wastong Pag-uugali (EKAWP)

--

--

--

100

100

120

120

120

180

180

Filipino

TOTAL MINUTES PER WEEK

1500

1500

1700

1800

1800

1800

2100

2100

2100

2100

134.71
Billion Pesos


Pop Quiz: How many billions of pesos are allocated in the budget for the" curricular subjects" of Music and PE ins 2007?

The PDI article neglects to mention that the REASON call centers and other BPO industry players can't hire enough graduates of Philippine public schools is their utter lack of English language proficiency, once a strength now apparently a deficiency of the Filipino work force. Well no wonder, when you have Pundit-Professors and National Artists, (many of whom make a living using English), excoriating and opposing the plans of the Deped to increase English language teaching!

Last year, I also posted this analysis of the Values Education (EKAWP) portion of this Basic Education Curriculum as a Flagrant Violation of the Non-Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Here is the history of the BEC according to PDI:
n 2002, the late Education Secretary Raul Roco implemented a new basic curriculum. A product of years of study, it whittled down 10 subjects taught in the public schools to five -- English, Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and Filipino.

Art, Music, History, Physical Education and Culture were crammed under Social Studies.

CRAMMED is right!

The DepEd has never carried out the firm recommendations of the Timss study group to DECONGEST national education curricula and concentrate limited resources on the teaching of the basics in math, science and language. That means hiring not only the best human resources at competitive salaries, but providing a roof over the children and teacher's heads, give them desks and computers and textbooks. Instead we are allocating almost 90% of the budget to salaries and benefits for the largest labor union cum centralized bureaucracy in the Government, who, surprise surprise! also run the national and local elections as Boards of Election Inspectors!

That there IS a classroom shortage is therefore APPALLING but NOT BAFFLING!

1 comment:

Tiki said...

As I understand it, even if you lessen the number of subjects, you have to increase the amount of time spent to teach each subject. And if teachers are paid monthly, then you should have a streamlined BEC but the same salary costs. In that case, you still won't have enough money to build more classrooms.

On top of that, we have a national class size of around 60, which means you have to double the number of teachers, and that will add to your salary costs. There are other shortages, but in general, Tan is right.