Sunday, January 2, 2011

Education's Big Budget and Even Bigger Agenda

For fiscal year 2011 the Dept. of Education gets a budget of over 207 billion pesos,  a substantial increase of 19% over 2010, and a signal that the Aquino administration intends to fulfill campaign promises to fix perennial problems in public education left unsolved by Gloria Arroyo.   These include the need for over 152,500 more classrooms and twice the current number of half a million teachers, in order to achieve more effective class sizes and student to teacher ratios of about 25:1.

But these logistical and human resource problems have plagued the public schools since before xPGMA's time.  That they have been treated merely as a resource allocation matter bespeaks of the overall lack of vision about the role of education in national development. What ails Philppine education is of a more systemic and structural nature where we are trying to cram 13 or 14 years worth of study in ten years.

Thus, there is the ambitious plan to expand the current ten year public education program to thirteen years by installing universal kindergarten for five year olds, prior to the current six year Elementary school program,  and a  two-year "Senior High School" at the end of the present 4 year Secondary school program.  Deped's K12 Discussion Paper contains the details of this proposed expansion of the public school system.  A successful implementation would bring the Philippines up to the present international standard of a 13-14 year public school system before College education.  PH would be the last to do so in the region.

Deped Secretary Armin Luistro laid out the overall Education Agenda in a First Hundred Days Message last month.

(1) the 12-year basic education cycle,   
(2) universal preschooling for all,
(3) Madaris Education,
(4) technical vocational education,
(5) “Every Child a Reader” by Grade 1,
(6) Science and Math proficiency,
(7) assistance to private schools as essential partners in basic education,
(8) rationalization of the medium of instruction,
(9) quality textbooks, and 
(10) partnering with Local Governments to build years more schools.
Each item above represents the material for an active public debate and discussion for years to come.

Universal Kindergarten or pre-school for five year olds is reportedly set for inauguration in the 2011-2012 school year.  The public should be interested and involved in the development of the academic and activity package of Kindergarten, since the critical nature of such early childhood education has become widely recognized.  In my opinion Universal Kindergarten can be the proper antidote to an early childhood education regime completely dominated by religious indoctrination of defenseless human minds.

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