Friday, July 6, 2007

Education Excellence Part II

The Educational Revolution
Let's Start the Revolution of the Filipino Youth Part VI

After the relatively peaceful elections last May 14, the government now has to return to the important and integral task of nation-building. Foremost of which is to finally overhaul the current education set up in the country. Last June 4, almost 20 million elementary and high school students trooped to public and private educational institutions in the country. It is a considerable number which accounts for almost a quarter of our country's overall population at 23%. They will be the future leaders and workers of the country and it is very important rather vital that they be equipped with the proper knowledge and skills they need not only to succeed in college but also when they already start working.

The task at hand is Herculean in nature. In recent studies by the DepEd, only 6 out of every 1,000 elementary pupils are actually prepared to enter high school. This is an astonishing 6% success rate. The Philippines is also No. 41 in Science and No. 42 inn Mathematics among a study of 45 countries. In Science, Filipino students edged out only their counterparts from Botswana, Ghana and South Africa. The country spends on average only $64 (equivalent of P3,000) per high school student per year compared to the US which spends $7,500 (P345,000) per student per year and Singapore which spends $5,000 (P230,000). (exchange rate pegged at $1 = P46)

The backlog today in terms of classroom shortage is pegged at 45,775 by Secretary Lapus. As an analogy, he says "Every minute, 4 babies are born, it's like every 10 minutes, I'm short of 1 classroom." The Department of Education receives only 12% of the national budget.

Check this statistics out:

41,949: Number of public and private elementary schools for academic year 2005-2006
8,287: Number of public and private secondary schools (AY 2005-2006)
12.9 million: Total enrollment in the elementary level in both public and private schools (AY 2005-2006)
6.26 million: Total secondary enrollment in public and private schools (AY 2005-2006)\
126,141: Number of teachers in public secondary schools (AY 2005-2006)
10.57%: Dropout rate among elementary pupils
15.81%: Dropout rate among high school students
1:35 => Teacher-pupil ration in elementary school
1:39 => Teacher-pupil ration in secondary school

15.09 million: Total Philippine population aged 15-24 (based on 2000 census data)
737,959: Total number of illiterate Filipinos aged 15-24 (2000)
123,000: Total number of overseas Filipino workers aged 15-24 (2004)
1.2 billion: Total number of young people worldwide (2005)
Over 200 million: Number of young people living in poverty world wide (2005)
130 million: Number of illiterate youths worldwide (2005)
10 million: Number of young people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide (2005)
2.2 million: Number of young people living with HIV/AIDS in Asia (2005)

Sources: Department of Education, National Statistics Office, United Nations World Youth Report (2005)

The country cannot afford to lose this education challenge. As China, India, Vietnam and other emerging economies play catch up to the standards of the US and European Union, we are at the tail end of this game. A very serious or if I could say the most serious 5 to 10 year-plan for a comprehensive education program should be pursued by the current administration and the 14th Congress. They should at the very least come up with a viable program before the year ends in time for a short review and its eventual implementation for the next school year of 2008-2009.

Aside from providing a healthcare system avaible to all, a healthy economy leading to hihgher household incomes, sustainable environment and adequate infrastructure, the single biggest challenge for the Philippine government today is educating the future leaders and workforce of the country.

An education program involves providing for adequate classrooms and facilities in over 49,000 barangays around the country, competent teachers with competitive compensation packages, up to date and error free textbooks and learning materials, and other learning resources including teacher trainings and development programs. It also involves connecting all public schools whether in elementary, secondary or tertiary levels to the Internet. The Internet in this day and age has become an indispensible tool for students of all ages in the area of learning.

In order for us to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (UN MDGs), as set by our agreements in the United Nations, we must exert all efforts to achieve 100% universal primary education for all by 2015. We are on target with this goal, having reached 97% completion last year based on World Bank data. But this statistic belies the truth that the quality of education in the country has considerably deteriorated especially as regards the public school system. It will take a partnership among all stakeholders to win this war against ignorance. The private sector which includes the business sector and all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) should seriously collaborate with the Department of Education, their respective local government units and other groups on this front including the process of establishing public accountability systems which the Institute for Solidary in Asia under Jesus Estanislas has started. Businesses need globally competitive workers to survive the onslaught of cheaper goods from China and to ensure that Philippine businesses continue to thrive in the modern age of the Internet and rapid globalization.

NGOs need to band together with businesses and the government to ensure that a real solution is taken and will be implemented without the usual shady deals and government inefficiencies. As we have seen in the last elections, civil society groups or NGOs can greatly help in making sure that government processes are transparent and above-board. What we need is a PPCRV/NAMFREL/LENTE type of watchdog in the education sector, which will monitor the implementation of a comprehensive education program that should arm the student population today with skills and knowledge they truly need to succeed tomorrow.

Entrepreneurship education is also one area where the business sector can take a lead. Jose "Joey" Concepcion Jr.'s GoNegosyo Project and Caravan Series, and Vivienne Tan's Entrepreneurs School of Asia (ESA) are shining examples of how Philippine companies and Filipino businessmen can help solve the country's education challenges.

The challenge is no easy task. Each Filipino student should be enjoined to take this matter seriously. We cannot afford to be the world's domestic helper forever. We only have one counry, one home, and it is here in the 7,100 islands located south of Taiwan in the South China Sea.

I suggest a three-pronged approach, the government will take care of the basic infrastructure needed: the classroo, the facilities, the teachers and the salaries. The business sector can lead in the training and development of the teachers. While the NGOs will become watchdogs in monitoring completion, success rates, and in presenting rooms for improvements.

Training should also be in collaboration with the different government agencies and should follow a national plan where we need to have competence and skills in order to succeed. For example, English skills are every important for today's workforce and in particular, for the call centers/BPO companies. The BPO industry will thus take the lead in the development of resource materials and training programs for teachers to ensure students are really taught great English skills.

Furthermore, the NGOs in focusing their efforts at monitoring the progress of the government should establish timelines and work constructively with all government agencies. Classroom shortages should be addressed first and NGOs in each city or province will have to link up with the local government units LGUs to plan out how these facilities will be built: timeline, budgets, etc. Monthly status reports will then be available through the Internet for all to see.

On another front, parents should be encouraged as well to take an active role in their children's education. This initiative can also be strengthened by truly supporting the work of the Commission on Audit and other agencies like the Department of Justice, the Ombudsman, and the Civil Service Commission to bring corrupt officals to jail or give punishment where it is due. A special court can be created to handle all education-related cases especially dealing with local city officials and Department of Education officials involved in anomalous transactions regarding the funds meant for education.

In the end, success has to be measured based on the quality of graduates our country produces and not only the quantity or numbers. The curriculum may also need to be revised to keep it up to date with current modes of teaching and new learning strategies.

I still believe like our National Hero Jose Rizal that our country's future is at stake here, in this challenge for education reform. If we, as a nation, as a people, do not act today to change the country's ways for the better, then it will endanger our children's and grandchildren's futures. This challenge is no longer just a problem, it will be the greatest mistake we can make as a people today.

It would take just a few years and innovative partnerships to reverse the tide, Filipinos will have to step up or we will be stepped upon. For the young leaders of the country today especially those in government, this is my challenge to you: "Our country's future is in your hands, what do you intend to do? What are you prepared to do?" I believe whether you're a young congressman, a young mayor, a young councilor, a young clerk of court - you can still do something to help.

Let's Start the Revolution of the Filipino Youth!

Sabi ni Rizal "Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan."
Sabi ko naman "Edukasyon ang pag-asa ng kabataan."


The technology sector can also explore opportunities to harness the power of SMS and other mobile service technologies in the fight to improve the quality of education in the country. It could be a mobile education framework (MEF) where companies can develop application programs on teaching elementary students spelling, vocabulary, and other lessons through the use of their mobile phones or their parents' mobile phones. It could be a mobile education network (MEN) where collaboration between schools, universities, NGOs, and students are made possible by technologies provided by communications or telecom companies (or it can mean mobile service linkages). And it could be a mobile education platform (MEP) where college students are exposed to mobile gaming application of their chosen fields like Accounting where games on solving financial statement problems can be developed to stimulate further growth and learning.

Mobile phones have become an integral part of Filipino life today, with over 40 million subscribers per data from Globe Telecom and Smart Communications. That means almost half of our country's population have access to mobile phone and corresponding technologies. It is important then to tap this technologies for the advancement of education in the country.

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