For the last six years, the dropout rate among pupils aged 12-15 has been steadier than the Kathniel fandom. Forty percent of elementary graduates abandon their chances of a high school diploma to either watch daytime animé Yakitate Japan desperately dubbed in Tagalog, or to give Nanay the much-needed hand at descaling and deboning kilo after kilo of bangus at the wet market. Loss of motivation and poverty are some of the factors that lead and, at times, force little Juan to drop out. Department of Education officials further attribute the accruing of dropouts to health conditions, school adjustment, and constant relocation of residence necessitating frequent school transfers.
Based on the validated results of doctoral theses and case studies of the academe, some of the reasons for dropping out of school were conclusively identified. Using my good ear to listen to some of my fellow students’ plight as well as my good eye to see the pangs of a tingi-tingi (retail) society, I discovered another reason. For most Filipinos, the diploma may be as valuable as Baguio gold, but the process of acquiring it—the process of education—remains scorned. We fell in love with the idea of education but there’s the reality of having to capitalize on it. If all universities were “Recto University,” then P300 will be all you need to succeed.
And that is why when Juan is fed up with chasing tuition, he’ll choose to have little Juan drop out and let the kid have a go at minimum-wage labor, and, in certain instances, illegitimately-less-than-minimum-wage labor. At least, little Juan will be earning for the table; he will be useful.
Economics coined the term “hyperbolic discounting” to encapsulate the scenario. Given two similar rewards, humans show a preference for one that arrives sooner rather than later. Would you prefer P100 today or P300 tomorrow? So, for a country that operates on isang kayod, isang tuka, subsistence level, most will probably choose the P100 hora mismo, right now. Most will probably choose to let their children drop out of school so the kids can start working to pay the (alternatively-jumpered) electric bills.
What little Juan will gain from staying in school and eventually completing a degree is the P300 for tomorrow. I argue then that education has been, since the first Filipino dropout, progressively surrendering to hyperbolic discounting. What can be better proof than our attitude toward its quality and reform? In the Philippines, we have a demeaning allotment of P6,650 per student per year. Thailand has P41,110. Singapore has P86,751. Japan is quite generous to its students with P240,975.
Also, it took us a world war and Charice Pempengco’s coming out to modify the obsolete curriculum. We were third to the last in the world to change the 10-year education system to K to 12. We’re the third most thick-skulled, next to Angola and Djbouti.
We value urgency. We value more what can give us the most immediate gratification. We are naturally afraid of taking risks and hesitant to invest big. This shows in the way we value education.
Education, whether we grow out of 1+1 Gwiyomi or not, will forever be an investment. Reimbursing education demands time and patience. It is a rule of nature that to earn massive profit, you must be prepared to make a massive investment. And this investment will only push through if we see the venture’s feasibility, if we truly see the value of education—so true that we wouldn’t mind the digits and the weeks of eating nothing but a gourmet combo of rice and rock salt.
This is also true for the eminent Juans wearing crisp barong. No amount of new subjects to be added to the curriculum or a thick compilation of memoranda from the DepEd or the Commission on Higher Education will be enough to institute education reform. Even immensely increasing the budget appropriation will be half-hearted. Valuing education precedes all of these.
Maria Reylan M. Garcia, 22, is a juris doctor student at the University of St. La Salle (Bacolod City). She is also a registered nurse.