PH education, lowest in Asean
Our Constitution affords education a top priority when it comes to public expenditures. Millions of our youth go through the nation’s public school system, the main beneficiary of government spending that was budgeted at close to P660 billion for this year. Of our 100,000,000 and counting population, about 40 percent are of school age, making our country one of the youngest, demographically speaking, in Asean if not the world. But the products of the system do not appear to reflect the amount that has been devoted to education. To begin with, perhaps because this amount has been pitifully small for the needs of our growing population.
Recently, our educational system has been in the news, but for the wrong reasons. A review of 79 high- and middle-income countries conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in its Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), showed the Philippines dead last in terms of reading literacy, and second to the last in math and science. The top-notcher was China in all three subjects. The United States came in No. 13, the United Kingdom, No. 14 and Japan, No. 15. In that list, we ate the dust of our Asean neighbors — Singapore was No. 2, Malaysia No. 56, Brunei No. 59, Thailand No. 66, and Indonesia No. 72. In reading, four of five Filipino students were categorized as Level 2, or “low performers” in the subject. According to OECD standards, Level 2 students have a proficiency that is “too low to enable them to participate effectively and productively in everyday life.”That same review shows government spending per student was lowest in the Philippines as compared to other participating countries.
There’s a lot to be said for having a large young segment in our society. In a few years’ time, they will hopefully take up the cudgels for senior citizens like me, and other persons exiting the workforce. Say what you will about the problems posed by a “population explosion,”but all these new job entrants are necessary if we are to fund the pensions of retirees.
The Pisa study should motivate our government policymakers in education to shore up our public school system, to produce competent graduates worthy of employment. Public education is a shadow of its former self during the Commonwealth period. The reverse is true today: The best and the brightest flock to local private schools; those with money to spend go overseas for an American or European diploma (which may or may not be that much better than what is available locally).
What is particularly surprising in the latest assessment is the poor showing in reading literacy. Our workers have always been extolled for their proficiency in English, supposedly a strength of our people. There was a time, Filipinos spoke English better than most of our neighbors in the region. This is no longer the case. Clearly, the education system has not been able to keep up with the rest of the world. Complacency is part of the problem. It is long past the hour for us to take a serious look at the quality of Philippine education.
There is a mismatch between the requirements of our economy and the students our educational system produces. There is an oversupply in some areas, and a dearth in others. We have more clerks than we need; not enough carpenters, electricians and plumbers. We have too many lawyers and doctors; too few engineers, mathematicians and scientists.
Private education caters to all sectors of society. It is no longer the preserve of the rich, or even the middle class. But whether a diploma translates into a steady, well-paying job at home, remains elusive. In fact, many graduates find better-paying jobs abroad. Many of our youth as OFWs, are not just our hope for the future, but also the remitters shoring up our international balance of payments.
To address the shortcomings of our educational system, the parents of school-going children should exercise primordial responsibility and control. The munificent words of the Constitution notwithstanding, it’s Mom and Dad who must show their kids the way. All the teachers, classrooms, field trips and school projects in the world will not make a difference if the parents don’t lend a guiding hand. If they are to succeed, our children must be strongly encouraged to study and develop good habits of discipline. The school system alone, cannot do this.
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