Thursday, April 15, 2010

Most wanted on May 10: An education president

By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:34:00 04/15/2010

Filed Under: Elections, Eleksyon 2010, Politics, Inquirer Politics

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines—While the Arroyo administration trumpets improvements in education as one of its major legacies, critics say it has actually deteriorated to a point where the Philippines now has fallen behind countries in Africa.

Former Education Undersecretary Jose Miguel Luz says it’s a case of “arrested development.”

“It’s flat. In this business, flat is not good. Going 1 or 2 percent up is not good. You’ve got to be going up 5, 8, or 10 percent,” says Luz, associate dean at the Asian Institute of Management’s Center for Development Management.

“In this business, if you are not getting better, you are falling farther and farther behind. And that’s the problem. When we compare ourselves to where we were and compare ourselves to our neighbors, we’re not getting better. They’re getting much better than us. They’re improving at a faster rate.”

Luz is one of the key advisers of Sen. Benigno Aquino III, the Liberal Party candidate for president in the May 10 elections. He has been on the forefront of a movement in the Philippines over the past dozen years to improve the quality of education—the main vehicle for social mobility among the large impoverished segment of the population that has little access to wealth, because of the failure of agrarian reform, or capital. His ideas are reflected in Aquino’s education program, regarded as one of the most progressive among the presidential candidates.

Kevin Watkins, the Paris-based director of the UN Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which examines annually progress toward internationally agreed goals in education, speaks of “neglect” when asked about Philippine education.

He says that the Philippine government’s spending on education is even less than half the national average for sub-Saharan Africa.

Intolerable inequalities

“To put it bluntly, the Philippines cannot afford to continue the policy of neglecting education and tolerating what are by any ethical standards intolerable inequalities,” Watkins says in response to questions e-mailed by the Inquirer.

“The Philippines currently spends just over 2 percent of national income on education. This compares with almost 4 percent in Indonesia and less than half the national average for sub-Saharan Africa,” he says.

“It goes without saying that spending more money on education is not an automatic route to success. But starving an underperforming education system of resources is not a good starting point for reforms aimed at strengthening quality, coverage and equity.”

Watkins says the slow progress stands in stark contrast to the advances in other areas, including nutrition and child health.

“Education should be at the top of the list of national priorities in the Philippines. Vital issues of social justice are at stake. The Philippine Constitution holds out the promise of a decent quality education as a birthright of citizenship,” he says.

Violation of basic rights

“Denying millions of kids an opportunity to realize their potential because they were born to poor parents is not just a violation of their basic rights, it is also a prescription for slow economic growth, weak employment creation, and social dislocation,” Watkins says.

The Arroyo administration claims that it has made progress, pointing to increased participation rates of elementary students and improved results in national achievement tests (NAT).

The total mean percentage score in the NAT has improved, says the Department of Education, from 54.66 percent in school year 2005 to 2006 to 59.94 percent in 2006-2007, 64.81 percent in 2007-2008, and 65.55 percent in 2008-2009.

For school years 2005-2006 to 2008-2009, Math improved from 53.66 percent to 67.37 percent; English, 54.05 percent to 61.81 percent; Science, 46.77 percent to 58.86 percent; Filipino, 60.68 percent to 71.90 percent; and Hekasi, 58.12 percent to 67.84 percent.

Testing review

However, Luz says some members of the academic community want to review the exams.

“There’s a group in UP (University of the Philippines) that had a proposal to evaluate the testing instrument to determine if the test was the same every year in terms of difficulty, complexity, and testing,” he says.

“There are those who say, from what they see, that the test is the same every year—we don’t know that for sure but there are speculations. Now, if you don’t change the test every year, as a teacher or as a school, you can start training students how to answer the test. You can just train the kids and it gets better and better.”

The participation rate—the ratio between the enrolment in the school-age range to the total population of that age range—for elementary had gone down from 87.11 percent in 2004-2005 to 85.12 percent in 2008-2009.

For high school, it went up from 59.97 percent in 2004-2005 to 60.74 percent in 2008-2009. This meant that 40 percent of students who should be in high school were not in school.

Is dropout rate dropping?

The dropout rate for elementary slightly improved from 6.98 percent in 2004-2005 to 6.02 percent in 2008-2009. For high school, it also slightly went down from 7.99 percent to 7.45 percent.

This refers to students who leave school during the school year as well as those who complete the grade/year level but fail to enrol in the next grade/year level the following year.

The completion rate, or the percentage of first year entrants in a level of education who complete the level in accordance with the required number of years of study, also improved in elementary, from 69.06 percent in 2004-2005 to 73.28 percent in 2008-2009.

For high school, it went up slightly from 72.38 percent to 75.24 percent. Nevertheless, these completion rates meant that for every 100 students that entered elementary and high school, about 25 did not finish their studies.

“Are the dropout rates being arrested? We don’t know because based on the graduation rates, it does not appear to be changing. One year it’s up a little bit; the next year it’s down a little bit,” Luz says. “So at the end of all of this, we’re not so sure that things are getting progressively better.”

Completion rate

Luz says that the completion rate of the Philippines was comparable with that of Taiwan and Korea back in the 1950s but this was no longer the case. “Today, Korea and Taiwan have almost universal completion for high school. So, they’ve really bypassed us. We’re not moving. That’s a problem.”

This apparent stagnation has led Watkins to say that the 1991 congressional commission finding that the quality of education in country was declining still rings true almost 20 years later.

“That would appear to be a fair assessment,” he says.

“The Philippines has still not achieved universal primary education. In fact, countries such as Zambia and Tanzania have now overtaken the Philippines in terms of net enrolment. In 2007, out-of-school numbers broke through the 1 million mark,” he says.

“Moreover, around one-quarter of the children entering school drop out before Grade 5. The proportion of children reaching Grade 5 has barely changed in the past decade. Enrolment rates in secondary education are also low, with 40 percent of the relevant age group being out of school.”

RP ranked 41st

Watkins says that in the 2003 TIMSS (Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study) assessment, the Philippines ranked 41 out of 45 countries. He says the Philippines was below Indonesia and Thailand for Grade 8 or secondary level; for Grade 4, the Philippines ranked 23 out of 27 countries.

Luz says that education reformers have noticed that the problem of dismal learning achievement in high school begins after Grade 3.

“The reason why we have poor achievement at the high school level is when kids come off Grade 3, they’re not still able to read. And if you can’t read at Grade 3, everything becomes remedial after that,” he says.

“And the remedial becomes worse and worse because if you spend half your year reviewing the previous year, you will only have half of the year left. The following year, you are already half way behind. So, every year, it gets worse and worse.”

Quality of teachers

Watkins says that the Philippines should also improve the training of its teachers while they are still in school.

“Of central importance is the poor quality of teaching, linked in turn to the inadequate recruitment of sufficiently qualified teachers and to a failure to train, support and motivate teachers. The passing rate for the licensure exam for new teachers has also declined,” he says.

Watkins says that several reports on Philippine education have “highlighted serious concerns over the quality of education, levels of learning achievement, access to schools, and teaching in an appropriate language.”

He also points out that “other problems are rooted in high levels of poverty and inequality.”

“Failure to tackle the underlying causes of the stark social disparities evident in the country is holding back progress in education, with damaging consequences for economic growth, poverty reduction and progress in health,” he says.

Watkins notes that children from the richest 20 percent of households get an average of 11 years in education compared to 6 years for the poorest 20 percent.

“This gap reflects the deep mark on the education system left by poverty,” he says. “Many children from poor households are either not entering school or dropping out because their parents cannot afford fees, because poverty drives children into child labor, or because the education on offer through the public system is of such poor quality as to prompt parents to withdraw their children from school.”

He also notes the “marked inequalities across regions” with fewer than 2 percent of 17-22 year olds in the National Capital Region having less than 4 years in school while this number goes up to over 8 percent for the Visayas and Davao.

Highest education poverty

The regions in the country with the highest “education poverty” (or the percentage of those aged 17-22 years old with less than 4 years of education) are the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (14.08 percent), the Zamboanga Peninsula (10.43 percent), Davao (9.35 percent), Mimaropa (9.30 percent), and Central Visayas (8.92 percent), according to Unesco.

“The public education system in the Philippines is clearly in need of increased investment, measures to strengthen quality, and a national drive to reduce inequalities,” Watkins says.

“Achieving greater equity in education will require a joined-up strategy with wider poverty reduction initiatives aimed at supporting livelihoods in remote regions, combating child labor, and addressing the problems faced by indigenous groups.”

Lessons from Brazil

Watkins says that lessons could be drawn from other countries that “have used social protection strategies like cash transfer programs and redistributive to weaken the effects of poverty on opportunities for education—Brazil stands out as one example.”

Luz says that while it takes about 10 years to see if educational reforms would really take hold and turn around a declining educational system, the next president should not hesitate to give his all because there is no other choice.

“The next president cannot say I won’t be around by then (after 10 years) so I won’t pay attention to it. You have no choice. You have to pay attention to it. That’s why we need an education president. There is no other choice.”

Original Story:

No comments:

Post a Comment