deadliest deadline

meandering thoughts on the beat

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

missed education

I haven’t been able to blog because of all the work that came my way. So my entry on the education problem in the country is actually a couple of weeks late. Better late than never. It is sad that media focuses on the problems of education only when school starts. But such is the nature of news and news organizations, they will only go with what is hot at any particular point in time. I for one would love see a constant coverage of education by media, in the same way that politics which actually has a smaller effect on the everyday life of Juan dela Cruz, has a stranglehold on headlines. Doing our special report on the problems of education and covering the education beat has opened my eyes to the various issues involved. These are some of the solutions I encountered that to my view makes a lot of sense. Increase spending – for the past few years, there has been a woeful underinvestment in education. The education budget for this year is a small increase, hardly 10 percent, from last year. If we want the budget to catch up with the shortages in resources, the budget should be at least twice that amount. Unfortunately, education does not seem to be a priority of this administration or those in the past. Increasing the spending for education will solve most of the problems of the system like lack of classrooms, teachers, etc. Rationalize the bureaucracy and decentralize – the Deped has the largest chunk of the bureaucracy. So the budget it gets is swallowed up just for salaries of around half a million teachers. But division superintendents and principals must be allowed some leeway to run their areas of jurisdiction without any encumbrance from the central office. There are a lot of creative people on these levels that have great ideas on how to run schools, especially with limited resources. We must allow them to do just that. Officials who cannot cope shouldn’t even be at their positions and must be replaced. Insulate the system from politics - there is already a roadmap for reforms in education. but there is a need for continuity. we cannot expect anything from a department secretary that stays for less than two years. Deped higher echelon must function as a team, as it did before. the secretary must be allowed to choose his team. i think its also a good way to keep corruption at bay. Involve local governments – from my point of view, local governments are involved but only up to distribution of freebies, like school supplies, uniforms, etc. After all, its makes for great photo opportunities. But what most officials do not realize is that it is not just a matter of throwing resources at their local school systems. They must also make their teachers accountable for the performance of their students. Continue lending support to their public schools with free school supplies, etc but tell the teachers that they must improved the performance scores of their students, or the freebies stop. Throw in a reduction of the teachers salaries (they get allowances after all) and things might happen. Involve the community – a teacher in Makati told me that most parents don’t care how well their children do in school. How a parent thinks this way is completely beyond me. Maybe they do not see that education is the path for a better life for their children at least. There should be a campaign to keep the children in school. Once the children stay in school, the system will also have to make sure the child studies in a comfortable environment conducive to learning. Focus on the teacher – the teacher is the key to it all. They are worth tons of reading materials. They are paid so low yet the output expected of them is so high. Closing the resource gaps will reduce class sizes so that they become more manageable. Teachers must be given more training and more incentive. Support initiatives from the private sector – this should also include the GASTPE program that buys seats in private schools for public school students. The recent outbursts at the president directed at Fe Hidalgo will do little to help the education sector directly. On the other hand, it has made the public more aware of the problem, if only for now. Government must get its priorities right in education. Otherwise, its all matter of making shortages disappear as if by magic. A few slight-of-hand tricks will never make the problem go away.

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