PH education in crisis

Published October 9, 2018, 12:05 AM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza & Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat



Atty. Joey D. Lina Former Senator
Atty. Joey D. Lina
Former Senator

Just as tributes were being showered last week on teachers in celebration of World Teachers’ Day that also marked the culmination of National Teachers’ Month here, controversies were brewing over the red-tagging of Metro Manila schools and over test questions that went viral as it put police in a bad light.

A top military official, Brig. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., disclosed that the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army have “infiltrated” 18 private and public colleges and universities to recruit students in a plot to oust President Duterte and overthrow government.

“What the students don’t know is that if the CPP wins in this campaign, they will implement what’s in the CPP Constitution and Programs Version 2016 published May 2018, Article 3, Section 7, which is to establish a ‘proletarian dictatorship’,” Parlade explained as he reminded people of the atrocities of Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge when communist dictator Pol Pot purged professionals and intellectuals.

Warning that CPP founder Jose Maria Sison “will be the reincarnation of Polpot, worse than Mao,” Parlade appealed to parents to “be watchful of what their schools are doing to their children.”

While the Armed Forces of the Philippines has all the right to reveal information it supposedly gathered from intelligence efforts considering it is the AFP’s job to protect government and the people, some feel the schools should not have been named unless absolutely necessary as it might bring undue danger to students and their school.

There is nothing wrong if students air their grievances and point out what’s wrong in society and the way government is being run. Such are even necessary in attaining critical thinking which is essential for the youth to excel in today’s world. But what is deemed wrong and criminal is when the acts become seditious and when students engage in overt efforts to topple the duly-constituted government.

On the issue of test questions that gave a negative portrayal of the typical policeman, the DepEd is correct in reminding teachers to promote positive values instead of negativity in young minds.

A controversy arose when a test paper supposedly for Grade 2 pupils became viral when it depicted the typical policeman to be “fat and with bulging stomachs, abusive, and engaged in extrajudicial killings.”

What is obviously wrong in the test questions is the way a sweeping generalization was made to portray the police negatively. While it cannot be denied that some law enforcers have made mistakes, even deliberately, with innocent lives so many times in the past, making a sweeping portrayal is simply not right. And do very young students in their formative years really have to be exposed to such negativity at such stage in their lives?

While the controversies over red-baiting and negative test questions are disturbing, what many consider more disturbing are issues over poor quality of education, the low proficiency of some teachers on what they’re supposed to teach, and the dismal results of Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) for a decade now.

There’s no doubt teachers are heroes. Countless stories abound on the sacrifices of many teachers in public schools of very poor communities—how they go out of their way to ensure their pupils keep coming back to their classrooms and don’t go astray, how some even share their food or their money to help students who go to class hungry, how teachers endure untold hardships just to teach in far-flung areas.

But grim realities have to be told. A study of the Philippine Business for Education (PBED) showed that since 2009, LET passing rate of teachers averaged only 31 percent, way below government’s 53 percent target passing rate, and “behind the average passing rate of those who took up medicine, the sciences, maritime, engineering, accountancy and agriculture.”

“Pag mahina, mag titser na lang (If one cannot excel, just be a teacher)” was how the teaching profession is being viewed lately, according to PBED executive director Lovelaine Basillote who lamented such mindset tends to undermine the prestige of the teaching profession.

She said that “for the period 2005 to 2009 covering 10 LETs, 154 teacher education institutions (TEIs) produced no licensed teachers.” Also, in 2010, 35 percent of TEIs, roughly 900 institutions, did not produce a single passer. Poor quality of TEIs leads to poor quality of teachers, resulting in poor quality of education. In 2014, PBED revealed that a general aptitude test administered among college freshmen who were mostly graduates of public schools “found that only 3 percent were ready for college.”

To improve teaching quality, PBED proposes a more stringent admission requirement – only those in the top 20 percent of a graduating class should be admitted to the teachers’ course. And licensure examinees who fail thrice should undergo mandatory review. Also, the efficient use of funds for teachers’ training must be pursued, amid a utilization rate of only 51 percent in 2016.

As education is key to success in life, quality of education can determine quality of life. Improving quality of Philippine education is imperative indeed.

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