Reaching the academic top means fixing school problems from the ground up

Published June 25, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. recently made a comment, reminiscing the “glory days” of the Philippines when it comes to academics. With the still ongoing pandemic ravaging the country’s—the world’s, in fact—academic systems, such a call for improving the academic standing of Filipino learners is a welcome one.

In recent years, much has been said about the state of education in the country, with issues such as public school textbooks riddled with errors as well as international and regional academic rankings that place the Philippines in positions that leave much for improvement.

This does not, however, take away from the fact that there are individuals and institutions that perform quite well academically, recognized for achievements in various fields. These are testament to, perhaps, the inherent intellectual prowess of the Filipino. But, as the saying goes (and loosely translating it), talent is bested by effort—and adding to this, effort is more effective if the environment and the situation is more ideal.

Hence, the need for improving the academic situation of the country. It is an almost perennial pursuit, one that any well-meaning government should pursue with the sincerest of efforts and the most liberal of budgets. That there remains a more than palpable distinction between schools run privately and those managed by the government is one such situation that needs to be remedied. Public education, after all, should not seem like an academic disadvantage for a lack of a better option because it truly isn’t. How many of the country’s top minds today have a public education background? To say that there is a lot would be an understatement.

Still, this does not take away from the fact that there are many public schools that sorely lack modern or updated equipment.

There are public schools that do not have enough classrooms to cater to the number of learners enrolled. There are public schools where teachers lack the basic materials necessary for a smoother delivery of lectures. Perhaps it is time to de-romanticize the sad fact that Manila paper is still being used by many teachers—neither is this an example of being “ma-diskarte” (innovate).

In a strange sense, the learning-from-home setup (and now the hybrid one) was a welcome respite from the realities of public school education, realities that should not have been so in the first place. But now that restrictions are easing up and education is slowly returning to the way things were, albeit with face masks and isopropyl alcohols as souvenirs, the Department of Education must sooner than later face and change these sad realities.

In order for Filipino learners to reach the proverbial academic top, there is a need to improve education from the ground up.