How overpopulation affects our educational system

Published December 7, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Rikki Mathay

THE RIGHT MOVE

RIKKI MATHAY

The global population exploded from one billion in 1800 to 7.9 billion in 2020 – not even counting the population boom during the pandemic lockdown.

Chatting with University of the Philippines president, Atty. Danilo Concepcion or DaniCon as he is better known, I found his point on how our country’s overpopulation has inevitably led to obstacles and predicaments in our educational system to be quite interesting. It was like a nudge for me to set my sights on a broader range of spectrum when discussing the problems besetting our country’s education.

With the seeming lack of funds allocated to our public school system, it seemed easier to put the blame on the more tangible problems as a result thereof, such as the lack of instructional materials, lack of classrooms, and even lack of teaching personnel. But if we examine the matter, overpopulation, as pointed out by DaniCon, is but one of the various societal matters that consequently affect our educational system as a whole.

More people mean an increased demand for food, water, and other necessities including healthcare, but rarely has education been brought to the forefront as another public necessity affected by a country’s overpopulation. It has led to higher incidents of environmental degradation, political conflicts, and other socio- economic risks, and given our nation’s funding capacity compared to first world countries’, has put us at the risk of not being able to address the educational needs of our youth. The more students our government has to provide for, the risk of not being able to provide them with the highest level of proficiency likewise increases. Instead of developing the students’ skills, public school educators are oftentimes left without a choice but to move on to the next batch of students waiting for their turn in schools. This puts our society in danger of producing less competent graduates in the long run.

Sadly, affording lower income students with proper education can get more challenging, as we see a correlation between population growth and educational issues. Countries like ours that experience population growth without substantial economic growth face the challenge of procuring the necessary funds and other resources to provide students with a well-rounded education.

We would need more teachers as our society gets populated with more school-age children. However, with the low salaries of public-school teachers, we are faced with yet another socio-economic issue which is brain drain as more of our professionals including teachers, seek better financial opportunities abroad. As for those who opt to stay in the country to teach, becoming overwhelmed with the workload of teaching several batches of students in the day is a reality.

These overwhelming situations are possibilities for teachers and students alike. In fact, when young children should be in their homes by nightfall, I was shocked the first time I saw young grade schoolers coming out from a public school at dinner time. Apparently, their classes end when young children should already have been home.

Then there is overcrowding in public school buildings. In fact, news of teachers conducting their classes under trees even right here in urbanized Metro Manila became viral a few years ago. As for those who stick to their designated classrooms despite the overcrowding, it must be considered how students will find difficulty learning as this scenario can cause a slew of negative feelings hindering them from even concentrating in class. Unfortunately, these negative emotions and attitudes toward schooling have been said to persist throughout a student’s life, resulting in reduced opportunities for that student to pursue college or other further education. And like a domino effect, this can lead to poverty situations in the future.

There really are several problems in the public educational system, but as DaniCon and I agree, our educational system is not faulty, but at worst, lacking. For me, Filipinos remain to be the smartest, or at the very least, the most resourceful people. Even the vendors and children we see in the streets, who may not have attended primary school, can find ways to converse with foreigners or even speak conversational English. But aside from the obvious economic issues, the problem of population growth and our education system needs to be acknowledged, studied, and rectified to give all our children- regardless of their social or financial status- the opportunity to actually have access to education, the resources to have it, and the want to pursue it.

 
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