Here is another indication that the benefits of the 30-year record-high economic growth are not trickling down to the poor: up to 3.3 million children will be out of school this year, mostly due to poverty. This is the assessment of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers or ACT, which is calling for urgent intervention by the government to save millions of Filipino children from being deprived of proper education.
The Department of Education estimates that only about a million children will be unable to enroll this school year. But even that modest estimate is too much in a country where basic education is supposed to be free and compulsory, and where the Constitution provides that the lion’s share of the annual budget should go to education.
Though elementary and high school education is supposed to be free, parents still cannot afford the daily transportation fare, snacks and miscellaneous fees that they must shoulder for their children’s education. Sending a child to school also means one less helper in farms or in marginal means of livelihood.
ACT members say that the number of out-of-school youths aged 6 to 15 has jumped by a whopping 78 percent since 2002, from 1.86 million to 3.33 million last year. The teachers’ alliance is urging the government to expand its school feeding program and provide free mass transportation for school children in impoverished or remote communities. The teachers also point out that while public schools are barred from collecting miscellaneous fees during enrollment, such fees are still collected throughout the school year.
Every year that a child lags behind in school makes it harder to catch up with more fortunate classmates. Previous studies have raised concern over the high dropout rate in public schools, with too many children unable to make it past sixth grade. By the time these dropouts become adults, they are severely handicapped by their lack of education. This is a crisis and the teachers are right; this crisis needs drastic intervention.
Updated June 08, 2008 12:00 AM