Updated April 24, 2009 12:00 AM
Once upon a time Asians came to the Philippines to avail themselves of top-quality education. Today, despite free, compulsory elementary and high school education, an estimated 5.2 million Filipinos are illiterate. The country also has one of the highest dropout rates in Asia, worse than the situation in Indonesia and even Vietnam.
These disheartening facts come from the Department of Education, whose officials want stronger literacy programs for both youths and adults. DepEd officials warn that the growing illiteracy rate would take its toll on the economy. Illiteracy and the slide in the quality of Philippine education are already taking their toll on national competitiveness, as shown in numerous international surveys.
Local executives must show leadership in improving the nation’s literacy level. A literacy mapping project undertaken by the Department of the Interior and Local Government among fifth and sixth class municipalities – the most economically backward in the country – showed that literacy programs were not making much impact. DILG officials observed that literacy programs were not given priority by certain local governments.
Education programs have rarely attracted politicians’ interest. Some politicians, believing that patronage thrives on poverty and poor education, deliberately shelve programs to raise literacy levels and improve the quality of education in their jurisdictions. In some underdeveloped areas, there are simply not enough funds for literacy programs.
But the problem cannot be left to fester. In the global economy, quality education is indispensable. Development is accelerated in countries that give priority to educating their citizens. Emerging economic powers including China and India are investing heavily in public education, providing their people with the tools they need to excel in a highly competitive global environment. Countries that do not treat education with the same urgency risk being left behind. In the Philippines, educators themselves are sounding the alarm. It would be folly to ignore the warning.
By Helen Flores Updated March 13, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – An international study has revealed that Filipino women are better in math than their male counterparts.
The Science Education Institute (SEI) said two studies of the Trends in International Science and Mathematics Study (TIMSS) consistently showed that Filipina students do better in math than their male classmates.
The 2003 TIMSS Philippine Report for Grade 8 Mathematics showed that Filipino female students were “significantly better” than boys, overall and in the items of Number, Algebra, and Data.
The study also showed that in terms of average percent correct score by cognitive domain, Filipina students bested males in items involving “Knowing Facts and Procedures” and “Reasoning” by a difference of four percent and two percent, respectively.
Boys and girls performed equally on items involving “Using Concepts and Solving Routine Problems,” it said.
Male students were better by a difference of one percent in Geometry, are equal in Measurement, but the girls performed better than the boys in Number, Algebra, and Data by a difference of three, four, and two percent, respectively, the study said.
SEI, education-arm of the Department of Science and Technology, said an earlier study by TIMSS showed the same outcome in relation to performance by girls and boys.
In TIMSS-Repeat, which was done in 1999, Filipina students “performed relatively better” than the boys in all areas of mathematics.
“In three content areas and overall performance, Filipino girls did better than Filipino boys,” the TIMSS-Repeat study said.
Filipino girls performed well in Fractions and Number Sense; Data Representation, Analysis and Representation; and Algebra. In Measurement and Geometry, Filipino girls did as well as Filipino boys, the study said.
“This is in contrast to other international studies which show that male students are better in mathematics than females, except in algebra,” the study said.
SEI said last year, 118 science and technology oriented schools from the 16 regions in the Philippines took part in the TIMSS-Advanced which was aimed at gauging the performance of students in the country in relation to advanced science and mathematics.
TIMSS 2003, third in a series of studies, offers a state-of-the-art assessment of student achievement in science and mathematics at the fourth and eighth grade levels.
SEI said data provided by TIMSS are useful for participating countries to reassess their programs in mathematics and science, and to examine and revise existing practices in curricular provision, textbook design, teacher preparation, school organization, and instructional practice.
The TIMSS is an international assessment of the mathematics and science knowledge of fourth- and eighth-grade students around the world.
View previous articles from this author.
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
MANILA, Philippines — Youth groups are demanding the resignation of the chairman of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) for being “profit-oriented” following his proposal for an extra year in college to improve the quality of education in that level, their officials said Monday.
At the same time, the National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) and Kabataang Pinoy [Filipino Youth], along with lawyer Adel Tamano, president of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (University of the City of Manila, PLM) and United Opposition spokesman, said that CHEd Chairman Emmanuel Angeles’ plan only “favored profit-oriented higher educational institutions” and were “anti-poor and anti-student.”
“CHEd Chair Angeles is currently listed as member of the Board of Trustees of Angeles University Foundation as its corporate secretary. He has a reputation to have a negative bias towards the poor and marginalized,” said Tamano in a statement.
Vencer Crisostomo, Kabataan Pinoy spokesman, said the planned five-year program was “insensitivity to the difficulty being experienced by the students and parents due to high education and living costs.”
“This policy will cause a significant number of students to drop out from school especially considering that there is a global economic crisis. Instead of coming up with senseless projects like this, the government should focus on lowering education costs and making education more accessible,” he added.
At the same time, CHEd should “overhaul its educational policies” if it really wanted to improve the quality of education, said NUSP national president Alvin Peters.
“The current recommendations of CHEd and the government will only push the country’s education system into a worse crisis. This has been the case for the past years. The government should reverse its policy of deregulation and privatization of education and should raise the budgetary allocation for public higher education,” he said.
“A little flattery hurts no one,” Adlai Stevenson often said. But he’d tack on a caution: “Don’t inhale.”
Did anybody inhale after Education Secretary Jesli Lapus ladled out a left-handed compliment for those battling error-studded textbooks?
Lapus complimented former academic supervisor Antonio Calipjo Go for waging an uphill campaign against flawed books, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported. [Read story] But did Lapus have a choice? His department ordered schools to ban defective books that Go had pinpointed. Reluctant publishers trotted out correction pamphlets, but these are often ignored.
“Some people pay a compliment as if they expected a receipt.” And Lapus’ receipt? Why didn’t Go sit down with publishers? he suggested. After all his critique, “Burn after reading,” included “lines of ungrammatical poetry taken out of context”?
Go’s new review, “Lengua estopido,” however, ferreted out additional mistakes in both grammar and fact in the “English for You and Me” language textbook for Grade 6.
“Heidi’s family went on a vacation to the province of Paoay,” the book says. Paoay is an Ilocos Norte town, not a province. The country’s best-known “earthquake baroque church” is located there. Construction of St. Agustine started in 1694. The church, completed in 1710, is included on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
“The Tausugs, who live in Jolo, are described as warlike people but most are friendly, peaceful and hospitable,” the book claims. “They are completely attired only when they sport weapons around their waists. They believe in black magic, sorcery, voodoo and love potions. The Koran, their Bible, forbids the eating of dead meat.”
Go’s previous review nailed samples of splintered grammar. “Make some magic for me!” the book reads. “‘Abracadabra, Sssh! Boom!’ Bobby shouted. He ran to his uncle. ‘Looked here, Uncle,’ he said. His uncle looked like an invisible man.”
There are one-liners that double up the reader: “The engine of the tractor is sleeping.” “Turtles squirm independently.” “A ferryman worked hard as transport chief of the rafts.”
The new critique turns up more of the same: “Many can be learned from reading books.” “He resembles the knight in a shining armor.” “Under the bed lay the robbers, as quiet as a mice.” “A smile is something that you give it away.”
But what about “ungrammatical poetry taken out of context” that had Lapus all steamed up?
“Love one another and let them express / For life is short and leads to an end / So feel the touch and moving caress / And may God be the divine witness.” “She lives in a place that is drowned in mystery.”
Wait, there’s more: “I got a butterfly with flower-designed wings.” “He lifted his soul because of loneliness.” “The grass seems to wink at me.” “Even the birds laughed at him!”
“I am aghast at the education secretary’s defense of errors in ‘English For You and Me’ as poetry,” e-mailed Dr. Jaime Ong of De La Salle University. Ong, who has a PhD from Stanford, adds: “Good heavens, I teach poetry — Shakespeare, in fact — and ‘the engine of the tractor is sleeping’ is not poetry, or verse. It’s a strained and graceless metaphor… I, therefore, welcome [Viewpoint’s] support for Antonio Calipjo Go.”
From Dammam, capital of Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, Fred Roda e-mailed. Here’s a quick translation of his message in classic Tagalog:
“I read, on Inquirer’s net page, your column, ‘Nitpicker? Or gadfly?’ I followed news accounts of Go and his advocacy regarding textbook anomalies. Errors in grammar and facts, plain misinformation at ano pang ek-ek in these textbooks can be traced to corruption in producing these books.
“But what do journalists in TV, print and radio want to convey with stories like these? Is it to reach citizens, like us, about unsavory things happening? Is it to inform those influential personalities about unacceptable practices in public as well as private schools?
“How many more Acsa Ramirezes, Jun Lozadas and Major Marcelinos must be made to suffer? There are too many to count now. Add to that, journalists who have lost their lives because they wrote the truth.
“Will journalists, like you, write articles for citizens, like me, so we’re filled with fury over what is happening at home? Or will Filipinos like you and me become ‘nitpickers or gadflies’ to foster reform?”
“Even those who aren’t being criticized can tire of the constant stream of complaints,” the British Broadcasting Corp.’s feature on “The Gadfly” warns. “Sometimes, they wish the gadfly will accept life as it is, and just get on… But one thing that keeps the gadfly on his task is the knowledge he is right. And the world would be a much better place if everyone else realized it.”
Antonio Calipjo Go and others painfully learned that being a gadfly is not for the faint of heart. “They must pick a cause they’re passionate about,” the BBC feature stresses. “Be content with small victories in the beginning. And work up from there… They will have to swim against the current … [But] they can take heart from all the gadflies who have gone before. Know that you’re part of a proud tradition.”
Must our school kids settle for what Lapus’ glib defense of “ungrammatical poetry”: “Stop, look, listen! / A car is roaring, too.”
Meanwhile, don’t inhale.
WHEN PRE-NEED COMPANIES selling educational funds started dying a slow death more than 10 years ago, many Filipino families turned to do-it-yourself investing to grow savings for their children’s education needs.
Now it appears that these alternative investments–mutual funds, unit investment trust funds (UITFs), stocks and bonds–are not living up to the hype. Last year, pooled funds were down around 40 percent and experts say investments in the stock market might take two or three years to recover.
These depressing events have shaken Filipinos’ confidence in this most basic principle in personal finance: Saving. Imagine this, just when you have conquered spending urges and socked away money regularly, the market turns and eats up most of your money pot. This has not been easy for one mother, who shared she lost most of her educational fund for her daughter to the closure of one rural bank.
“The Rural Bank of Paranaque is now closed. This makes me sick to my stomach. So, how should I prepare for my daughter’s college education? I have to invest in a better mattress to put my money under,” she says.
It’s truly a cosmic moment for many couples faced with the triple whammy of skyrocketing tuition fees, lower pay hikes if not job loss and shrinking savings.
But Micheas P. Dumlao, 45, who has two sons to put through high school and college, says it is still better to start saving early.
“It has been at the back of my mind for the longest time, but my wife Joyce and I realized just last year that it is time to prepare for my sons’ college education. If we don’t start now, it will be harder later on,” he says.
Micheas’ and Joyce’s son Michael Reuben is a first year high school student at the Philippine Science High School, the state’s premier school for intelligent children and tuition is minimal. If he gets into the University of the Philippines in three years, also another state college, tuition expenses could be at P1,500 per unit, or at least P22,500 to P31,000 per semester.
Micheas expects books, transportation, clothes, laptop and other expenses to add 80 percent of this cost. That means he needs more than P300,000 to finance his eldest son’s college education.
Bankrolling their second son’s intellectual development will be much more challenging.
Jason Matthew is 9, now studying in a private school and wants to study at the Ateneo de Manila University. Historically, tuition fees outrun inflation at around 8-10 percent a year, especially for preschool, elementary and high school.
Micheas estimates that he needs to save at least P1.5 million to put his youngest son through college alone.
Fortunately, Micheas is also a life insurance agent in a multinational company and he knows his numbers. He plans to move his education money pot when it reaches P200,000 to a higher-yielding account, and supplement this with his investments in a single-pay variable life product sold by his company. Then he will look for more investment outlets.
All these financial maneuverings will not be successful if the entire family is not pushing together as a team, he says. To set aside P8,000 monthly, an amount that can already buy grocery items for one month for an average family of six, Micheas says the Dumlao family members had to change their lifestyle.
“Instead of Yellow Cab, we eat at Shakey’s and we don’t order drinks anymore. A P60 bottomless iced tea can already buy one siopao. You know, when I have to eat lunch in a mall, I buy my drinks inside the grocery,” he says.
When he has appointments in business centers in Metro Manila, Micheas says he has begun to plan carefully where to park his car. “You need to splash on a little bit of cologne before you go to your appointment, that’s true, but careful planning can save you quite a bit of money,” he says with a chuckle.
In the Filipino psyche, education is sacred. Parents will often singe their eyebrows to send their children to the best schools, and the Dumlao couple is no exemption. Micheas says they are also working on increasing their income, writing down their goals and making sure both couples are protected from sudden death or illnesses.
Investment tools used wisely
Marvin Fausto, senior vice president and chief investment officer at the Banco De Oro, says on top of more careful spending and saving regularly, Filipinos also need to learn how to use the right investment tools for the right purposes. You can’t expect to crack open coconut shells with a slender knife.
If you need the money for tuition in the next two to five years, the right approach would have been to move the money pot to money market funds and other conservative placements as the date for the need approached.
“Last year, I’ve seen a lot of people lose money in the market. They were lured by the historical high returns in the market from 2002 to 2007 that they forgot why they were in the market in the first place,” Marvin says.
Because too many investors were lulled into thinking the high returns would last forever, they gambled the money they would soon need, says Marvin.
“It is still true that mutual funds and UITFs are good long-term investments. But the right strategy would be to review your investment objectives and plans regularly. When the need is near, you move it to more appropriate investments. That’s the value of constant review,” he says.
Banco De Oro’s bond funds, for example, yielded 33 percent until 2008 since inception in April 2005. That’s still 11 percent per year, much higher than any time deposit return. Balanced funds gave 45-percent return since 2003.
“Equity funds are the ones that were really hit by the crisis at 4.5 percent since May 2005. You would have really lost money if you sold last year, but it also went as high as 100 percent in 2006 and if you took your money out that year, you would have doubled your investments,” he explains.
That’s the wisdom that comes from hindsight. Now, if you are already pinned down by the market turmoil, Marvin’s advice is to exhaust all other means to pay for tuition and other educational expenses, like getting subsidized student loans from schools, selling other assets like properties and earn additional income, paying monthly rather than annual installments.
“The worst time to sell is when the market is down. And that is now. If you have other means to get money for college education, do not sell your losing investments. Wait for them to recover,” he says.
Marvin expects the market to recover in two to three years. By then, he believes investments in equities, bonds and pooled funds to redeem their reputation.
“Attack your goals depending on the time frame when you need your money. If it’s a short-term need, put it in a money market fund in the biggest banks, so that even if the bank closes, the fund will still be there,” Marvin says.
(For more personal finance articles, visit MoneySmarts at http://blogs.inquirer.net/moneysmarts.)
MANILA, Philippines — The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) has released “clarificatory guidelines” on random drug tests to “allay public apprehension and clear alleged human rights violations” over tests the government will conduct in schools across the country, DDB chairman Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said on Monday.
The tests, originally scheduled to begin Monday, have been postponed to Wednesday.
In a statement, Sotto stressed that random drug testing is “preventive rather than punitive” in nature and are aimed at preventing illegal drug use among students and rehabilitating those found to be drug users.
The DDB guidelines lay down the objectives of the drug testing and how this will be conducted, as well as the different ways students found to be drug users will be treated.
“Random drug testing for students is considered by the government as entirely a ‘health’ issue and aims to provide services, to those who will be tested positive for dangerous drug/ use that will help the student stop further use and abuse of the substance,” the guidelines said.
“The drug testing program and results of testing shall guarantee the personal privacy and dignity of the students and shall not be used in any criminal proceedings,” the document added.
Sotto emphasized that the results of the drug tests will be confidential.
Also, he said, a “first time positive confirmatory drug test result shall not be a ground for expulsion or any disciplinary action against the student.”
But for drug dependents, “the school may impose the appropriate sanctions against the student as provided for in the school’s Student Handbook and the Manual of Regulations for Private Schools,” and allow re-enrollment after rehabilitation, Sotto said.
Students who test positive will be required to undergo three months of counseling, in coordinating with parents, by a Department of Health-accredited facility.
The government expects to conduct random drug tests in all 8,455 secondary and 1,726 tertiary schools nationwide.
Vocational school students and tertiary level faculty members will also undergo the random tests.
Results of random tests in 2007 showed that 39 students, or 0.5 percent of those tested, were positive for illegal drug use.