MANILA, Philippines - An estimated 23 million students are expected to troop to 44,000 schools throughout the country, when classes begin on June 15. Speaking on "Dateline Philippines Saturday," Department of Education (DepEd) assistant secretary Jonathan Malaya says the country is well-placed to provide their educational needs.
Malaya says the country is a long way from the educational crisis of 2005, a time when teachers who taught science and math did not major in those subjects. Faced with the challenge of improving the quality of its workforce, back then, Malaya says, the government developed a program to educate teachers.
"7,446 non-major teachers went back to school to get their education," Malaya notes. "Presently 1/4th are still enrolled. Hopefully, we reach the 100% level."
Gains so far
Today, Malaya says, the DepEd has also made gains in the over-all state of the country's education.
He cites better teacher-to-student (1:36) and student-to-textbook ratios (1:1), improvements in the participation rates, results of national achievements tests, and the drop-out situation.
Malaya adds, efforts are also underway to reach the out-of-school youth thru the Alternative Learning System, providing teachers in barangays and bringing together kids who are not in formal schooling into the formal school system.
"In terms of quality, it could be better mean percentage score. In 2005, 54.66%, now 65.66% It's a dramatic significant increase," Malaya says.
Malaya credits the gains to improved benefits for the country's educators. He adds, teachers' salaries have increased dramatically, up 15% because of salary standardization. At an entry-level rate of P10,000 for teachers in 2001, in 2009 salaries were up 50% to P15,000.
Malaya says, another increase was due in July this year and again next year by which time, rates would've gone up by as much as 70%.
Malaya, however, admits some problems still remain. He cites one upsetting problem in the provinces, where one "Brigada Eskwela" experience showed incidents of textbooks getting lost in Camarines Sur, after students sold them to the public market for computer games.
Malaya says, even with the gains to build-up on, the incoming government will continue to face the challenge of an ever-expanding student population, increasing by an estimated 1 million every year.
"We're catching up with increasing enrollment." Malaya says. "Calamities like Ondoy and Pepeng devastated many of our classrooms, and many of them deteriorate over time. We really need to bring everybody together DPWH, DepEd, to solve the classroom problem."
Over and above that, Malaya says, the DepEd is set on including sex education into the school curriculum, a move expected to fan the country's raging population debate.
"Education Secretary Mona Valisno together with DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral have taken a stand about the need to include sex education in the curriculum," Malaya says. "We're really pushing for this. We at the DepEd are at the brunt of this population growth because we can't stop students from enrolling. If our population will increase every year we're going to have the same problems every year."
Malaya says, the incoming administration would do well to improve its budget allocation for education, adding the 2% of GDP assigned to education is not enough to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
"The incoming administration should provide more funds for education, increasing the budget to how much neighboring countries are spending at 4-6% of GDP. For the first year, we're proposing, if our finances can afford, to double this-- increase the pie and make salaries 50%, 25% to MOOE, 25% to the capital outlay."
Confident that the country's state of education is better than its ever been, Malaya says: "The decline has been arrested. We're in a position of take-off, and we hope this can be sustained by the next administration."