WHEN President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivered his final State of the Nation Address, he among other things enumerated the gains made by his administration in the education sector.
In his speech, he said the government has addressed the recurring problems that plagued the education system for decades such as shortages on classrooms, books, desks and teachers.
He trotted out some figures: the 61.7 million textbook backlog was erased two years into his administration, as well as the 2.5 million shortage on school desks. Aquino the 66,800 classroom backlog was fully addressed in 2013, while partners in local government have helped solve the shortage on teachers, which as of 2013 stood at 145,827.
The President said to address the needs of the millions of youth who will be added to the student population from now until 2017, particularly with the implementation of the K-to-12 program, the government will need to build 118,000 more classrooms. This year, the Deprtment of Education (DepEd) hope to see the completion of 41,000 classrooms. It also expects to hire 39,000 more teachers, to close the gap since the government remains in need of 130,000 public school teachers. And by the end of the year, at least 1.6 million school desks will be delivered to public elementary and high schools.
Admittedly, there have been improvements in the education sector. Through the DepEd’s K-to-12 program, universal education, which means all children, regardless of economic status, will be able to get formal schooling starting at Kindergarten.
Despite the resistance and objection of some groups, the full implementation of the K-to-12 program will enable all Filipino children to attend school.
It will also put Filipino students at par with their counterparts in other countries, because two educational years are added to elementary and high school.
Extolling the “benefits” of K-to-12, the President said: “Natandaan po ninyo, noong tayo ay nag-umpisa, tatatlo na lang tayong bansa na may 10-year basic education sa buong mundo. Kinukuwestyon na ang credentials ng ating mga kababayan sa ibang bansa; mayroon na ring nademote, dahil hindi raw sapat na patunay ng kakayahan ang diploma natin. Kung ang lumang kalakaran sa edukasyon ay maihahalintulad sa manggang kinalburo, ngayon, sinisiguro nating hinog ang kakayahan ng mga estudyante na magpanday ng sariling kinabukasan.”
If the Aquino administration will continue to give priority to the problems besetting the education sector through K-to-12 in light of the upcoming Asean integration at the end of the year, then educators and students can rest assured that their needs will be addressed. We all have seen the result of a shortage-laden public education system: too few teachers mentoring the young, too few books for young learners, and not enough classrooms for students – which are not conducive to learning.
Hopefully, the reforms that were started to improve the education system which are beneficial to both students and teachers will be pursued. The importance of education to a nation and its citizens can never be stressed enough: it is through education that the people will improve their lot, and an educated citizenry can better propel the country to achieve higher economic growth.
The government, educators, the private sector and local government units should continue to link arms in the envisioning and implementation of programs for a better public education. All concerned sectors, led by the government, should see to it that we do not slide back to the olden days when classes were held in three shifts, or when students had to learn their lessons standing or squatting on the floor or under a mango tree.
If education will lead to a community’s economic salvation, then everybody should pinch in to ensure that our children will enjoy their right to formal schooling. For we must remember: today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders.
(The author is Principal III of Gonzaga North Central School in Gonzaga, Cagayan)