Computer Education in the Philippines

Article excerpt

The Philippine Islands are located in the Asia-Pacific Rim, known as the fastest growing region in the world. However, the nation's resources have been stretched almost beyond endurance by a recent series of physical catastrophes (volcanic eruptions, droughts, floods, typhoons and earthquakes). The Filipino economy generates a GNP per capita of $692 in U.S. currency, an inflation rate of 18%, and an unemployment rate approaching 20%.[1] Compounding these conditions, Filipino society must contend with rampant government corruption, guerilla warfare, widespread drug use, a high crime rate and abject poverty. Understandably, computer education has taken a back seat to these tragic circumstances. Yet, some computer education does exist in schools, although not uniformly or equitably.

* Public Schools

The high cost of equipment and the lack of space limit most Filipino public schools to computer education at the awareness level. However, a few bright spots exist such as at the Philippine Science High School in Manila, rated number one in the country, and an IBM-funded Writing to Read project operating at one elementary school in Quezon City.

One education official, Dr. Pacita I. Habana, described the level of computer education in the public elementary schools by saying that there is "really nothing going on." However, she did say that, while generally there is no formal computer education program at the secondary level, a few schools have used their budgeted funds or other contributions to acquire computers.

In higher education, the government-funded University of the Philippines' computer science program flourishes, with its graduates in demand by Filipino employers.

* Private Schools

In contrast with public schools, computer education is more generally available at Filipino private schools. Elementary, secondary and post-secondary institutions, plus numerous commercial schools, offer courses of varying quality. One of the most highly regarded private institutions is the Jesuit-operated Ateneo de Manila University. Under Ateneo's auspices and located on its 100-hectare campus is a K-8 school with an enrollment of about 4,000 boys and a computer education program established in 1983.

Computers are incorporated into Ateneo's work-education curriculum along with courses in gardening and lantern making. Computer education is taught for one semester to all seventh-grade students. The program consists of an introduction to computing via keyboarding using Typing Tutor and a short unit on word processing using WordStar, but its primary focus is programming in LOGO. The school has two computer labs equipped with Zenith computers, but a shipment of 50 new Macintoshes were expected shortly as replacements.

The head instructor, Helen Flores, stated that computer instruction currently occurs only in the labs, but school administrators were planning to move the Zenith computers into the classrooms. Flores anticipated problems integrating computers into the curriculum because of a lack of appropriate software and teacher resistance. (A failed "TV in every classroom" project had made many teachers leery of technology.) Flores spoke enthusiastically about computer programming developing students' cognitive and problem-solving skills, but expressed doubts about the value of a computer-integrated curriculum. Concluding our interview, Flores admitted to a sense of professional isolation because of the lack of Filipino organizations or periodicals specifically for computer-using educators.

* Teacher Training

Computer training for teachers is uncommon in the Philippines. While computer science is a popular program of study at the university level, its graduates generally find employment in business or industry where salaries are more attractive. Salaries for teachers in the public schools range from $500 to just over $2,000 a year (in U.S. dollars). …