Back to Basics: The State of Philippine Basic Education

Manila Bulletin, March 5, 2003 | Go to article overview

Back to Basics: The State of Philippine Basic Education


In 1925, the American colonial government evaluated the Philippine educational system and one of its significant findings was that Filipino children were behind in reading skills compared to their American counterparts. This was understandable given the fact that the English language was a second language to Filipinos, although it was first taught by Thomasites or mostly by teachers who were native speakers.

More than half a century later, the problem of inadequate reading skills of Filipino students is still seen, as woefully stated by Br. Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, in his paper titled, ?Philippine basic education 1999-2004: Analysis, recommendations, and plans.?

He ventured to add that there have been numerous sociological changes that occurred between the 1920s to the present, one of which is English becoming more of a foreign language.

Until now, Filipino as the national language is still struggling to gain a firm foothold by being recognized as the primary medium of instruction in schools. This seeming ambiguity may have a negative effect on the development of functional literacy and education among Filipino children. However, language policy and practice alone are not the culprits for such a decline in education or, as Gonzalez puts it, ?? the continuing erosion of achievement in the system.?

He cited other key problems that hinder the smooth turning of the gears and levers of the Philippine educational system, such as population increase, lack of resources, poor management of schools, and lack of proper preparation of teachers in content and in the methodology of teaching English. Weakness indicators have lit up like ubiquitous neon signs in the past years. Examples of these were the Survey on the Outcomes of Elementary Education (1976), the Bilingual Education Survey Evaluation (1988), and the NEAT and NSAT (NETRC) test results by region. Other indicators Gonzalez points out are the International Mathematics and Science Study tests given periodically. In these tests, Filipino students more often than not land at the bottom rung, particularly in the area of science.

POPULATION

Another perennial problem experienced by the educational system is the steady rise of the population of students to be educated. With the rate of 2.3 percent in the annual population growth, the sheer number alone of warm bodies who go to school every year place a huge strain on the allocated education budget as seen in the shortage of classrooms, teachers, textbooks, and science equipment. Gonzalez also rues the present poor teaching conditions, very much apparent in public schools, and more so the poorly prepared teachers churned out by more than 500 colleges of education in the country. …

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