December 2, 2005

Education: The Keys to Filipino Progress

The Filipinos are not empowered, in fact, they are playing on the mud of mediocrity. They pass on the time playing cards, drink gin in the middle of the morning, go to the nearest cockpit and waste their monthly earnings away. They are worthless.

And these same people are same people who vote for useless candidates come election time. During the poll season, these candidates will shower them with money, gifts and everything else, in exchange for their votes. And when these candidates get elected, they do virtually nothing to alleviate the situation.

To ask whether it is the government’s job to alleviate them out of poverty is not the question: it is the primary job of the government to ensure each and every citizen receives adequate care, and that the wealth of the state is distributed equitably.

For these people to be empowered, something has to be done. By education with moral regeneration may be one of the answers. And by being educated, a person becomes enlightened; he becomes empowered.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26

(1) Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.

(2) Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights full text here is clear: everyone has a right to education. I repeat: education is a right, not a privilege. Not just people who can afford, but everyone, even the mentally challenged.

Every Filipino family wants to improve their life. No wonder television commercials advertising intelligence when they drink milk (or other substance) abound. Intelligence helps in acquiring education. Education can be answer to remove the Pinoys out of their mediocre situation.

Yet the Republic seems to forget this. The constitution says that education should have the largest allotment in the general appropriations act, it is actually often second to debt payments. Also, the Republic is one of the lowest in educational spending in the ASEAN.

Although the state provides free public education, the typical elementary school is nothing more than a meeting place of children where they wallow on the mud of mediocrity. Although they are in schools, it appears that they are not educated. Students outnumber chairs and desks. And the intelligent students (the teachers’ pet) gets all of the books, depriving other students of having books, a tool essential for education. The teachers that they see are borderline qualified (some can’t even speak fluently the language). And to top it all off, schools in rural areas are too few to accommodate large number of willing students. The public elementary schools are diploma mills.

Before you tell me that how about the science high schools, they are the exception, not the rule. How I wish the government can apply the same strategies to at least 2/3 of the regular public schools! That would solve the problem of mediocrity that is plaguing the Filipinos.

But what comes after elementary education? This is where the government struggles to meet the standards. Government institutions of higher education, although they can compare with the private institutions for quality (at least in the metro, with the likes of UP, PUP and PLM), they are few in number. They fail to meet the high demand of students. This is where the private schools kick in.

The private schools are divided into two types: non-sectarian and sectarian. The non-sectarian schools are run by private individuals and are primarily businesses. The sectarian schools belong to the many different religious denominations. These schools are not taxed, and are primarily non-profit. However it is the same schools that have the most expensive fees (although some non-sectarian schools also have uneconomical fees)

Although these private schools are supposedly non-profit, they continually maintain expensive fees. Their common line of argument is that they should not suffer the “quality” of education by reducing their fees. Also, it is these same schools that have a number of “extra-curricular” activities, such as athletic competitions (where money is gravely needed, especially if they are gunning for a championship).

The government has asked the Filipinos to tighten their belts countless times already. Yet they haven’t asked these institutions to do the same. Educating a generation of Filipino youth will go a long way in transforming the lives of future generations of Filipinos. A decade of little suffering will help transform the way this country is going.

The question is: Are these institutions (or the people who came from these institutions) willing to do this? Or are they the ones who are preventing the progress? Because after all, they used to be (today they claim not to be) exclusive, and this exclusiveness should not apply to anybody. Imagine that kid from on the street corner came from an “exclusive” school. Perhaps being a member of this school wouldn’t be rosy.

Several students of public institutions slept on the street just to pass their course. And now they are heads of mighty firms. Imagine the Philippines where everybody has the right to education. How sweet would that be.

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