pinoy education: from bad to worse, k-12 and all

read conrado de quiros’s Making the grade, part of which dwells on the allocation for debt payments being 3 times larger than that for education:

… our schools are getting worse. Only the University of the Philippines remained among the top 100 of 300 schools in Asia. Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and the University of Santo Tomas, though still in the middle ranges, slipped during the past year. Specifically, UP improved from 68th to 67th while Ateneo fell from 86th to 109th, La Salle from 142th to 151th, and UST from 140th to 150th.

Rep. Luz Ilagan, a former university professor, says this is due to schools preferring quantity to quality. Many universities are really just diploma mills offering popular courses based on public demand. Poor-quality elementary and high school education lead to poor-quality students entering college. Some of them have barely passable comprehension and writing skills.

Rep. Antonio Tinio says it’s funds, or the sore lack of them. “In Asia, public universities rule. In order for our higher education sector to become competitive, the government must drastically step up its funding and other support for our state universities and colleges. Unfortunately, government higher education policy over the last two decades has gone in the other direction, towards budget cuts, contractualization of faculty and commercialization.”

Ric Reyes of the Freedom from Debt Coalition puts the case of lack of funds for public education more forcefully. Last year, the budget for debt payments was P739 billion, three times more than the budget for education, which was only P224.9 billion. The latter was only 2.2 percent of GNP, well below the world benchmark of 6 percent. Unesco notes that the Philippines has the lowest expenditure for education in proportion to total budget. Since 1955, education has dropped from 30.78 percent of the budget to 15 percent post Edsa. This year’s education budget at 14.97 percent is lower than the post Edsa average of 15 percent.

I share their sense of apprehension, if not alarm, at the state, and future, of our education. With some caveats.

Certainly, I agree that we need to revise the budget and give education the utmost, ultimate, first-and-last priority it deserves. Which, not quite incidentally, the Constitution decrees. Debt payments are not the national priority, education is. Which, not quite incidentally as well, shows the continuing horror of martial law: To this day we are still paying for the Marcoses’ debt. Next time Imelda throws a party, know that you and your children are paying for it.

I don’t care if government makes all sorts of excuses to defer payment (“Sorry, but we have mouths to feed and minds to open”), or more conciliatorily negotiates to restructure payments again and again, but education should be three times more than debt payments. Hell, education should have half the budget, if we are going to have half the chance to curb, if not eradicate, poverty….

and read ben kritz’s Expanded program getting off on the wrong foot, mostly about k12 and how it’s meant, not to improve the quality of education, but to prepare students for overseas foreign work.

Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela party-list criticized the government for “only adding quantity, not quality” with the implementation of the K-12 program, in reaction to a recent ranking that placed only five (down from 14 a year ago) Philippine universities among the top 300 universities in Asia. Ilagan’s contention is that the quality of Philippine higher has declined because of the poor preparation of incoming freshmen students and a fixation “on getting many students to graduate from popular courses that markets demand”; not nearly enough attention has been paid to improving the quality of the primary and secondary curriculum, in Ilagan’s view, therefore the K-12 program as it has been presented will have no real positive effect in improving the Philippines’ al reputation.

Ordinarily I regard the viewpoints of acknowledged leftists with a high degree of skepticism, particularly those expressed by the Migrante group, which has the seemingly incompatible objectives of promoting the interests of overseas workers while working towards eventually ending the labor export phenomenon. Over the weekend, however, I attended the annual parents’ orientation meeting at the private school where my three children are enrolled, and I was surprised, to say the least, at the “official” point of view towards the K-12 program. The academic director of our school—which already had a robust academic and extra-curricular program, as well as a good reputation for producing college entrants—in addressing the K-12 program offered the opinion that it “would better prepare students to find work overseas because of its focus on vocational training, and the fact that the students will be 18 [years old] [and thus legally employable] when they graduate high school.”

Knowing how diligently our school’s administration coordinates its management with Department of (DepEd) policy, it would now appear as though the complaints of Migrante’s Martinez and Ilagan have considerable substance. And if, in fact, the enhancement of the Philippines’ human export resource is a priority of the K-12 program, then the fears of many that the extended curriculum was implemented for all the wrong reasons are completely valid.

back in july 2010, then ateneo president fr. bienvenido nebres criticized the aquino admin’s k-12 plans, recommending instead that extra years be added to “select college courses”.  fr. ben was ignored, of course, as the agenda, it would seem, has always been to perpetuate the pretense of “sound economic fundamentals” via OFW remittances.



  1. Well, Ben Kritz takes a teacher’s remark and spouts it as the national priority, to get Filipinos work abroad. I don’t think so. The matter is simple. Philippine education is substandard, for many reasons, 45 to a classroom being one of them, national economy “poor” another (so many funding demands, so little money), and the fading recognition of Philippine universities as being top class. K-12 is merely one step to achieve parity, for all the benefits it provides. More skilled kids being the most important, wherever they go. Another step is building more classrooms. Another, indirectly, is RH to temper the gawdawful birthing rate that keeps the nation poor.

    Upgrading the quality of teachers would be nice, so they wouldn’t make off the cuff remarks that are taken by some as national policy.

    • A teacher who happens to be a recently-retired DepEd administrator and former university professor, for starters. But don’t take my word for it, try reading the DepEd’s own primer on the K-to-12 Basic Education Program, and if you actually had day-to-day interaction with schools, teachers, and administrators as I do, you’d likely have cause for concern. Not for my own kids, who fortunately seem to all have the intellectual chops to be headed for college, but for the other 80%.

      • Oh, I have the same concern as my kid returns from a seemingly undisciplined (private school) classroom with instructions to memorize this and fill in that blank, but never to think. Fortunately, he has chops, too, and a good home environment.

        I just think characterizing K-12 as mainly having the purpose of training kids for overseas work is not accurate.

      • GabbyD

        its on the primer?



        where does it say ANYTHING about ““would better prepare students to find work overseas because of its focus on vocational training, ”

        also, ben.. “recently retired”? since when has recently retired people became an expert on current policy?

        cmon, benk, you can do better than that, right?

  2. manuel buencamino

    So Rep Tinio and Ric Reyes believe the solution to the problem of poor quality education is by throwing more money at it and Ben Kritz quotes people who consider vocational training is useful abroad but not here. Fine but the thing is K-12 is here to stay. Since they all seem to be experts on education wouldn’t it be more productive if they spent their energies on creating a curriculum that they think will meet whatever it is they think it should meet rather than just bitch about it?

    K-12 or adding a few extra years of education is a good concept, I don’t think anybody will disagree with that. The disagreement comes over how to maximize those extra years. So let’s see the better alternative, either an entirely new way of maximizing those extra years or an annotation of the current program where improvements or outright changes must be made. Then let’s lay those plans down side by side and let the public decide which one is better.

  3. BrianBro

    Modern economy is built around the factory concept. If something sells, then make lots of it the most efficient way possible. Liberal education will be a rarity in the future, only to be had through self-education.

    Unless you’re a purist, there is nothing urgently wrong with this. Business schools, technical schools, specialized schools… they are the future. University rankings is like the Oscars… great to be among the top ones, but it won’t kill us not to be there.

    • @Brian :-)}. Fully agree. Developing economy like ours need technical,specialized and business schools to propel growth and support modern technologies to expand our factories. University ranking with high standard and quality schooling is desirable to cater for students who are prepared academically and economically affordable. As one ex-university official once said university schooling is an aristocracy of the intellect.