School woes

Beginning this week, this blog will start turning to the past -the events of a year ago and the crisis ever since. the first such anniversary to pass, unremarked, was the passing away of columnist Teddy Benigno, who had warned of doom and gloom. Since my latest discovery are the Analects of Confucius, I’ve decided to tie the coming blog series -“What we’ve learned”- with extracts from them.

For today, however, the resumption of classes in the public schools has led to an orgy of reportage and commentary on the crisis of education in the country.

The Inquirer editorial looks at why the President makes boo-boos such as her window-dressing classroom figures, meaning a propaganda triumph has been reduced to today’s news that the President “admits” there’s a problem in education. Hello?

The Inquirer continues with more alarming statistics concerning literary and education (and some heartening developments that offer prospects of reversing the grim trends in education). My column today, Suffer the little children, points to discouraging statistics and encouraging developments, too. As my column suggests, the problem may indeed be teachers too obsessed with quizzes as a way of wasting time.

Juan Miguel Luz (the ill-fated former Undersecretary of Education) writes on what needs to be done. And Gail Ilagan writes on something I have -math anxiety.

Susan Roces puts an end to the scuttlebutt and says she will send a representative to the ceremony in which her late husband will be formally proclaimed a national artist and conferred the insignia of membership in the Order of National Artists.

In the punditocracy, Billy Esposo suggests a cabal of former military types has been given virtual carte blanche to manage threats to national security. Efren Danao heaps blame on both houses, saying the present 13th Congress is the worst, ever.

Circular logic: by trotting out their own (and not even commissioned) survey, the tireless folks at Sigaw ng Bayan can then justify commentary along the lines of Rita Jimeno’s, who says she’s surprised intellectuals and the wealthy oppose their version of constitutional change. Seduction is attempted -don’t you know under our system you can do better, because we will eliminate the competition?- a kind of appeal to class solidarity. And if that doesn’t work, dire threats are made, of class conflict: we will paint you as reactionaries, because we are the embodiment of the people. The biggest proof to my mind that they do not deserve support is that they will not even grant to their opponents the sincerity of their convictions (intellectual or otherwise). Fr. Joaquin Bernas bluntly says it’s the Marcos script all over again. Go Figure, by the way, points to Winnie Monsod’s 2-column series on the presidential versus parliamentary system.

Bulatlat unveils the latest permutation of the National Democratic line: forget engaging in above-ground politics. Persecution means renewed emphasis on armed struggle.

In the blogosphere, Torn & Frayed writes the perfect capsule review. Big Mango points to the DepEd website and also asks, what if local governments were empowered to take education reform in their own hands?

Edwin Lacierda suggests the sub judice rule be scrapped as outdated.

Madame Chiang reminds us of the Tiananmen Square massacre, which detained party list Rep. Crispin Beltran famously said was OK. Speaking of China (and the kowtowing of corporations to the ruling party of), Newsstand says British journalists are asking for a Yahoo boycott.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

10 thoughts on “School woes

  1. “Malay said the poll, which used the accepted methods applied in research and surveys, showed that of the 64 percent who favored constitutional amendments, 87 percent said they wanted the adoption of the French-type of parliament.”

    Also in the same survey, more than half of the respondents believe that French fries originated in France, and spaghetti and chicken value meals can be ordered in any McDonald’s all over the world.

  2. Hi MLQ. Big Mango and I are thinking along the same lines. I emailed today the following contributed article to the Inquirer, though I’m not sure it will get published. If you can kindly indulge me:

    Towards greater local control of the public school system

    By Wilfredo B. Prilles, Jr.

    Over the weekend, an engrossing discussion regarding the sorry state of the public school system took place (and continues to) in Dean Jorge Bocobo’s blog. The discussion started with the question: If every year the national government spends P120 billion on a centrally-managed public school system that has been underproviding on basic education services for decades, is there a better way?

    I say there is, and it is about giving greater local control of the public school system to communities that will demand for it.

    Take Naga City, for example, and imagine the possibilities: The P120 billion annual outlay translates to P6,667 per student, or P233 million for the city’s 35,000 elementary and high school students. Together with the P40M being spent by the city government annually, with P273 million we can

    1. bring down the number of teachers from 1,200 to 1,100 by streamlining the curriculum (which translates to a workable teacher-student ratio of 32); and

    2. raise the starting monthly salary of all teachers to P20,000 — already higher than what call centers give. But everyone will have to meet higher teacher recruitment standards, start as locally-funded contractual teachers, and will have to prove themselves based on their students’ achievement test results prior to regularization. And that is just for starters.

    A centrally-managed system for the long run will continue to yield the same inadequate results. Today, DepEd with its 400,000 workforce is the biggest bureaucracy in the national government, and will only continue to grow bigger as it tries to keep up with the rising school-age population. It will increasingly become difficult to manage such a bureaucracy, and expect to respond to unique challenges that differ by locality. Moreover, there is very little chance to exact accountability over education outcomes from an organization whose local divisions and districts respond more to their regional and national superiors rather than the local communities they serve.

    What opportunities come with demand-driven devolution of basic public education?

    1. Local officials will become responsible for education outcomes in their respective localities. Non-performing school officials and teaching staff can be removed from service if they continually fail to deliver results. Performance of the public school system becomes an election issue, and parents can choose to remove local elective officials on the basis of unacceptable outcomes.

    2. Local control also means greater consciousness over local needs that must be addressed, as well as locally available solutions to priority problems. In Naga, for instance, there is the possibility of creating an expanded voucher system that will optimize existing capacities: putting a cap on ideal class size in the public school system on the one hand, and redirect excess enrolment back to private schools on the other.

    3. National and local funding for education can be aligned, and increased. Since the local DepEd and the local government becomes part of a single organization, common education targets can be set, and the resources required to attain the targets allocated more efficiently and effectively. For cities, their national share from the DepEd and the Special Education Fund (SEF) being allocated through local school boards becomes a common education fund. More so with provinces, which are today’s winners in the IRA allocation scheme. (Cities and provinces are entitled to the same level of IRA — 23% of the total — but there are now twice more cities than there were 10 years ago. On the other hand, only two new provinces were created over the same period.) Thus, because they become accountable for public education, governors can be motivated to share their Local Development Funds (which is 20% of the total IRA) to augment their comparatively smaller SEFs.

    Of course, this scheme has its own pitfalls. One is the country’s mixed experience with decentralization under the 1991 Local Government Code, which devolved agriculture, health and social services, as correctly pointed out by a fellow blog commenter. Another is the fear that the system will be politicized. But these are manageable risks.

    That is why there is need to implement this selectively, demand being the primary criterion. When local communities and their leaders demand for, and are given local control over public education, it is greater power that comes with even greater responsibilities. But when local stakeholders have a bigger voice in governance — which is what Naga has been pioneering in the Philippines under the leadership of Mayor Jesse Robredo — there are enough mechanisms for ensuring that the local state will behave and exercise this power responsibly.

  3. is there a better way? sure just outsource that damn educational system to the private sector who can do it better just the same way that the justice system is now being outsourced to an army of professional mediators and arbitrators who have proven themselves better than the judges who take a long time to make decisions.

  4. With her education policy Gloria will create an Enchanted Kingdom populated by mental dwarves

  5. Wow, this post alone has brought me up to speed with current events, thanks. I had no idea Teddy Benigno passed on. Another great man has gone.

    I’m ashamed to confess that I haven’t paid much attention to the supposed clamor for constitutional change, mainly because I believe any change will be a waste of time if the same group of crooked people are still running the system.

  6. mlq, indeed it has worked wonders because the solution addressed the bulk of pending cases in court. if only someone would analyze the problem of education very well and identify and solve even the top 5 i guess we are on good starting point. we should think outside the box and stop depending on govt be it LOCAL ( wow one success is not the cure to the national prob..i almost cried.) Even a UP president in the Sec of Educ post did not deliver good result what more a thousand ali babas my my my. Make the politicians irrelevant is a better and sustainable cure.

  7. On a totally different note. .Mr. Quezon, I wonder if you’re aware that your Pajamas Media banner is advertising Ann Coulter’s latest book! (Godless: The Church of Liberalism)

    It’s a little ironic having that ad on this site.

  8. Did fabian just tag you as a ‘liberal’, MLQ3? Ive just been to Dean Jorge Bocobo’s site and he seems to have used the L word on you, too. 😀

  9. fabian, pajamas is overwhelmingly a conservative enterprise, hence good at farming out the funds to impractical liberals like me. and it makes for delicious ironies as you observed.

    jeg: yes indeed, but if American, I’d be one of those old-fashioned New Deal type liberals -with a more modern libertarian streak.

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