Challenges of PH Basic Education: Current and Pre-Pandemic

6 January 2022

Prof. Ernesto Garilao (Chairperson and President, Zuellig Family Foundation)

Two days ago, there was an article in the Inquirer regarding a study from the Philippine Institute for Development studies, our think tank. And it said that if we were to bring back the quality of our students to that level, we have to quadruple our budget.

During the pandemic, hindi na maganda. It really got disrupted. Four million did not enroll, education went online, and when online, we all know that not all the schools have Internet access and they had to do modular. There’s economic disruption. 4.3 M jobs lost last year, so you really see when incomes start to reduce, the spillover is on education.

What is the local government response? Ano ang puwede nating gawin? I think we have to put this in the context. We need to respond in the context of equity, retention, quality. Ibig sabihin, nakakapasok ba ang learner? Hindi siya nagda-drop out? What will be the parameters? Education is really a complex problem. It is a complex issue. You need to identify the educational ecosystem. Who are the stakeholders and what is long term strategy? And that we begin to see in the presentation of Rex Gatchalian. Iba yung presentation. Mas malawak.

Let’s take a look at what he did. He made investments. He was a mayor for eight years, he did all these. May lumalabas ba in terms of improvements? By Year Eight, cohort survival rate was 100% for Grade 6. Very good. It took him eight years to be able to get everybody to graduate Grade 6, 100%. It took him three years to reduce the percentage of non- and frustrated readers—97%. Nakakabasa na and it will be worthwhile seeing that they can trace this cohort; that they should be able to be faster in learning three years from now.

So what seems to be happening here? I think this is what Rex is showing. Unang una, may pag-aako ang mayor, that he is committed to provide good education to his constituents. Legacy niya yan. Ikalawa, dapat mahusay siya. I always hear Mayor Robredo saying, “Yung mayor, dapat mahusay.” That’s why I always say, yung alam ng superintendent, dapat alam din ng mayor. You have your own vision and capacity. And, thirdly, you have to think long-term. You cannot improve the scores overnight. It takes a lot of time to do that and mayors normally have nine years and, after nine years, maybe his wife or his brother comes in. So, you have a long term to be able to address that.

The next one: listen, listen, listen. Which means you need to have your stakeholders talk.

Lastly, you draw up your community-owned plan.

What does it mean to have this education? I just want to point this out. At the end of the day, you really want to see your constituent graduate from college so that he can be productively and gainfully employed and be a good citizen. Normally, we just look at it as six years, pagpasok niya sa education. Pero yung pre-education requirement. I think we need to be aware of it primarily because you want to be sure that once the student enters Grade 1, he is healthy and with cognitive skills. And healthy begins with a pregnant mother who was healthy during pregnancy and he has normal birth weight. At Year 2, he is not stunted, he is provided early education, which is the example of Cong. Garcia yesterday, so that he enters Grade 1 healthy and cognitive.

The reforms are there, but it takes time for them to take root. But while waiting for those reforms to come in, mayors can really be game changers. Because kung binabantayan mo naman: Is he in school? Is he dropping out? Is he learning? And learning has data base. May scores yan. At kung hind nagle-learn, the question to ask is: Bakit ang scores, ang baba? Ano ang magagawa natin at ano ang gagawin natin? Bantayan yung scores.

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