Statistics

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


WE CONGRATULATE Dr. Lisa Grace S. Bersales, formerly vice president for planning and finance of the University of the Philippines system, on her appointment as the National Statistician and head of the newly created Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

PSA is formed as a result of the merger of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the National Statistics Office, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), and the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES).

PSA is attached to National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and is responsible for all the national censuses and surveys.

The national census normally takes place every five years and the next one is due in May 2015. It is not just a matter of counting heads, the census will collect other data which will help government decision-making.

For example, the 2007 census (postponed from 2005) asked questions about the educational attainment of household members. Whether the collection of this information produced useful results is uncertain.

Previous censuses have dragooned teachers into doing the enumeration work, but there are increasing signs that not all teachers are willing.

Since accuracy of data collected is important, well-motivated and enthusiastic enumerators are vital. The last census, held in May 2010, was of doubtful accuracy because some pressed-ganged teachers were not totally dedicated to the task. There were several reasons for this:

(a) The summer of 2010 was the hottest on record.
(b) The teachers had just completed the enervating task of being “front-liners” for the 2010 elections.
(c) Sadly census enumerators were not always treated courteously by those households who are suspicious of any representatives of government instrumentalities.
(d) Some teachers had bad experiences with late payments and/or where they were treated as mere supplicants at Commission on Elections (Comelec) or NSO offices.

We hope the newly- formed PSA will liaise effectively with the Department of Education (DepEd) to ensure that teachers are paid promptly for their census duties.

There are those who say that Raul Roco was the best President the Philippines never had. Possibly. He was, however, arguably the best DepEd Secretary we have had. Actually, it was called DECS in those days. DECS being the acronym for Department of Education, Culture and Sports. Now, there is no Culture or Sports in the Department’s title, and judging from the recently announced NAT results in Bacolod City, not too much Education either.

Well before the 1998 elections, Roco pinned down Comelec to ensure that teachers would be paid on time for their electoral duties. We need similar discussions between DepEd and PSA for next year’s census. As with all good management, attention to detail is vital.

DepEd officials may be in “no problem” mode when it comes to ensuring that teachers will be paid promptly but anecdotal evidence suggests that there were many delayed payments after the 2013 elections. Let’s show our teachers some respect!

Anyhow the 2010 census “found” that the population of the Philippines was 92.33 million whereas NSO projections indicated 94.0 million. The 2010 census was of limited value.

What data should census enumerators collect? Ages of family members especially children would be helpful. The number and location of children are vital inputs in determining a useful school building program. The passage of Republic Act 10157 – the “compulsory” kindergarten law – in January 2012 should ensure that DepEd has appropriate kindergarten facilities within reach of the homes of young children. A good census will tell us where the children are and an effective school building strategy should result.

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” – Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 30, 2014.

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