In-Depth: Education in a tight fix

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

THE Department of Education (DepEd) national office has repeatedly announced that they are prepared for the school year 2014-2015 claiming that there is no shortage in classrooms and teachers.

On the ground, however, it appears that their idea of being prepared is trying to fit a class or two with more or less 50 to 60 children inside a small classroom while some teachers will have to handle two classes simultaneously. Other schools, meanwhile, resorted to having three shifts to address the high student population. This is an all too familiar scenario in Davao Region particularly in Davao City.

In the data provided by DepEd-Davao spokesperson Jenielito Atillo, a total of 225,349 elementary and kindergarten students were enrolled in 285 schools in Davao City in 2013-2014. These students share 3,916 classrooms or more than 50 to a room. A total of 80,334 high school students were also enrolled in 70 schools in the city while the total available classrooms for them were 1,354 or around 60 per room.

Atillo also noted that from last school year's enrollees in elementary and kindergarten, Deped-Davao City lacked 1,011 classrooms while they also had a shortage of 550 classrooms for the high school students. To make things worse, only 134,924 armchairs were available for kindergarten and elementary pupils and 64,652 for the high school.

The projected number of enrollees in kindergarten and elementary for the school year 2014-2015 is 232,109 while 83,548 high school students were expected to enroll this year. To address the additional enrollees for this school year, Davao City needs a total of 1,102 classrooms for the kindergarten and elementary and 615 for the high school. 703 teachers for the kindergarten and elementary are also needed and 489 for high school.

Atillo said that Davao City has already been a recipient of 568 newly-hired teachers with 326 assigned to the elementary and 242 to the high school level.

But based on the data from the DepEd-Davao City planning division, only 224,864 are currently enrolled in the kindergarten and elementary which is 7,245 short from the expected enrollees. But the enrollees for high school exceeded the DepEd's projection as there are currently 84,478 high school pupils enrolled.

Atillo said that among the reasons why there is a high congestion in the schools in Davao City particularly in the schools in the downtown area is that some students who live from areas far from the downtown area still insist on enrolling in the schools in the downtown.

"Kaning mga skwelahan sa Kapitan Tomas, Magallanes, Davao City High, Sta. Ana ug kaning mga naa sa downtown areas nga daghan ug malls, daghan kaayo gustong magpaskwela diri bisan pa ug sila nagpuyo sa Bunawan, Toril, Mandug ug Lasang. Daghan man unta kaayong mga skwelahan nga maagihan sa ilang area. Namroblema intawon ang mga skwelahan sa ilang area kay way estudyante human ang mga skwelahan diri sa downtown magguot pud sa pagsugod sa klase, (In the schools of Kapitan Tomas, Magallanes, Davao City High, and these in the downtown area where there are malls, many want to enroll here even if they are living in Bunawan, Toril, Mandug and Lasang. They could enroll in schools within their areas. Those schools have problems of not having any students while the schools in the downtown areas become crowded when classes start.)" Atillo said.

True enough, Kapitan Tomas Mondeverde Sr. Elementary School and Magallanes Elementary School have among the highest number of enrollees at 4,657 and 6,460, respectively. The Davao City National High School and the Sta. Ana National High School, meanwhile, also have the highest population in the high school level with 9,309 and 6,817, respectively.

Deped-Davao City planning division officer Allen Sacamos, in a separate interview, said that the overall population and the budget constraints from the national office of DepEd has been the primary reasons why their agency is struggling to meet the ideal number of classrooms and teachers for the students.

“The annual population growth is 2.3 percent so basically we have too little resources for too many students,” Sacamos said.

He said that the student to classroom ratio should be 45:1 and this is not even the most ideal ratio as he considers it to be still too crowded. The same applies for student to teacher ratio although it may vary on the grade level. The 45:1 student teacher can be applied for Grades 1 to 4 but for kindergarten students, the ratio is 50:1 which can be divided to the morning and afternoon shifts.

Sacamos also said the equation that could determine the ideal number of teachers for Grade 5 to the high school level is number of enrollees divided by 45 times 1.6 (number of enrollees/45*1.6).

But despite the given ideal ratios, Sacamos said the reality is that the national office of DepEd doesn’t have enough budget to pay for the teachers they need to hire to match the ratio. He also said that based on the directive of DepEd secretary Armin Luistro, DepEd is not hiring any auxiliary teachers from the Local School Board (LSB) anymore and this has compounded the woes in addressing the shortage of teachers.

When asked of viable solutions to address the mismatch, Sacamos said that kindergarten students could avail of the barangay paid teachers. However, these teachers may come and go as they are reliant on the budget of the barangay. He also admitted that schools could utilize the scheduling of different shifts for high school students to maximize the available teachers and facilities.

The planning division officer also cited that the DepEd also offers the adopt-a-school program for private companies who would like to donate classrooms and other facilities for their respective corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs noting that among their biggest donors include Aboitiz, Holcim and Lapanday Foods Corporation.

Sacamos added that the current number of classrooms, teachers and school facilities for school year 2014-2015 is yet to be accounted for but it has become apparent that the ideal student-teacher and student-classroom ratios are yet to be religiously followed.

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