THE Department of Education (DepEd) admitted that meeting universal primary education by 2015 is a “tough target” but it continues to implement the necessary reforms needed to ensure Filipino’s access to quality basic education.


The problem is compounded by the country’s archipelagic nature with its thousands of islands making the delivery of basic services more difficult, said DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus.

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“It is a tough target meeting 100 percent participation rate but this is a reality not only here but all over the world due to various factors, one of which is geography,” Lapus said, adding that only Cuba has attained a 100 percent participation rate.


Universal access to primary education is one of the six components of the Education for All (EFA) Goals set by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) that member-countries, including the Philippines, have committed to achieving by 2015.


The other components are early childhood care and education, increasing adult literacy by 50 percent, improving the quality of education, achieving gender equality and providing learning and life skill to young people.


Lapus said that contrary to critics claim the country’s basic education system has made great strides thanks to the reform measures implemented by the present and past administrations adding that it expect the participation rate to reach 95 percent by 2015.


“We are aiming to increase participation rate from the present 87 percent to 95 percent,” Lapus said adding that the department would focus its resources and efforts to addressing the high drop-out rates in the elementary level, particularly in Grade 3.


DepEd data showed that drop-out rates in Grade 3 exceeded 20 percent.


“We can to this through enhancing our early childhood schooling and the provision of more resources and efforts to the 3,000 schools nationwide identified two years ago as low performing based on the result of the National Achievement Test,” he said.


Programs to reached out-of-school-youths (OSY) will also be intensified through the Project REACH (Reaching Children) by enlisting the help of local government units and non-government organizations in identifying families whose children are not enrolled in basic education and encourage them to send their kids to school.


Earlier, the South East Asian Ministers of Education Organization (Seameo) of which Lapus is this year’s president has planned to put up 10 such similar projects across the region targeting not only the OSY but also members of disadvantage groups and ethnic minorities.


To compensate for the country’s archipelagic nature, Lapus said DepEd will strengthen the use of modern Information Communication Technology (ICT) in public schools to connect students to the global wireless world.


He said that 4,000 out of the more than 6,000 public high schools in the country have already been connected to the Internet through DepEd and private sector initiative.


Each school has been provided with at least 10 computers and associated software and a one year free Internet subscription.


Earlier, the Unesco in its 2010 Global Monitoring Report warned that the Philippines is in danger of meeting universal access to education by 2015 faulting “extreme poverty and regional disparities were at the heart” of the mismatch between the country’s income level and its poor educational outcomes.


It also noted low investment in the education sector. The DepEd had requested a budget of more than P190 billion for 2010 to plug shortages in classrooms, teachers’ items, textbooks, and other school equipment but it was granted only P172.84 billion compared to the P174 billion allocated in 2009.


It also noted the "lack of a decisive leadership” to provide guidance to government reforms in education.


The Global Monitoring Report (GMR) is produced annually by an independent team of UN experts and is published by the Unesco.

The report assesses the global progress towards the six EFA goals to which over 160 countries committed themselves in 2000.


Lapus has defended DepEd’s programs saying that “After a temporary decline, the Philippines has posted a modest but consistent gains since 2006. This provided hope that the country can still meet its EFA targets by 2015.”


At the same time, DepEd said the international body may have based its report on “outdated data” citing last year’s similar case wherein Unesco had a 2009 Global EFA Mid-Decade Report but it turned out it used 2005-2006 statistics because other countries were not able to submit current data.


Lapus, a member of the Unesco Executive Board, said he raised this during the Unesco Board meeting last year in Paris and was well taken.  


He added that in the past three years, DepEd continues to raise the proficiency level of those in school, even as it mobilizes its resources in bringing school-aged children to school through innovative means. 


The official also cited the result of the 2009 National Achievement Test (NAT) given to public elementary and high school students showed a continuing upward result – from 55 percent mean percentage score in 2006 to 66 percent in 2009.


Moreover, the DepEd said more students are moving towards mastery level and there has been substantial drop in the number of students showing low subject mastery.


To increase enrolment and retention in school, Lapus said DepEd is strictly implementing the “no collection” and “no mandatory uniform policy” which encouraged more parents to send their children to school.


“This directive has resulted in an increase in participation rate of 85.12 percent in school year 2008, up by almost two percent compared to 2006,” he further said.


Likewise, he said the private sector continues to invest in the public school system by contributing some P12 billion as of end 2009 through the Adopt-a-School program.   


DepEd also continues to collaborate with development partners to bridge resource gaps and education disparity through such innovative projects as the Basic Education Assistance for Mindanao (Beam), Strengthening the Implementation of Basic Education in the Visayas (Strive), Education Quality and Access for Learning and Livelihood Skills (EQuALLS), Philippine Response to Indigenous and Muslim Education (Prime) which were designed to improve access to quality education in disadvantaged communities.   


For this year, Lapus said DepEd is targeting a participation rate of 53 percent (about 900, 000) of all 5-year olds and 95 percent of then completing pre-school at the end of 2010. Participation rate of 5-year olds in 2008 is 49 percent and 51 percent this year. (AH/Sunnex)