Fernando: Educational development in the Philippines. Where are we now?


THERE are two ways to assess the educational development in the country. One is by looking at the educational system that covers both the educational structure and curriculum, and the other is by assessing the quality of education through valuation of our teachers and students’ competencies. A major change or development in the educational setting in the last century includes the wider access to education by Filipino learners after Spain handed us over to the United States.

Education in the country was established by religious missionaries and communities at the time of the Spanish rule, and expectedly, religious teaching was required and attending school was merely a privilege. This gave birth to the establishment of private schools and universities owned by religious groups. When US took control in the Philippines, education became more accessible to non-religious sectors. Also it introduced English-language teaching and free primary school education for all.

Fast forward, in 2013, a major transition occurred in the educational landscape, the Department of Education (DepEd) adopted the K-12 Curriculum that extended the years of basic education from 10 years to 12 years (13 including Kindergarten). Prior to this change, the country was one of the few who only have 10 years in basic education. The additional two years in high school (senior high school) aimed to capacitate the high school students in knowledge and skill for them to become better prepared for the tertiary level and to make them fit for work through enhancement of their skills if they do not intend to pursue higher education.

Access to education gained further development through several programs of the government. Education for All (EFA) program was strengthened in 2015 setting four objectives that include providing education options for all out-of-school adults and young people; eliminating drop-outs and repetition during the first three years of school; encouraging the completion of a full cycle of basic schooling to a satisfactory level at every grade by all Filipino children; and committing to the attainment of basic education competencies for everyone (Education reform in the Philippines).

President Duterte also signed Republic Act 10931 or the “Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act” granting free tuition and other fees for students in state universities and colleges (SUCs), as well as local universities and colleges (LUCs) and technical-vocational institutions (TVIs). There is also the Student Loan Program set up to help college students augment their financial needs.

Remarkable developments in education include a slight increase in the number of higher-education faculty holding higher degrees. The percentage of instructors with master’s and doctorate degrees grew from 38.87 percent and 11.09 percent in 2010, respectively, to 40.34 and 12.62 percent in 2015. The number of higher-education institutes with accredited education programs, which is not mandatory in the Philippines, increased by more than 40 percent between 2010 and 2017, while the passing rates of candidates sitting for professional licensing exams, a measure of academic effectiveness, jumped from 33.9 to 58.6 percent between 2010 and 2015.

In June 2016 the World Bank published its assessment on the Philippines reform of basic education, “Assessing Basic Education Service Delivery”, noting that reforms were now backed with a substantial increase in funding, after years of underinvestment exacerbated by average population growth in excess of 2%.

The World Bank estimates that public spending increased by 60% in real terms between 2010 and 2015, helping finance infrastructure improvements and provide the means to hire more teachers. As a result, between 2010 and 2013 the student-to-teacher ratio in public high schools fell from 38:1 to 29:1, while the student-to-classroom ratio dropped from 64:1 to 47:1.

Now looking at the quality of education in the country, we have obviously achieved significant development but I say we are still far from the expected level of where we are supposed to be. There is monumental development in the access of education but the quality still suffers. The results of various standardized tests to measure knowledge of students among different countries show that Filipino learners fall behind. One reason is the problem on educational facilities due to underspending and perhaps due to massive corruption by officials “Despite impressive recent increases, the Philippines still spends less on education than many neighboring and middle-income countries,” one study noted.

“Recent analysis has confirmed the need for more spending to meet national education norms and standards.” In a separate report looking at the EFA initiative, UNESCO noted that even though the largest portion of the Philippine budget had consistently been devoted to education, in percentage terms this fell short of international standards, with the state spending only 2.6% of GDP on the sector in 2011.

That figure has risen over the past few years to an expected 3.5% in 2017, but the Philippines continues to spend far less on education as a proportion of GDP than many of its neighbors. Both Vietnam and South Korea, which have some of the world’s best-performing schools according to international benchmarks, spend 5% of GDP on education (Education Reform in the Philippines).

Underspending is translated to the different problems in the school setting. One online commentary about education says that “there is a shortage of schools, public school teachers, and the unfortunate ones are overworked. Classrooms are cramped and many schools lack adequate access to electricity and water supply. In terms of quality, we have students who graduate but lack of required competencies. The Philippines ranks low on various global assessments.

We have lots of improvements in our education system especially on access and funding but overall, the progress is so far slow. The primary basis is the general performance of the Filipino learners. My encounter with high school students prove that that country still has a lot to do to improve the quality of education especially on acquiring the necessary competencies. While it is asking that we focus on the access to education, quality of education should not also be compromised.


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