IT IS disheartening that Filipino public school students hugged the bottom ranks in reading comprehension (a function of critical thinking), math and science in PISA’s (Program for International Student Assessment) latest assessment.

A country’s progress rides mainly, but not solely, on the innovation of its engineering, math and science professionals. Its social development, in turn, gets needed boost from citizens who look at social reality with a critical eye and have the courage of their convictions.

Let me get straight to the point that poverty and corruption are the twin roots of our education woes. This is by no means an oversimplification given the following facts:

The brain like any other organ of our body needs proper nutrition to function optimally. Most of our public school children come from one-third of Filipino families who are poor, destitute even. Their children go to school undernourished, hence with underdeveloped brains that are slow to comprehend anything especially math and science which are both tough nuts to crack even by well-nourished children.

The 40-to-1 teacher-student ratio is not conducive to in-depth learning and comprehension. Neither are make-shift under-equipped school rooms or no school rooms at all. Poverty-spawned ignorance causes our runaway student population growth at the lower economic levels. Corruption meanwhile prevents us from keeping pace with this growth as funds for classrooms and equipment are siphoned off to the pockets of the corrupt.

The lack of quality education is also caused by poverty and corruption. Many who take a teaching course take it because it is cheap and fairly easy to pass. When they graduate, some are hired in our public schools not for their competence but because of political patronage, while others have to agree to give one month salary, give or take, to corrupt school supervisors.

Textbooks are poorly written and inappropriate because of corruption in the choice of writers and printers. Like why are textbooks printed only by Manila printers? And how are textbook authors chosen and designated?

We have to take care of our runaway population in the lower economic levels and rid our education system of corruption so students are well nourished and supplied with enough fully-equipped classrooms, qualified teachers and appropriate textbooks.

Then we can talk about quality which comes from teachers who know how not to teach but simply facilitate the learning process. It comes from teachers who do not give test questions that students can answer from memory. And that puts us back to square one because you can have these teachers only if you erase poverty and corruption, the twin roots of our education woes.