IN MY early twenties I came across this trick question. I did not get the right answer then but I’ve learned ever since its lesson not to do more of something that does not work or works deficiently. Here it is. What is worse than eating half an apple with worms in it? And the answer is… eating the whole apple.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

The high priority given to education by the new administration is most welcome. Nevertheless, I feel constrained to take issue with the President’s initial push to add two more years of high school and to get more people into college. They are excellent ideas, of course. Two more years would make high school graduates theoretically more employable or more qualified to enter college. They would actually be so, however, only if the first ten years educate them at a very high level.

Unfortunately, our basic education is like an apple with worms that we have so far half-eaten. We should not want to eat more of the same apple… and worms. We either throw it away or we can remove the worms before eating the rest of the apple. It is not the length but the quality of our basic education that is the problem. We cannot, therefore, be doing two more years of the same poor quality basic education without first improving substantially the quality of the first ten.

This brings us back to square one, which is fighting corruption. The poor quality of our basic education is, to a great extent, the aftermath of corruption in the education department. Practices like buying error-ridden textbooks from favored suppliers, selling teaching positions and promotions to the highest bidders (who are often not qualified or else why do they have to bid), are counterproductive of quality. If the additional two years are to be taught by teachers who bought their positions or their promotions, we would simply be eating more worms and very little apple.

How many college graduates are unemployed because they could not pass the entrance exams of their prospective employers? If one is not qualified to work after college, it can only mean he got poor grounding during his elementary and high school years. We cannot be helping high school graduates go to college when they learned next to nothing from corrupt education personalities.

The overarching goal is to give a solid, top quality basic education to all Filipinos of school age with no exceptions. Two more years of free trade school might be added so they can learn a skill that can get them employed. The idea is to make high school graduates employable so they can perhaps pay their way through college.

Corruption in education has to go. It is anti-quality and has no place in a system that is mandated to teach the basics of good citizenship.