MANILA - A militant lawmaker criticized the Aquino administration on Monday for its alleged failure to address the various problems in basic education.

Close to 21 million students trooped to public schools nationwide on Monday, the first day of school year 2014-2015.

"Millions of students are to return to their schools only to find the same old education problems brought about by years of underfunding for education – shortages in facilities, skyrocketing matriculation, and for students in basic education, additional burden through the full-blown implementation of the K-12 program," said Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon.

"Unang araw pa lang ng klase, bagsak na agad ang gradong ibinibigay ng kabataan kay Pangulong Aquino. Bagsak sa pasilidad, bagsak sa curriculum, at bagsak sa pagsagot sa lumulobong presyo ng matrikula," he added.

The Aquino administration has continually bragged about closing the classroom gap, as students in areas hit by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) late last year will be starting their year in makeshift classrooms and tents, Ridon said.

He cited a report of Department of Education (Deped), which stated that 2,000 makeshift classrooms and 2,500 tents welcomed students in Leyte, Eastern Samar, Capiz, Aklan, Iloilo -- all provinces hit by Yolanda.

Same report noted that more than 2,000 classrooms have yet to be built and 17,700 others have yet to be repaired, almost seven months after Yolanda, the deadliest storm to hit the country last year.

"Almost seven months have passed since the Typhoon and the construction has yet to begin. Reports even show that the design for the classrooms have yet to be finalized. Clearly, the government is ill prepared for the school opening. And there is no truth to the eradication of the classroom backlog," Ridon, who represents the youth sector in the House of Representatives, said.

The legislator also criticized reports of "rushed school curriculum" for higher year levels in the K-12 program, particularly Grade 9.

This school year marks the third year of implementation of K-12, and the introduction of the curriculum for Grade 9.

Teachers in various high schools recently aired their complaints on the rushed curriculum for Grade 9, and new K-12 textbooks that are "full of errors."

"In the way Deped allegedly rushed the curriculum for Grade 9, we can clearly see that three years into its implementation, the government is still not ready for the K-12 program. Students and teachers alike will surely suffer from the haphazard implementation of this rushed curriculum," Ridon said.

Meanwhile, Ridon also denounced Deped's approval of tuition increases in 1,299 private basic education schools for the incoming school year.

"The government tries to cover up the deregulated nature of the basic education system by saying that parents always have the option to enroll their students to public schools, where education should supposedly be free. Yet this reasoning does not answer the fundamental issue of having schools that charge a fortune for something that should supposedly be free,” he said.

The lawmaker also criticized the Deped's Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (Gastpe), which will be given P7 billion budget this year to "lure students and parents into enrolling in private schools."

"Deped says that Gastpe is the solution for families who want to enrol their children to private schools but cannot afford the tuition. We have two main points of contention against this – first, the solution to ease access in private institutions does not lie in providing dole-out funds that don’t even suffice to cover full matriculation. Rather, the solution is to strictly regulate tuition to ensure that tuition rates in private schools remain reasonable and affordable," the militant lawmaker said.

The lawmaker said the Gastpe is essentially a program that "siphons valuable funding that could have gone to public schools into the pockets of private school owners."

"All in all, the Aquino administration has once again shown its gross incompetence in its failure to address the basic problems of the education sector, thereby affecting the studies of millions of aspiring Filipino students. It is but right to give Aquino a big fat 'F' for his administration's performance with regard to education," Ridon said. (Sunnex)