EDITORIAL - School opening woes
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - June 2, 2014 - 12:00am

The Department of Education is addressing the backlog in classrooms, but the inadequacy of school facilities keeps re-emerging as education resources fail to keep up with the booming population.

Over the weekend the government announced the release of P7.3 billion for the construction of 7,136 classrooms in 4,007 public elementary and high schools nationwide. Another P1 billion was released to repair or build new schools in areas hit by Super Typhoon Yolanda last year.

Still, overcrowding in several areas is expected as the school year starts today in public schools and most of the private learning institutions. In disaster zones, some schools double as evacuation centers as the development of resettlement sites moves slowly.

The lack of classrooms is not the only problem. While the government keeps hiring new teachers, there are never enough educators. Salaries have gone up for public schools teachers, but they continue to be unhappy with their pay and have warned that they would greet the first day of school with mass protests. The government must also compete with foreign employers that can afford to pay much more.

There have been many improvements in recent years in the public school system. The textbook shortage has been addressed. The basic education curriculum has been overhauled to emphasize science and mathematics. Children are taught in their native tongue in the first years of schooling before they are introduced to English. Kindergarten is now free and compulsory, and K to 12 is in place. There are programs to assist students in matching their chosen courses with skills that are in demand.

Yet there are persistent problems. The quality of Philippine education still lags behind many other countries in Asia. Filipino school children are being left behind particularly in skills in information and communication technology.

In Metro Manila, overcrowding in several schools and horrendous traffic jams arising from simultaneous road constructions briefly gave rise to a proposal for a three-day school week. The proposal has been junked. There have been notable improvements in Philippine education, but tough challenges still lie ahead as a new school year opens.


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