EDITORIAL - Underperformers

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - Underperformers

In yet another reminder of the crisis in Philippine education, the Senate was informed this week that only one government-run high school in Metro Manila obtained the minimum proficiency level in the latest Program for International Student Assessment.

The PISA 2022 showed that among the 21 participating public high schools in Metro Manila, only the Benigno S. Aquino High School in Makati passed the global assessment that measured competencies in mathematics, science and reading comprehension among 15-year-old students. Five other high schools in the National Capital Region made the grade, but these are all privately run, the Department of Education’s director for the NCR, Jocelyn Andaya, told a hearing of the Senate committee on basic education last Wednesday.

Andaya said 21 public high schools in Metro Manila participated in the PISA, which also measures creative thinking and financial literacy. Among the 81 countries and economies that took the assessment test, the Philippines placed sixth to the last. This was a mild improvement from its first PISA assessment in 2018, when Filipino 15-year-olds were ranked the worst in reading comprehension and second to the worst in math and science among 79 member and partner states and economies of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The OECD, which administers the PISA, tested 7,193 students in 188 schools in the Philippines. The number accounts for about 83 percent of the total population of 15-year-olds.

Under the 1987 Constitution, education must get the lion’s share of the annual national budget. Even if this is followed to the letter, however, Philippine education will likely continue to suffer from an acute lack of everything, from qualified teachers to classrooms and school buildings as well as teaching supplies.

The country, not too long ago the destination for world-class education in the region, has progressively fallen behind its neighbors in the provision of this basic service. Other countries, seeing the importance of education in national competitiveness, economic progress and human development, have poured vast resources into providing their citizens across all income levels with quality education.

In the Philippines, where education is free and universal from kindergarten to college, the quality has deteriorated over the past decades. Free tuition has barely made a dent on the dropout rate among low-income students. Many industries are hard-pressed to find workers with the required skills. Undereducation has also led to uninformed choices during elections and poor understanding of citizens’ role in encouraging good governance.

For over half a century now, the Philippines has been losing its lead in the region in most of the human development indicators. One of the biggest causes is the continuing crisis in education.

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