Education and Home

Why private schools

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz - The Philippine Star

Why do private schools exist?

It is important to remember why there are so many private schools in the Philippines.

Historically, the first schools in our 7,100 islands were private schools. The Islamic schools before 1521 and the Catholic schools after 1521 all predated the establishment of a public school system first by Spain in 1863, then by the USA in 1901.

Except for such outstanding examples as ADMU, USC, and UST, there are not too many of those pre-20th century private schools left. Most of the private schools established after 1898, however, are still around, despite the great progress the government has made in establishing a public school in practically every community in the country.

Since there are so many public schools around, why do some parents still send their children to private schools?

It cannot be a question of quality. The University of the Philippines and the Philippine Normal University systems are public schools. So is the Philippine Science High School system. So are the Models of Excellence elementary schools. Nobody questions the quality of these public schools. In recent national examinations, in fact, the secondary schools in the top ten are usually public and not private schools.

It cannot be a question of convenience. Some parents send their children to private schools far from their residences, even if there is a public school nearby.

It cannot be a question of faculty competence. In recent years, many private school teachers have moved to public schools. All public school teachers have passed the licensure examinations; some teachers in private schools have not even passed these examinations. In fact, the average salaries of public school teachers generally exceed the average salaries of private school teachers (one reason teachers move from one system to the other).

It cannot be a question of textbooks. The publishers of textbooks for private schools are exactly the same publishers of textbooks for public schools. In many cases, the same textbooks are used in both public and private schools. That is even happening now with the K to 12 modules that DepEd has prepared.

It cannot be a question of money. Some parents spend hard-earned money on private education despite the fact that public schools are free or almost free.

It cannot be a question of the company that children keep. Many private schools (such as parochial schools) have even less money than public schools and cater to the poorest of the poor. The idea that all private schools are rich is a myth. The idea that the parents of children in private schools are all rich is also a myth. (Just ask private school administrators how many of their students are unable to pay tuition on time.) Think also of how many rich students study in UP Diliman.

The real reason is one that the Department of Education (not the current one, since it is headed by someone who used to head a private school) has often forgotten.

Many times, the Department of Education insists that private schools do exactly what public schools do. But if private schools had exactly the same curriculum, the same textbooks, the same type of teachers, the same teaching strategies, and the same tests as public schools, why should parents send their children to private schools?

Parents send their children to private schools because they want something more than what public schools offer.

In most cases, that is religious instruction. Public schools are not allowed by law to teach any particular religion. Religious values in general (what we call ethics or right conduct) may be taught, but not the tenets of any particular church. Catholic parents, for example, want their children to grow up Catholic. Opus Dei members have established their own schools to ensure that their children follow their footsteps. INC does the same thing, and so do many Protestant churches.

But it is not only religion that private schools offer. They also offer subjects that, correctly or not, parents want their children to master. The simplest example is the English language.

The K to 12 law specifies that the medium of instruction in elementary school should be the Mother Tongue. This is the correct pedagogical step in accordance with international agreements (with UNESCO), education research (loads of research all over the world proving the superiority of Mother Tongue education), and practicability (a significant percentage of public school students do not finish elementary school and, therefore, will never work in an environment that requires knowledge of the English language).

There is, however, a crucial difference between students in public schools and those in private schools. Most students in private schools will not be pushed out (the new term for “drop-out”). They will continue to higher education. They will become professionals. They will most likely work in an environment that will require knowledge of the English language.        (To be continued)                  

Read Part 2 here                             

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