Excellence in sports, mediocrity in academics
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - December 11, 2019 - 12:00am

Are our students, teachers, and school administrators spending more time, efforts and money in the gymnasium and shying away from the school libraries, laboratories, and classrooms? It seems that the evidence indicates that the Filipinos are excelling in sports and doing very badly in academics.

Our outstanding performance in sports, as demonstrated in the ongoing 30th SEA Games, is showing the whole Asia and Pacific that the Philippines is an emerging giant in athletics. But our embarrassing performance in the global assessments of our students' academic performance (in reading, math, and science) is a slap to our faces. It would seem then that we are spending more time, efforts, and focus on sports and we have miserably neglected the academics. The Philippines is number 79 among 79 countries in the recent assessment by PISA or Programme for International Student Assessment, under the auspices of the OECD or the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development. This is a wakeup call for all education officials. If this happened in Japan, within 24 hours the Minister of Education would either commit hara kiri or submit his irrevocable resignation.

We applaud our athletes for the many gold, silver, and bronze medals that our delegations garnered from the SEA games. But this achievement is overshadowed by the insulting result of the PISA assessment of our students. Can you imagine, many other less-sophisticated countries (some of which we sneered at as backward) have performed much better than us. What happened? Is it because of the quality of our curriculum, the skills of our teachers, the number of hours we allocate to teaching the basics? Or, is it because of too many calamities that disrupt our education processes? Too many typhoons, earthquakes, floods, and too many holidays that interrupt the classes?

Unexpectedly, China topped the assessment, followed by Singapore, Macau (China again), Hong Kong, Estonia, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Korea, and Sweden. These are the top ten. They are followed by New Zealand, US, UK, Japan, Australia, and Taiwan (China again), Denmark, Norway, Germany, and Sweden. The Europeans are on top too. Then, followed by Belgium, France, Portugal, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Croatia, Latvia, and Russia. I am very much affected because last October, my family and I were in 21 European countries and I was bragging to our European friends that the K to 12 is doing wonders to our educational system. Me and my big mouth. I'm tempted to retract my statement.

Imagine, how difficult it is to accept that the following countries are doing better than us: Kosovo, Lebanon, Morocco, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Macedonia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Peru, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, (my God), we are beaten by Qatar, tiny Brunei, Malaysia, Jordan, even by Cyprus, Uruguay, and even by Serbia, Malta, and Chile. What is happening to our schools, Madam Leonor Briones? Is our country going down the drain, and becoming again, the sick old man of Asia? What face do we have to brag about gold medals in sports, when we are now being laughed at as the bobos in this part of the world?

It is high time for Congress, for Malacañan and for our education officials to crack their heads together and salvage whatever remains of our national sense of dignity and pride. We cannot leave this hanging and remain as the laughing stock of the world.


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