Arroyo’s achievements in education, a fairytale—solon

Antipolo City, Rizal Province, Philippines – It’s all a fairytale.

That is how Kabataan partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino described Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, July 27.

The 29-year old solon said Mrs. Arroyo failed in uplifting the lives of the Filipino people, especially the youth as the quality of education in the country deteriorates and more and more students are dropping out of school because of poverty.

“Just like her previous SONAs, Mrs. Arroyo used the Cinderella-like tales of youths and individuals who made accomplishments because of their own efforts; claiming other’s credits as her own. The stories of Mylene Amerol-Macumbal and Jennifer Silbor are only isolated tales of success. Instead, the plights of many Jonathan Montemayors, Julie Albiors and Maria Flores Biwangs represent the real picture of the education sector,” Palatino said.

Albior and Biwang are both from Bohol, a province in the Visayas. They have top-notched the high school category of the National Achievement Test (NAT) with identical 100 percent score in mathematics in March 2006, beating the other 985,752 students who took the same examination.

Though Biwang has been able to pass the UPCAT or the University of the Philippines College Admission Test, she has withdrawn from enrolling because her family cannot afford the tuition rate of the university.

Meanwhile, Montemayor, a 20-year old nursing student from Trinity University of Asia (TUA), committed suicide last July 25 because of money problems.

News reports said the victim was discovered hanging inside the second floor room he shared with his sister, at No. 29 V. Luna Extension, in Malaya village.

More and more youth are in deep poverty

Based on the 2006 Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors, as presented by Ms. Lina V. Castro, the OIC and assistant secretary-general of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) in the Users’ Forum on the 2006 Poverty Statistics for the Basic Sectors and 2006 Child Development Index, held at the Dusit Thani Hotel last June 25, the children rated 2nd to the poverty incidence rate, while youth is 5th on the list.

The term “children” refers to person below 18 years old, while the “youth” is for persons 15 to 30 years of age.

The Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), according to Castro, posted the higher poverty incidence for children, farmers, women, youth, urban population, and senior citizens sectors.

600,000 PGMA scholarships, no impact

Calling the 600,000 scholarships by Mrs. Arroyo as “token subsidies”, the said “help” for the students does not make any impact; neither can it be considered as a genuine solution to education woes.

“The [said] scholarship grants are actually a manifestation of the increasing cost of education. The government is dishing out scholarships because it cannot control soaring fees in schools,” the solon explained.

Earlier this year, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) reported that 258 Higher Educational Institutions (HEIs), representing some 15.11 percent of 1,726 private and public universities and colleges nationwide, have sought CHED’s confirmation of their hikes in tuition fees this school year.

Reportedly, Dr. Emmanuel Angeles, the CHED chairman has admitted that the Commission has no authority, other than use moral suasion, to dissuade school owners from implementing a tuition fee hike.

Control fees, stop privatization

The young solon advised Mrs. Arroyo to regulate tuition and other fee increases of both private and public learning institutions, while lambasting her policies on privatization of state universities and colleges (SUCs).

“Why privatize these institutions, which give a cheaper or free education? Only a few who will benefit from these scholarships that Mrs. Arroyo is peddling,” the lawmaker said.

Furthermore, Mrs. Arroyo should not be too proud of her ‘higher investment in technical education and skills training’ because ‘the orientation of tech-voc education in the country is export-oriented’, Palatino said.

“Para saan pa ang ipinagmamalaking investment ni Arroyo sa tech-voc kung inilalako rin lamang sila sa ibang bansa?” Palatino said.

Additional years of schooling slammed

Palatino assailed the Presidential Task Force on Education’s proposal to reform the curriculum of professions seeking international recognition.

Reportedly, the task force has recommended that students who want to take engineering, architecture, accountancy, pharmacy and physical therapy should undergo 10 years of basic education, two years of pre-university, before three years of university.

“While adding another year will improve the quality of these courses as it is now a global trend, this does not necessarily mean an improvement on our part. Countries with more years of schooling have higher allocation and spending for education. Our budget for education, on the other hand, has been dwindling since 2001,” says Palatino.

“The Philippine government spent a measly 2.5 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product on public educational institutions in 2007. This pales in comparison to its neighboring countries (such as) Malaysia with 6.2 percent and Thailand with 4.2 percent. Laos even spent more at 3.0 percent. The minimum prescribed standard for education spending set by UNESCO is 6 percent of a country’s GDP,” Palatino ended. (CBCP

See related story at Dateline Philippines.