Quality, Relevance and Access in Basic Education

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Education is an indispensable requirement for a person’s well-being. Insufficient or poor education deprives a person of the means of doing and becoming.

The Philippines has always taken pride in its achievements in education, particularly its high adult literacy rate and high enrollment rate. Ironically, such high achievements in education are not translated into higher levels of development. The disparity stems from the unequal access to, low quality and marginal relevance of basic education in the Philippines.

Improving access to education has always been the focus of government’s policy interventions, to the exclusion of other concerns. The government is hard pressed to keep up with the rapid growth of the country’s school-age population, and the high public elementary and secondary enrollment rates. The concern for universal access required budget cuts that led to the deterioration of the quality education.

Poor quality of education is evident in the low scores obtained by Filipino students in standard tests at the national and international levels.

Greater collaboration must be undertaken by the DECS and local authorities on technical academic reforms, particularly those pertaining to the curriculum and policy on language instruction.

Results of the nationally-administered National Elementary Achievement Test and National Secondary Achievement Test showed that students gave correct answers to less than 50 percent of the questions. The Philippines also performed poorly in the Third International Mathematics and Science Test, ranking second from the bottom in the mathematics category and third from the bottom in the science category.

The quality deficit is mainly attributed to the inadequate budget for education. As of 1997, the national education budget was only about four percent of the Gross National Product (see Table 3.6 ). Expenditure per pupil in 1996 was P1,396 (1985 prices), way below national and international standards. In addition to this, schools’ pattern of spending was skewed in favor of personnel services (salaries and other forms of compensation) at the expense of capital outlays (school buildings and school facilities) and the maintenance and other operating expenses (textbooks, library, laboratory supplies).

Also contributing to the low quality of education is the dearth of highly competent teachers who are the students’ primary source of learning in the absence of books and other learning materials. There are few institutions that offer high quality education in core courses like language, math and science. Inadequate preparation of teachers is evident in the teachers’ dismal performance in the Professional Board Exam for Teachers.

Apart from quality, relevance is also a problem in Philippine education. Most of what children learn in school are not applicable in their daily lives. Curriculum is overloaded and does not accommodate regional and cultural differences, leading to lack of focus and rote memorization. Language remains an issue. While the government has made an effort to indigenize knowledge through the use of Filipino as the medium of instruction, this is unsupported by qualified teachers and good teaching materials. Coupled with the deteriorating quality of English teaching, the situation has resulted in semilingualism and mediocrity. The old debate on whether to use local languages or English in schools has also been resurrected in the light of the challenges presented by globalization.

Households spent 3.7 percent of their income on education in 1997. This is an improvement over the 1988 level of 2.9 percent. As might be expected, this varies by level of family income. The proportion spent on education rises with family incomes (see Figure 3.4). With 32 percent of the families below the poverty threshold (per capita poverty threshold in 1997 ranged from P14,360 in the National Capital Region to P8,000 in Central Visayas ), many families spent less than one percent of their income on education. Assistance to students at the secondary level is provided mainly under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GATSPE) program. This consists of two schemes: the Education Service Contract (to enable students to enroll in private schools where no public schools exist or where there is excess enrollment in public schools) and Tuition Fee Subsidy (to help families cover tuition fees in private schools) . However, both proved ineffective in helping poor students because the amounts provided are too low to bring the cost of secondary education within the reach of the poor.

Present efforts of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) are geared towards expanding access to basic education and enhancing skills of teachers. Apart from the construction of more school buildings, the DECS is studying the feasibility of using year-round calendar to enable the schools to take in 20-25 percent more students, and optimize the use of school facilities; recruiting construction firms to build school buildings under the build-operate-transfer scheme or lease/purchase agreement; opening nursery schools, kindergarten, pre-schools and day-care centers at government expense; and adding a pre-university year to brush up students’ skills in language and mathematics. DECS also plans to improve the skills of both elementary and secondary school teachers (particularly Grade V and VI teachers) by providing scholarships for higher education and training programs. Long-term plans include reforms in teacher education.

The rationalization of the education budget is needed to properly address the issues of educational quality and relevance. Priority must be shifted from personnel services to capital outlays and maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE). One way to attain savings in MOOE is to cut down on the number of textbooks required, and to concentrate on procuring quality instructional materials. Investment in information technology is also practical as it not only serves as an effective teaching method, it has also a much wider reach than traditional teaching techniques. There is also a need to make education more accountable to parents, communities and local governments. This will pave the way for common projects such as fund-raising for the improvement of school facilities, and development of quality and relevant curriculum. Greater collaboration must be undertaken by the DECS and local authorities on technical academic reforms, particularly those pertaining to the curriculum and policy on language instruction.

(The 2000 PHDR was adjudged by the UNDP Human Development Report Office as the best national human development report in the Asia-Pacific Region for the period 1999-2000 along with the China report. The UNDP cited the Philippine report for its excellent use of human development tools, presentation and design, and participatory approach and policy impact. For a complete listing of awardees, please view http://www.undp.org/hdro/highlights/nhdr.htm)

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Acknowledgements, Preface, Foreword 1 and 2
Chapter 1 – Quality, Access and Relevance in Basic Education
Chapter 2 – Philippine Basic Education 1999-2004
Chapter 3 – Education Costs and Finance
Chapter 4 – Human Development at Century’s Close
Statistical Notes
Technical Notes
Back cover