A pitiable educational system

By Herbert Vego

WITH Vice President Sara Duterte as head of our Department of Education (DepEd), I see no better luck for our students. She has done nothing better than order school officials to strip classroom walls of everything, including traditional educational posters and other visual teaching aids.

It’s no laughing matter, but I laughed amused when I saw a YouTube vlogger showing a classroom wall where a framed picture of Inday Sara had been removed.

Inday wants to save teachers from having to “waste” money on pictures and visual aids, short of saying it would be better added to her “confidential funds”.

Sorry for the apparent ignorance of the DepEd head on priorities that need to be done under her watch. Why would she want to revive the mandatory Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program in public and private senior high schools?

Like father, eh? Remember that in June 2019, then President Rodrigo Duterte certified as urgent a measure mandating grades 11 and 12 students to undergo ROTC. In fact, the House of Representatives approved the bill but the Senate did not on the pretext of prioritizing more urgent problems aching for solutions.

Some senators cited an international survey conducted by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among 600,000 15-year-old school children in 79 countries, where  7,233 Filipino respondents averaged “last” in reading comprehension and second to the last in mathematics and science. Overall, the Chinese students scored the highest, followed by Singapore.

As far as our poor showing in reading comprehension is concerned, it was simply ironic because the world recognizes the Philippines as the third-largest English-speaking country in the world – next only to the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively.

We like to believe that our overseas Filipino workers are in demand abroad because of the perception that 72 percent of us are fluent in English. True enough, we learned to speak English under the American colonial rule between 1898 and 1946. It is still the language of official transactions, higher education and the print media.

But reading English and absorbing the message behind are two different things.

Alas, our education system lacks proficient teachers. This is subliminally imparted by the fact that when children finish high school with low grades, parents tend to tell them, “You are not bright enough to take higher courses. Be a teacher na lang.”

Moreover, education is not a lucrative profession. This prompts ambitious teachers to work abroad. So, why expect bright teachers to stay here?

Unfortunately, most Filipino teachers are not recognized as teachers in other countries; and so they usually end up as domestic helpers.

When I was in Singapore, my niece Leny Jane, who was a postgraduate student there, revealed  that college education there requires mastery of major courses.  Thus, Education graduates may only teach after passing 240 hours of observed internship. Flunkers lose the opportunity to join the teaching force.

Our Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) have failed in upgrading our education system in the right way. For example, by constantly changing text books, they favor the “instant” authors and private publishers over the confused students.

The worst “upgrade” came in the form of Republic Act 10533, signed by President Benigno Aquino III on May 15, 2013. Known as the “K to 12” program, it covers compulsory kindergarten and 12 years of basic education (six years of primary education, four years of junior high school, and two years of senior high school) – allegedly aimed at preparing high school graduates for either immediate employment or for further skills development through tertiary education.

While the K-12 bill was being debated about in Congress, thousands of parents and students staged rallies condemning then DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro (the brain behind the innovation) for a “deception” that would cost them more time and hard-earned money on the pretext of “rising at par with the rest of the world.”

Oh no! In fact, pre-K-12 Filipino workers – notably engineers, architects and nurses – have long been in demand in the global market.

Indeed, today’s new college students swear that they “wasted” two years in senior high school, since most of the subjects there were repetitions of the ones they had had already taken, using artificial names, such as “Purposive Communication” for English, “Understanding the Self” for Philosophy, “Entrepreneurial Mind” for Economics, “Contemporary World” for World History and “Mathematics in the Modern World,” among others.



THIS corner believes that Congress has no choice but approve the bill granting a 25-year franchise to the new Negros Electric and Power Corp (NEPC) when it resumes session in November. Thanks to the success of the plebiscite where  concerned residents of Bacolod City and suburbs approved the joint venture agreement (JVA) between the beleaguered Central Negros Electric Cooperative (Ceneco) and Primelectric (affiliate of Iloilo City’s MORE Power).

Under the JVA signed by Ceneco president Jojit Yap and Primelectric president Roel Z. Castro, Primelectric will pay Ceneco 100 percent of its distribution assets, of which 70 percent will be in cash and 30 percent in shares in the new distribution company to be put up after approval of franchise by Congress and the President.

It is already public knowledge that Ceneco has been losing no less than P20 million every month and is now wallowing in P800 million debt.

With the JVA, Primelectric is ready to parlay a total investment of P3.7 to P4 billion during the rehabilitation work to keep NEPC viable in the cities of Bacolod, Silay, Talisay, and Bago, as well as in the municipalities of Murcia and Don Salvador Benedicto.

Without NEPC, I guess Ceneco would black out ahead of the expiration of its franchise in 2030.