Monday, December 05, 2005

a reading elite?

This story was taken from (here)

Solons appalled RP's grade schoolers can't even read
First posted 03:10am (Mla time) Dec 03, 2005
By Philip C. Tubeza, Alcuin Papa

PROVIDING yet another depressing statistic on the appalling state of public education in the country, the Department of Education has reported to Congress that fully 75 percent of elementary school graduates "cannot read independently"-and lawmakers are so alarmed they want education resources to go for the first three years of basic schooling.

Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya, the chair of the House appropriations committee, yesterday said this came from the diagnostic test results of elementary school students submitted by the DepEd to Congress which is reviewing the department's proposed budget for 2006.

Andaya said the findings pointed to the "low quality and quantity" of elementary school students leading legislators to propose that the DepEd focus its attention and resources on Grades 1 to 3.

"The battle cry is 'All resources to the Grade 1 to 3 fronts.' This means that the teacher, book and classroom shortages in the first three grades will be addressed first," he said.

The report showed that 75 percent of public elementary school graduates cannot read without the help of somebody, Andaya said.

High attrition

Of the 100 students who enter Grade 1, only 58 finish elementary school and go on to high school, he said.

And of 58 high school freshmen, only 48 will graduate, he added.

"Of the 100 pupils who enter Grade 1, only 76 will reach Grade 4. This is an alarming casualty rate which has triggered proposals in the House to focus new school resources in the early grades of basic education," Andaya said.

Andaya likened the education system to a conveyor belt. "Only half of those who begin the trip will reach the high school finish line, with 25 percent falling off within three years of coming on board," he said.

Confluence of problems

Though the DepEd did not cite a particular reason for the low quality and quantity of elementary school graduates, he said this may have been caused by the "confluence" of problems plaguing the education system like the lack of classrooms, books and even untrained teachers.

He noted that more than 200 schools in the country's most highly urbanized area reported that classrooms there served more than 100 students each.

He said 73 percent of physics teachers in public schools were not even physics majors.

Of the P119 billion budget being proposed for education in 2006, P2.9 billion has been earmarked for the hiring of new teachers and their salaries, P2 billion for 5,000 new classrooms, P1.8 billion for 36.2 million new textbooks and manuals, and P1 billion for 1.33 million new chairs.

But even with a larger budget allocation for next year, the DepEd yesterday said P119 billion (up from P112 billion in 2005) would not be enough to cover the projected shortages in classrooms, teachers, desks and chairs next school year.

In a press briefing yesterday, DepEd officer in charge Fe Hidalgo said the country's education system would not experience any improvement in services, particularly in meeting the gap in facilities, with such a limited budget.

She explained that a large chunk of the DepEd's budget, or 90 percent, would go to payment of the salaries of around half a million public school teachers.

With the remaining 10 percent, the department has to reckon with a projected 2.7-percent increase in the student population next school year and 7 percent inflation, Hidalgo said.

Playing catch up

To be able to close the gap in resources and still provide quality education, the DepEd would need a P133-billion budget, and this has to grow by about P8 billion annually until 2015, with an 11-percent increase in the initial year, Hidalgo said.

"We will never catch up until the required budget is met for us to implement quality programs and projects on a grand scale. The quality of teaching and learning will not improve," Hidalgo said.

According to figures from the DepEd, the country spends a paltry P6,354 per student every year.

Just before the opening of classes this year, the DepEd closed the gap in classroom shortages mainly through the "stop-gap" measure of "multiple shifting" of classes. But this meant reducing the time that students spent inside the classroom, officials said.

Calling on business sector

Hidalgo also called on the public, particularly the business sector, to help the DepEd with its programs directed at closing the resource gaps.

But Undersecretary Ramon Bacani said the department would make sure that "we are able to utilize whatever budget is given to us in the most efficient way."

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