"Learning is of utmost importance and should be given all the attention it needs."
I attended public schools from elementary to college. Thus, I am a proud product of the public school system. During my time, while we were keenly aware of the class difference between us and those who were in private schools, I never felt that I was getting lower quality education than the richer ones.
College was a different story. I was fortunate to have passed the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (UPCAT) and I found out that while UP is a state university, even during the mid-70s, the majority of those who were able to enter were from private high schools. It was then that I started to realize that the richer students had (and continue to have) an undue advantage over those like me.
This has not changed through the years. The public education system has not improved significantly. On the contrary, it has worsened, especially now.
Quality education is key to overcoming the shackles of poverty. The only way that economically marginalized students will be able to compete in a dog-eat-dog society is through education. Better opportunities for advancement in life can be had by those who have acquired an education. This will enable them to go out to the world to chart their destiny.
In some ways, this is a given to those with money. They already have the connections. For the most fortunate ones, they already have business empires to inherit and take over. If public education in the country does not improve, the poor will remain poor and the gap between the rich and the poor will even widen.
In this time of pandemic, education is even harder to acquire. Because virtually everyone is experiencing serious economic problems whether due to business closures or slow-downs, or loss of jobs and livelihood, education from private institutions is more difficult to get. Data from the Department of Education indicate that of the 4.3 million private school students last year, only two million (47 percent) have enrolled for this school year. Moreover, 748 of 14,435 private schools have notified the DepEd that they will not be operating this year.
It was predicted in May that around two million students from private schools would either transfer to public schools or drop out completely. As of late July, it was reported that more than 365,800 actually transferred to public schools. With the very low enrollment turnout in private learning institutions, the drop-out rate is interesting to know.
The pandemic has forced the education systems to shift to new modes of learning like online classes and modules. Middle-class families with several school children who are themselves dealing with the economic crisis have expressed difficulties because of the need to buy laptops and other gadgets for each child so they could continue learning. In addition, parents, actually mothers primarily, need to supervise their children while they are online. This means that parents (if they still have careers), have to make adjustments with their time. Our poor internet connection is another problem. The learning of our students is dependent on how good the internet connection is in their places and this results in problems.
Meanwhile, poor parents of those involved in the self-learning module (SLM) system are not free from difficulties. Mothers we have spoken with said that they are asked to pick-up the modules on a weekly basis from either the schools or the barangays. Because there is no public transport, a tricycle ride costs P150 one way. This means that they need P1,200.00 a month just to do this. For those who have lost their livelihood, this is a problem.
Poor mothers are also apprehensive because they should closely supervise their children’s learning. As one unschooled mother said, “How are we to teach our children if we ourselves do not know the answers to questions in the modules?”
And then there are the problems in the modules themselves. The so-called errors in the modules have proliferated social media when schools began. A few are really typographical errors but others were really wrong. An owl was labeled as an ostrich; a question on time had no correct answer; a mathematical problem was solved wrongly; instead of Visayas, Panay was listed as a major island grouping along with Luzon and Mindanao; instructions were wrong; pupils were asked to identify colors when the illustration was in black and white; and that whole section on questions about cockfighting (whatever for?).
While I understand that the preparations were rushed, it is incumbent upon the department to put quality assurance mechanisms before such modules were printed and distributed. A report said that DepEd had the services of master teachers, supervisors, and consultants for the modules. If true, then such “errors” are unacceptable. It is good that netizens made these public because the department can still do corrective measures.
Times are very hard. Recovering from the effects of this pandemic will probably be a slow process. However, the education of our youth is of utmost importance and should be given all the attention it needs. It is only through a good education that their future can be better. Let us not miseducate our young people.
@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook