My column for this week's issue of Vox Bikol.
ONE of the more popular computing terms while I was in college 20 years ago was GIGO, shorthand for "Garbage In, Garbage Out."
Not sure if it is still being used, I googled and found out that this aphorism "has fallen out of use as (computer) programs have become more sophisticated and now usually have checks built in to reject improper input."
This once-popular term came to mind when I reflected some more on President Arroyo's State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, especially the parts that concerned education. In my previous post, I tackled how a policy reversal on teacher hiring instituted by Education Secretary Jesli Lapus negates the president's claim that her administration has been investing on better teachers.
This demonstrates that policies are equally powerful inputs into the learning process, very much like Ms. Arroyo's penchant for the billions of pesos invested on "social safety nets" that include public education. But unlike modern computer programs, there are no such checks in place that would automatically reject garbage policies like what Lapus has instituted.
This presidential predilection for impressive numbers in the SONA however masks the real state of public education in the Philippines. And the feel-good reference to recent outstanding performance by Filipino students in international contests, while uplifting to the spirit and national pride, is actually a devious speechwriting device that dishonestly drumbeats the exception as if it were the norm.
Just what is the real state of Philippine education today, six years into Ms. Arroyo's administration? Well, it has been there in the Department of Education website all along, buried in some outcome statistics, both for access and quality, that the administration would rather not discuss.
Participation. As of School Year 2006-07, the proportion of enrolled Grade I pupils to the total Grade I population has went down to 84%, six percentage points lower that her first full year in office. Stated simply, when the late Raul Roco was still education secretary, 90 of every 100 six and seven year olds who should be in Grade I have actually enrolled; now, it is down to 84.
It is a little better in high school. Six years ago, 57 of every 100 Filipino students who should be in First Year high school are actually enrolled; as of last school year, it inched up to 58 (although it went up to 60 in 2003-04). This means however that high school education remains a dream for 4 out of every 10 Filipino children.
Completion. Four years ago (the earliest data available), only 67 of every 100 pupils that enrolled in Grade I managed to finish Grade VI; as of last school year, it went down to 57. Which means only around 6 of every 10 children entering our elementary schools manage to graduate.
The situation is much worse in high school. Six years ago, 71 of every 100 First Year students were able to secure a high school diploma; as of last school year, it went down to 54.
And here is the rub: remember that only 60% of our children are able to complete elementary and eligible to move on to high school. If we factor this in, the real completion rate all the way from Grade I is this: for every 100 pupils who enter Grade I, only 30 will eventually finish high school. The DepEd used to compute this particularly damning statistic, but it stopped doing so starting in 2005.
To summarize: of every 100 six or seven year olds that are supposed to enter Grade I, only 84 are able to do so; of these 84 only 57 are able to finish Grade VI and move on to First Year; and of these 57, only 30 will be able to graduate with a high school diploma.
Achievement. How about the quality of education? Well, we have not moved beyond being a nation of fifty percenters at the elementary, with a marked slippage at the high school level.
Six years ago, our elementary mean percentage score (MPS) in national tests stood at around 52%; last year, it went up to 55%. In high school, the 53% MPS in 2001 went down to 44% last year. Who do they mean? Simply, that our elementary pupils are only able to correctly answer a little over half (55) in a 100-item test, and our high school students less than half (44).
And how do we stack up internationally? This year, the 2007 Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS) is being conducted, and it could have given us an idea where we stand right now. But two years ago, the Philippines suddenly decided to drop out, finding the P10 million or so participation fee in this quadriennial survey expensive. It is a drop in the bucket of the megabucks this input-obsessive administration is spending for infra to make those in Ms. Arroyo's Friendster list happy. But it would have none of unpleasant outcome indicators that hurt.
25 July 2007
My column for this week's issue of Vox Bikol.