Teachers, Don’t Leave Us Kids Alone!


Teacher’s salary should be doubled! A wishful thinking? Yes, this is  maybe a dream but one that rests upon solid foundation- upon our constitution in Article XIV, Section 5 (5) which says that” The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.”

Teachers are the real public servants for all so they deserve special attention and adequate remuneration and incentives. In short, upgrade the teacher’s salary! Although these people are in the first place driven by their calling to “transfer” knowledge to their students and not by the desire to accumulate material wealth, it is still proper for them to recieve a salary that will give them and their families a decent existence, keep them away from worries so they can focus their energy on teaching. This is the first step to ensure quality education. In Human capital theory, the economy of  a nation is a reflection of the quality of education. High quality education means high economy like Taiwan, Finnland, Hongkong and Japan to name a few examples. In short, a better educated population produces a better economy. 

Furthermore, Article XIV Section I of the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines says that ” The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels, and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” and that the “State shall establish and maintain, a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural rights of parents to rear their children, elementary education is compulsory for all children of school age” Section 2 (3). (Republic Act No. 6655 of 1988 is very important in this connection, hence a suggested reading for more details. To this,  Education for All Philippine Plan of Action (EFA-PPA)  addresses access, equity, quality, relevance, and sustainability.)

Twenty-one years after the newly-enacted 1987 Constitution (the Constitution currently in effect, enacted during the administration of President Corazon Aquino, replacing the Marcos-tailored 1973 Constitution), Philippine Education today has “sunk to its lowest level” says Education Secretary Jesli Lapus during the  consultative meeting of  education stakeholders in Baguio City last January 2008 that was also attended by Arroyo. The alarm was first raised in 2006 by the department of Education. Yet two years after nothing has been improved. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroy admitts herself that the state of education continued to worsen, though the budget-as the governmnet claims- has increased over a 10-year period – from P90 billion in 1999 to P149 billion in 2008, excluding the P4 billion acquired in 2007 from the private sector,  after Education Secretary Jesli Lapus re-launched the Adopt-A-School program in 2006. Kudos to Jesli Lapus for his efforts in bringing Education as a societal concern. But gathering from the materials I’ve read pertaining to Philippine education, it shows that increasing the budget for education is not the only solution to the problems of education.

Past statistics show that generally Literacy Rate in the Philippines climbed up over the last few years- from 72 percent in 1960 to 94 percent in 1990 due to increase in the numbers of schools built-elementary, secondary and tertiary levely-  and the rising level of enrollment that followed. Indeed, if you would bother to examine the figures about education in the Philippines that you would find published in Internet, it’s very impressive how enrollment in commerce and business courses as well as engineering and technology courses went up. One interesting fact is the gender distribution: female students are very highly represented in all levels-elemetary, secondary and tertiary education-, whereby male and female students are almost equally represented in the elemetary level. The clear difference begins in the secondray and tertiary education. Here the females exceed the males. In general, higher rates of dropouts, failures and repetition are shown among the boys in the elementary and secondary levels. This is a phenomenon that interests me from a psychological viewpoint. One thing, what does “has improved” mean in the present time and even more interesting is, what does it mean today in global context? In this connection, we will talk later about PISA, or Programme for International Student Assessment.

According to our leading educators, the main problems of our education  are declining quality, affordability, budget and mismatch.

Quality  You may have noticed that the statistics merely give us figures. Quantity is one thing, quality is another thing. In the Philippines the problem of quality is a central issue that will bother us for the next decades. There is still much to be done in this area if we want to help Arroyo realize her dream of transforming the nation into a first-world country. For as of now we are down there below if seen globally. If you live outside the country, what the world knows is only about our corrupt presidents who are taking advantage of their people instead of working for the common good. Many among us  were sadden to hear that our president is the most corrupt leader and the Philippines voted as the most corrupt country in asia. One may question the credibilty of this survey and the people who designed and, most of all, people who financed the said survey. Indeed, this could also be politically-motivated one. But one thing for sure, the Arroyos have already dominated the headlines for corrupt practices even before this survey was made and published. So to expect a good quality of education in our nation amidst this political chaos, moral desorientation, poverty, the on-going rebellion in Mindanao and the ever-present NPA threats, is beyond imagination, a dream in the true sense of the word. Progressive leaders are geared in improving more and more the quality of education in their respective countries to keep up, if not lead, the global standards of excellence and global market demands. So they never tire in evaluating their educational programs and investing huge amounts annually for training, upgrade of facilities and for research. This is investing in human capital for they believe that in today’s  Information Age, education is a tremendous production factor becoming more valuable than capital and labor. 

AffordabilityIt is poverty that hinders education and it is poor education that fosters poverty. Many of us cannot afford to pay education. We just hit the core of the problem, the vicious cycle where there seems to be no way out for the majority of the Filipinos. A pupil can still make it to go to school without  breakfast and lunch for a day. The next day don’t expect this pupil to be in school. It’s just not possible to learn when hunger is killing you. The same with an intelligent public high school graduate from a province. Even if he topped the UP entrance examination and has qualified for government scholarship, who would shoulder his living expenses in Manila? His daily transportations? His school materials? He will end up somewhere below his potentials.

BudgetThe Philippines is slowly becoming a two-class society- the rich and the poor  with a collapsing middle class. Ninety-five per cent of all our elementary pupils are attending public schools and many of them never make it to finish grade six let alone enter public high school because of poverty (Last count reveals that  more than 17 million students are enrolled in public schools). The fight for progress should happen in two levels at the same time- that of maintaining and improving the quality of education and of eradicating extreme poverty and/or diminishing “normal”poverty. This is really the challenge to our political leaders. To our church leaders, if they really understand that poverty has direct connection with rising criminality and juvenile delinquency, that poverty contributes directly to breaking the Ten Commandments that Christianity teaches, then they should take the necessity of birth control as a moral imperative.

You would never see pupils inside a very good classroom with a well-trained teacher when, due to absence of food, all the pupils are  weak and sick or have to roam around looking for food. But even if we have sometimes reason to believe that the powerful few wants the majority to remain poor so they can easily control them, we should never give up striving for a better Filipino society by continously pushing for the needed reforms.

It is clear that in order to break this vicious cycle of poverty-poor education, the government should devise a sustainable socio-economic program of improving the livelihood of all poverty-striken families in all communities and follow the constitutional mandate of allocating the highest proportion of its budget to education. In reality, it is impossible to cope up with the first world when it comes to quality of education for while we are still trapped within this vicious cycle of poverty-poor education, the first world countries have since long freed themselves from this trap and since then been busy with high-tech researches and innovations, winning Nobel Prizes one after another.

MismatchThis is the argument that speaks for the needed reform in our educational system which is coupling vocational training with the private industry sector and rationally introducing Apprenticeship System. The state should create the necessary legal basis for this partnership between the educational and private industry sector. A four year vocational course for instance should be divided into two segments of two years theoretical learning and two years Apprenticeship to the corresponding industry sector where the student /apprentice learns the practical side of his chosen profession in coordination with his school. The student should be considered as an employee during this period and is entitled to monthly compensation which is adequate enough to support his existence as a student. During this apprenticeship period, the student attends theoretical lectures in his school at least two times a month, the school requiring him to pay only the minimum of tuition fees during this period. This is similar to the present OJT (On-the-Job Training) program being practiced now by some noted companies in the Philippines like IBM, Shell,etc.


Now about the PISA:

PISA or Programme for International Student Assessment (source wikipedia)

 The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a triennial world-wide test of 15-year-old schoolchildren’s scholastic performance, the implementation of which is coordinated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The aim of the PISA study is to test and compare schoolchildren’s performance across the world, with a view to improving educational methods and outcomes.

Developement And Implementation

Developed from 1997, the first PISA assessment was carried out in 2000. The tests are taken every three years. Every period of assessment specialises in one particular subject, but also tests the other main areas studied. The subject specialisation is rotated through each PISA cycle.

In 2000, 265 000 students from 32 countries took part in PISA; 28 of them were OECD member countries. In 2002 the same tests were taken by 11 more “partner” countries (i.e. non-OECD members). The main focus of the 2000 tests was reading literacy, with two thirds of the questions being on that subject.

PISA’s debut round in 2000 was delivered on OECD’s behalf by an international consortium of research and educational institutions led by the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). It continued to lead the design and implementation of subsequent rounds of PISA for OECD.

Over 275 000 students took part in PISA 2003, which was conducted in 41 countries, including all 30 OECD countries. (Britain data collection however, failed to meet PISA’s quality standards and so the UK was not included in the international comparisons.) The focus was mathematics literacy, testing real-life situations in which mathematics is useful. Problem solving was also tested for the first time.

In 2006, 57 countries participated, and the main focus of PISA 2006 was science literacy. Results are due out in late 2007. Researchers have begun preparation for 2009, in which reading literacy will again be the main focus, giving the first opportunity to measure improvements in that domain. At last count (end-March 2007), about 63 countries were set to participate in PISA 2009. It is anticipated that more countries will join in before 2009.

Development of the methodology and procedures required to implement the PISA survey in all participating countries are led by ACER. It also leads in developing and implementing sampling procedures and assisting with monitoring sampling outcomes across these countries. The assessment instruments fundamental to PISA’s Reading, Mathematics, Science, Problem-solving, Computer-based testing, background and contextual questionnaires are similarly constructed and refined by ACER. ACER also develops purpose-built software to assist in sampling and data capture, and analyses all data.

The process of seeing through a single PISA cycle, start-to-finish, takes over 4 years.

Method Of Testing

The students tested by PISA are aged between 15 years and 3 months and 16 years and 2 months at the beginning of the assessment period. Only students at school are tested, not home-schoolers. In PISA 2006 , however, several countries also used a grade-based sample of students. This made it possible also to study how age and school year interact.

Each student takes a two-hour handwritten test. Part of the test is multiple-choice and part involves fuller answers. In total there are six and a half hours of assessment material, but each student is not tested on all the parts. Participating students also answer a questionnaire on their background including learning habits, motivation and family. School directors also fill in a questionnaire describing school demographics, funding etc.

Criticism has ensued in Luxembourg which scored quite low, over the method used in its PISA test. Although being a trilingual country, the test was not allowed to be done in Luxembourgish, the mother tongue of a majority of students.


The results of each period of assessment normally take at least a year to be analysed. The first results for PISA 2000 came out in 2001 (OECD, 2001a) and 2003 (OECD, 2003c), and were followed by thematic reports studying particular aspects of the results. The evaluation of PISA 2003 was published in two volumes: Learning for Tomorrow’s World: First Results from PISA 2003 (OECD, 2004) and Problem Solving for Tomorrow’s World – First Measures of Cross-Curricular Competencies from PISA 2003 (OECD, 2004d)

Here is an overview of the top six scores in 2003:


Reading literacy


Problem solving

1.  Hong Kong 550
2.  Finland 544
3.  South Korea 542
4.  Netherlands 538
5.  Liechtenstein 536
6.  Japan 534


1.  Finland 543
2.  South Korea 534
3.  Canada 528
4.  Australia 525
5.  Liechtenstein 525
6.  New Zealand 522


1.  Finland 563
2.  Hong Kong 542
3.  Canada 534
4.  Taiwan 532
5.  Estonia 531
6.  Japan 531


1.  South Korea 550
2.  Finland 548
2.  Hong Kong 548
4.  Japan 547
5.  New Zealand 533
6.  Macau 532


Professor Jouni Välijärvi was in charge of the Finnish PISA study: he believed that the high Finnish score was due both to the excellent Finnish teachers and to Finland’s 1990s LUMA programme which was developed to improve children’s skills in mathematics and natural sciences. He also drew attention to the Finnish school system which teaches the same curriculum to all pupils. Indeed individual Finnish students’ results did not vary a great deal and all schools had similar scores.

An evaluation of the 2003 results showed that the countries which spent more on education did not necessarily do better than those which spent less. Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Japan, Korea and the Netherlands spent less but did relatively well, whereas the United States spent much more but was below the OECD average. The Czech Republic, in the top ten, spent only one third as much per student as the United States did, for example, but the USA came 24th out of 29 countries compared.

Compared with 2000, Poland, Belgium, the Czech Republic and Germany all improved their results. In fact, apparently due to the changes to the school system introduced in the educational reform of 1999, Polish students had above average reading skills in PISA 2003; in PISA 2000 they were near the bottom of the list.

Another point made in the evaluation was that students with higher-earning parents are better-educated and tend to achieve higher results. This was true in all the countries tested, although more obvious in certain countries, such as Germany.

2006 Survey

Here is an overview of the 20 places with the highest scores in 2006:





1.  Taiwan  Finland  South Korea
2.  Finland  Hong Kong  Finland
3.  Hong Kong  Canada  Hong Kong
4.  South Korea  Taiwan  Canada
5.  Netherlands  Estonia  New Zealand
6.  Switzerland  Japan  Ireland
7.  Canada  New Zealand  Australia
8.  Macau  Australia  Liechtenstein
9.  Liechtenstein  Netherlands  Poland
10.  Japan  Liechtenstein  Sweden
11.  New Zealand  South Korea  Netherlands
12.  Belgium  Slovenia  Belgium
13.  Australia  Germany  Estonia
14.  Estonia  United Kingdom  Switzerland
15.  Denmark  Czech Republic  Japan
16.  Czech Republic  Switzerland  Taiwan
17.  Iceland  Macau  United Kingdom
18.  Austria  Austria  Germany
19.  Slovenia  Belgium  Denmark
20.  Germany  Ireland  Slovenia


As announced, the next PISA Testing will be in 2009. I am not aware if the Philippines will be joining – or is ready to join this time. But given the total socio-economic and political situation in our country, I doubt if the Education Ministry will consider filling-up the application form. One thing more, I am not sure if we would meet the PISA standards for joining. It is astonishing how close we are geographically to our neighboring countries which  did not only join but topped the PISA 2006 like Taiwan  Korea and Hongkong in mathematics, reading and science respectively. One could actually reach Taiwan by a small boat. Yet viewed from these PISA Results, Taiwan appears to be light years away from the Philippines and so as South Korea, Hongkong and Japan. Indeed, these countries have shown that the future lies in asia and lately I have heard that from 2015 the Chinese universities will be dominating the world in terms of technical and scientific researches that European researchers can no longer do away without consulting their Chinese counterparts. Are we already satisfied with  the role of an on-looker in a rapidly developing asian community? If our people have no more faith in our politics this is understandable. But to lose faith in education is something that we cannot afford. We don’t leave our kids alone. And we have seen that nowadays our young people should not only be literate but should be able to fluently express themselves in liguistics and scientific terms to cope up with the global standards- or, let us say,- with the asian standards. This will take time and a genuine political will on the part of our next generations of leaders to finally set a decent goal for our country. The present administration has nothing else to offer in this respect for it’s too busy with other goals highly important for themselves only.

jun asuncion

2 thoughts on “Teachers, Don’t Leave Us Kids Alone!

  1. In one of its commentaries, the US-AID, a non-government organization stated…”Once one of the best in all of Asia, the education system of the Philippines has deteriorated significantly in recent years, both in terms of quality and access. The fundamental causes of this decline are slow economic growth, inadequate government revenues and rapid population growth. Corruption and flawed management exacerbate the problem. These factors contribute to poor quality teacher training, shortage of teachers, overcrowded and under-equipped classrooms, increasing drop-out rates and insufficient access to education for the poor”.

    In my opinion, the “quality education” in the public elementary and high school education in the Phils., is just like a dream or a mere aspiration, particularly to the poor families or less fortunate one, as what has been proclaimed in the 1987 Constitution. (dahil Ang mga Public schools sa kanayunan o lib-lib na lugar ay walang libro, walang upuan, walang computer, walang papel, walang bubong ang paaralan, walang magaling na teachers, kung meron man ay tamad, malayo sa technolohiya, walang kuryente at madilim ang paaralan, walang tisa o walang pisara at iba pa, grabe ang kahirapan! At napapabayaan ng gobiernong talamak sa kurapsyon at kawatan!)… On other hand, The wealthy can easily send their offspring to private schools, many of which offer first-class and quality education to the privileged class of pupils… wow!

    Thus, the government, or our government must have to address certain issues affecting quality. We cannot remain complacent since we are living in a century that is characterized by rapid change– social, political and economic. Dramatic quantum leaps are heavily felt in the area of information and communication technology. To be responsive and relevant, our education system should go in the same direction as these major turns in our history. We cannot keep using the same road we are traveling now. We are bound to change course; otherwise, we will eventually find ourselves to be chained to our past educational beliefs and practices if we have to counter the emerging threats and demands to CHANGE. We need to redefine, adapt, reform, revitalize, revitalize, innovative; in other words, transform the educational landscape to meet the challenges ahead.

    Minister Goh Chok Tong of Singapore aptly expresses this need in these lines, which he delivered in 1997 at the opening of the Seventh International Conference on Thinking:

    “We cannot assume that what has worked well in the past will work for the future. The old formulae for success are unlikely to prepare our young of the new circumstances and new problems they will face…”

    Indeed, we cannot go against the current of advances and development. We have to flow smoothly with the tide of change.

    TODAY, there appears to be global dissatisfaction with what education in general provides. Criticism laments the poor quality of graduates basic education schools generate as revealed in the surveys in the recent past.

    In our case, quality deficit in basic education was further manifested in the dismal results of the NSAT, NEAT, etc. (formerly the NCEE)

    In the heart of this specific quest to enhance quality is indeed the TEACHER who we might say, is the “pivotal factor” in the teaching and learning process. The TEACHER is the major player and decision maker in the arena where learning takes place. Given a COMPETENT TEACHER, learning can be made to happen despite deficiencies in curriculum, a technologically-deprived classrooms, the inadequacy of instructional materials and even unmotivated learners. The COMPETENT & GOOD TEACHER will be able to transform these obstacles to opportunities.

    As the saying goes, “knowledge is power”, knowledge liberates individuals as well as entire societies!

    Mabuhay kita entero!

  2. Keys to sustainable education system bared…

    Improving conditions and support for teachers, teacher training, and professional development are keys to attaining a sustainable education system in the changing world, according to Dr. Philip Wong, an associate professor at the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Singapore.

    Wong, who discussed “International Best Practices in Teacher Professional Development in ICT Integration” at the 3rd ICT for Basic Education Congress, said countries, particularly in the AsiaPacific region, should invest and equip their teachers with the tools of the 21st century because they play a crucial role in preparing students to live in the “net generation.”

    “More than salary, what brings out the best in teachers are improving conditions and support for teachers, teacher training, and professional development,” Wong said.

    Citing a report by Mckinsey & Co., a private consultancy firm based in the United Kingdom, Wong said that the three factors commonly found in successful educational systems are recruiting the best teachers, getting the best out of the teachers, and helping pupils when they are starting to lag behind.

    The report also noted that increasing the salary of teachers is not a gauge to improving the performance of students, he said. “In some countries where teachers are paid high, there is no translation to better student performance,” said Wong. The best example of this is the US system, while they can hire the best teachers around the world, their students’ perforamance continue to deteriorate because of the lack of discipline amongst their students.

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