Improving the quality of Philippine education

Published by rudy Date posted on April 17, 2009

Dear Professor Cruz:

I wished you did not say “(i)t is clear that we have no choice but to add at least one more year to our 14-year education cycle” (Mini Critique, “High School in College”, Philippine STAR, April 2, 2009, p. A-17). People tend to take you authoritatively.

Your solution to improve the quality of Philippine education has three aspects: (a) add one year or more to our education cycle, (b) add it (them) after the secondary level, and (c) give this priority.

Many have been advocating the lengthening of our education cycle. Some 25 years ago, I joined them. My reason then was not our low education quality, however. It was just that our system was not standard. As you pointed out, whereas many had eight-year elementary cycles, ours was only six. Our secondary level was one or two years less than others. That was the case then; it is still the same now. Hence, if one is not careful, comparing our high school students with those from other systems may be unfair.

I have misgivings on the matter of adding the extra year after high school. While private schools would welcome that suggestion, it would shift the responsibility for quality basic education away from the government and toward the Filipino family because college education, unlike basic education, is not a duty of the State. Does adding a year or two in college in the name of quality square with our Constitution?

As for doing this right away, this sense of urgency is artificial. There is nothing inelastic about a 2020 deadline. That deadline is not cast in stone. Instead, I suggest that the priorities be determined by what is on the ground, that is, empirically. About that time when authorities were toying with the idea of adding an extra year or so to bridge the elementary and the secondary levels, a Philippine study reported in the International Education Journal (2006, Vol. 7 No. 7) that “whereas Grade 6 enjoyed a slight superiority in achievement scores (compared to Grade 5) circa 1976 … Grade 5 enjoys an impressive superiority over Grade 6 circa 2003”. It concluded that the idea “that in Grade 6 one knows more competencies than in Grade 5 seems to be a myth”. You can access the whole study online at http://iej.cjb.net. Because of its implications, that study should have been dissected by authorities for possible flaws in methods and/or conclusion. Unfortunately, it was as if no report was ever made.

Based on that finding, I suggested that instead of constructing a bridge between levels, priority be given to “repairing the approach to the bridge” (that is, Grade 6). Surely, that would cost less than adding an extra year. We also won’t have to wait for 2020.

After making repairs here and there based on solid data on the ground, we can next turn to the difficult problem of lengthening our school system. Mr. Professor, there just ought to be a choice! Suggestion: get others to debate on your thesis. — Dr. ABRAHAM I. FELIPE, abefelipe@yahoo.com

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