Philippine Catholic educators lobby for 'quality education'

Programs must do more than just dwell on the technical side of things, they say
Philippine Catholic educators lobby for 'quality education'

Students of a nongovernment group in Manila provide alternative education to poor children in urban communities during their free time. (Photo by Eloisa Lopez)

Catholic educators in the Philippines have called on the government to prioritize laws that will upgrade the quality of education in the country.

"Most of our legislators are only interested in creating state universities and colleges that only contribute to the number of schools with poor standards," said Jesuit Father Joel Tabora.

Father Tabora, vice president of the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines, made the observation during the association's 74th annual convention on Oct. 1.

"There are very few legislators who truly think about what is happening with our educational system," Father Tabora told ucanews.com.

Association president Brother Narciso Erguiza Jr. pointed out that "the quality and tenor of education in our country is determined by the kind of teachers that we have."

Brother Erguiza told ucanews.com that the present crop of teachers in the country is "not the best and brightest that we have."

Only 27 percent, or about 12,000 out of 44,000 applicants, qualified to teach elementary education, a number derived from the result of the May 2015 Licensure Examination for Teachers.

For the secondary level, only 32 percent, or fewer than 18,000 out of about 56,000, passed the examinations.

"The curriculum can only be as good as the teachers that you have," said Brother Erguiza, adding that the educational program of the government "can only be as effective as the teachers that you have."

"Everything else flows from there," he said.

This year, the Philippine government has started to implement an extended national education program.

Under the "K-12" education program, the country will add two years to senior high school. Currently, basic education goes through grade 10.

While the program has been lauded for improving educational opportunities, groups that work with poor communities say it will render nearly a million students "dropouts."

Earlier, Father Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the public affairs committee of the bishops' conference, told ucanews.com that the poor will be particularly impacted by changes in the country's educational system.

"It will mean an additional financial burden for poor families that are already struggling to make ends meet," he said.

Erguiza, however, said that the government has made progress in improving the quality of education, even calling the "K-12" program "a milestone decision in terms of our education system."

The program aims to provide basic education that will result in employment for graduates, especially for about 7,000 high school graduates every year who do not pursue college education.

Some groups, however, are saying that the "K-12" program, despite its being a "breakthrough" in Philippine education, does not address the problem of unemployment in the country.

The League of Filipino Students has voiced its opposition to the program because it will allegedly "entail further commercialization of college education."

"This will entail greater budget cuts in state universities and colleges," said Charisse Bañez, said its spokeswoman.

She said the government, by implementing the program, is increasingly relying on the private sector to provide education.

The group wants the government to scrap the program.

Rene Salvador San Andres, the Catholic education association's executive director, said efforts to improve the quality of education must do more than dwell on the technical side of things.

"We want to produce engineers with humanity, accountants with ethics, true to our Catholic character," San Andres told ucanews.com.

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