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State of national emergency (6 March 2006 People's Journal editorial)

ONLY six out of every 1,000 elementary school graduates are prepared to enter high school. That sad fact surfaced in the 2004 High School Readiness Test plied by the Department of Education.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that those numbers might turn up less bleak this time. On March 9 and 15, nearly three million first and second year public high school students nationwide will troop to test centers for DepEd assessment tests to gauge their competencies. Thank goodness, test results won’t reflect in the students’ grades.

Per capita spending for education is placed at P7,700 per student each year compared to, say, New Zealand or the US of A which spends the equivalent of P125,500 per student/year.

In 2004, Sen. Manuel B. Villar, Jr. cited that the Philippines “allots only 3.2% of its gross domestic product for education. It is the third lowest compared to other Asian countries: Malaysia 7.9%, Thailand 5%, Hong Kong 4.1%, Japan 3.6%, China 2.2% and Indonesia 1.3%.

“Even as a percentage of the national budget, at 14% the Philippines ranks the third lowest in Asia,” he added.

The miserly fund support for what’s usually bandied about as “our nation’s future” has spawned dismal results.

Only two of evert 100 graduating high school students are fit to enter college.

The Philippines is No. 41 in Science and No. 42 in Mathematics among 45 countries.

The millions of student examinees nationwide need not worry if they flunk the tests. DepEd has announced that names of flunkers will not be made public. No sanctions will be given to them.

Examination results are also meant to push DepEd to turn up better tools for its programs and methods.

Education has always been viewed as an avenue to a better quality of life—“only the educated are truly free,” rued slave-turned-philosopher Epictetus. Education is an equalizer, opening equal opportunities to rich and poor alike. As such, development and provision of education should always be seen within the context of easing poverty.

About 40% of Filipinos barely make over P100 a day and that amount’s hardly enough to put decent food on their tables.

To the hard-nosed policymaker, such grinding poverty is the genuine state of national emergency.

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