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Quality Education in the Philippines


What is good quality education? What is the use of this to our daily lives? What
will the effects be on our future? These are but just a few questions that run through our
mind when we think of what education is. Education, for many, is the forefront in
building our future; it gives us the power of knowledge that helps us cope up with the
different steps in our lives. Some think of it as a mere process to gain access to
monetary security and better life, but this is not mere education should be. It is one of
the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and inequality and lays a foundation
for sustained economic growth.

The role of education in economic development is widely acknowledged:
education increases the innovative capacity of an economy and facilitates the diffusion,
adoption, and adaptation of new ideas.
More specifically, education increases the amount of human capital available,
thereby increasing productivity and ultimately output. Education is especially important
in a rapidly evolving economic environment where a rapid rate of job destruction and
creation might otherwise lead to a gap between the skills demanded in the labor market
and the skills of job-seekers.
Trade in education services also takes place through transnational education, for
example when foreign institutions are encouraged to establish campuses in developing
Yet these forms of cooperation are not the most appropriate for the Philippines
for instance because poor local infrastructure makes it difficult to attract foreign
institutions and academics. And, moreover, the principal effect of these forms of
education cooperation is to make education more available, when the problem in the
Philippines is the quality of education not its availability.

Regulatory reform is needed to ensure that the quality of education received at

home is high enough to give domestic Filipino students access to education and work
abroad. This reform process must start by establishing a credible accreditation system,
because under the current system of voluntary self-regulation, less than 20 percent of
higher education institutions in the Philippines are accredited.

Forms of international cooperation other than through trade in education services

would allow the Philippines to improve the quality of domestic education by following the
example set by Malaysia, which has linked its own accreditation system to international
ones. Malaysia has also been active in promoting the development of a regional quality
assurance framework, the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN).
The AQAN was organized in 2008 in order to promote collaboration among
quality assurance agencies in individual ASEAN countries. Though the Philippines has
not yet fully acceded to the AQAN, negotiations are underway to formalize an
agreement to adopt common standards in the education sector.
The Philippines can also pursue bilateral mutual recognition agreements. Such
agreements should include quality assurance on the part of both countries. In this way,
even if the standards are not at the same level as in higher-income countries, there will
be pressure on some of the higher education institutions in the Philippines to improve
their programs and facilities in order to gain accreditation.
Such agreements, whether bilateral or as part of the AQAN, might make it easier
for Filipino policy makers to argue for domestic reform on the basis that it is necessary
to meet international agreements. With a higher-quality higher education system, the
Philippines would then be better placed to reap the well-documented economic benefits
of an educated population.
Education, for many Filipinos, is just a passport to a better life. It doesn't matter
what you finish, where you finish, or how you finish, you just have to graduate! Why do
you think there are so many schools in the country considered as 'diploma mills'? Even
the trade in fake diplomas hasn't slowed down one bit. Why? Because education is a
However, in the same way that many of us purchase a small square of thermal
paper in the hopes of changing our lives by the millions of pesos, there are also others
who don't care about the quality of schools they are attending for as long as they

graduate. A degree from any university is better than not having anything at all.
Another cause of the sorry state of Philippine education lies in government
priorities. The budget allocation for education is small, compared to the industry's
needs. We are so far behind other more developed countries in this respect, simply
because we don't have the money to pay our public teachers any better.
How far the teacher has fallen! Plato once extolled the philosopher-teacher's
virtues and characteristics as the best in society. Today, actors and actresses leading
scandalous lives earn at least ten times as much as your average teacher. And who,
between the actor and the teacher, carries the responsibility of molding the next
generation of Filipinos?


In my own words, education is merely a step to make us grow in all aspects of

life, but useless without the proper guidance provided by the teachers and
administrators and the given teaching aids used today. Good Quality education is a
given name to those that have the complete or necessary requirements in having a
good atmosphere for learning and proper growth. Schools should have the goal to
achieve this good quality education and garner more merits and more students. They
should teach them by teaching them sing the new and effective methods rather than
what we see in the old days.

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An Assessment, PIDS Discussion PaperSeries 98-10
Manasan, R. and E. Villanueva (2002) Who Benefits From GovernmentSpending in Education?
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Education and Training Department. World Bank.
Orbeta, A. (2000) Macroeconomic Policy Change and the JointSchooling and Labor Force
Participation Decision of Children 10-24 Years Old, MIMAP Research Paper, January.
Orbeta, A. (2002). Globalization and Employment: The Impact of Trade on Employment Level
and Structure in the Philippines,PIDS Discussion Paper Series No.

2002-04. February
Tan, E. (2001). The Political Economy of Education Reforms, IDE.

Public Education in the Philippines : On Crisis

According to the human capital theory, the economic development of a nation is

a function of the quality of its education. In other words: the more and better educated
the people, the greater the chances of economic development.
The modern world in which we live is often termed a "knowledge society";
education and information have become production factors potentially more valuable
than labor and capital. Thus, in a globalized setting, investment in human capital has
become a condition for international competitiveness.
In the Philippines, I often hear harsh criticism against the politics of globalization.
At the same time, regarding the labor markets, I can hardly think of another nation that
is so much a part of a globalized economy than the Philippines with nearly ten per cent
of the overall population working beyond the shores of the native land.
Brain drain. Apart from the much debated political, social and psychological aspects,
this ongoing mass emigration constitutes an unparalleled brain drain with serious
economic implications.
Arguably, the phenomenon also has an educational dimension, as the Philippine society
is footing the bill for the education of millions of people, who then spend the better part
of their productive years abroad. In effect, the poor Philippine educational system is
indirectly subsidizing the affluent economies hosting the OFWs.

With 95 per cent of all elementary students attending public schools, the educational
crisis in the Philippines is basically a crisis of public education. The wealthy can easily
send their offspring to private schools, many of which offer first-class education to the
privileged class of pupils.
Social divide. Still, the distinct social cleavage regarding educational opportunities
remains problematic for more than one reason. Historically, in most modern societies,
education has had an equalizing effect. In Germany, for instance, the educational
system has helped overcome the gender gap, and later also the social divide. Today,
the major challenge confronting the educational system in the country I come from is the
integration of millions of mostly non-European, in most cases Muslim, immigrants.
Importantly, this leveling out in the context of schooling has not occurred in this part of
the world. On the contrary, as one Filipino columnist wrote a while ago, "Education has
become part of the institutional mechanism that divides the poor and the rich."
Let me add an ideological note to the educational debate: Liberals are often accused of
standing in the way of reforms that help overcome social inequalities. While, indeed,
liberals value personal freedom higher than social equality, they actively promote
equality of opportunities in two distinct policy areas: education and basic heath care.
For this reason, educational reform tends to have a high ranking on the agenda of most
liberal political parties in many parts of the world.
This said, it is probably no coincidence that the National Institute for Policy Studies
(NIPS), liberal think-tank of the Philippines, invited me the other day to a public forum
on the "Challenges on Educational Reform." With the school year having just started
and the media filled with reports on the all but happy state of public education in the
country, this was a very timely and welcome event. I was impressed by the inputs from
Representative Edmundo O. Reyes, Jr, the Chairman of the Committee on Education of
the House of Representatives, and DepEd Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz. Both gave
imposing presentations on the state of Philippine education.
Although I have been in this country for over a year now, I am still astonished again and
again by the frankness and directness with which people here address problems in
public debates. "The quality of Philippine education has been declining continuously for
roughly 25 years," said the Undersecretary -- and no one in the audience disagreed.
This, I may add, is a devastating report card for the politicians who governed this nation
in the said period. From a liberal and democratic angle, it is particularly depressing as
this has been the period that coincides with democratic rule that was so triumphantly
and impressively reinstalled after the dark years of dictatorship in 1986! Describing the
quality of Philippine school education today, the senior DepEd official stated the

following: "Our schools are failing to teach the competence the average citizen needs to
become responsible, productive and self-fulfilling. We are graduating people who are
learning less and less."
While at the said forum, more than one speaker observed that the educational problems
are structural in nature, I missed propositions for reform that are so far-reaching to merit
the attribute structural.
Gargantuan problems. While the Undersecretary very patiently and impressively
charted out the four policy directions of the political leadership of his ministry (taking
teachers out of elections, establishing a nationwide testing system, preserving private
schools, raising subsidies for a voucher system), to me -- as a foreign observer -- these
remedies sound technocratic considering, what one writer in this paper has recently
termed, "the gargantuan magnitude of the problems besetting Philippine basic
Let me highlight two figures: Reportedly, at last count more than 17 million students are
enrolled in this country's public schools.
At an annual population growth rate of 2.3 per cent, some 1.7 million babies are born
every year. In a short time, these individuals will claim their share of the limited
educational provisions.
"We can't build classrooms fast enough to accommodate" all these people, said the
DepEd Undersecretary, who also recalled the much lamented lack of teachers, furniture
and teaching materials.
In short, there are too little resources for too many students.
Two alternatives. In this situation, logically, there exist only two strategic alternatives:
either, one increases the resources, which is easier said than done considering the
dramatic state of public finances, or one reduces the number of students.
This second alternative presupposes a systematic population policy, aimed at reducing
the number of births considerably.
But this, too, is easier said than done, considering the politics in this country -- or to
quote Congressman Reyes: "Given the very aggressive and active intervention of the
Church addressing the population problem is very hard to tackle."