they cannot teach what they do not know

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.

Article XIV, Section 1, Philippine Constitution

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.

Article XIV, Section 5, Paragraph 5, Philippine Constitution

ILOILO CITY – The Department of Budget of Management posts the annual appropriations of the government under the National Expenditure Program on its website – dbm.gov.ph. For 2015, the budget appropriation for the Department of Education (DepEd) totals P317.1 billion. On page 371 of the 398-page tome detailing the DepEd budget, you will find that P209.7 billion of the DepEd budget is spent on Personal Services which is essentially the amount allocated for the salaries and other benefits of our teachers and other DepEd personnel. This is allocated among 643,452 DepEd employees. This translates to an average of P25,070 per month per employee. Note that the number of projected employees is the same as that in 2014 – freeze hiring ang DepEd.

peertutors_philippinesOn the same page (page 371 if you’ve already forgotten), you will find under Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) an amount of P5.3 billion allocated for training and scholarship expenses. This makes it the third-largest item under MOOE after Financial Assistance/Subsidy and Supplies and Materials Expenses.

The third major component of the DepEd budget (together with Personal Services and MOOE) are Capital Outlays for which P66.8 billion is appropriated.

In summary, the DepEd budget includes P209.7 billion to pay people, P66.8 billion to build school buildings and P40.6 billion to keep the current bureaucracy running. Tucked within the P40.6 billion “keeping the bureaucracy running” allocation is P5.3 billion to train our teachers to be better. Okay…

One of the biggest challenges facing businesses in the Philippines today is finding good people. The Philippines produces about 500,000 college graduates a year. Finding someone from among these 500,000 who can write a proper paragraph in English is like finding a needle in a haystack. Sa review pa lang ng CV you will probably have a 1 in 100 (if not less) chance of finding someone who got the spelling and grammar right much less someone who can write an original thought. I say this not out of arrogance, it is just the way things are. For the jingoistic out there, we just have to bear with the fact that English is still the lingua franca in the business world. It becomes worse when you assess math skills. It is downright depressing when you go looking for people with higher-order thinking skills – it’s like striking gold when you find them.

You find out quickly that things that should have been taught in 2nd grade (like multiplication) are taught in 2nd grade but never understood. So when you hear or read job ads which specify “needs minimal supervision” well, good luck with that because kids coming out of Filipino diploma mills not only need supervision, they need baby-sitting or worse (like you having to do what they’re supposed to do). Again, I may sound like it but I’m not being arrogant.

For the better part of most of my life, the Philippines marketed itself as an investment destination because of our lower costs and educated (i.e. English-speaking work force). Being a low-cost provider of cheap labor (oops did I over-emphasize?) is never a lasting advantage. There will always be someone who is willing to go even cheaper. And now, we may speak English – but what kind of English?

By brandishing the cheap labor card, we consign ourselves to being order takers, always at the beck and call of someone else. This is not the way to a better life or a better nation. Do we not think we are better than this?

In the IMD World Competitiveness Report of 2014, we were ranked number 42 out of 60 countries. This was down from 38th place the year before. In another similar survey, the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report of 2013-2014, the Philippines ranked 59th out of 148 countries. The question is – can we do better?

[To be continued]

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