Shortage of SchoolsBy Chino Niccolo
At a cabinet meeting held on 30 May, officer in charge of Dep. Ed. Fe Hidalgo reported that there is a shortage of 6,832 classrooms in the Philippines based on a student-classrom ratio of 45:1 and a single shift per day.
But President Arroyo cut her presentation short by saying that the shortage was only a 1,000 in 2004 based on ration of 100:1 and a two-shift scheme. So this year there is hardly any shortage at all.
"So what is the shortage now if we use what was agreed on last year?" Ms Arroyo asked Dr. Hidalgo after giving her a quick lecture on the new Math. And she replied: "We only have a few shortages right now." Satisfied, Ms Arroyo proceeded, partly addressing the media: "Exactly, exactly, I mean we have to present our accomplishments on that ... We've always been attacked every year for the shortages ... (but) we have been meeting the shortage."
At the Commonwealth Elementary School in Metro Manila, the world's largest grade school (according to the Guinness Book of World Records), 12,755 students are packed in 85 classrooms. To alleviate the congestion, the school's ingenious teachers have turned every space in their building, including the toilets, into classrooms. This is not unusual. In San Diego Elementary School, also in Quezon City, where 5,400 pupils must make do with 18 classrooms, teachers have been holding classes on the stairs and along fire exits.
In most areas, fewer than seven of every 10 Filippino school-children enrolled every year will graduate from grade school. About four will finish high school and only one will manage to earn a college degree.
Ideally, a teacher should handle only up to 40 students or less. But some practice teachers handle a class of 90 students in the late 1990s. Conditions have since somewhat improved.
The dressing-down that Dr Hidalgo got from President Arroyo yielded a desirable outcome - the Senate restored the P-1-billion cut from the school-building program of the Dep. Ed.
On the front line, smaller schools are being started without fanfare by civic minded citizens to address this issue. Fr Pabillo opened his school in far-flung and remote Palawan that has already produced some graduates.
In most GK communities established by the Couples for Christ, school play an integral aspect in the life of the new communities.
With many philanthropic minded Pinoys coming to the government's rescue, it will not be any wonder when the school shortage will be a matter of history for the Philippines.