Its Poverty Cause?

In the past decade, significant developments have been made to expand access to preschool and primary education. The necessary laws for the promotion and protection of education are also in place. These include: the Barangay (Village) Day Care Center Law, which calls for the establishment of educational and day care centres in every village; the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Act, which mandates all villages to have day care centres and early learning institutions for children; and, the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001, which promotes school-based management and de-concentration of authority and decision making from the national and regional levels of the education bureaucracy to the division and school levels.

Despite this, access of 3- to 5-year-old children to ECCD remains low at 34 per cent. For every ten 5-year-old children, only six have access to preschool education. Access has been notably lower among younger children (3-4), especially boys and among rural children. This trend is alarming considering that lack of early education and psychosocial stimulation has been linked to poor school readiness and high likelihood of repetition and dropout in early grades. Many parents and communities have to be convinced of the importance of early childhood education. Many believe that 3-year-old children are too young to attend preschool.

While net enrolment in primary school is high at 85 percent as of schoolyear 2007-08 , this rate drastically declines to 62 per cent in high school in the same school year. Drop-out rates are doubled as children reach secondary school. Around11.64 million out-of-school youth and others situated in impoverished urban cities and far-flung communities still need to be reached.

The country fairs well in maintaining gender parity in access in primary education. Boys and girls have almost equal opportunities to attend primary schools. However, boys lag behind the girls in terms of staying in school and level of achievement. A higher percentage of boys than girls drop out of school. The latest Philippine Human Development Report reveals that 53.5 per cent of females are high school graduates compared to 50.6 per cent of boys. Some provinces and areas lag behind others. For instance, Sulu Province in Mindanao has the smallest percentage of children enrolled in public primary schools at just 62 per cent compared to the national average of 81.7 per cent. Consequently, in the same province only 37 per cent of students enrolled in grade 1 public schools are able to reach grade 6. The national average is 63.6 percent. Sulu is one of the most conflict-affected areas in the country, where basic services are limited.

The quality of instruction needs much improvement as well. Public education focuses on developing cognitive abilities but lack instruction for life skills and critical thinking that are relevant to the needs of most school-age children. Out-of-school youth cite “lack of interest in schooling” and the need to work to augment family income are their main reasons for dropping out. Low scores in national achievement tests indicate low quality education.

Public secondary schools are unable to accommodate the large number of elementary graduates. For every 40 village primary schools, there are only eight municipal secondary schools. And the population is projected to increase from 81.6 million in 2004 to 96.8 million in 2015. Approximately 1 million new children join the education system each year.

These issues are further exacerbated by the occurrence of disasters which damage teaching materials, school supplies and school buildings. Unaffected classrooms are used as evacuation centres. As a result, children—both displaced and non-displaced—are deprived of the proper tools and environment for learning. Conditions in host schools distract students from their lessons. Displaced students that were not accommodated in the host schools stop schooling. Those in conflict-affected regions of Mindanao continually live in fear and insecurity which detract them from pursuing continuous education.

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