Wednesday, June 16, 2004

thoughtlife: school daze

Around three weeks ago, the Department of Education released the results of a study that made me want to tear my little growing beard out in shock and despair.

Only one half of one percent of the 1.4 million elementary school students passed the high school readiness exams. The passing score? 75%.

And so the passing mark was lowered to 35%, because, apparently, the DeptEd can "transform" it.

What is wrong here?

There was a time when our country was the best in the region in terms of education. And now we transformed into a nation of nitwits, and the next generation doesn't seem to have much of an intellectual future.

substance vs. certification

There are many reasons one can cite to help explain the appalling deterioration of the quality of education in our country. You know them all, and poverty is foremost.

But there is also another reason, another mindset that is insiduous.

Many parents do not really care what their children learn, where they learn it or how they learn it.

All that matters is that at the end of it all, their child has a diploma. A certification that is supposedly their ticket into the real world's job market.

Diploma mills abound, pathetic things that cannot ever be truly considered schools. And yet people enroll their kids in these scam "institutions". So yes, the kids do get diplomas. But when they graduate, they realize how little they have learned.

As a result, we have hundreds of thousands of illiterate, innumerate and inadequately educated people without jobs - because the diploma is not all you need.

There is no argument that substance matters. But how do we make quality education, where good teachers motivate students to learn, a reality?

winners and losers

As if all of the above were not terrible enough, the government is only now beginning to curb online gambling and mobile betting in and near schools. Only now.

The kids - from elementary onward - use the nearby computers or their cell phones to make bets on horse races, basketball score endings and the like. Payment and collection of winnings/losses is made within the school grounds, usually in full view of many people (the rationale/psychology is: if people see someone win big, they will all want to bet). Most recently, a young girl won P300,000 gambling. She was awarded the check in her classroom, in front of her classmates who cheered (because, naturally, she treated everyone to some food). Soon, her family bought a new vehicle, financed in part by her winnings.

Can you blame her parents for being delighted their little gambler won? The government has a hypocrital stand and sets a confusing example. It smacks down certain forms of gambling but endorses others. What are the kids to think when their parents and the government says it's sort-of okay?

So now some restrictions are happening in schools. One has a P500 limit on the amount of money you can carry in school. One has banned cell phones (to deny the ability of cell phone providers to push current game scores). Both enforce the new rules with random searches.

What is wrong here?


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