UP failing to serve poor students, ADB study says

by Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard Today

STATE colleges and universities led by the University of the Philippines are not serving poor students as they are mandated to do, according to a study commissioned by the Asian Development Bank.

“Philippine education is in a deep crisis and sees little hope of recovery unless drastic reforms beginning with higher education are immediately implemented,” the report says.

The report is part of the bank’s technical assistance to the Education Department, and it found “a disproportionately small number of poor students in the state universities and colleges,” or a mere 6.7 percent of the student population.

It says one reason is that poverty prevents poor students from properly preparing for a college education, and the result is that many of them flunk the entrance tests given by state colleges and universities.

“The poor are discriminated more seriously in the better quality prestigious state universities and colleges like the University of the Philippines Diliman, for they do not possess competitive college preparatory education,” the study says.

It says the high and persistent incidence of poverty and income inequality also leads to inequality in education, as the poor appear less able to compete with their richer counterparts in state universities and colleges that have restricted admission.

Basic education has its own problems, the report says, noting that student performance is only about 50 percent in the national achievement tests for elementary and high schools, and in the international mathematics and science tests for 13-year-old students.

At the college level, the passing rate in the various professional board examinations except for medicine is below 50 percent.

“There is also evidence that majority of schools at all levels operate inefficiently,” the study says.

Resources in the public school system are concentrated in personnel inputs—representing 90 percent of the total—while financial support for learning materials makes up just 1 percent.

And as a result of poor education and training in high school and even in college, many graduates end up without jobs.

“The unemployment rate among the high school and college educated has persisted over the last two decades at 9 percent or more,” the study says.

“This is the gridlock of Philippine education.”

The report partly traces the problem to the government’s education policy, particularly that relating to higher education.

“Much of the problem is rooted in finance, especially the financial management of state universities and colleges,” the study says.

“Revolutionary reforms in the state universities and colleges’ finance would be required for dismantling the gridlock.”

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