Mr. Aquino will expand and reform CCT programs

Mr. Aquino will expand and reform CCT programs
The Manila Times
Thursday, 10 June 2010 00:00

YESTERDAY’s press conference immediately after the proclamation of President-elect Noynoy Aquino was a demonstration of his mastery of the national condition.

All his answers—in perfect English and sometimes Tagalog—were impressively those of a person who knows how our country fares in the key departments of life.

One of the questions touched on poverty. Responding, he spoke of the Arroyo administration’s successful CCT (conditional cash transfers) program. Cash is given to the very poor—by the Social Welfare department. But DSWD does not touch the money. Recipients go to the Land Bank.

These are dole outs to the “targeted absolutely poor”—families who need cash so they can have food on their table and some of their basic necessities for survival.

There are conditions to being included in the program. The family must fulfill the basic duties of going to a health clinic for treatment. Toddlers and kids below six must go to the daycare center. And each qualified household’s children of school age must be enrolled. Not only that, the children must have at least 85-percent attendance record. Failing these conditions, the family loses its monthly cash gift from the state.

Through this method, millions of children between 6 and 14 years of age cease to be out of school youth or dropouts. They get some basic education.

Yesterday, President-elect Aquino promised something The Times has been campaigning for: That his new administration will not stop but actually improve and expand the CCT program. All the needy will be helped to surmount their crippling poverty and no child, no matter how poor, is left without an elementary and high school education.

There are now (as of May 2010) 1,015,542 household beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program with the result that 1,739,353 children aged 6 to 14 years old are now enrolled in and attending the neighborhood elementary and high schools.

Yes, he said yesterday. The CCT will even be expanded (which means millions more dropouts will be brought back to school) so that instead of covering only 38 percent of all families that should be in the program, 100 percent would be. Mr. Aquino actually knew the percentage figure! This means no poor child would be left behind by his or her cohort. No poor Filipino child will go unschooled.

He also promised to reform the CCT program. It will become less politicised. (“Babawasan lang ang pamumulitika.”)

Wonderful! God bless you, Mr. President-elect.

Having millions of dropouts equals ever-poor Philippines

In 2006 to 2007, primary school enrolment was down to 83 percent from 90 percent five years earlier. For secondary education, participation rate was a mere 59 percent of our youth—and this figure was steady over five years.

The education secretary then put the 2007 to 2008 participation rate at 85 percent. This early, the National Economic and Development Authority has said we won’t make our Millennium Development Goal of universal participation by 2015. But present Education Secretary Mona Valisno is confident it can be met—with unstinting support from incoming president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd.

There have been improvements, the 2007 to 2008 the dropout rate was 16.7 percent. In 2008 to 2009, the Arroyo administration claims, it has been reduced to 9 percent. This is owed to the various Education for All (EFA) programs, the 4Ps Program (conditional cash transfer for poorest families discussed above), the MISOSA (Modified In-School and Off-School Approach to allow children to study at home while employed as parents’ farm help) and other alternative schooling system. These are parts of the DepED’s Drop-Out Reduction Program (DORP).

But much more must be done.

In poorest regions, a quarter of children are out of school
In the poorest regions, such as in Western Visayas, 25 percent of children ages 6 to 11 are out of school while in the National Capital Region, the participation rate is 92.9 percent.

The number of young people aged 12-15 who are not in high school is 41.4 percent of that population group.

Many pupils don’t even get to Grade 2
For every 100 pupils who enter Grade 1, only 86 will continue till Grade 2. Over the last 30 years, this has been the highest dropout rate (14 percent) in the basic school cycle.

By Grade 4, only 76 will still be in school. By Grade 6, only 67 of the original 100 would still be enrolled—and only 65 will finish elementary school.

Our neighbors have left us far behind
Of the 65 children who graduate from Grade 6, only 58 will move on to high school. And of the 58 who enter high school, only 42 will graduate.

This completion rate of 42 percent is too low for the middle-income country we’re supposed to be. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia—which started at the same level, or lower, in the 1950s—have left our country far behind.

Inequality starts at ‘play’ school
The children of Filipino parents who could afford the expense go through 14 to 15 years of basic education, starting with “play” and “prep” school. The great majority get only 10 years: six of elementary and four of high school.

We’re one of only three countries among 155 Unesco-member states with a 10-year pre-university education system. The others are Djibouti and Angola. Even Laos and Mongolia have elected the 12-year basic system: seven of elementary and five of high school.

We also spend far less on our schoolchildren than comparable neighbor states do. Thailand spends six times more; Malaysia 10 times more, on every schoolchild. Singapore spends 13 times more.

As long as millions of Filipino kids are unschooled and grow up to be adults bereft of basic education, our country will continue to be doomed to deepening poverty.

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