"I want a school building in every barangay by 2004."
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, SONA, 2001
NO SHELTER FOR OUT-OF-CLASSROOM STUDENTS – CHIZ
Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said that nine years after President Arroyo promised to build a school building in all 41,994 barangays there is still a shortage of 40,000 classrooms throughout the country.
"In 2001, we had a classroom shortage of 30,100. In 2004, we had a backlog of 21,000 classrooms. Today, we lack far more classrooms for our students." he said in his SANA (Sana Naipatupad ni Arroyo) message.
Escudero also recalled that in her 2004 SONA, Arroyo also asked the Department of Public Works and Highways to come up with a prototype design for school buildings at a cost of P250,000.
If the design were created at that cost, government would have needed at least P10 billion to fulfill its promise, he said.
Escudero said if the government decided to scrimp on foreign travels, particularly non-essential presidential trips, then the estimated P3 billion in expenses could have covered the costs for at least one-third of school buildings for every barangay.
It will have also narrowed the current 1:45 classroom to student ratio which is below the ideal classroom-student ratio of 1:25-30 recommended by UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization), he said.
The UNESCO data also indicates the class size in the Philippines pales in comparison to Malaysia (1:31.7), Thailand (1:22.9), Japan (1:28.6), and India (1:40) despite its one billion plus population.
"With enrollment this year reaching 21 million, the Dep Ed has again resorted to double shifting to maximize the availability of classrooms. But this is a temporary solution. It also lessens the learning time of students because they have to give way to another class," Escudero said.
He said schools can be a powerful force in creating community cohesion at a time when families are dealing with the financial crunch, declining peace and order, and political uncertainty.
"Schools create a bond among students, teachers, families and neighbors. They have an important role in teaching young people how to get along despite differences in faith, language, culture and class. We need our children and young people to be able to live and work together and actively participate in society," he said.
Escudero said the classroom shortage could be another reason why the National Achievement Test (NAT) scores are atrocious.
The NAT is an exam given by the DepEd nationwide to all Grade 6 public school students in March to gauge their mastery of lessons learned in the elementary level.
"The current situation is reflective of the quality of education that this government provides. NAT results in both elementary and high school are way below the Mean Percentage Score. This is due, most likely, to the fact that most classrooms are crowded, making it more difficult for students to concentrate," Escudero said.
SANA (Sana Naipatupad ni Arroyo) Totoo Series
(In time for the ninth SONA of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, opposition Sen. Francis Joseph "Chiz" G. Escudero presents his take on her performance in realizing her administration's avowed core agenda – food security, good governance, jobs, and education. In the SANA-TOTOO series of articles (video), Sen. Escudero contends that President Arroyo failed to deliver on her promise in all four key areas.)