Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) Congressman Win Gatchalian has scored the Department of Education’s (DepEd) “poor planning” in its implementation of senior high school next year, following media reports on the lack of electricity and water supply in many schools that will offer Grade 11 in 2016 and Grade 12 in 2017.
Gatchalian was referring to a research by Philippine Star which indicated that 97 senior high schools will be established in public schools that have no electricity, and another 250 on existing school buildings that have no access to water supply.
“This reflects poor planning and lack of foresight on the part of implementors of the K to 12 program, especially the Department of Education. Electricity and access to water supply are basic necessities to any school which should not have been overlooked,” said Gatchalian, a majority member of the House Committees on Basic Education and Culture and on Higher and Technical Education.
Gatchalian maintained that planning for the implementation of K to 12 happened years before. “There is simply no excuse for concerned agencies to neglect the basic necessities of electricity and water supply.”
The Philippine Star also reported that most of the schools are in Mindanao, specifically in CARAGA region and in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
“This means that so many of the schools that will offer grades 11 and 12 have no access to basic utilities. It is also no coincidence that the schools which have no power and water supply are in regions where poverty remains high and where the benefits of K to 12 is needed the most,” Gatchalian observed.
While K to 12 aims to make the Philippine education system competitive with other countries. Gatchalian pointed out that the K to 12 program also seeks to make students ready for work right after they graduate from high school.
“This would have helped them to earn income for their family and to save up for university studies. K to 12 would have helped them to improve their social mobility and rise from poverty,” said Gatchalian.
It is showed in a 3rd quarter survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) the self-rated poverty stayed at 70 percent in Mindanao, eight points higher than last year’s average of 62 percent for the island.
It is far worse than the self-rated poverty of 32 percent in Metro Manila, where the country’s political and financial activities are concentrated.
DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro remained firm with the establishment of senior high schools even in institutions with no access to utilities, saying: “Obviously, learning is enhanced when you have electrical power and water supply, but schools will have to be established even in the most remote communities as long as there are young people who need to be reached.”
Gatchalian advised the DepEd to use data from non-government organizations such as the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability in East Asia and the Pacific in monitoring gaps in education that still have to be addressed.
“The DepEd has not only to take note of resources that are not delivered in public schools but the agency has to take action to address gaps,” said Gatchalian.
The NPC lawmaker also warned the DepEd that it should also not use lack of resources of schools as an excuse for not introducing innovations.
Gatchalian cited the work of Cybersmart Africa, which crafted low-cost interactive whiteboards using nylon sheets, PVC pipe, and a modified Nintendo Wii for use in schools in Senegal that have very poor physical infrastructure, including those that run with little or no electricity. (Monica Cantilero)