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Sunday, June 04, 2006

Bang For Your Money

There is nothing like a few days spent away from everything that helps clear one's head. and the moment one returns--- well it is rather anticlimactic. Take for example all this hoopla between classroom figures, i'm sure you are tried of hearning. Never been a parent, I suppose it is different for someone who is. still, year in and year out, we debate this issue and for the longest time we run around in circles. this country admits to have limited resources. yet we pursue relentlessly to tackle our "enourmous" limitations in education, in healthcare in such brute force manner.

have we ever stopped to consider a bit of finesse in resolving these very important issues of the day?

The Department of Education in its website has displayed the terrible achievement levels of elementary and high school students in english, math and science--- the latter two of extreme importance in this day and age of rapid growth in information and in technology and will be of paramount importance to stay competitive in a global environment.

those are facts as much as in the same manner, classroom size is a fact, much like textbooks and other teaching materials all of which are lacking and require billions of pesos to finance. And year in and year out we debate it all.

Let me ask you this: how much revenue has Makati, Quezon City and the combined Cities of Metro Manila been able to make? How much is their net income? Have we ever stopped to think that by seeding the responsibility of educational financing and management to Local Governments, particularly those of substancial capability, they can improve performance in those areas of concern?

think about this: with limited resources, every buck spent must have a thermonuclear effect, otherwise we'll never improve our educational system, or anything else for that matter.


Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

I emailed today the following contributed article to the Inquirer, though I'm not it will get published. We are thinking along the same lines. So, kindly indulge me:

Towards greater local control of the public school system

By Wilfredo B. Prilles, Jr.

Over the weekend, an engrossing discussion regarding the sorry state of the public school system took place (and continues to) in Dean Jorge Bocobo's blog. The discussion started with the question: If every year the national government spends P120 billion on a centrally-managed public school system that has been underproviding on basic education services for decades, is there a better way?

I say there is, and it is about giving greater local control of the public school system to communities that will demand for it.

Take Naga City, for example, and imagine the possibilities: The P120 billion annual outlay translates to P6,667 per student, or P233 million for the city's 35,000 elementary and high school students. Together with the P40M being spent by the city government annually, with P273 million we can

1. bring down the number of teachers from 1,200 to 1,100 by streamlining the curriculum (which translates to a workable teacher-student ratio of 32); and

2. raise the starting monthly salary of all teachers to P20,000 — already higher than what call centers give. But everyone will have to meet higher teacher recruitment standards, start as locally-funded contractual teachers, and will have to prove themselves based on their students' achievement test results prior to regularization. And that is just for starters.

A centrally-managed system for the long run will continue to yield the same inadequate results. Today, DepEd with its 400,000 workforce is the biggest bureaucracy in the national government, and will only continue to grow bigger as it tries to keep up with the rising school-age population. It will increasingly become difficult to manage such a bureaucracy, and expect to respond to unique challenges that differ by locality. Moreover, there is very little chance to exact accountability over education outcomes from an organization whose local divisions and districts respond more to their regional and national superiors rather than the local communities they serve.

What are opportunities come with demand-driven devolution of basic public education?

1. Local officials will become responsible for education outcomes in their respective localities. Non-performing school officials and teaching staff can be removed from service if they continually fail to deliver results. Performance of the public school system becomes an election issue, and parents can choose to remove local elective officials on the basis of unacceptable outcomes.

2. Local control also means greater consciousness over local needs that must be addressed, as well as locally available solutions to priority problems. In Naga, for instance, there is the possibility of creating an expanded voucher system that will optimize existing capacities: putting a cap on ideal class size in the public school system on the one hand, and redirect excess enrolment back to private schools on the other.

3. National and local funding for education can be aligned, and increased. Since the local DepEd and the local government becomes part of a single organization, common education targets can be set, and the resources required to attain the targets allocated more efficiently and effectively. For cities, their national share from the DepEd and the Special Education Fund (SEF) being allocated through local school boards becomes a common education fund. More so with provinces, which are today's winners in the IRA allocation scheme. (Cities and provinces are entitled to the same level of IRA — 23% of the total — but there are now twice more cities than there were 10 years ago. On the other hand, only two new provinces were created over the same period.) Thus, because they become accountable for public education, governors can be motivated to share their Local Development Funds (which is 20% of the total IRA) to augment their comparatively smaller SEFs.

Of course, this scheme has its own pitfalls. One is the country's mixed experience with decentralization under the 1991 Local Government Code, which devolved agriculture, health and social services, as correctly pointed out by a fellow blog commenter. Another is the fear that the system will be politicized. But these are manageable risks.

That is why there is need to implement this selectively, demand being the primary criterion. When local communities and their leaders demand for, and are given local control over public education, it is greater power that comes with even greater responsibilities. But when local stakeholders have a bigger voice in governance — which is what Naga has been pioneering in the Philippines under the leadership of Mayor Jesse Robredo — there are enough mechanisms for ensuring that the local state will behave and exercise this power responsibly.

cocoy said...

sorry for my delayed reply. i have been out in the boondocks and no wifi connection to get to the internet. i appreciate your comment and thank you for participating. :)

on a different note, this blog shall be on haitus--- as i will be on the road again and though i will have my notebook with me, it would be least likely that i will be able to connect to the network. until then, i apologize to the readers of my blog. said...

There is another pitfall to denationalizing education: Poor areas will get stuck with even poorer education.

I also have problems with the "quantification" of the performance of the local schools. If I'm thinking of this correctly, this will end up in schools teaching for the exam, not giving the students a proper education. This is even scarier when thinking of how politicized the education sector will be if the local governments take control.

Education in this country is undoubtedly in the crapper and I don't think there is any quick solution. It needs to be made a national priority. A national pastime. If only the hullaballoo which went into the "garci" scandal went into education... :sigh:

cocoy said...

hello poldoga,

sorry it has taken me awhile to reply... you're comment isn't entirely unfounded. especially with "denationalizing" education. the idea isn't for every region and every city... just the ones with the capability and certainly not abrupt. because something like this can not be done in a few years let alone see results! the whole point is that some regions have more money than others, why not use those resources and target specific areas of concern like education and maybe even healthcare (but i'm going off topic there). the idea is to focus time, energy, money, resources into worthwhile endeavors like healthcare. :)