On DepEd's K to 12 Fuzzy Math and Logic

We all probably need to take remedial classes in mathematics. Numbers are indeed intricate pieces of information. What numbers represent is important. What operations are performed is equally significant. The numbers used to describe the current state of Philippine basic education can guide the nation on what needs to be done. With fuzziness, however, numbers can also mislead.

Shortages in the Philippine public school system that are described in numbers and reported in the news can be conflicting. But the shortages, as seen in photographs and as directly experienced by pupils, teachers and parents, are very clear. Somehow, the pictures we see become fuzzy as we apply numbers to describe the situation. Take, for example, the shortage in teachers. Pick a number. Some say 61,000. While others cite 47,000. And there are reports that claim 132,483 (this one is even stated to the ones' place). 74,178, this is another number floating around. Why different numbers? The difference lies in the details. It depends on how the need is counted, whether the counting considers every item as equivalent. There are volunteers. There are contractual teachers. And there are teachers that are not supported by national funds, but by local government school boards.

There are about 21.5 million pupils enrolled in the public school system. Aspiring for a 35:1 pupil to teacher ratio requires about 600,000 teachers. If each teacher gets paid 18,000 pesos per month (Salary Grade -11), 600,000 teachers require an annual budget of 130 billion pesos. This calculation assumes that all teachers are paid at the same grade. This number likewise does not include allowances and benefits. And of course, staffing and administrative salaries are needed to arrive at the total budget just for personnel to run the public school system. At Salary Grade -15, the budget just for the base salary of 600,000 teachers amounts to 180 billion pesos.

The shortages in classrooms, desks, toilets and textbooks also present numbers that are as equally challenging to comprehend. For classrooms, the numbers cited range from 27,000 to 98,000. For desks, 800,000 for kindergarten alone are needed, while Aquino's state of the nation address claims that the gap in school desks will disappear this year. On textbooks, it is difficult to count since at this point, with the new curriculum, I am not sure what a textbook really is. And one should not neglect that there are 150,000 water and sanitation facilities currently needed.

If the counting of teachers is already complicated because of the variety in these positions, counting classrooms, desks, toilets and textbooks is even more difficult. The introduction of multiple (double and triple) shifts in schools makes a proper counting of facilities impossible. The fact that there are 10000 students, for example, in Quezon City, who have been forced to be home-schooled complicates the situation.

But the budget for education will be increased according to President Aquino, from 239 billion pesos in 2012 to 293 billion pesos for 2013. This is an increase of 54 billion pesos. The Alliance of Concerned Teachers have recently calculated the required budget to run kindergarten and their estimate is about 34 billion pesos. This calculation is based on the perceived requirements of the kindergarten program: 34,500 teachers (each teacher has two sessions with 25 pupils in each session), 34,500 classrooms (this assumes double shifts), 860,000 desks (34,500 classrooms times 25 students per classroom), 34,500 water/sanitation facilities. These numbers are consistent with having 1.73 million pupils currently enrolled in kindergarten. Kindergarten is the first year that is being added to the public education system in DepEd's K to 12 curriculum. Subtract 34 billion pesos (required for kindergarten) from 54 billion pesos (the increase in DepEd's budget), and one is left with 20 billion pesos, which could hire about 90,000 teachers at Salary Grade - 11. But that is it, nothing left. President Aquino offers a different itemized view to describe the increase in DepEd's budget:

Basic Education. This year, we mark a milestone in Philippine education with the launch of the K-12 Program that reforms our education curriculum, and will improve the competitiveness of our graduates through a 12-year basic education cycle. This Administration likewise lauds the passage of the Kindergarten Education Act, in line with our belief that education is for all. 
Naninindigan tayo: ang edukasyon ay susi sa pagbukas ng oportunidad upang labanan ang kahirapan. 
To support these reforms, this Administration plans to eliminate all resource gaps—classrooms, teachers, textbooks, among others—by next year. With this in mind, we have once again greatly increased the DepEd budget. We have raised it by 22.6 percent to P292.7 billion, from P238.8 billion this year. 
In particular, we increased funding for the Basic Educational Facilities and the School Building Program by more than 50 percent—from P17.4 billion this year to P26.3 billion in 2013. All in all, we expect 30,789 classrooms to be constructed and rehabilitated next year, which will finally close the classroom gap. To complement the new classrooms, we will procure more than a million seats and construct 90,461 water and sanitation facilities. 
We also aim to fully cover the shortfall in quality public school teachers by allocating P13.4 billion for the creation of 61,510 teaching positions to include the regularization of 7,967 kindergarten volunteer teachers. 
With a P1.5-billion budget, the government will also procure more than 31.1 million textbooks and teachers’ manuals in 2013 to maintain the 1:1 student to textbook ratio. 
To improve access to basic education and to help decongest public high schools, this government increased provisions for the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) to almost P7.0 billion next year, from this year’s P6.3 billion, to accommodate one million grantees. Each grantee in the National Capital Region (NCR) will receive P10,000, while those in other regions will receive P5,500.
The numbers, of course, do not match. The shortages cited above form a new set of numbers. According to the above, there are 30,789 classrooms, 90,461 water and sanitation facilities, and 61,510 teachers needed. (I am no longer paying attention to the textbooks because that will just give me additional headache). Compare this set of shortages to this one: 98,000 classrooms, 154,000 water and sanitation facilities, and 132,000 teachers. This is fuzzy math but in every school opening, one thing is clear, there are shortages. And if the Philippines actually becomes successful in its "education for all" objective, the out-of-school youth, about 10%, will be absorbed by the system, which roughly requires an additional 10% increase in both operational budget and infrastructure. 

President Aquino in his state of the nation address said, "We are ending the backlogs in the education sector, but the potential for shortages remains as our student population continues to increase. Perhaps Responsible Parenthood can help address this...." The basic shortages above (depending on which numbers are used) range from 10% to 20%. The population growth rate for the Philippines in 2005 was 1.9% and in 2011, it was estimated at 1.7%. The shortages in schools clearly do not come solely from an increasing population but more on a continuing neglect of basic education.

One can get really dizzy with the numbers but, in the end, the reality is inescapable. The schools are what they are. The conditions teachers and pupils face are as real as can be. No fuzzy math can change that. But, then again, I may have to take remedial classes in Mathematics.

Congressman Palatino recently wrote on his blog, an article entitled "The Arrogant Obscurantist". Here are excerpts related to the education budget:

On education
Pnoy should not brag the additional funds for the education sector. No president has reduced the nominal budget of education. Furthermore, the Department of Education has always received the highest allocation among all government agencies because it has the biggest bureaucracy. The reported increase in the DepEd budget should be compared with the agency’s budget plan (P338 billion) for the successful implementation of K-12 next school year. If we use this as an indicator, then the government’s proposed budget for DepEd (P297 billion) would still be inadequate to address the needs of the sector.
The P37 billion fund for state colleges is also insufficient to meet the basic needs of public higher education. It is clearly not a modernization budget and it will hardly improve the competitiveness of local universities. It is significant to note that state colleges proposed a budget of P53 billion for next school year.
The reported budget hike won’t easily reverse the decline of tertiary education in the country. Years of underinvestment in the education sector have weakened the capacity of many colleges and a ‘cover up budget’ in 2013 won’t lead to overnight transformations in schools.
Pnoy’s rant against student protesters was unnecessary. The self-declared heir of People Power shouldn’t belittle student opposition to government policies as mere ‘cutting of classes.’ Pnoy, a Martial Law victim and self-professed activist, should know that student activists are informed and educated individuals who sometimes go to the streets because it is effective in raising political issues. Besides, protests against education budget cuts in the past two years were co-organized by teachers, school officials, and other education stakeholders.
It was actually Pnoy, not students, who first revealed the cuts in the budget of state colleges. Below is an excerpt from Pnoy’s 2010 budget message which included a brief explanation as to why he reduced the funds of state colleges:
“We allocated P23.4 billion to 112 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in 2011. This is 1.7 percent lower than the P23.8 billion budget for 2010. We are gradually reducing the subsidy to SUCs to push them toward becoming self-sufficient and financially independent.”
Curiously, in his SONA, Pnoy presented a figure of P21.8 billion for the 2010 budget of state universities. It clearly contradicted his budget message. Is Pnoy fudging data? Students should tutor Pnoy on simple mathematics and honesty in presenting government statistics.


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