Since his reaction to the embarrassingly-low NAT scores was the catalyst for Part One of this discussion, Senator and presidential aspirant Mar Roxas has the perhaps dubious distinction to be the first candidate who will have part of his platform put under the microscope. In the interest of clarity and fairness, a few conditions to this discussion should be explained:
We define a platform as a statement on an issue of governance, which has three recognisable parts: a clear definition of the issue or problem to be addressed, the candidate’s proposed solution or objective for the issue or problem, and a rationale for that particular point of view. It is of secondary importance what the platform is, so long as the candidate actually has one. Motherhood statements or purely pandering rhetoric do not a platform make, and will earn the scorn they deserve. In terms of our discussions of legitimate platforms, any criticism or praise for any part of them should not necessarily be construed as a positive or negative endorsement of the platform or the candidate; the objective is to bring clarity to the electoral decision-making process, and provide the best possible information for the voters to make an informed choice.
Having gotten that disclaimer out of the way, let us examine Senator Roxas’ platform on education, which is summarised here but available in its entirety on his ‘Mar Roxas For President in 2010’ blog.
Mar Roxas on Education:
Senator Roxas describes the Philippine education system as “broken”, and cites a number of statistics detailing the sorry state of public education in this country:
- 16.8% of children did not have access to primary education in 2007, compared to 9.7% in 2003. He also points out that the country’s business competitiveness ranking declined from 130th to 133rd, according to a recent report by the International Finance Corporation.
- 22% of children entering Grade 1 will have dropped out of school by Grade 3. Part of the reason for this may be poverty; Roxas asserts that studies have shown a correlation between poor nutrition and high dropout rates.
- Among Grade 6 students, only 26% gain the “required mastery” of English, only 15% in Science, and only 31% in Math.
- Educational pre-need plans have failed, erasing the savings of families for their children’s future education.
Comment: For the most part, these assertions are essentially correct. It is difficult to find the specific report of the IFC (which is a component of the World Bank) that Roxas is citing, but the figures are similar to the results of several assessments of the same kind from different agencies; the other statistics he mentions are primarily drawn from NSCB information. In any event, quibbling over specific details is probably counter-productive; Roxas wishes to draw attention to the dire straits of the educational system, something which should be obvious to most people, and he has done that effectively.
Senator Roxas is the author of Senate Bill 2294 entitled the ‘Omnibus Education Reform Act of 2008,’ which was filed on May 19 of last year and includes the following provisions:
- Pilipino as the early-grade medium of instruction: The Philippine language would be mandated as the medium of instruction for Grades 1 through 3. The rationale for this is that studies that have shown early education is more effective if conducted in ones’ native language.
- Increase basic education from 10 years to 12: Basic education (Elementary and High School) would be increased from a total of 10 years to 12 years. A remedial year would be added between grade school and high school, and competency evaluations for students would be conducted in Grades 3 and 6. The bill also calls for “an ‘output-oriented’ high school curriculum that would equip graduates with the right skills, whether they choose to pursue college or already be employed.”
- Utilise a long-term planning process for Education: The bill provides for rolling five-year budget plans “that are consistent with quantitative and qualitative targets for education.”
- Intensive training and upgrading programs for teachers: Additional training programs conducted in Pilipino for teachers of Grades 1 to 3, and remedial training courses in English, Science, and Math for teachers who did not major in those subjects.
- Establish a Pre-Need Code: The Pre-Need Code of 2008 (SB 2077) establishes regulations of the pre-need industry, which previously had been under the loose authority of the SEC. The intention of the Code is to prevent the kind of well-documented financial disasters that befell pre-need companies and their customers in 2006 and 2007.
Comment: Although the mandate of Pilipino in early education might be debatable given the realities of the cultural significance and use of that language, a more basic problem has been the inconsistency on the part of the DepEd to choose a medium of instruction. Voters may agree or disagree with the substance of this plank in the platform, but it does meet the definition of a platform in a straightforward way. The same can also be said of Roxas’ position on additional training for teachers. In his advocacy of the increase in basic education years and long-term planning for education, Roxas does go off the tracks to some extent: statements like “an ‘output-oriented’ high school curriculum that would equip graduates with the right skills, whether they choose to pursue college or already be employed” and “plans that are consistent with quantitative and qualitative targets for education” are long on rhetoric and short on details. What, exactly, is an “output-oriented” curriculum, and how does that “equip graduates with the right skills”? What are the “quantitative and qualitative targets for education”? These things sound smart to the less-educated masses, no doubt, but to people who are really paying attention, they are empty platitudes, and deserve some clarification on the Senator’s part.
As for the Pre-Need Code, the addition of this to Roxas’ education platform is rather disingenuous. Roxas co-authored the bill with Senators Angara and Legarda in February, 2008 and it was passed unanimously by the Senate and sent to the House in June, 2008. Depending on what Congress does with it, it should be considered an accomplishment rather than a plan.
For information on how the other candidates compare to Senator Roxas on education and other issues, visit the Platform, Plez Presidential Election 2010 page for a quick guide. Since the current topic is education, perhaps it’s appropriate to give Senator Roxas a grade for his efforts to produce a clear platform:
- Defining the Issue: 9/10. The details are a bit hard to verify, but Roxas clearly makes his point.
- Proposed Solutions/Objectives: 7/10. Roxas succumbed to a bit of vague politician’s language at a couple points, and the inclusion of the Pre-Need Code was perhaps not entirely forthright, but overall, he hit most of his targets.
- Rationale for Solutions/Objectives: 6/10. By and large, the reasons for his positions are implied, which is not entirely acceptable. However, since the Senator did a reasonably effective job of defining the problem his lack of rationale is not a deal-breaker, at least as far as this issue is concerned.
Final Grade: 22/30 (73%) “C”. Not great, but it passes. Perhaps the Senator would care for a re-sit on this one?