School Broke
By Conrado R. Banal III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 21, 2006

THE DEPARTMENT OF Education, or DepEd, got the biggest slice of this year’s national budget at P112 billion.

That’s about 11 percent of the total budget for 2006, which will be recycled in 2007, thanks to our beloved legislators who forgot to enact a new appropriations law.

But around P100 billion of the DepEd budget goes to salaries. The little that is left goes to investments new classrooms and school books, for instance.

To think that some bright politicos are complaining that education is already getting too much of the national budget.

Where do they want the money to go instead—PORK?

Let me remind you, bossing, that our already-rich neighbors in this part of the world are setting aside more than 20 percent of their national budgets for education.

Again, they are already rich! Yet, they are setting aside much more for education than we do.

I think we have a big problem.

In business, they are already resigned to the loss of our supposed “advantage” in skilled manpower - the English-speaking, easy-to-teach workers, for instance.

A recent survey by the Social Weather Station showed that only 47 percent of our college graduates said they could converse in the international language of business, which happens to be English.

It is now a certainty: English, as our second language, is going out the window faster than Kris Aquino can say “deal or no deal.”
That’s probably why this cute administration thought it was time to press the panic button.

To me, the most telling sign of trouble was when Gloriaetta tapped an unlikely guy to head DepEd, the former congressman named Jesli Lapus, a top management and finance man before he joined the government.

Lapus would have been more right for a position in the economic team.

Word went around that Gloriaetta actually wanted him there.

But it now seems that Lapus saw that he could make a bigger impact on business if he could do something for education.
He could be right, for his appointment at DepEd told us that something was terribly wrong.

For instance, the business sector revealed recently that some 600,000 jobs are waiting in the private sector, but no applicants could meet the requirements.

To redirect the thrust of education, we have to put more money into the system.

Despite the P112-billion budget for DepEd, our school system is still broke.

That’s why, according to Lapus, the dream of Gloriaetta is to set aside as much money for education as we set aside for debt service.

I’m afraid it will remain a dream.

All right, thanks to this cute administration’s fiscal discipline, this year’s debt service accounts for only 28 percent of the budget, down from 32 percent.

But that is still huge.

I mean, if only that was the DepEd budget, it would give an additional funding of at least P170 billion to education.

And so the hard-work that is staring the hard-working Lapus in the face is this: FUNDING.

For if DepEd does not have the money, how can Lapus arrest—and I say that he must do it quickly—the continuous drop in the quality of our education, both in the public and the private schools?