Citing a study of the Congressional Commission to Study and Assess Philippine Education (EDCOM), and other data from the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports, a ranking academician once observed that Filipino students were not learning much of what they were expected to learn at the elementary and secondary levels. Among the major reasons cited were inferior teacher quality, under-investment in education, and short teaching time. There was also an abject lack of qualified teachers for science and mathematics, with less than majority having majors in the subjects they teach. The observation was made in 1993, long before the implementation of the K-12 program. The country then had the lowest allocation to education in the national budget among ASEAN. Years later, in 2008, the country ranked 154th out of 194 countries in spending as a percentage of GDP, at 2.8%. In 2012, the United Nations reported that the country was spending only a third of the UN’s recommended percentage (of GDP) level for education spending. The lethal combination of low commitment and rising population outpacing economic growth spells disaster for millions of school age children. The chronic lack of classrooms, teachers, textbooks, and other resources could mean a lost generation, under-educated and hardly productive.
The Philippines has one of the least number of schooldays per school year, further exacerbated by interruptions due to holidays, natural causes, and other events. A 1991 study showed that teachers actually devote only 25 minutes or less to teaching during a 40-minute class. Time-on-task has been found by several research studies abroad and by a few studies here to be a strong predictor of learning. This factor seriously undermines efforts to improve quality education. Man and nature have not been kind. Halfway through the second decade of the 21st century, traffic and major obstructions have hindered the daily commute to school. Rains are getting heavier and floods are rising faster but ebbing slower, thanks to clogged drainage and climate change. Class suspensions are no longer measured in hours, but days, even weeks in some areas. There are serious implications moving forward, especially with the addition of Senior High School in basic education. There will be more pressure for resources, innovation, improvement of teacher competencies, and re-assessment of strategies.