The usual problems on school opening day

THE nation’s public schools opened their doors to an estimated 23.4 million students and pupils all over the country last Monday. Of this total, 2.6 million were in kindergarten, 12.6 million in elementary, 6.7 million in junior high, and 1.4 million in senior high school.

Another group of 4.1 million students are expected to begin classes in private schools on various dates this month and next month. The nation’s state universities and colleges will also be opening. The total number of students – public and private, from kindergarten to college – is estimated at 27.5 million students, out of our present national population of about 105 million.

As in the past, school officials faced various problems last Monday, but the same principal one was the inadequate space in many schools. Despite the 10,401 classrooms built by the Department of Education (DepEd) from July to December 2017, many schools had to resort to dividing their classes into two shifts, while some had to use hastily constructed sheds as classrooms.

Another problem was the inadequate number of teachers, which the DepEd sought to ease with the hiring of some 75,000 additional teachers. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) approved the creation of still another 40,000 positions for kindergarten and elementary school teachers.

Then there is a shortage of about 127.9 million textbooks in the nation’s public schools. Teachers have been known to resort to photo-copying learning guides for their students where textbooks are not available.

We have no doubt that our school officials and teachers in cities, towns, and barangays all over the country will find ways to solve their respective problems of classroom space and teaching materials. They will be more than equal to the task of educating the millions of Filipino children who, despite the economic difficulties in their own homes, desperately want to go to school.

This is one of our greatest traditions as a nation – basic education for all children, higher education for those who want it, knowing it is the key to a better life. We have millions of Filipinos all over the world today, serving as doctors, engineers, teachers, computer experts, construction workers, home helpers, etc. They are valued by their host nations, because of their education, especially their knowledge and ability to speak English, today’s global lingua franca.

The Duterte administration has launched a “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program that will be building airports and seaports, roads and bridges, and various other structures needed for economic development and progress. We trust that the building of schools and classrooms will be a major part of “Build, Build, Build,” to the end that future school openings will no longer face the perennial classroom shortages that we had to face again last Monday.