Rhona Canoy .
SO… My most favorite Philippine political institution is once again getting a lot of attention in the news these days. I know that I’ve written about Deped more than once since I’ve been with this paper. And it seems like I’m not done writing about them yet. Apparently, an obscene amount of money was flagged by the Commission on Audit—almost 14 billion pesos in expenses. For some years now, I’ve been bitching about how Deped spends its money, and it seems I was on the right track.
People have known for a long time about the wonderful “training” and Mancom “conferences” held at prime destination locations, charged to our government. Boracay, the Pearl Farm resort in Davao, Duka Bay in Medina (Misamis Oriental), are only some. Local seminars and meetings booked at the more expensive resort-like hotels in different cities throughout the country. Whenever I have had the opportunity to question this practice, my friends who sadly work for the department have always given me the same answer: “Because there is a budget for it.”
If one were to pay close attention to the scheduling of these activities, one would find that the closer one gets to the end of the fiscal year, the more frantic the efforts to spend what remains in the budget, in fear that any excess would only go back to the general fund. Now that Deped has domain over private academic institutions as well, I want to think that treatment of participants are more equitable. Public school workers only have to attend these events armed with vouchers which cover whatever the cost. But private school participants are made to pay their way, out of pocket, for these requisite events. They are charged for payment of snacks and meals, the venue, kits and distributed materials, and honoraria for speakers and facilitators who are mostly employed by the department, and are already being paid for their services.
Another issue being raised now is the situation regarding books which were printed for use in public schools, authorized by the department. Millions of pesos of books unreleased because of major errors, or books being stored for safekeeping in case they are needed in response to natural calamities. I’m sorry but public schools, especially in the hinterlands and more economically challenged areas, that don’t have textbooks and learning materials should be classified as a natural calamity.
Whatever. Deped has been under fire for so long now that the issues that arise seem matter-of-fact. What bothers me is that almost everything is focused on logistics, poor planning, heavy distribution of work for teachers, salaries. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In a country where education is valued as the solution to the problem of poverty, where parents are misguided in their belief that just because their kids go to school, they have a chance at a better life, we haven’t really taken a good look at how Deped regards its duties and functions.
Our educational system (in spite of technological advances of which the department is proud) hasn’t really changed much in the last hundred years or so. In spite of newer research and findings about the paradigm shift in education and learning, our school system is structured and functions pretty much as it did when the Thomasites first set it up in the early part of the last century. Standardized testing and curricula, teaching aimed at test scores, too much focus on rote or memorizing, spoonfeeding of learning materials to learners—that’s what we have.
The world has changed. Expectations and usable skills have been redefined. What our children and our youth need to learn in order to be contributors to the overall effort of our collective survival have been sidelined or ignored. Parents worry too much about where their children go to school, what kind of grades they get, how many medals they take home at the end of the school year. They have joined Deped on the ratings bandwagon, worried more about performance scores than the true purpose of education and learning.
Everything that we complain about is a result of poor learning. We are adept at the what, when, where, who. Too little effort is made for our brains to process the why and wherefore, to consider the if’s and the if only’s. Creativity and curiosity are being killed off by our educational system. Independence, responsibility, accountability—all things we should be learning in school as well as at home—are only words we know how to spell.
Yes, we should be concerned about how Deped money is being misspent. If we are to hope that our children deserve the best, then we must fight for the proper system to spend government money on. We must all be involved in the changes we want to see, the growth and improvement in our children’s education. We must not be passive. We have an educational system which (no matter how expensive and exclusive most private schools are) train ALL our children, both in the public and private academic sectors how to be employees, factory workers, slaves, punch-clock jockeys. We can’t even brag and say that we as workers are the best. And we blindly allow the power that determines our country’s educational future to be more invested in the money than the work itself.
My words are scathing. And they need to be. For as long as Deped cannot distinguish the difference between literacy and education, we and our children—and our country—are doomed.