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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Will we really continue to overflow with new students? The reality about our birth rate

For more on the Wall Street Journal op-ed referenced here, see this: Wall Street Journal op-ed slams RH bill!

Your bosses, the schoolchildren
By: Antonio Montalvan II
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Monday, July 30th, 2012

“You must also tell it like it is,” President Aquino, in a foul mood, was heard castigating media at the recent anniversary celebration of “TV Patrol,” a prime-time news program. That’s what we think: He must tell it like it is by getting his facts right, especially in a State of the Nation Address.

The shortage of classrooms, desks and textbooks will be over, but “sikapin nating huwag uling magka-backlog dahil sa dami ng estudyante.” This is the nuance of that statement: More students are coming into our schools even as we address the backlog.

What kind of selective data is being whispered into his ears? Reading the litany of statistics on his teleprompter (impressive), the President could not have missed one glaring data from the National Statistics Office (NSO). The multisectoral nationwide Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc. (ALFI) took note of this discrepancy by comparing it to the government data from the NSO.

The data, easily accessed through the NSO website (, tell us that since the year 2000, the number of babies born every year has actually stopped increasing. Moreover, this has even dropped by 2.2 percent to 1.745 million babies born in 2009 as against 1.784 million babies born in 2008.

Logically, the NSO tells us that there will be no increase in the enrollment for Grade 1 nationwide. The population prophets who go by the discarded Malthusian ideology—amazingly in a world where developed countries now encourage a new baby boom—must be thinking according to the congested Manila they see. The overcrowding one sees in Manila is manifest. The wrong assumption comes when we misread that overcrowding is happening elsewhere in the country.

The Manila classroom is overcrowded because of migration from the rural areas, not because of an overall increase in the number of students nationwide. Had he also directed his attention to the rural classrooms, P-Noy could have seen that these are becoming less occupied in fact.

Perhaps not many are aware that there are practices in the Department of Education that should merit our attention.

In preparing budget projections, education supervisors are asked to estimate the number of classrooms needed in their schools for the coming years. The common practice is to overestimate the volume of incoming students. By doing so, bigger budgets are justified. Hence, more teachers are hired.

But rural area classrooms do not necessarily mirror those of Metro Manila’s and other urban centers’. To be sure, a system to check incoming student projections as against actual enrollment is not in place in the DepEd.

Despite this, advocates of population control can easily argue that the country’s population still continues to grow. If the number of babies born per year is decreasing, why is there not a drop in our total population? ALFI argues that because there are more babies born than people dying every year, there’s a net increase in our total population. “There is no increase, however, in our total number of incoming Grade 1 students. Thus there should not be a need for more classrooms as P-Noy is made to believe.”

Incidentally, the President has also said recently that “negativity leads to despair, which leads to apathy, which then perpetuates the vicious cycle.” Which now brings us into the context of his increase-in-incoming-students syndrome which, as we now can see, is an argument in negativity.

As we all know by now, the President concluded that paragraph by saying sa tingin ko po, Responsible Parenthood ang sagot dito. Swiftly, his logic was revealed. It was also at that instant when television cameras showed election-loser Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel in standing ovation over what she must have deemed dramatic for her pro-RH bill advocacy. But so swiftly too, at that instant, was P-Noy’s logic shattered into pieces.

Baraquel won’t be applauding lustily anymore if she reads the Wall Street Journal’s Review and Outlook Asia of July 24, 2012. Admitting that P-Noy is “keeping the Philippine dream alive… by way of a pro-growth reform momentum,” the WSJ maintains that Mr. Aquino “still has to show he can stick to a growth agenda.”

The WSJ acknowledges credit where credit is due. “Growth clocked 6.4 percent on an annual basis in the first three months. The government’s credit rating is climbing and could hit investment grade within 18 months. A tide of foreign capital has pushed the peso higher against the dollar.”

And then it makes a biting criticism that pro-RH bill advocates would be unhappy to read. “His promotion of a ‘reproductive health’ bill is jarring because it would put the Philippines in danger of following China’s path into middle-income development followed by a demographic trap of too few workers. The Philippines doesn’t have too many people, it has too few pro-growth policies.” Ouch.

Instead of padding Grade 1 enrollment projections, how about starting with the right statistics for a real growth policy? And then stop making errors of judgment to justify the Reproductive Health bill. A selective state of the nation is the least we need.

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