The Learning

PBS Premiere: Sept. 20, 2011Check the broadcast schedule »

In Context

The recruitment of large numbers of Filipino teachers to work in the United States has contributed to a shortage of approximately 16,000 teachers in the Philippines, and the teacher-pupil ratio has become the worst in Asia, 1 to 59.

In addition, those teachers who do work abroad tend to have better credentials, and finding replacements for them is not easy, meaning that quality of instruction, particularly in science, math and special education, is suffering.

In 2006, double sessions were introduced in order to accommodate increasing student populations, but conditions are still dire. Congressman Antonio Tinio of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers says that some schools offer as many as four sessions per day, beginning as early as 6 a.m., but classrooms are still packed with 70 to 80 students, even in the capital city of Manila. In order for the double-session system to work, Tinio said, a new set of teachers would have to relieve the first-session set, to improve efficiency and reduce overworking. But teacher shortages in the tens of thousands make that unlikely. According to the Education Department in the Philippines, 8,000 additional classrooms need to be built.

Recent standardized-test results reflect poor student performance: The average National Achievement Test percentage score for high school students in 2009-2010 was 46.30, reflecting a decline for the third year in a row. For elementary school students, the average was 69.21 percent, up from 66.33 percent in 2008-2009. Overall, both scores are down from 2005.

Tinio has argued that the only solution is for the government of the Philippines to spend more on education. According to recent statistics, the government spends 2.5 percent of its budget on education, far less than the 6 percent recommended by UNESCO. In comparison, Japan spends 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product, while Thailand spends 4 percent and the United States 5.7 percent.

Photo caption: Dorotea Godinez's return to her former school in the Philippines. Bogo, Philippines.
Credit: Miguel V. Fabie III (1968-2010)

» Al Jazeera. "Students brave obstacles in the Philippines." June 17, 2011.
» Federis, Trina. "Picturing the State of Education." Bulatlat, June 4, 2006.
» Federis, Trina. "Two-shift Classroom Scheme Does Not Solve Education Crisis," Bulatlat, June 4, 2006.
» Mydans, Seth. "The Philippines Face Classroom Shortage." The New York Times, August 24, 2009.
» New America Foundation. "Federal Education Budget Project."
» Ronda, Rainier Allan. "DepEd: Achievement Rates of Students Declining." The Philippine Star, May 26, 2011.
» U.S. Department of State. "Background Note: Philippines."