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The Problem of Education Inequality in The Philippines and Its Roots

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Quality education provides up-to-date academic and extracurricular content, competent teachers, sufficient resources and standard materials for students to stay motivated and learn how to be a responsible member of the society. According to the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines – Article XIV, access to quality education is a human right and must be upheld by the state. Every Filipino citizen must be given equal opportunity to study in ‘a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society.’ However, the current status of education in the country is far from this ideal scenario.

Philippine Statistics Office (2017) has reported many Filipino children dropping out of school. Children in rural areas have to travel long distances to get to school. These are problems that are part of a larger issue called education inequality. Education inequality is the unequal distribution of opportunities to students in different areas in society to study in school capable of providing quality education. This problem affects not only students in elementary and high-school, but also students in their undergraduate studies (Mena, 2019). This inequality is exhibited in children studying in schools and universities that have a substandard level of facilities (Sumande, 2016). The quality of these facilities and equipment directly affects the performance of students and teachers. This, in turn, causes the value of undergraduate studies in the Philippines to be undervalued due to the low quality received. Another problem is the lack of option to study in a better school. This is caused by other major issues in the country such as income inequality, disadvantageous geographic position of the country, urbanization, and political agenda.

Geographic Root

Majority of the students that experience substandard quality are located in rural communities. Public schools in these communities often have low quality of academic materials, broken equipment, and lack of textbooks (Benson, 2016). Science high schools are also inaccessible for these communities since regional high-schools may still be too far (Talaue, 2014). This gives them a fewer opportunities to study a quality education compared to students in cities. In order for students to have better options, they must migrate to urban areas where schools with modern equipment and resources are available. The reason this inequality exists for people in these communities may be rooted in how urbanization plays in the country. Cities in the country are experiencing rapid economic and population growth in comparison to rural communities. This is an incentive for the government and private industries to invest in education in more developed cities.

The geographic distribution in the country shows that communities are less developed as one moves farther away from cities and highly urbanized areas. This includes several indicators such as career opportunities, population count, and quality of education (Ortega, 2015). The top schools and universities in the country are located in Metro Manila. The most poorly funded schools are located in the farthest and hardest to reach areas. This is a clear indicator that students in Metro Manila have a better chance at a quality education. These rural communities are also poorly funded in other services such as disaster risk reduction and public transportation.

Rural communities are more vulnerable to disasters such as typhoons and storm surge. They generally have a lower amount of disaster risk. Agriculture and fisheries are the most common sources of livelihood found in such communities. These are livelihoods that suffer the worse after a disaster and severely affect the economy with price hikes and drops. This instability in the local economy affects students in these communities. Schools who are less resilient to storms than those in urban cities are also suspended more often. Disasters worsen the poor quality of education already present in rural areas.

Filipinos from rural communities who seek a better life migrate to developed cities in order to find job and education opportunities. This large influx of citizens moving in causes a faster population growth in urban communities compared to rural communities. Migration is one of the key factors in the urbanization and economic growth of cities. Philippine Statistics Authority (2019) has reported that the urban population growth in the country is faster than rural population growth since 2010. This population growth further shifts the focus on education investments to urban areas to increase returns. A cycle is created that places rural communities at an even greater disadvantage.

Socioeconomic Root

One could argue that urbanization spreads out through the country with rural communities being new urban cities each year as stated in the same report by Philippine Statistics Authority (2019). This should enable investments to be distributed more equitably over time. However, another barrier for students is that education in the country is not completely free and accessible. RA 10931 covers both state and local universities. Most state universities, however, have a high grade requirement and a limited quota on students to be accepted. This hinders accessibility for students who are unable to meet the requirement. Such students instead study in private institutions which burdens students who are financially. This burden is caused by another major issue in the country: income inequality.

Income inequality is the presence of a wide gap between the income and wealth between the different financial brackets of citizens. Financially challenged students are offered fewer opportunities to study in schools and institutions that can provide the expected quality of education. The economic power of the people defines the access to quality education. The education inequality created here produces a greater disparity in opportunity as well, giving more opportunities to those privileged with income inequality (FitzRoy, 2018). This supports the idea that education inequality itself is heavily tied with income inequality and this relationship builds another cycle of income-education inequality.

Elitism in education is also a key factor in education inequality. Students from less-known universities are less likely to be offered better opportunities than those from top universities. Students studying in top universities besides state universities are commonly from affluent families (Crawford, 2016). The demand for top universities is high therefore it pushes the tuition to increase. Studying in these universities becomes a privilege for the upper class.

Corruption Root

Enough investments and resources in education in theory will help the country achieve free and accessible education for all. However, a flaw in the government and private institutions hindering this is widespread corruption. Corruption in the government restricts the flow of funds and resources to the different services, including state-funded education. The current political environment in the Philippines has been observed primarily to produce mostly short-term solutions or ‘band-aid’ solutions to large-scale problems, especially in local governments. Some examples include poor quality bridges and substandard roads (The Manila Times, 2014). Some cities however, offer local scholarships for aspiring students. This does not solve the problem as it does not tackle the cause of dropouts but rather only helps a small part of the underprivileged youth. These kinds of projects are merely examples for political gain and public relations. Although in some cities and municipalities, the quality of education has improved, the same is not true overall in the country has been declining.

Corruption exists arguably for one simple reason: for personal gain and ambition. Funds are used for self-enrichment instead of public service (Marcelo, 2013). Corruption furthers income inequality, hindering accessibility of the lower class to private education. Restricting funds for public schools and universities prevent the improvement of facilities and equipment and restrict the increase in salary for teachers, reducing the overall quality and accessibility of education. This income inequality also enables the people in power to possess more control. This creates a cycle of corruption-inequality and is worsened by cutting off the quality of education in these areas creating a larger education inequality.

Education is vital in promoting democracy and equality. The principle of democracy is founded on the idea that the constituents know what a leader should be and they have an equal voice on who will next serve the community. It enables the people to be aware of the problems that exist in the economic and political systems in the country. It is a tool for the people to know how and when to keep the leaders in check. If the public is misinformed on these matters, it is possible for one to manipulate the people to his/her advantage.

In order to maintain power and control, it is clear that one should keep the public miseducated. This would result to citizens with a low level of social awareness and critical thinking. A miseducated public is an effective way to enable abuse of power. Several figures in figures in history have done this such as Hitler with control of the school curriculum and Marcos with control over public education. Corrupt leaders in the present are doing this on a smaller scale in their respective communities in order to stay in power.

Class Inequality as the root of Education Inequality

The geographic location of the rural communities places them at an economic disadvantage compared to urban cities. This economic disadvantage furthers the disparity between the financial capability of citizens in urban and rural areas. Income inequality increases education inequality in the country because it restricts the accessibility of education. This education inequality produces an opportunity inequality for careers. This creates a cycle of poverty for the people in the lower class. Political corruption in the country has furthered both income and education inequality (You, 2015). This enables a larger amount of control the people in power already possess creating a corruption-inequality cycle. This geographic, socioeconomic, and political cycle are parts of one larger issue: class inequality.

These cycles, ultimately have one similarity: the gap between the people in power and the people below continues to increase and furthers the interests of the people in power. This changes the view of education inequality to a wider perspective: education inequality as a class issue. Education separates the upper class and the lower class in the society. The upper class is comprised of the elites with control of political and economic power, where the self-interests and advantages are promoted by inequality (Fernández, 2018). The lower class are the workers, the poorly educated, and the oppressed members of society. The upper class will continue to widen the gap against the lower class creating one large cycle of inequality, encompassing both socioeconomic and geopolitical inequalities.

Miseducated Filipinos

Constantino (1987) has stated that Philippine education must produce Filipinos who are aware of their country’s problems and have the courage to sacrifice for their country’s salvation. Education in the country in the present has still failed to achieve this goal. The masses are not educated to be aware of what is wrong with the education system itself. It has not produced enough educated Filipinos to move forward and study the problems that exist in modern society. It fails to build citizens who can solve the inequalities that exist in modern society. This is a difficult problem because it shows that educated Filipinos are essential in solving education inequality. This, clearly, is another cycle: the miseducation cycle.

The flawed education system in the country will continue to fail producing nationalist Filipinos who are fit to serve in fixing the nation. The lack of educated Filipinos, in turn, will not improve the system, or worsen it even further. This cycle is worsened by the other cycles of inequality, creating another trap. The ideal solution we have to destroy the roots of education inequality is trapped by the same roots itself.

It is not enough that we have leaders who are aware that flaws in the system exist. The nation needs an educated public, a public that can support and uphold the democracy and rights of the people, a public that is ready to change the system, an educated public that is ready to make sacrifices.

Conclusion

Education Inequality may be rooted in different sectors in different communities. Different roots exhibit different virtually endless cycles of inequality. In the national context, class inequality is what encompasses all problems in education. The upper class will continue to promote access to quality education as a privilege as it maintains their economic and political power in society. The nation is unable to break free from the cycle and a change in the system is needed in order to destroy these inequalities. This is only possible however, if the masses are educated and are ready to make sacrifices to uphold its rights, including its right to quality education.

References

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