Educational systems?

It is easily understandable why, most parents, have higher preference for private schools over those of our public schools. This explains the apparent ‘mushrooming’ of every kind of pre-school, elementary, and high school – as business establishments – that carry the patronizing tag of ‘Montessori’ in their school’s name. Now, on whether or not, such schools subscribe to the Piagetian school of learning or so-called ‘Montessori way’ seems already beside the point. At bottom, private schools operate and they must – as a viable business enterprise. And to think that where there had been a housing boom, a new burgeoning middle class has already emerged. Perhaps, such would be the case of Antipolo City as in other adjoining cities or municipalities.

That said, it is axiomatic that private schools will enjoy some preference for a long time since the new middle class – believing as they do that private schools have better quality education – will attach higher premium to a private-run educational institutions. This evolving class attitude, not necessarily Marxist, will do well to tilt the balance in favor of an even larger D and E social classes. As a consequence, more families classified as in fact below the poverty line, are enabled to bring their children to public schools in a system of free education up in the secondary level. What is a better way of democratizing education than the middle class’ own mistaken or justifiable preference for private schools over that of our public educational system in general. Again, at bottom, isn’t it said that nearly half of the population of the whole city of Antipolo is composed of squatters?

There is of course a Department of Education that takes care of our public schools directly and private schools indirectly. As a general rule, there ought to be less of state intervention in the affairs of the capitalist world, in a manner of speaking. Business thrives better in an environment of least government intervention. Roughly, government is there only to moderate the capitalist greed in case the rabid capitalists push rapacity to unknown limits. In other words, a set of guidelines prescribes the standards for private school system. That is not to say however that public schools have higher standards than private schools. It must be said that DepEd, as the agency concerned, implements a national framework – true for all schools.

The State in the case of public schools provides for free elementary and secondary education to everyone. Thus, it is not far remote that classrooms have as much as 80 pupils and students – way above the ideal setting of 30 to 40 per class. Who would not want a free education from across all social classes in our Great Cultural Divide? Why should other families pay as much as P20,000 to P80,000 to send their children to private schools with reputation for good quality education – if and when – public schools can have the same reputation? Now, we can begin to ask the question – what is the true state of our public school system – wherever we find these public schools? Obliquely, are private schools reputed to have quality education really that good in terms of prescribed standards of excellence?

Ours is free market economy (laissez faire), as always. On whether or not a certain private school is better than any other, sometimes, goes by word of mouth. And not few parents or families mistake the rate of tuition fees as the absolute gauge that the school is a good one. But a study done on a well-known private school along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City reveals some surprising facts. Findings of that study show that children enrolled in their pre-school to the elementary and sometimes even up to the high school level, are born of parents whose jobs range from being tricycle to taxi drivers, laundrywomen (or labandera), or those that make a living from the ordinary types of economic activity. And what apparently explains this is a social phenomenon that most parents are just as trying hard as any other. In the end, who would not give their children the best education if only they can? Sadly, when the same class of children reaches college level, they all end up in some ordinary colleges or universities – even graduate from them. There the dream is set against the wall.

Truly, providing quality education for our children is a big investment activity by itself. Private schools that charge higher tuition fees are more likely to have better quality education than their lower counterparts or even most public schools for that matter. Some parents are probably guilty of that so-called “edifice complex” – they are who thought that schools with taller and bigger buildings over an even wider expanse of campus do run good quality education than those many small ones in some crowded nook and cranny. Likewise, most parents, think that good quality education goes by some commercial price tag – the higher the tuition fees, the better. Is this purely mercantilist view valid to the nth?

Schools or educational institutions – public or private – are only as good as their students have become. The whole business of insuring our children get the education they rightfully deserve is but found in the home front – it is the single nurturing environment than even schools can provide. Parents fill the void every step of the way. I subscribe to the view that the homes remain as the only school for children in the end. The job cannot be relegated to teachers alone. Schools, for that matter, serve only as test centers – or validating machines. Good quality education is therefore a self-contingent activity – a purely student affair.

PRIMER C. PAGUNURAN