Thursday, June 7, 2007

100 Years of Congress

Just finished listening to GMA's address before the House of Representatives on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Philippine Congress. She had barely arrived from China, the Vatican, Fatima and there she was congratulating one and all about the conduct of the recent elections. She extolled the booming economy and reported that the country was well on its way to achieving first world status in 20 years.

Now I don't want to sound like a spoilsport but I also got back from a tour of a public school and I must report that I could only see a faint glimmer of the promise that GMA was referring to with the sorry state of the school facilities that I saw. The kids were crowded into poorly ventilated rooms and had to share worn-out desks and very much used textbooks. The toilets could rouse a comatose patient with the fierce ammoniacal odor. The teachers, true heroes, appeared to be doing the best they could.

There is no way we will reach first world status with this set-up. A strong, relevant educational system is the cornerstone of any lasting economic recovery and it won't be coming out of this system we have today. We urgently need to pour money into the decrepit infrastructure including the acquisition of internet that will make it possible for our youth to be exposed to the advances in science and technology. I have maintained that making students read certain sections of the New York Times alone will greatly enhance communication skills. We must double or even triple the salaries we give to our teachers. I am convinced our country has not fallen off the precipice mainly because of the sacrifices of these heroes. They are working against great odds.

We urgently need leaders who will inspire the people to become more productive and to become more active in their communities. We need leaders with more imagination. Raising taxes alone is clearly insufficient.

The faint glimmer I witnessed was in the bright eyes of the skinny students who remained enthusiastic despite the depressing surroundings. We cannot fail them.


Lalon said...

1st-world status by 2027??

what a reverie.. tsk tsk tsk.

marocharim said...

dr. bautista:

i like your idealism and all, but sometimes it's much better for (former?) politicians like yourself to get in touch with the nuances and realities of the filipino realpolitik. idealism, no matter how good, will not work on a system that is anything but ideal. as bad as it sounds, for us to succeed politically we have to acknowledge that our trapos are part of the functionality of our political system: it is deeply engrained in our culture to follow (blindly) the politics of personality. personality wins votes. it sucks, definitely: it borders on cynicism, (pardon the innuendo) but when things suck, it is often the best recourse to suck them. of course, there's nothing worse in the world than a 21-year-old cynic, but that's just me.

but i agree with you: if we're going to take things a step at a time, we must start with our educational system. filipinos value education so much that even the poorest of the poor would take so much pains, and would rather starve and skip meals, than to have their children grow up "mangmang." many a story has been told about the poor student from the far-flung provinces who trudges muddy trails and braves hunger just to go to school. i think we owe it to them - not the politicians - to give them the education they deserve for all the hard work they and their parents put to it.

you're a good writer, dr. bautista, and i'll be coming by frequently to read up on your thoughts.

live long and prosper.


Anonymous said...

On your previous blog, you said you wanted to revisit Oklahoma periodically. What visa will you be using if you previously claimed you "never had a green card"?

r.g. lacsamana, m.d. said...

While I like to believe President Arroyo's rhetoric, her words unfortunately do not match realities.
Poverty is as rampant as ever, while the middle class remains stagnant. To think that we would be approaching first-class status is an illusion at best.

I agree education is the cornerstone of any movement to repair the country's status, particularly its economy and the way the government should function.

Not having been home for sometime, I cannot make first-hand observations on the state of education there except to rely on what Dr. Bautista has witnessed, in addition to my readings on the subject. I think most would agree that education, with a few exceptions, has become substandard.

To begin with, most schools are antiquated, with lack of books, and with overcrowding. Teachers, on the other hand, are poorly paid, which is one reason a large number of them have gone abroad. (I can testify to this, having read of a number of Filipino teachers recruited to teach in West Palm Beach, Florida, which is the state where I live.)

There is another malady, and this afflicts mainly higher education. Back when I was at UST, I could not understand the humongous number of students taking up Law and Commerce in various universities in Manila.
And yet, majority of them, after grduation, were either unemployed or working in fields foreign to their education. Science and technology, meanwhile, were ignored.

But even among our best and brightest, educated in top-notch institutions, a significant number decide to go abroad for better opportunities. I will be the first to admit that I was guilty of that, along with Dr. Bautista, though he
decided to go back after 17 years.

The challenge of improving education back home is formidable, mainly because of the lack of money, and the brain drain that I just alluded to. As long as we cannot ameliorate those two conditions, compounded by an increasing population, I'm afraid
the chances of making substantial improvements remain dim as ever.

Does the good Doc have any specific suggestions?

Asia said...

Most of the public schools in the provinces remain the same as they were 30 years ago. But I still envy their large tract of school lands where kids could play. Unlike some private pre schools and grade schools here in Metro Manila, yes you are provided with all modernization in education but you have to pay for it. And oh! the schoolrooms are terribly small. No playgrounds at all. I missed the playground of my public school in the province. Back then we used to do gardening and that was the best exercise ever for a little kid like me.

Anonymous said...

I agree on your previous blogger - You should wrtie a column so more people can read you. Besides, we need more critics like you. If you keep on blogging, you only reach a very small audience. WE NEED YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Gregory said...

Hi Martin. I admire your work and your tenacity. The speech of Bill Gates today at Harvard will resonate with you. Here's the link:

If you have difficulty seeing the entire text, please let me know how I can send it your way.

Here's an excerpt:

Don't let complexity stop you. Be activists. Take on the big inequities. It will be one of the great experiences of your lives.

I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you have addressed the world's deepest inequities … on how well you treated people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

Prudence said...

I disagree with one who posted a comment about blogging not reaching a wide audience. Information can just easily propagate on the internet through blogging as it is through offline publishing. But, yes, it will be good, too, Dr. Bautista, if you write on a column so that those who don't have access to your blog can still read about your ideas.

I, too, believe that if we're able to do something with our educational system, we would be on our way to economic progress. Unfortunately, though, the country has started concentrating on producing diploma mills rather than develop bright and better individuals with the proper academic background and right work ethics. It is sad to think that those with the better education left unemployed while those who were only minimally educated are the ones reaping all the rewards.

Gregory said...

I agree with you Prudence.

In fact, I encourage you to read Bill Gates' speech to Harvard graduating class yesterday.

"For a few hours every week, you can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them."

He talked about the power of the Internet, the computers, and the networks.

Gregory said...

Here's the link to the entire speech:

JayM said...

You clearly have more time and an enriched perspective after having been through the election.

I was thinking that the Greens were probably perceived as a wacky party 15 years ago but their stature now is probably closer to one of the leading 2nd tier party movements in the western democratic world.

In the same vein I would hope AK have sown the seeds for a alternative political way over the last 3 months.

I was thinking that the Education system would have to be one of the key areas of focus if the Philippines is to be reinvigorated. Over the years, we have learnt acceptance of some pretty terrible things, and it seems to me school is the ideal place to start to address this for future generations.

What's the plan for 2010 Martin? If a plan can be articulated to engage enough people over the next 3 might have a fighting chance next time around.