Future population shocks to hit the Philippines

Posted: 17 December 2004

Author: Kara Santos

Before you finish reading this article, another classroom in the Philippines will need to be built. "Every day, 5,800 more Filipinos are added to the country - the size of two to three villages," said Mario Taguiwalo, former health undersecretary and population, speaking at a recent seminar on Population and the Philippine Future in Subic.

Taguiwalo stressed that the country needs to act on the immediate problems emerging due to rapid population growth. The National Statistics Office reported in 2002 that the under-20 age group comprised 45 per cent of the 84 million people in the Philippines. According to Taguiwalo, this percentage of young people is only expected to grow. They and their children will be the ones directly affected by the lack of resources in the future.

The children will have needs such as houses, hospitals, recreational facilities, social protection agencies, and schools. Not to mention the human resources required to support them, such as doctors and teachers.

In the school year 2003-2004, over 19.6 million students enrolled in elementary and high schools. Over 88 per cent (17.2 million) of the students were enrolled in public schools, while the rest (2.3 million) were enrolled in private schools (Catholic World Report, 2003).

At present, the Department of Education lacks the resources to keep up with this number of students. Over 44,000 classrooms, 4.8 million school desks and 24 million textbooks are needed. There are over 4,569 villages without elementary schools, while the current class size in government schools is 39 students to one teacher. There is a shortfall of 49,000 teachers.

Poverty problem

Taguiwalo says families with low incomes tend to have more children. The more children they have, the more stretched their budget is for all daily expenses. They may have to prioritise food and housing over other concerns like education. Thus, poorer families have less money to provide their own children with a good education, which in turn leads to fewer opportunities for them when they grow up. As a result, the cycle starts all over again.

Ten years from now, when 20 million more children have been born, what will the situation be? "Will our families have enough means to feed their children and provide for their development as productive adults? Will our social system for delivering health, nutrition and education become more efficient and keep up with the fast growth in the number of children needing to be served?" asked Taguiwalo at the seminar.

The current Macapagal-Arroyo Administration proposed a number of projects in 2001 to address the population problem, poverty eradication and education reform, so that more Filipino children may be ensured a secure future. These included the Alternative Learning System (ALS) - an expansion of the Nonformal Education Project (NEP). NEP was envisioned to help those without access to the formal educational system - an outside-of-school, skill-based education (including agricultural skills, fishery skills, IT skills, and culture-based crafting skills).

The Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Law was passed by the Congress in December 2000. This law was created to ensure a stronger collaboration between various government departments and the private sector to ensure the delivery of more adequate services at the community level.

As if in response to the slow effectiveness of the government's initiatives, many NGOs (both national and international) have taken action at the grassroots level. These organisations include Save the Children, which created a programme to help parents become more involved in the education of their children. In 2003, there were 21,000 parents involved with the organisation's Parent Volunteer programme at the village level.

With the educational system as it is, "there is a need for speed, quality and impact of decisions and actions by democratic government and private sector-driven economy," Taguiwalo felt. It is imperative that the government act quickly and more responsibly to address the present problem of education which threatens to drain already limited resources, and may have an irreversible impact on the future of the Filipino people's well-being.

Source: Women's Feature Service

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