MANILA, JUNE 5, 2007
(TIMES) By Jonathan M. Hicap, Reporter - A new school year begins Monday with old problems confronting the 17.31 million students in public elementary and high schools.

Each year the country’s public school system every year is faced with a shortage of classrooms, teachers and textbooks. This school year is no different.

According to the Department of Education, an estimated 19.67 million students will attend public and private elementary and high schools this year, higher than the 19.25 who enrolled last year.

“We estimate an enrollment of 13.24 million in the elementary level this school year. Of this, 12.18 million go to public schools while 1.06 million enroll in private schools,” said Education Secretary Jesli Lapus. “For the secondary level, there is a projected 6.43 million enrollees with 5.13 million set to go to public high schools, while 1.3 million will be taken in by private secondary high schools.”

To address the teacher shortage, Lapus announced that 16,390 new teachers would be hired this year.

Of the new teacher items, 12,000 teaching positions have already been allocated to specific schools, with the rest expected to be deployed in areas in urgent need of teachers.

“We are just waiting for the situation to settle down,” Lapus said. “After the opening of classes, we will have a more accurate assessment of where to deploy the rest of the soon-to-be-hired teachers.”

Lapus said the proposed teaching post allocation is broken down into 8,586 for elementary schools and 7,804 for high schools. Region 4-A gets the most number of new hires with 3,850, followed by Metro Manila with 2,583. Central Luzon is at third with 1,598 new teaching allocations.

Based on the guidelines issued by DepEd, the priority areas where newly hired teachers are to be deployed are those ba-rangays with no elementary school, schools offering multi-grade classes, schools located in indigenous communities and in Special Education (SPED) centers.

In high school, the additional teacher requirements of regional science and provincial high schools will be given preference.

“Teacher-applicants who majored in English, Mathematics, and Science, especially Physics, Chemistry and Biology, shall be given priority in hiring,” Lapus said.

Earlier, the DepEd has issued a directive to prioritize the hiring of graduating scholars of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Science Education Institute who are science education, physics, chemistry and mathematics majors. This is to enable the department to fill vacancies for qualified math and science teachers.

Total textbook backlog in the country’s 17 regions has reached 60,216,497, according to data from the DepEd’s Instructional Materials Council Secretariat.

The shortage in the elementary reached 35.45 million and 24.76 million in high school.

Last year, DepEd went into massive textbook purchase that resulted in the national textbook-to-pupil ratio of 1:1 level for English, science and math for both elementary and secondary levels, except for high school English for third and fourth years where the ratio is at 1:2.

Thousands of elementary students last year were not issued any single textbook. High-school students, especially those in lower sections, were also not given textbooks.

The DepEd data showed Region 4-A, which comprises the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon) has the highest textbook shortage at 7.16 million followed by Central Luzon with 6.37 million and the National Capital Region with 6.21 million.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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