Lanao Del Norte– Recognizing that education plays a key role in bridging the gap between the rich and the poor, Senatorial Candidate Cesar Montano announced before an audience of farmers and rural folks in Kapatagan municipality that he will push for education reforms immediately once elected in Senate. “The more educated our population is, the more chances for genuine development in our country. Education is not just an issue of the haves but more so an issue of the have nots, the marginalized like the farmers, urban and rural poor” Montano explained. Montano believes that in our current situation where access to quality education is a prime problem, education has become a major factor in the issue of social divide.
Before he aspired for a Senate seat, his advocacy for the importance of quality education was imbued in his award-winning movie “Jose Rizal.” “Our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal believed that the youth is the hope of the land, and definitely, the Philippines would depend largely on the current youth 15 to 20 years from now, thus, the educational system should be modified to provide the best training for our young students today. We should give emphasis on the students’ outputs each day and at the end of the term and not merely count their attendance in class, so that we can create better and more independent leaders, entrepreneurs, and workforce for our country,” he said.
Montano also said, “while the country boasts a literacy rate of 93.4%, our functional literacy rate is still low at 84.1% and thus we need to increase it through a better educational curriculum. “I am alarmed that our country produces lesser graduates as the year level goes up. But we should not only focus on the number of graduates, but the quality of the graduates as well. We are graduating people who are learning less and are ill-equipped for global competitiveness,” he added.
Montano also sees areas for improvement in the country’s curriculum, especially for secondary education. He also doesn’t like the curriculum’s dependence on the whims of the man at the helm of Department of Education (DepEd) since “these changes cost money”. He said that if elected in the Senate, he will enact a law that will institute major changes in the curriculum, particularly in the time allotted for and the topics, knowledge, attitudes, and skills to be learned in each subject. The bill will also institute 10-year tenures on new educational programs and grading systems to avoid any confusion in the part of the students and teachers. He said that the current textbooks used by students will also be reviewed and revised if need be.
The large discrepancy between the quality of urban and rural education is another of Montano’s concern. He said he noticed the glaring lack of classrooms, infrastructure, books and many other things in the poor provinces of the country. “We still have children who climb mountains and cross rivers in order to get to their school. We still have poor families who cannot sustain their children’s almost free elementary and secondary education”, he added. He also mentioned that a good education for their children has always been the aim of parents since this will draw them out of poverty and that since education and rural development are parts of his platform, these two sectors can expect legislative help from him should he win in the Senate, particularly in the financial and infrastructure support.
For Montano, the education sector is a good investment to put a large part of the budget on. He said that he doesn’t see the reasons why the legislature has been cutting the budget for education in the past few years, leading to stagnant state of primary and secondary schools, and tuition fee increases for government tertiary schools. “Imagine a parent buying so many household appliances or even guns while not giving enough money for his or her children’s education, including ‘baon’. That’s exactly what I am seeing in our country’s budget allocations,” he commented. He added that his role in the budget process will be his primary avenue to help improve education.
But he also recognized that the problem on education is not only education itself. “There are problems that indirectly affect education like poverty, unemployment and child labor, and they not should be left out in the equation to improve education in general, Montano added.