Militant teachers renew call to junk bridge program

By Jojo Due, ABS-CBN, Today, Saturday, June 19, 2004 12:16 AM

ANGELES CITY—The education department may have backtracked in the controversial presecondary bridge program, but members of the militant Alliance of Concerned Teachers in Central Luzon (ACT-CL)urged teachers, parents and students to continue pressuring the government and the Department of Education (DepEd) to altogether abandon it.

We renew calls to junk this useless and antipoor bridge program because it does not address the root causes of the deteriorating quality of education in public schools. The DepEd should totally abandon this program instead of just making it optional, Fabian Hallig, ACT-CL secretary-general, said Friday.

Last week, DepEd Secretary Edilberto de Jesus bowed to pressure from protesting parents, teachers and students, and made the bridge program optional, giving parents of elementary graduates who flunked the High School Readiness Test (HSRT) to choose if they want to enroll their children in the program or in regular first-year high school.

Hallig, however, said de Jesus's decision was only meant to appease protesting groups and just the same would force the program's implementation when pressure against it has slackened.

He said requiring HSRT flunkers to go through a year of pre-high school remedial classes in English, mathematics and science would only add to the financial burden of students and their parents who are already distressed by today's rising cost of living.

But it will never address the low quality of education, he stressed, as ACT and other militant groups branded the program as irrational, undemocratic, proimperialist and antipoor.

Hallig said the poor showing of elementary graduates in the HSRT last month is the direct result of the government's neglect of the poor conditions in public schools.

In Central Luzon alone, the need for 2,795 teachers, 7,664 classrooms, 594,436 seats and around 940,000 textbooks as of school year 2002-03 had not been filled up until this time, he lamented.

It is even worse now if we consider recent newspaper accounts quoting a DepEd [Central Luzon] official who said Central Luzon lacks some 30,000 public elementary and secondary school teachers this school year, he furthered.

He also said the low competency of the students reflect the kind of education the government is giving the Filipino youth.