An elementary school in Payatas. David Greedy / Getty Images
An elementary school in Payatas. David Greedy / Getty Images

School drop-out rates highlight lost decade of education in Philippines

MANILA // In a dimly lit, windowless room in one of Manila's sprawling slums, Susan Cumal, 46, spends her day hunched over a sewing machine, working to earn enough money to send her children to school. In a good week, the mother of three can earn around 1,500 pesos (Dh118). Like many Filipinos, Mrs Cumal moved from the northern province of Pampanga in 1984 to Manila in the hope of finding a better life. Instead she found herself in 758E Rodriguez in Pasay City, Manila, a slum housing more than 3,000 families.

Mrs Cumal considers herself fortunate. She has managed to build up a reasonable sewing business and has to put one son, who is now a teacher, through college. She has two more children at school and hopes they too will go to college. "Education is the only way out of this," she says looking around her modest home. "Many of the kids here don't go to school. Their families are either too poor or just want their children to work and earn money to live.

"I want my kids to have a better life ? this is not life this is just survival," she said. Last week 23 million Filipino children went back to school but by the end of the year over two million will have dropped out. The outgoing president Gloria Arroyo's task force on education reported in May that 700,000 children will not complete elementary school and 1.36 million will not finish secondary school. According to the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), the Philippine education system has a shortage of 54,060 teachers; 4,538 principals; 6,473 head teachers; 61,343 classrooms; 816,291 seats and 113,051 water and sanitation facilities.

"After nine years in office, the Arroyo government has utterly failed to eliminate shortages of teachers, classrooms, textbooks, sanitation facilities, and other critical resources in our public schools," the ACT national chairperson Antonio Tinio said during a media briefing last week. "It's true that the Arroyo government has been hiring 10,000 teachers and constructing 3,000 or so classrooms annually. However, these efforts are not enough compared to the sheer size of our enrolment," Mr Tinio said.

"As a result, public school education in the Arroyo years is characterised by oversized classes with 60 or more students, contributing to a further decline in the quality of education," he added. The Philippines spends around 2.5 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education compared with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco's) recommended 4-5 per cent.

Most major Southeast Asian countries spend 5-6 per cent of GDP on education. The Philippines also spends less on education than most of its Southeast Asian neighbours at US$318 (Dh1,168) per child compared with Thailand, for example, which spends $1,048. According to the ACT, the Philippines has the largest student-teacher ratio at elementary level in Southeast Asia, next to Cambodia, at roughly 60 to 80 children per class.

Unesco says in its National Education Support Strategy (Uness) that the quality of elementary education in the Philippines has deteriorated over the years as indicated by the low achievement rates for students. In the 2007-2008 school year (2008-2009 figures have not been released) the pass rate was 64.81per cent in mathematics, 63.89 per cent in science, 57.90 per cent in English, 61.62 per cent in social sciences and 73.18 per cent in Filipino. All scores were low compared to the desired 75 per cent cut-off score, Unesco said.

For the same year the Philippines ranked 41st in science and 42nd in mathematics from among 45 countries in the Trends in International Math and Science Survey, according to Unesco. As for secondary education, the Uness says that the quality "is not far from that of the elementary level as indicated by the poor performance of fourth-year students in the National Achievement Test. The Uness blames the deteriorating quality of basic education in the Philippines to under investment in education that has resulted in shortages of main educational resources such as teachers, textbooks and classrooms.

The Manila Times in an editorial on June 10 said: "For every 100 pupils who enter Grade 1, only 86 will continue till Grade 2. Over the last 30 years, this has been the highest dropout rate (14 per cent) in the basic school cycle. "By Grade 4, only 76 will still be in school. By Grade 6, only 67 of the original 100 would still be enrolled - and only 65 will finish elementary school. Of the 65 children who graduate from Grade 6, only 58 will move on to high school. And of the 58 who enter high school, only 42 will graduate.

"This completion rate of 42 per cent is too low for the middle-income country we're supposed to be. Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia - which started at the same level, or lower, in the 1950s - have left our country far behind." For Mrs Cumal, life in the Pasay City slum area is not easy. "Education is the only way out" she said. "This is no place for a young person. If they drop out of school they quickly turn to crime and drugs and that is no life".

Uefa Nations League: How it works

The Uefa Nations League, introduced last year, has reached its final stage, to be played over five days in northern Portugal. The format of its closing tournament is compact, spread over two semi-finals, with the first, Portugal versus Switzerland in Porto on Wednesday evening, and the second, England against the Netherlands, in Guimaraes, on Thursday.

The winners of each semi will then meet at Porto’s Dragao stadium on Sunday, with the losing semi-finalists contesting a third-place play-off in Guimaraes earlier that day.

Qualifying for the final stage was via League A of the inaugural Nations League, in which the top 12 European countries according to Uefa's co-efficient seeding system were divided into four groups, the teams playing each other twice between September and November. Portugal, who finished above Italy and Poland, successfully bid to host the finals.

The Cairo Statement

1: Commit to countering all types of terrorism and extremism in all their manifestations

2: Denounce violence and the rhetoric of hatred

3: Adhere to the full compliance with the Riyadh accord of 2014 and the subsequent meeting and executive procedures approved in 2014 by the GCC

4: Comply with all recommendations of the Summit between the US and Muslim countries held in May 2017 in Saudi Arabia.

5: Refrain from interfering in the internal affairs of countries and of supporting rogue entities.

6: Carry out the responsibility of all the countries with the international community to counter all manifestations of extremism and terrorism that threaten international peace and security

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

Play-off fixtures

Two-legged ties to be played November 9-11 and November 12-14


  • Northern Ireland v Switzerland
  • Croatia v Greece
  • Denmark v Ireland
  • Sweden v Italy
The Roundup : No Way Out

Director: Lee Sang-yong
Stars: Don Lee, Lee Jun-hyuk, Munetaka Aoki
Rating: 3/5


Started: 2023
Co-founders: Arto Bendiken and Talal Thabet
Based: Dubai, UAE
Industry: AI
Number of employees: 41
Funding: About $1.7 million
Investors: Self, family and friends


Director: Carol Mansour

Starring: Aida Abboud, Carol Mansour

Rating: 3.5./5

Ads on social media can 'normalise' drugs

A UK report on youth social media habits commissioned by advocacy group Volteface found a quarter of young people were exposed to illegal drug dealers on social media.

The poll of 2,006 people aged 16-24 assessed their exposure to drug dealers online in a nationally representative survey.

Of those admitting to seeing drugs for sale online, 56 per cent saw them advertised on Snapchat, 55 per cent on Instagram and 47 per cent on Facebook.

Cannabis was the drug most pushed by online dealers, with 63 per cent of survey respondents claiming to have seen adverts on social media for the drug, followed by cocaine (26 per cent) and MDMA/ecstasy, with 24 per cent of people.

A cheaper choice

Vanuatu: $130,000

Why on earth pick Vanuatu? Easy. The South Pacific country has no income tax, wealth tax, capital gains or inheritance tax. And in 2015, when it was hit by Cyclone Pam, it signed an agreement with the EU that gave it some serious passport power.

Cost: A minimum investment of $130,000 for a family of up to four, plus $25,000 in fees.

Criteria: Applicants must have a minimum net worth of $250,000. The process take six to eight weeks, after which the investor must travel to Vanuatu or Hong Kong to take the oath of allegiance. Citizenship and passport are normally provided on the same day.

Benefits:  No tax, no restrictions on dual citizenship, no requirement to visit or reside to retain a passport. Visa-free access to 129 countries.

From Europe to the Middle East, economic success brings wealth - and lifestyle diseases

A rise in obesity figures and the need for more public spending is a familiar trend in the developing world as western lifestyles are adopted.

One in five deaths around the world is now caused by bad diet, with obesity the fastest growing global risk. A high body mass index is also the top cause of metabolic diseases relating to death and disability in Kuwait, Qatar and Oman – and second on the list in Bahrain.

In Britain, heart disease, lung cancer and Alzheimer’s remain among the leading causes of death, and people there are spending more time suffering from health problems.

The UK is expected to spend $421.4 billion on healthcare by 2040, up from $239.3 billion in 2014.

And development assistance for health is talking about the financial aid given to governments to support social, environmental development of developing countries.

Sugary teas and iced coffees

The tax authority is yet to release a list of the taxed products, but it appears likely that sugary iced teas and cold coffees will be hit.

For instance, the non-fizzy drink AriZona Iced Tea contains 65 grams of sugar – about 16 teaspoons – per 680ml can. The average can costs about Dh6, which would rise to Dh9.

Cold coffee brands are likely to be hit too. Drinks such as Starbucks Bottled Mocha Frappuccino contain 31g of sugar in 270ml, while Nescafe Mocha in a can contains 15.6g of sugar in a 240ml can.

Most Read
Top Videos