Arresting the enrollment downward spiral
The Manila Times
ACT Teachers’ party-list Rep. France Castro has expressed alarm over the 3 million drop in the number of enrollees for this school year, calling on Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte to explain the worrisome trend. Based on the Department of Education’s Learner Information System (LIS), enrolled students as of September 6 reached 25.9 milM lion, or 3 million short of DepEd’s 28.8 million enrollment target for the school year 2023-2024. “Our children’s future is at stake, and we cannot allow any child to be left behind. We call on the VP and Department of Education to concentrate more on this problem rather than the surveillance of their perceived enemies,” Castro said. Education Assistant Secretary Francis Cesar Bringas explained that while the number may appear short of the DepEd target nearly a month since enrollment in public and private schools began, schools would still be accepting enrollees until the end of the month. “Given the recent disruptions due to tropical storms, etc., the numbers are still moving until now. Schools are still reporting to us, and once 100 percent of schools have reported, the enrollment will close and we will have the official number for this school year,” Bringas told reporters. Bringas said many students may also have opted not to enroll this year but that the DepEd would be presenting them with alternatives to continue their schooling. Once enrollment closes after the first month, “the schools will employ child-find procedures to determine reasons for not returning to school,” he said. Duterte has not indicated in any of her speeches whether protest rallies may have caused the plunge in student enrollment. Beyond the political heat generated by the debate between the ACT party list and the Department of Education, how can we check the downward spiral of student enrollment? Poverty remains a major driver of dropout rates. Families struggling to make ends meet often face difficult choices, including sending their children to work instead of school. To combat this, the government must expand efforts to alleviate poverty through employment opportunities, social programs and targeted financial assistance to vulnerable families. Quality education is also a key motivator for students to stay in school. We need to invest in well-trained teachers, modern teaching materials and up-to-date curriculums that inspire students. Moreover, access to technology and the internet should be improved to bridge the digital divide and enhance learning opportunities. Dilapidated and overcrowded classrooms can be discouraging for students. The government should allocate resources to maintain school buildings to provide a conducive learning environment. Additionally, the provision of clean water, sanitation facilities and nutritious meals in schools can improve attendance rates. Parents also play a crucial role in a child’s education. Promoting parental involvement through the Alternative Learning System, workshops, outreach programs and awareness campaigns can help parents understand the importance of education and encourage them to support their children’s schooling. Many students also drop out due to personal issues, such as bulM lying, mental health challenges or family problems. Schools should have qualified counselors to give emotional support and guidance to students facing such difficulties. Collaboration between schools, local government units and comM munity organizations is essential. Creating after-school programs, youth clubs and vocational training opportunities can provide alternatives for at-risk students and keep them engaged in positive activities. Schools should also implement early warning systems to identify students at risk of dropping out. By identifying these students early on, interventions can be initiated to address their specific needs and prevent them from leaving school. Scholarships and financial assistance programs should also be expanded to provide access to education for economically disadvanM taged students. These programs can cover tuition, school supplies and transportation costs. Local groups with rich members like the Rotary can help with this project. Preventing students from dropping out of elementary and high schools is not just a moral imperative; it is an investment in the future of our nation. A well-educated population is crucial for economic growth, social development and political stability. As a society, we must prioritize education and commit to the long-term well-being of our youth. Our students already have the lowest scores in reading, science and mathematics in Southeast Asia. Having them drop out of school is a recipe for disaster.