Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for the ‘Philippine education’ Category

On the Kasambahay Law

Posted by butalidnl on 12 February 2013

Some news reports say that the new Kasambahay Law (Republic Act 10361, “An Act Instituting Policies for the Protection and Welfare of Domestic Workers” was signed into law on 18 January 2013) will have the unintended consequence of making many people unemployed. Families who could not afford to pay P 2500/month (in Metro Manila) to their kasambahays are expected to lay them off en masse.
Let us take a closer look at this supposed effect.

There are two kinds of families who pay their kasambahays too little. First, there are those whose income is high enough, but who pay their kasambahays too little because they think that is all they deserve. These families would be forced to pay a decent living wage to their kasambahays. They may have to forego some very minor luxuries to do this.

Then, there are the families whose income is barely enough to support the family plus a kasambahay.  If such families cannot afford to pay P2500/month  to a kasambahay, they should simply not hire one. Very often, such families do not objectively need a kasambahay. They could easily divide household tasks among the members of the family.
For these families, having a kasambahay  is more a matter of prestige than an objective need. They want to underline the fact that their social status has risen by having a kasambahay.  Family members then think it would be beneath them to do household chores. But when they do hire a kasambahay, they could not afford to pay them properly, and the working conditions would often be bad (e.g. cramped sleeping quarters, bad food, long work hours).

When a family hires a kasambahay they are making a choice not to spend for some other things instead. Rationally, a family would hire a kasambahay when it is able to become more productive (and thus earn more money) as a result. This is the case when both partners work. But hiring a kasambahay may not always be the optimum solution. There are (theoretically) other choices open to them.
If they need help in specific tasks e.g. cooking, laundry, gardening, cleaning or taking care of children, there are options other than hiring a live-in kasambahay. Cooking could be done by sharing the task among all household members, or they could bring home cooked food. Children could go to day-care centers, and a good schedule of play-dates could be made for the other days. They could hire a labandera to come once a week, or bring their clothes to a laundry service; they could hire someone to clean the house or to work the garden once a week. These steps would probably be cheaper than hiring a live-in kasambahay.

Massive Lay-offs?
The main beneficiaries of the kasambahay arrangement are the families who employ them. The kasambahays also benefit, but only if they are paid properly and have decent working conditions. Overall welfare is not enhanced by allowing sub-standard payment and working conditions of kasambahays.

The Kasambahay Law imposes added financial and legal requirements for employers. But will it result in massive lay-offs of kasambahays? This is most unlikely. The majority of employers can afford to pay the required wages. The minimum wage of 2500 pesos is only for kasambahays in Metro Manila; it is 2000 pesos for other chartered cities and first-class municipalities, and only 1500 pesos for everywhere else. Most families already pay as much to their kasambahays; and those who don’t will probably only have to pay a little more to comply.

Employers will have more of a problem with the other requirements. Kasambahays need to be registered with the SSS, PhilHealth and Pag-Ibig, and the employers will need to make the monthly payments. The kasambahays need to be registered with the local barangays. The kasambahays must have a minimum of 8 hours of rest a day, and 24 hours off a week; they will have five days of annual leave with pay. Also, hiring children younger than 15 years old is prohibited.
A written contract will have to be accomplished, there is a list of valid reasons allowed for termination, employers should respect the kasambahay’s privacy. For their part, the kasambahay is now required to keep all information about the employers family confidential, even after their work with them is over.
All this means that employers’ relationship with their kasambahay will have to change.

The main ‘problem’ with the Kasambahay Law is not economic, but cultural. Filipinos are not yet used to treating their kasambahays as full fledged workers. It will take some years before people will have made the cultural adjustment.

Very few kasambahays presently employed will be laid off. There would probably be a shift from recruiting kasambahays from afar, to those coming from nearby.

National Development
In addition to its being a worker welfare law, the Kasambahay Law is a law that will foster Philippine national development. It will increase the cash that kasambahays receive, since: it bans delayed payment or payment in kind; deployment expenses will be shouldered by the employers; agencies will be prohibited from taking a part of the kasambahay’s salary. This increased cash would have multiplier effects when it is remitted to their home towns.

The law promotes the integration of kasambahays in the urban labor force. It will help make being a kasambahay a steppingstone to other jobs.

The rationalization of domestic labor that the law brings will gradually transform Philippine society. Domestic workers will eventually be hired only by families which can afford them AND really need them. Others would then be hired only for specific tasks, and this will streamline the labor market. More young girls would then go to high school in their hometowns instead of becoming kasambahays in the big cities. And many of those now working as kasambahays will pursue an education. This will come at a time when the country has an increasing need for educated workers, for which there is an impending shortage.

Posted in kasambahay, Philippine economics, Philippine education, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Repeal the RH Law?

Posted by butalidnl on 27 January 2013

The CBCP wants the next Congress (i.e. the one that will be elected this coming May) to file a bill that will repeal the RH Law. This might seem achievable at first; but it is actually an impossible dream. The chance of the RH Law being rolled back is extremely small.

In the first place, the next Congress will probably look very much like the present one. Half of the senators will remain in place, and a number of other senators will probably be reelected. The majority of Congressmen will either retain their seats or pass on their positions to relatives or allies.  There will be no big shift in the composition of Congress.

The political dynamics that got the RH Law passed will remain in place after the elections. Aquino will still be the president, and most lawmakers would want to stay in his good side and not go against a law he supported. Public opinion will remain overwhelmingly in favor of the law.
Then the law would generate its own inertia. There would be organizational changes in the Departments of Education and Health, as well as in LGUs: people will be hired, reassigned, etc, to implement it. This in itself is a pro-RH constituency, and this goes beyond those directly involved in RH.  Reversing the law will mean lay-offs, reorganizations, etc. and will be resisted.

Legislators have a general aversion to reversing laws that they have just passed. Take the Cybercrime Law – although everybody agrees that it is defective, it takes forever to reverse because some would want to change parts of it (and the specific parts they want changed would differ) while others would want to repeal the whole law. And all these options have to go through committee; and this takes a long time.
A law which has so much support will have a lot of difficulty even hurdling the committee level of discusions.

If bills will be introduced to change the RH Law, they will have to give way to a reevaluation of the law itself, and this would mean that the law would then have to be implemented for a time. And when eventually amendments to the law will be considered; there would be as many proposals to strengthen it as to weaken it.

The implementation of the RH Law is sure to demonstrate its benefits, and it will show that the claims of its negative effects were exaggerated. Sex education will become part of the standard education curriculum; family planning advice and cheap contraceptives will be routinely available for poor couples. After a few years, even Catholic high schools will decide to integrate sex education in their curriculum. This is because their students would otherwise be at a disadvantage when they take exams e.g. the NCEE or State University admission tests.

The CBCP call to reverse the RH Law is most probably just a political rearguard action on their part. As long as they keep on screaming about it, they hope to deter lawmakers from passing other laws they don’t like, specifically a divorce law. This may work for a while; but if the CBCP keeps it up for too long, everyone will see how little political power the CBCP actually has. The CBCP case against the Divorce law will be a lot weaker, though. After all, the Philippines is the ONLY country in the world without a divorce law.

The CBCP would be better advised to concentrate on other issues than RH or Divorce. Gun control would a better thing to push. If the church pushed for a stricter gun control law on the basis of its being pro-life, it could regain some of its lost prestige. The CBCP could also strengthen its opposition to Mining (after having ‘dropped the ball’ on this issue in the last years).

Posted in LGU, Philippine education, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Continuing FB Bikini Case

Posted by butalidnl on 31 March 2012

The administration of St Theresa’s College (STC), an exclusive girls school in Cebu had decided to bar 2 students from attending their graduation ceremony. This was because the nuns said that the girls had posted pictures of themselves in bikini on Facebook. The parents of one of the girls filed a case in court, asking it to overturn the STC nun’s ruling. The school declared that they were actually being lenient, since the girls would still graduate, and that they would simply not attend the graduation ceremonies.

RTC Judge Wilfredo Navarro decided on 29 March to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to overturn the STC administration’s decision, saying that the girls should attend the graduation, but also that she be treated with respect, and accorded all the courtesy during the ceremonies. But on 30 March, STC guards refused to accept the TRO being served by the sheriff, and also blocked the girl and her parents from entering the campus. According to the STC administration, the TRO was ‘inadequate’. So, the STC pretends to know the law more than the judges; or, is it just a matter of their arrogance at disregarding any court order that they consider inconvenient.

The girl’s father said that they will continue with the case, even if the damage had already been done.

Violation of Privacy
The issue over inappropriate photos posted on Facebook is first of all a matter of the school’s violation of the girls’ privacy. Posting a picture on Facebook is akin to showing one’s photo album to friends. This is private. For someone who is not on one’s friends list to take issue with a posting on Facebook will be – to say the least – highly inappropriate. They should be the ones ashamed, in the first place, for having peeked without permission at the posting. It is the STC administration who should apologize for its voyeurism in peeking at a student’s Facebook page.

Violation of the Department of Education Rules
The disciplinary action of the STC administration violates the rules of the Department of Education, specifically Dep. Order 88 “2010 Revised Manual of Regulations for Private Schools in Basic Education”. In this Order, Section 131. Responsibility on Student Discipline: Limitation.  “The administration of each private school shall be responsible for the maintenance of good discipline among students inside the school campus, as well as outside the school premises whenever they are engaged in authorized school activities.”

The family outing when the photo was taken was clearly not an “authorized school activity”, and thus the STC administration had no jurisdiction over it, nor over the subsequent posting in Facebook.

The STC administration should not cite the Student Manual as the basis for their action. If a provision in the manual is in conflict with the relevant Department of Education ruling, then it is invalid. It should be amended accordingly. To claim that their Manual provision should prevail over a Dept of Education rule is wrong; the Dept of Education specified in Order No. 88 that schools should adjust their rules to conform to it.

I have not seen the photo in question. But it seems that the photo was one of the girls wearing a bikini with a towel wrapped around her waist. If one was to consider this lewd, it would be more a reflection of one’s own dirty mind, rather than of the one in the photo. How could we expect nuns, who are sheltered from society, to be good judges of what constitutes appropriate states of dress. The RTC judge said that he does not consider the photo to be lewd. I would tend to rely more on his judgement than that of nuns.

The standard of ‘lewd’ is one on a slippery slope. If we let the nuns have their way, very soon all skirts above the knee will be lewd, as will all tops held up by spaghetti straps. (Note that the nuns appropriate upon themselves to judge what students should wear anywhere, not just at school.) We could end up worse than the Wahabi religious police in Saudi Arabia.

Next Steps
The children have been wronged; the graduation is over. The only appropriate penalty for the STC administration would be for them to issue a public apology, and perhaps reparations for the unnecessary emotional damage they had caused. But beyond this, there should be a thorough revision of all Student Manuals to ensure that they do not extend to behaviour outside school premises and activities.

The STC administration should also be sanctioned by the RTC for contempt of court. We can’t have school administrators who simply disregard the law whenever it does not please them.

Posted in alternative media, Cebu, Philippine education, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Green Plants and Philippine Education

Posted by butalidnl on 2 December 2011

A teacher I once had said that you can conclude a lot about the education system of a country by asking an 8-year-old child: “Why are plants green?”. Ask a Filipino 8-year-old (according to my teacher), and the answer will be something like: “God made it so.”, or “the angels work to make it green”. Ask a Japanese 8-year-old, and you will get a story that involves photosynthesis and chlorophyll.

It has been some time since I have been in school, but I think the Philippine education system is very much in the same place as it was in my time. Filipinos are generally taught creationism (in effect) first, and then science later.

A niece of mine was enrolled in an ‘exclusive’ Catholic school. When she was about Grade 5, she recited to me how photosynthesis works. It was straight out of the book, word for word. I wonder how much she really understood of the concept then.

How Photosynthesis Works
I don’t think many students in the Philippines go further than: “plants are green because they contain chlorophyll, and chlorophyll is green. ” If you really think about it, this is only a marginally better answer than “God made them green”. The “plants have chlorophyll” story sounds scientific, but it isn’t, really. A real scientific explanation should go into WHY chlorophyll is green.

The explanation of why chlorophyll is green could be done in various scientific levels. Let’s start with the first one: chlorophyll is actually a family of compounds which absorb light to produce energy. Chlorophyll A & B, the most common forms, absorb red and blue light, and not green. Thus, light reflected from leaves look green. In the Philippines, I think only BS Biology students could tell you that.

Of course, the story goes deeper. [second level] When sunlight hits chlorophyll, it emits an electron, which goes to make Adenosine Diphosphate (ADP) into Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is the body’s ‘small change’ for energy. Elsewhere in the plant, ATP is used to make carbohydrates from water and carbon dioxide.  I suspect that BS Biology students don’t even get this far.

[There would even be another level of explanations which explain why the specific structure of the various chlorophyll variants absorb light at certain frequencies and not others, and the mechanism of how ADP becomes ATP, and how ATP is used to make carbohydrates. But this is too deep for our current purpose.]

Back to the first scientific level. Chlorophyll is actually a very inefficient way of turning light into energy. [and that is why plants only transform 1% of sunlight into plant material, thus ‘wasting’ 99%] Chlorophyll reflects green which is potentially a very good wavelength to get sunlight, which has a lot of waves (or photons) around the green part of the spectrum. Chlorophyll is actually one proof that life did not come about as the result of a ‘creator’ or ‘intelligent design’. An intelligent designer would have made plants absorb more light (instead of wasting 99% of it), making them black so that it would absorb all light. If green chlorophyll just so happened to have arisen by mutation, further mutations would just improve on it, instead of making a whole new and more efficient molecule. So, the imperfect (you may say defective) nature of chlorophyll shows that it is not the product of an ‘intelligent designer’.

Leaves become brown when the plant withdraws Magnesium from chlorophyll, turning it into a transparent substance. As a result, the leaf then would reflect red and blue, resulting in brown.

How Students Are Taught
The fact that Filipino students learn that” plants are green, because they have chlorophyll” (which is good for 8 year-olds, but not for university students) shows us how science is taught in the Philippines. Science is taught by getting students to memorize things, instead of getting them to understand processes.

Biology is a tedious subject, where students have to memorize a lot of things. They have to remember how plants and animals are classified, that sort of thing. This makes the whole subject quite boring and daunting. Instead, biology could go into the WHY and HOW species actually develop. And look at things like: polar bears adapting to climate change by mating with brown bears; primitive whales  surviving by swimming in the cold water near the north and south poles and out of reach of huge sharks (in the past, sharks were much bigger than they are today). Biology could be such an interesting subject. And this is the case for more subjects.

History could become interesting, if only it is taught like a series of adventure stories. Imagine the story of Magellan: the various intrigues in the Spanish Court and during their journey; the politics of Humabon and how Lapulapu outsmarted Magellan, and why Humabon was forced to massacre the Spanish; how Magellan’s slave Trapobana (Enrique) was the first man to circumnavigate the world, etc. It could be interesting; but instead, teachers have reduced it to a series of dates and names, in other words – to a boring lesson. Even Yoyoy Villame did it better than the schools, with his song ‘Magellan’ that we can easily remember.

Everybody who says that history is a boring subject, is just saying that they had unimaginative history teachers. When I was in the 3rd year high school, I had a teacher who made history into a set of stories; and I have been interested in history ever since.

Philippine education could be improved a lot by changing the way subjects are taught. While memorization cannot be totally avoided; they will then be in addition to the interesting stories behind them. And researches show that if a concept is made interesting, it is more easily remembered.

But instead of improving the quality of education, the government is now busy with the K12 program, which aims to increase the quantity of education. The plan is to add two more years of monotonous, boring lessons for the poor students, without offering a way to raise their intellectual level. I think that unless education is made more interesting, analytic, up-to-date, adding two years to it may do more harm than good.

Posted in Philippine education, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Why Progressive Taxation and Cash Transfers make sense

Posted by butalidnl on 5 September 2011

If Tea Party activists are to be believed, the US government is busy taking away money from hardworking citizens, and spending it on bureaucratic government or on the parasitic poor.  In response, they call for lower taxes, smaller government and less social spending. While there may be some things valid in the criticism of how the government works and its social spending priorities are, there is a case to be made to keep such things in place, in principle.

If we were truly to minimize government, keep taxes as low as possible and have no social spending, we will get something like Somalia – a failed state in chaos, with terrorists and criminals running loose, and not much of an economy. There is a need for the state and its bureaucracy, in order to keep an economy running well.

But Somalia is not the US – it was undeveloped even while it had a functioning state. True. But when it had a functioning state, it at least had a working economy, and not as much crime, terrorism etc. as it has today.

For an example of a much more developed country with low taxes , minimum state and low social spending, lets take the case of Russia during the years immediately after the fall of the Soviet Union. The lack of effective government controls on the economy resulted in a handful of people getting control of huge chunks of the country’s wealth. They didn’t pay much taxes, corruption was rampant, crime syndicates ran amok and there were shortages of coal and other resources.

A developed economy needs to have a developed system of government. And this means that people need to pay the necessary taxes to pay for that government. As an economy is more developed, it needs more government officials, not less, in order to run things correctly.

Progressive Taxation
Progressive taxation makes sense from both an economic and a moral point of view. If a country needs to raise a certain amount of money, it makes economic sense to get a bigger proportion of this from the rich, rather than from the poor. The rich have more money than the poor; and their capacity  to spend is less affected by taxes than that of the poor. Also, since the poor tend to spend most of their income (while the rich save part of it), the multiplier effect of having poor people retain their money means that the market demand for goods is higher.

Now for the moral point. It is a myth that rich people had worked harder to become rich. A lot of rich people started off as rich children – being born of rich parents. And every successful businessman became so partly because of contacts, privileged information, or just plain luck; combined, of course with some measure of hard work.  Hard work is responsible for only a part (the smaller part, actually) of the wealth of rich people. Following this logic, rich people ought to give back more to society, because they have benefited more from society than others.

Conditional Cash Transfers
Cash transfers for poor families is a way of ensuring a minimum standard of health and education for citizens. On the short term, it may look like charity or dole-outs, but it is really a smart investment into the future. An educated and healthy labor force is worth a lot more than what the Cash Transfer Program eventually costs, in the longer term. Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) do not make people lazy; on the contrary, people will work harder if a better future and standard of living is achievable, than when their situation is hopeless.

It would be even better if the government is able to provide Universal Health Care and quality Free Education for all. But, when this is not yet possible, a Conditional Cash Transfer program that improves the health and education prospects for the poorest families is a good thing to do. An added, though secondary, advantage of a Conditional Cash Transfer program is that it stimulates the local economy in the poorest communities. The CCT effectively raises the level of demand, leading to more business for merchants, more goods get transported, and there is more demand for services (e.g. laundry, transportation, retailing). And all this indirectly raises the welfare of all the poor families in the area (e.g. through cheaper goods, more job opportunities).

Posted in Philippine economics, Philippine education, Philippine politics, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »