There is a correlation between education and progress. A country with highly educated citizens has high economic growth. An individual with higher education is usually in a better economic condition. People with little or no education are more likely to live in poverty. Thus, education is where the government should be giving more attention and making more investment.
Naga City has started doing just that by implementing a program called "Reinventing the Naga City School Board" to improve the public school system. Key to the program is the empowerment of the board by building a strong body of stakeholders at local level.
Traditionally, local authorities have relied on the Division of City Schools to define the education priorities that will be funded by the special education fund (SEF) collected annually by the city government. The 8-member school board meets early in the year to determine how the SEF will be spent. Most often, only two powerful members the local chief executive (mayor) and the division superintendent decide on the priorities.
Thus, the traditional school board is practically reduced to a budgeting body. Its involvement in delivery of education services is weak. Its planning processes are inefficient and ineffective since policy decisions and resource allocations are not linked to actual needs of the city's 36,000 public school children. The city's 1,200 public school teachers could hardly perform their tasks since the badly needed "soft infrastructures" textbooks, reference materials, training, etc. are not addressed. Add to it the big number of students in the classroom, ranging from 40 to 60.
In the reinvented school board, the organizational structure has been changed to ensure four elements of good governance: transparency, accountability, participation, and predictability. The original eight members now have voting rights. Membership has been expanded to include representatives from the academe, business, religious, alumni associations, and non-government organizations. They now form the community advisory board.
Aside from its traditional role of recommending a change in the name of public schools and endorsing promotion of education officials, the empowered school board now prepares local education plan and budget with strong citizen participation. A system has been institutionalized to make financial management and procurement, as well as the recruitment of teachers, transparent. Through a feedback system, education officials are now more accountable to the public.
The new school board had identified alternative ways of developing and financing the local education plan by mobilizing internal and external resources. In summer of 2003, the board supported the teachers and supervisory staff of the Division of City Schools in preparing ready-made lesson plans and workbooks. These unburdened the teachers of writing daily lesson plans, enabling them to focus on teaching more effectively in the classroom.
The board also launched the "Surog-Adal" program to institutionalize the Brigada Eskwela and the "Adopt-a-School" programs of the Department of Education. As a result, five depressed elementary schools were adopted by the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Rotary Club of Naga Circle, the local chapters of the Lion's Club, and the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.
In terms of student performance, the program yielded results. Of the elementary students who took the national achievement test in English, Science, and Math in school year 2002-2003, an average of 38.15% passed. In 2003-2004 an average of 50.62% passed, or an increase of 12.47%. English got the highest increase (13.96%), followed by Math (13.01%) and Science (10.43%).
The Naga City experience demonstrates that a pro-active school board, using local resources efficiently and working with various stakeholders, can address the two major problems of education: underinvestment in literacy initiatives and poor management of the public school system.