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RP lags behind neighbors in science, technology -- Angara

First Posted 12:21:00 01/22/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- The country lags behind its Asian neighbors in science, technology, and innovation (STI), Senator Edgardo Angara said, as he batted for an upgrade in science and math education in all levels.

Supporting his statement, Angara pointed out that for every scientist or engineer in the Philippines, there were six in Vietnam, 25 in Thailand, and 200 in Singapore.

He said there were only 12 scientists and engineers per one million population in the Philippines. ?This is not even one half of the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) requirement for sustainable development,? he said.

Angara said that public spending for research and development (R&D) was only 0.11 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). ?That?s about one-tenth of one percent?while Japan spends 3.12 percent and Singapore, 2.15 percent,? he said.

He said the principal reason for this was the ?truly unfortunate, if not pathetic? situation of the country?s education, particularly in science and math. He said the Filipinos? aptitude for science and math was poor as shown by the achievement tests in March 2007 where the average elementary school student could answer only five of 10 science and math questions correctly and the average high school student, four of 10 such questions.

Angara said this situation was caused by a dearth in science and math teachers. To illustrate, he said that 90 percent of physics teachers were non-physics majors and 80 percent of chemistry teachers were non-chemistry majors.

The senator, who heads the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology, and Engineering (COMSTE) and the defunct Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM), admitted that there were ?resource gaps? in the national budget.

?Year in and year out, every time the national budget comes to Congress, we are confronted with the same problems of lack of textbooks, lack of teachers, etc.,? he said.

?We have the largest class size in the region, and class size is a good measure of effective learning. In 2001, our average class size was 54, in 2004, it was 70,? he added.

The senator said tools like computers were not available to many Filipino students, saying that the ratio of student to computer is 1:26,000 for public elementary school students, 1:111 for public high school students.

Overall computer ownership is 46:1,000 and Internet penetration is about 15 percent, the 12th among 14 Asian countries, he said.

Angara stressed that progress came from science, technology, and innovation. He predicted that in the next few years, STI in the fields of information and communication technology, nanotechnology, and biotechnology would be at the forefront of what would move the world forward.

?We cannot join in this great movement if we don?t address the basic problems that confront us,? he said.

Angara thus batted for building educational foundation for excellence in math and science, investing adequately in research and development, and developing a vast pool of technically-trained workers with world-class skills.

?We need to have a culture of science, technology, and innovation. Everyone of us -- government, the academic community, and the private sector -- must do our part to put in place this culture of innovation and build the foundation for technical and scientific excellence?This if we want to have a future,? he said.

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