Education has always been thought of as one of the answers to poverty. An educated citizenry makes a progressive nation. Governments pour in money to invest in educating its people. Thus, in every poverty alleviation program in the world, there is an educational component.
The Pamilyang Pilipino Pantawid Program(4P) is not entirely an education initiative. In fact, it is primarily a welfare program under DSWD, and education is just one of its components. And having this as one of the components is thought to be an investment for the beneficiaries in particular, and to the nation as a whole. But is it really an investment?
It is a laudable program that, as World Bank reports say, has helped assure the enrolment and attendance of children in school. Enrolment does increase in countries where school attendance is incentivized. Brazil upped its enrolment rates (Buchstab, 2021); stipend money helped Pakistani girls attend school (Maqbool et al, 2022); high school enrolment in Indonesia increased (Caniago, 2021). And in the Philippines in 2021, the Department of Education announced that the latest enrolees breached the previous year’s number, with the latest enrolment rate at 100.3%.
These are good signs that the CCT program is a success – but on the assumption that when we are able to keep enrolment rates high with good school attendance, learning takes place. This disregards other circumstances that happen inside the school, or now, in wherever the child is learning. Also taken out of the picture is the environment that the child will go home to after school, the child’s habitus. Enrolment and attendance are good, but what about learning?
While studies show that there are positive effects in using the 4Ps and other CCT programs, the impact is not sustained; it is just a “one-time effect (Buchstab, 2021).” The positive effects are superficial – not meaningful enough to effect a long-term change in the mindset or views of the recipients and their families.
This is also true for the Pakistani families, who “…would stop send their girls to school if the government stopped the incentive program as they are not financially strong to bear the cost of school of their daughters.” (Maqbool et al, 2022). This means that despite the infusion of government funds, families will do without education if it means shelling out money from their own pockets. Education remains a low priority in the lives of the families.
This shows that education has not made a meaningful impact on their lives.
So what will happen after the beneficiaries exit the program? They will go back to their previous lives. With that, the aspirations of the government to raise nation-builders go down the drain, too.
Why is this so, and how can we ensure that the government’s hard-earned infused money will equitably help in the development of the country? Are we then resigned to Buchstab’s melancholy that CCT has little impact on educational outcomes?
Government exists to extend help and support to the most needy in society. The 4Ps as an instrument for that help and support is laudable, but take note that the help must be sustainable, something that will power-up and launch people, and not make them dependent all the time on these programs.
Strengthening the education component of the 4Ps will be beneficial to this end.
School attendance is a part of it, but it should not stop there. The student may be present physically, but could be somewhere else mentally. Thus, attendance is useless and irrelevant.
Case in point – the child is obliged to go to school, go through the motions, and then go back to the same environment that neither encourages nor lauds the process. After years in the program, the child graduates. No longer a student-beneficiary, he lives the same life as his parents, and will probably be a parent-beneficiary themselves. What changed then?
There has to be a strategy that will truly propel the beneficiaries towards improved cognitive skills. There has to be a mechanism to assess and re-assess how learning is taking place in the scheme of things. Education cannot just be an add-on to the program; in other words, the government must put value into education in the 4Ps.
And it does not have to be in academics all the time. There are other areas 4Ps beneficiaries, their guardians, and their teachers can explore: arts, athletics, and vocations.
The question really is: how can the 4Ps be used to also assure that the education being given is of good quality and will help break chronic poverty among the beneficiaries, so they can truly help in nation-building in the future, so development can truly happen? In other words, how can education play a more transformative role in the 4Ps so that the money, effort, and time will truly be called educational investments?
At some point, we are the only help people will have, so extending a helping hand is our way to go. But this helping hand will have to go a bit further so we can truly make meaningful change.
Let’s make the 4Ps really work for the education of the child. Let’s have a proper program that will help propel the students forward, not only now, but even after their beneficiary days are over. Without proper tools, there is no assurance that the child’s skills will improve or mindset will change in a way that will really help prepare them for the future.
If our intention is to use the 4Ps for the development of our human resources and our country in the next few years, it would be helpful to take steps to make the educational component really work for the improvement of human capital, to wit: the strengthening of literacy rates by introducing programs specifically to build and boost the beneficiaries’ cognitive skills; promoting programs that specifically tap the innate talents and skills of the beneficiaries; assigning programs, projects, and activities that will push the beneficiaries to strive, aspire, and help the community; and providing purposive mentoring to deepen the beneficiaries’ commitment to the program. – Rappler.com
Ruth F. Yap is a mother of three, a PhD student at the UP College of Education-Anthropology and Sociology Department, and a Computer teacher at Miriam College.