Press Release
May 9, 2011

The Early Years Act
Sponsorship speech

"Making Filipino Children School-Ready"
Senator Edgardo J. Angara

About a month from now, a new school year will begin. About 14 million pupils will enroll in 45,000 public and private elementary schools nationwide. Another 7 million will enter the secondary level in 10,000 schools.

Together with them, 1.7 million five-year-old children will begin kindergarten, after the Department of Education (DepEd) directed that it should be offered in public schools for free.

But a group of 2.5 million will not even enroll in school.

Furthermore, of the 14 million elementary pupils, more than 800,000 - or 6.28 percent - dropped out during the SY 2009-2010, according to the DepEd.

Among our 7 million high school students for that school year, more than 500,000, or nearly 8 percent, left school.

The biggest plunge in enrollment occurs between Grades 1 and 3. It is when children, mostly from poor families, fall out due to poor health, severe nutritional deficiencies and serious learning gaps in their early years.

Consequently, an estimated 4 million children are forced to leave the school system prematurely or do not enter it at all because they are simply not school-ready.

Let us also take a look at our pupils in school. For 2008-2009, the enrollment in Grade 1 totaled 2.7 million pupils. However, only 39 percent of them - or roughly 1.1 million - were six-year-olds.

Another 39 percent were already seven years old, while the remaining 22 percent were from eight to 11 years old.

The delayed start of formal education among children persists in spite of the DepEd policy requiring all six-year-olds to enroll in Grade 1.

These dismal figures suggest that as a society, we have not been successful in instilling in parents and families the value of education. Moreover, our school system has been incapable of keeping students in school long enough to complete six full years of elementary education.

But, perhaps, the most fundamental reason why our children are not school-ready is because we glaringly neglect the most critical years of a their development.


Over the years, research studies by child educators, psychologists and scientists have shown that the vital years of brain development occurs much earlier than age five.

In fact, they have found out that learning begins at birth. It is during the early years from zero to six when learning pathways in the brain are formed.

A person is born with more than 100 billion neurons. The connections between these nerve cells form so rapidly, that by eight months, a baby's brain has about 1,000 trillion synapses or connections. Stimulation and experiences in the early years determine how the brain is wired, while repetition of experiences makes these connections stronger.

By age four, 50 percent of a person's ability to learn is already developed and by age eight, another 30 percent.

By age 10, about half of the connections in the brain are pruned, leaving an average child with 500 trillion that last through most of his life.

Clearly, the early years of brain development are astounding times where all future learning is based. Yet, these decisive years are not sufficiently addressed in our educational system.

The most recent national census shows that there are 17 million Filipino children from age zero to six. About 7 million of them are under three years old.

However, only 6 million children from ages three to six actually enrolled in day care centers, preschools and Grade 1 classes in 20091. This means that only four of every 10 children belonging to the zero-to-six age group received some form of early care and education.

If we consider that our day care centers offer mainly child-care and child-minding services, then only less than two of every 10 children - or about 3 million - were part of an early learning program that stimulates brain development.

Preparation through ECCD

As things stand, keeping our children in school is an enormous challenge. But before we can ensure that our five- and six-year-olds stay in school, we first have to make them school-ready through fun-filled and enriching early learning programs.

This also involves a range of health, nutrition, early education and social development components that will contribute to the holistic formation younger children need for formal education.

Today, a total of 49,865 day care workers conduct mostly child-care and child-minding programs in 49,712 day care centers nationwide. Almost 50 percent of them are college graduates - although not education graduates - while another 30 percent are undergraduates.

It is necessary to build their competencies and capabilities through continuing professional education and training so that they will eventually become professional child development teachers.

Fifty years have also passed since day care services were first introduced in our country. It is high time we transform day care centers into child development centers that meet the emerging requirements for educational development in the early years.

The Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Council2 is at the helm of the campaign to help young children develop their intelligence, personality and behavior, as well as enhance their success in school.

But I have to emphasize that parents hold an incomparable role as the primary caregivers and educators of young children. For this reason, parents' active involvement as providers of early childhood care and development at home, as well as their participation in local and national programs, is a major pillar of the ECCD system.

Mr. President, there is a gaping hole in our school system through which millions of ill-equipped Filipino children are falling. Let us reverse this trend and help our children reach their full potential

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the period from zero to six years as the first cycle of educational development. Enacting the Early Years Act is more than timely - it is long overdue.

Thank you.


1 Source cited is the "State of the Art Review of Day Care Practice in the Philippines" by the DepEd Basic Education Information System (BEIS) and ECCD Council.

2 The ECCD Council is an alliance involving the DepEd, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, National Nutrition Council and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.

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