OPENING REMARKS by OSCAR M. LOPEZ, Chairman, Lopez Group of Companies at the LAKAD MO, PANGARAP KO fund raising event sponsored by Knowledge Channel Foundation, Inc. held at the ULTRA ULTRA Sports Center, Pasig City on October 10, 2004
Mr. Vice President of the Philippines, the Honorable Noli de Castro, Education Secretary Florencio Abad and the DepEd family, mga kamag-aral, mga kapamilya, GOOD MORNING! I do hope that short walk energized you enough for the huge task that lies ahead for all of us in the field of public education.
In my New Year's address last January 13th I said that I would walk the talk; and though I didn't mean that literally, I was prevailed upon by my daughter to lead todays walk. And because I always take challenges head-on, and because I love to walk, I put Lakad Mo, Pangarap Ko on my priority list - and I'm glad I did.
I am extremely happy to see all of you here on an early Sunday morning to take part in and commit to an advocacy, which has been and from hereon it shall become an even more passionate endeavor of the Lopez Group. The advocacy I speak of is our involvement in helping improve public education. Many of us know all too well about the problems that beset our public educational system because we have either heard or read about these problems through various media. These problems directly impact on the future of our companies and ultimately on the future of our country.
The basic problem is the over population of this country. We are increasing at the rate of 2 million Filipinos per year, a rate that our educational system and the financial resources of our government cannot cope with, especially at the present time when we are faced with a serious fiscal deficit and the need to reduce expenses in government.
The long-term impact of over-population is the alarming decline in the quality of our public school system, especially in the primary school level. This problem was addressed by former Education Secretary Brother Andrew Gonzales who said this, 4 years ago, "The most fundamental problem of the educational system is that the rate of annual population growth is still at 2.3% and has been that way these past 10 years the net effect has been a strain on classrooms, teachers, textbooks and science equipment, which call for more resources than the present 17% of the budget."
The poor quality of our basic public education has in turn contributed greatly to perpetuating poverty among Filipino families. Poor education prevents them from taking advantage of job opportunities here and abroad. Poor education affects the countrys international competitiveness at a time when global competitiveness is the stiffest. Internationally, we have taken a deep fall in educational standards and achievements. A recent international test rated us number 51 in a field of 54 countries in math and science aptitude of 13 year old students. Another indication of the poor educational caliber of our students are the results of the high school readiness test given to incoming freshmen in public high schools last May 26. Less than 1% of the 1.4 million incoming freshmen examinees received a grade of 72% or higher. Half of the examinees even failed to get a score of 30%.
At this rate we are not educating our people at all and are condemning them to a life of poverty and our nation relegated to competing with the likes of Cambodia, Laos and Bangladesh, and who knows but that someday even these 3 countries will also surpass us in economic growth. All we seem to grow well are babies, babies galore! But we need a respite from this kind of rapid population growth so that our economy and our educational system and even our fight against poverty can show some measurable improvement and progress.
As I read all these depressing stories and statistics about our public school system, my heart went out to my friend Education Secretary Butch Abad who has now to face up to all the seemingly intractable problems of the public school system. But at the same time, this has motivated me and the Lopez Group of Companies to help in some small way to try and raise the standards of education in this country. That is why we are giving all our support to the expansion of the coverage of the Knowledge Channel throughout the country.
Since its launch in late 1999, the Knowledge Channel Foundation has connected 1,372 public schools in 38 provinces. Roughly 2.5 million students now benefit from this unique education tool. But this is barely scratching the surface for there remains more than 39,000 schools still on the waiting list to receive the channel. All it requires is money and more money from willing donors.
The effectiveness and efficiency of television as a learning tool cannot be overemphasized as proven all over the world. Educational TV is institutionalized in the U.S., Australia, Japan and other advanced countries because of its proven impact on academic performance.
It is no coincidence that the Knowledge Channel Foundation and the ABS-CBNs E-media program are into educational television. My daughter Rina and niece Gina, are two of the feistiest Lopez women, who have used the Groups core competencies in satellite broadcasting, television production and cabling operations for projects meant for the public good as the Groups expression of corporate social responsibility. Projects whose life spans and after effects will go well beyond our companies and our own lives projects which impact directly on national development because nation building is the Lopez Groups reason for being.
The Group has invested all of its resources in the Philippines because it believes in the Filipino and in this country. These investments in power generation, public utilities, broadcasting, telecommunications and other major fields have in no small way contributed to the progress of this nation. The Group has faced its ups and downs but has never been daunted despite occasional criticism from sectors of the press and the public. I stand here before you today and will tell you now that we will not just survive we will prevail.
On another much more important note, I would like to repeat what I said at the beginning of this year at the joint meeting of our Management Council and FPHC CEOs. I would like all our employees to view corporate social responsibility as one valid and significant expression of citizenship involvement in nation-building.
I would like to encourage all of them to zero in on helping improve public education by providing educational television to as many public schools as possible. WE NEED TO MAKE THIS SOCIAL INVESTMENT NOW BEFORE ITS TOO LATE..
That, my friends and kapamilya, is the nature of our mission. It is a pretty tall order for any one Group to face. It is also something all Filipinos must take on as a mission. We have taken the first few thousand steps today in this Lakad Mo, Pangarap Ko fun walk. At least the journey has begun. We simply have to move on as one in this task of helping our poor brothers break the shackles of poverty through education.
I would at this point like to congratulate the Knowledge Channel Foundation on its 5th anniversary; and ABS-CBNs E-Media program on its 10th. Finally, it is now my great honor and pleasure to introduce to you our keynote speaker the Vice President of the Philippines, the Honorable Noli de Castro.
Thank you and a good day to all of you.