Education is truly the great social equalizer.
But in order to achieve this social equality, access to state educational institutions must not only be available to the poor; it must, in fact, give preferential treatment to them.
True to his long-time advocacy of having poor but deserving students being prioritized for admission to the country's state colleges and universities and science high schools, Senator Richard J. Gordon slammed the "palakasan" system being practiced in Olongapo City's Science High School.
"I have been hearing reports that most of the students in the Science High School come from well-to-do families. This is not really regretful in itself because they could all have passed the qualifying exams. But what makes this offensive is that I have been getting reports too that the principal is allegedly negotiable," he said.
Gordon pointed out that the practice robs poor but deserving students of opportunities to get a good education and later on the opportunity to carve better lives for themselves.
"When I was in the Con-Con, I proposed to include a provision that says SUCs and Science high schools should give priority to indigent or poor but deserving students so they will be given an opportunity to get good education. Unfortunately, when the 1973 Constitution was ratified, the provision was not included," the youngest delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention said.
"When my grandson, Nick, passed the entrance exam in Philippine Science High School and he asked me if he will enroll there, I told him, 'I am proud of you for getting accepted. However, I would rather that you enroll in Xavier School. I don't want you to deprive a poor but qualified student of a slot in Philippine Science when you have the means to enroll in another school,'" he added.
Gordon also expressed his pride in his other grandchildren who are all intelligent and student leaders. "The apples cannot really fall far from the tree," he said.
Meanwhile, the lawmaker called on the government to invest in the country's youth to ensure a quality population and to address the growing number of children getting in conflict with the law.
Gordon said the government should allot funding for measures that would ensure that children would be educated and well-guided so that the country will have a quality population. Such measures include: having truancy officers in every barangay; hiring more guidance counselors so that there would be at least one for every grade level; getting more social welfare officers; and implementing a feeding program in all public schools.