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Palace alarmed over report on declining student aptitude

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Palace alarmed over report on declining student aptitude
The Philippines ranked low in three World Bank-led learning assessments, a problem that the multilateral lender said is accompanied by bullying and health issues like malnutrition.
Philstar.com / Irish Lising, file

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang yesterday expressed alarm over a recent World Bank report which found Filipino students performing poorly in mathematics, reading and science even as it assured the public that the Department of Education (DepEd) would find ways to address the problem.

The Philippines ranked low in three World Bank-led learning assessments, a problem that the multilateral lender said is accompanied by bullying and health issues like malnutrition.

The country ranked last and second to last in two assessments that measured skills and proficiency in reading, mathematics and science.

It also landed in the bottom half of countries that took part in an assessment that gauged learning outcomes in writing literacy, reading and numeracy.

“Well, that is very disturbing and very alarming and I’m sure (Education) Secretary Liling (Leonor) Briones and her team at the Department of Education will sit down and study as well as discuss ways forward upon receiving this World Bank report,” presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.

“Do not worry. The report will be studied thoroughly and we will see how we can change the curriculum especially during the time of the pandemic,” he added.

With regard to addressing malnutrition, Roque said the government is still implementing a program that delivers nutritious food and milk to students despite the prohibition against in-person classes.

The DepEd is continuously innovating to continue the students’ learning process despite the limitations caused by the pandemic, Roque said.

“We are on blended learning po. We utilize modules, we utilize TV, radio as well as computer-aided forms of educational material. But I’m sure that the process of adapting to the new normal continues and the Department of Education will continue to introduce innovations,” Roque said.

Suspend tax hike

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the Department of Finance (DOF) to immediately repeal or suspend the implementation of a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) regulation raising to 25-percent the income tax of private schools.

Drilon issued the call in anticipation of the incoming school year, noting these institutions might pass the burden of paying higher taxes to students.

He suggested that the Senate should pass a resolution expressing the legislative intent of the higher chamber when it passed the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) law and rejecting the patently erroneous interpretation of tax regime governing educational institutions.

Drilon said the resolution should accompany Senate Bill 2272, which seeks to clarify that the qualifier “non-profit” under Section 27(B) of the National Revenue Code only applies to hospitals and not to proprietary educational institutions.

“We did not amend the coverage of educational institutions. The BIR regulation ruled and interpreted it otherwise and redefined what is an educational institution for purposes of tax regime. That is totally an uncalled-for interpretation,” Drilon said during a hearing of the Senate committee on ways and means.

“The way the BIR interprets what we passed is entirely wrong. We support this amendment and we are confident that SB 2272, which clarifies the tax on educational institutions will be passed,” Drilon said.

He said the BIR order would continue to be the “sword of Damocles” hanging over private schools during the world’s most uncertain times brought by the continuing pandemic.

“Should the committee file a report favorably endorsing this bill, I would strongly suggest that a resolution – which will put on record the legislative intent of the Senate as expressed during the plenary deliberations of the CREATE bill – accompany the committee report,” Drilon said.

“What we will do is clarify the wording of the law. Let me stress that this is not an amendatory law. We are merely clarifying the erroneous interpretation. With more reason that the BIR and DOF should suspend the Revenue Regulation,” he said. – Cecille Suerte Felipe, Delon Porcalla

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