Duterte vows 'quality' education amid pandemic, but no other plans in last SONA

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Duterte vows 'quality' education amid pandemic, but no other plans in last SONA
President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his final State of the Nation Address on July 26, 2021
Screengrab / Presidential Communications

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte in his last State of the Nation Address sought to assure that government would continue delivering "quality" education amid COVID-19, but he barely made mention of his plans for the sector in his hours-long report. 

Learning in the Philippines will continue to be carried out remotely due to the virus as a new school year begins this September. 

"Despite our inability to conduct face-to-face classes during this pandemic," Duterte said on Monday, "we remain determined to deliver quality and accessible education to all."

Groups had heavily criticized the Department of Education's push for distance learning, as difficulties hounded the setup for over 25 million students. 

That ranges from errors in learning materials to poor internet access, as well as stress taking a toll on teachers' and students' wellbeing. 

Stakeholders have warned of consequences in the long run from these challenges. It includes the widening of the gap between those with and without access to education. 

Over two million students opted to forego schooling in the first year of distance learning during the pandemic. DepEd also saw a significant number transferring from private institutions to public schools. 

Groups have since said that the pandemic has only worsened a learning crisis in the country. 

Duterte cited DepEd's basic education learning continuity plan for his government's promise to deliver during a health crisis. 

He added this would ensure "uninterrupted learning while ensuring teachers' safety and wellbeing."

The president's final report to the nation stretched to two hours and 45 minutes. It is now the longest SONA in the country's history, as Duterte stuck to his knack for going off-script in his speeches. 

He made no mention of other plans his government has for schools, teachers, and students.

Many issues remain, however. Private schools face an impending 15% hike in their tax rate, teachers say Duterte has yet to hike their salaries, and there are still no plans to vaccinate students for their eventual, and hopeful, return to classrooms.

Duterte, however, touted a crucial measure passed in his years — the Republic Act 10931, mandating free tuition across state colleges and universities. 

"To unburden our people of the hefty costs of tertiary education, my administration worked with Congress to pass a landmark legislation that had remained unpassed for so many years," the president said.

But for Kabataan Party-list, the law failed to change how the country's education system has been commercialized, or treated as a business. 

Its spokesperson Raoul Manuel also took to Twitter to rebuke Duterte's remarks. "The youth does not owe the free education program to Duterte because the young had been fighting for that for years," he wrote in Filipino.

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