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Marcos vows upgrade of schools, teachers

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Marcos vows upgrade of schools, teachers
High school students wait for their time in front Marikina High School in Marikina on November 2, 2022, DepEd also announced the full face-to-face classes for public and private schools will resume.
STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Saying the government should not continue to “fail” Filipino children, President Marcos vowed yesterday to upgrade school infrastructure and invest in teachers’ upskilling programs to improve the state of the country’s basic education system and produce a competent workforce.

Marcos made the commitment in his keynote speech at the presentation of the Basic Education Report 2023 led by Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City.

Apart from Marcos, other officials who attended the event were Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who chairs the committee on basic education, arts and culture; members of the diplomatic community and education stakeholders.

“I have previously mentioned that this administration will, at no point, scrimp on investment in our educational sector and in our young learners, and I am here today to reaffirm that commitment,” the President said.

In her report, Duterte said the lack of school infrastructure and resources is the “most pressing issue” faced by the Philippine education sector.

She revealed that while there are a total of 327,851 school buildings in the country, there are only 104,536 that are in “good condition.”

The Vice President said the Department of Education (DepEd)’s inventory showed that there are 100,072 school buildings needing minor repairs, 89,252 buildings requiring major repairs and 21,727 buildings set for condemnation.

She, nonetheless, said that for 2023, the DepEd has allocated P15.6 billion for new school building construction.

Marcos stressed investing in education could lead to a well trained, highly experienced populace, which he said is key to the country’s progress.
“And thus, it once again reminds us that education is the most valuable service that the government can give to its citizens. If there is nothing else. After preservation of life and limb, education comes next. And with that, with the well-trained populace, with the well trained and highly experienced workforce, then everything follows. The Philippines will succeed,” he said.

Marcos, however, said strengthening the education system warrants a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach, with the highest degree of proactivity, motivation and perseverance.

He said the government and the rest of society “must now move full speed” to equip students and educators with the capacity and tools they need to meet present challenges and opportunities.

Marcos said the pandemic also brought to people’s consciousness the importance of being able to adapt to new and changing realities and unexpected circumstances.

“So again, we must consistently develop and adopt innovative paradigms and strategic reforms that will ensure the resilience of our educational landscape. We must first act locally in order for us to be competitive globally,” he said.

“We will work hard so that no Filipino is left behind, and to do even better, we will ensure that we are at par with global standards in basic education,” Marcos said.

The President noted that during his trips abroad, he brought to the consciousness of the Philippines’ friends and partners around the world the potentialities of the Filipino worker and of the Philippines.
“And at every juncture, I am confronted by the challenge of that, the central key to success is going to upskill and reskill our workforce,” he said.

Duterte also announced that DepEd has started the “revision” of the K to 12 curriculum in a bid to produce more job-ready and responsible graduates.

“We will make the curriculum relevant to produce competent, job-ready, active, and responsible citizens. We will revise the K to 12 curriculum to make them more responsive to our aspiration as a nation, to develop lifelong learners who are imbued with 21st-century skills, discipline, and patriotism,” she said.

Duterte said the ongoing review of the K to 12 curriculum revealed that its content was congested; that some prerequisites of identified essential learning competencies were missing or misplaced, and that a significant number of learning competencies catered to high cognitive demands.

‘Filipino learners are not academically proficient’

Duterte admitted that “Filipino learners are not academically proficient” due to the many problems besetting the basic education system, among them lack of school infrastructure and resources, loopholes in procurement processes and poor teaching methods and curriculum.

“Filipino learners are not academically proficient. Oftentimes, Filipino learners experience emotional abuse and exhaustion. Some Filipino learners suffer from psychological fatigue – and being academically insecure, many of them may fail to meet the standards of the demanding and competitive world,” Duterte said.

“This is the truth. This is our future. But this is a future that we can change,” she added.

Duterte admitted that the country’s crisis in education was a complex one, “caused and triggered by conditions present at home, in our communities and even in our schools as a result of problems ingrained in our system.”

Another problem she cited were the “cracks” in procurement practices, particularly issues on transparency and accountability.

Duterte said that their assessment showed that the centralized procurement of DepEd has been hounded by “delays in submission of technical specifications; lack of updated guidelines; lack of qualified bidders and low participation rate of prospective bidders.”

“There were successful bidders who failed to deliver on time. And worse, there were successful bidders who failed to make deliveries at all,” she said. “The procurement practices at the Department of Education had red flags that demanded immediate actions.”

Duterte said the DepEd has already created a team dedicated entirely on matters of procurement such as ensuring that the delivery of services is done within the period required by law and that the processes mandated by law are being followed.

The DepEd under the previous administration hit the headlines last year after it was flagged by the Commission on Audit for the procurement of “pricey” and “outdated” laptops worth P2.4 billion supposedly to be distributed to public school teachers.

Meanwhile, Duterte said there was also complex problems on the teaching methods and the basic education curriculum.

“Today, most senior high school graduates find the need to pursue higher education in order to find employment. The National Senior High School tracer study conducted by the Bureau of Curriculum Development showed that 83 percent of the respondents pursued higher education while only a little over 10 percent of graduates were employed,” she said.

“The K-12 curriculum promised to produce graduates that are employable. That promise remains a promise,” she added.

Furthermore, Duterte said their assessment revealed “weak teaching methods of our teachers in addressing 21st-century skills.”

“While critical thinking was the most evident in the curriculum, it was also the least taught to students by teachers. Instead, lessons leaned towards conceptual or content-based teaching. And lessons lacked in-depth processing to cultivate critical thinking and problem-solving,” Duterte said.

She, however, was quick to add that these are not the fault of teachers but of the failure in the system in the education sector.

“This is a system that burdens them with backbreaking and time-consuming administrative tasks, a system that provides no adequate support and robs them of the opportunity to professionally grow and professionally teach, assist and guide our learners,” Duterte lamented.

The education secretary, nonetheless, vowed to launch more professional development programs, including graduate degree scholarship programs for teachers, focusing on their learning area specialization, and graduate certificate programs for non-major subject teachers.

More classrooms needed

Meanwhile, over 160,000 more classrooms are needed to house learners, said Gatchalian who assured the public that he will work hard to address the gap.

The senator said the issue of the lack of classrooms was the top concern of DepEd as indicated by the results of a Pulse Asia survey he commissioned.

“Although adequate classrooms are a priority for most of our countrymen, we will make sure that we also address the other deficiencies we face, especially when it comes to the quality of education,” Gatchalian said.

According to the results of the survey, which was conducted from Sept. 17-21, 2022, 52 percent of respondents said that the shortage of classrooms should be the topmost priority issue of the DepEd.

Gatchalian reiterated that in the long run, the government should commit to meeting the classroom requirement for all the country’s learners. Based on the 2019 National School Building Inventory, there’s a shortage of 167,901 classrooms nationwide.

During last year’s deliberations on the 2023 national budget, Gatchalian said that around P420 billion is needed to meet the classroom requirement. – Elizabeth Marcelo, Cecille Suerte Felipe

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