EDITORIAL - A reset for DepEd

The Philippine Star
EDITORIAL - A reset for DepEd

For many observers, the official parting of ways was just a matter of time. On Wednesday, there was little surprise when Vice President Sara Duterte tendered her resignation effective July 19 as secretary of education and co-vice chair of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Duterte’s departure from the Cabinet, which she announced at a press conference wherein she did not take questions, formalizes the breakup of the UniTeam. Just recently, she had said that the UniTeam was good only for the 2022 general elections, which she and President Marcos won by a landslide.

Malacañang quickly announced that the President had accepted Duterte’s resignation, which she had personally tendered to him at Malacañang. Duterte, who garnered more votes than Marcos in the 2022 race, said only that the 30 days before her resignation takes effect would allow for a smooth transition in the Department of Education. She also stressed that she resigned not because of “weakness” but out of “compassion for teachers and students.”

Teachers’ groups, which have long been at odds with Duterte, welcomed her resignation. The transition period should focus on ensuring the smooth opening of the new schoolyear, with the return to the old school calendar being fast-tracked. Critics of the Vice President and her family have always questioned her qualifications for the Department of Education, and were dismayed that political alliances became the key criteria for the selection of the DepEd chief.

Two international assessment tests have shown the seriousness of the problem besetting Philippine education, with Filipino 15-year-olds ranking at the bottom among peers from other countries in terms of mathematics, science and reading competencies.

Advanced economies have long understood the critical role played by education in national development. Early childhood learning in particular, which is under DepEd, can shape a person’s prospects for advancement in life.

With the resignation of his estranged UniTeam partner, President Marcos should keep politics out of education and pick a replacement for Duterte who won’t be sidetracked by political intramurals – one who can focus fully and competently on the many problems besetting this sector. Philippine education is messed up enough without becoming caught in political crossfire.

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