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K-12 review, better competencies of PHL learners, inclusive SUCs–next agenda

THE education sector must address seven essential points in moving forward post-pandemic, according to Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairman Dr. Prospero “Popoy” de Vera.

At a webinar on Tuesday, de Vera discussed his views on the needs of the education sector as the nation seeks to improve the learners experience and address the gaps being experienced on the education front.

According to de Vera, among the seven key points are: the review of the performance of the K-12 system, improvement in the delivery of education through more infrastructure and through the Alternative Learning System (ALS), expansion of the feeding program in schools, reviewing the teachers’ teaching and non teaching functions, continued expansion of the Free Higher Education Act, improvement of the reliability of quality education, and promoting the continued relevance of higher education amid the rapidly changing demands of a competitive work  force.

The veteran educator was the main presenter at the “Moving Forward Beyond 2022” webinar series organized  by  the  ALC Group and media partners and the Bigkis Pinoy Movement in partnership with the Alliance of People’s Organization.De Vera, in his presentation, said that since the passage and implementation of the K-12 scheme, sufficient data is now available to review whether its original objectives are being met. This review can give the government a clear idea on how to move forward in the following years in terms of delivering quality education to more learners.

The CHED chairman also cited the alarming data that out of 100 students who enroll for elementary, only 50 are able to graduate from high school. The number is further whittled down as the students enroll for college as only 25 reach tertiary education. Improving such dismal cohort survival rates—among the lowest in the region—should be a priority of whoever is elected in May to lead the country, he said.

Also deserving of focus are projects such as the ALS to increase learners participation. Feeding programs currently being undertaken by the government, can also boost the condition of learners who suffer from poor retention due to hunger. While the school feeding program has since been legislated, addressing a basic factor that accounts for poor student performance, there is need to ensure sustained funding support for this, de Vera pointed out.

Affirmative action

DE Vera underscored the need for public schools, especially state colleges and universities, to implement affirmative action plans to sustain the increasing number of students taking advantage of the Free Education Act, where they can avail of college education without having to pay for tuition and miscellaneous.

Replying to a question from the BusinessMirror on how greater affirmative action can be pursued while balancing inclusivity with the need to sustain quality education, de Vera explained that flawed admission systems in state universities and colleges are the main problem blocking educational pursuits of the marginalized, especially children of rebel returnees. However, he stressed that once admitted, these affirmative-action beneficiaries on average “need only two years to catch up with their age cohort”—as a way of explaining they cannot be deemed as dragging down the quality of education.

“First you help them get into a university. Second, you create the environment to help them learn well; third, you give them subsidies,” is de Vera’s formula for helping ensure that the marginalized are successfully folded into the State Universities and Colleges (SUC) system after hurdling unreasonable admission criteria.

Migration to public schools

Improving the capacity of SUCs to provide higher education to more youths is vital in light of the increasing migration, which began during the pandemic, from private to public schools, said the CHED chief. “What is happening in higher education now is because education is free in terms of miscellaneous and tuition fees, there is a significant movement of enrollment towards public universities. But the number of slots is not increasing proportionally with the demand so it is going to be problematic if we don’t apply affirmative action plans. Those who need education the most may not be able to pass the requirements in many of our universities,” he said.

De Vera also called for a review of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Listahanan for the recipients of education subsidies so that this can be expanded to members of indigenous communities, children of rebel returnees, and those who are from poor families that are enrolled in private schools because there are no state universities in their areas.

Meanwhile, he proposed a review of the provisions of the Free Education Act to include a “return service” clause so that those who graduate from government subsidies will be given a chance to serve their localities and communities after completing their schooling.

The CHED chairman also highlighted the need to lobby foreign governments to recognize the credentials of Filipino workers so that they can practice their profession.

He explained that before K-12, Filipino workers were not allowed to take professional examinations abroad because they lacked the number of years in school. However, this time around, as this has been addressed by the K-12, there is still a need to connect with foreign governments and ministries to recognize the educational attainments of Filipino workers who graduated before the K-12 adjustment.

“I am sure that if they are allowed to take these tests, they will pass,” he said.

De Vera cited the need to strictly monitor private and public institutions to ensure the quality of education meets the standards of the competitive global industries.

“More effort on quality and reliability means increased monitoring of private and public institutions to ensure quality of degree programs and close those that do not comply with standards,” he said.

With the push for internationalization, he noted that 15 among Asian’s best universities now come from the Philippines, with more coming in future listings.

Private school teachers

A reactor, former Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. Benjamin “Chippy” Espiritu agreed completely with de Vera’s points.

In terms of the teachers’ teaching and non-teaching duties, Espiritu said that while the government has poured support towards public school teachers, the same must be granted for teachers from private schools.

“Because the reality is that the public school system alone will not be able to cope up with the huge demand of the students for enrollment and quality education. So for me, this is not just to give quality education but add and expand to the numbers of vouchers being given,” he said.

He also underscored the need to increase to ensure quality education now through smart schools.

“This has been one of my advocacies. I have talked about this extensively in my seminars. We live in a very competitive world and based on Philippine Statistics Authority [PSA] statistics, by 2045 we will have a population of 142 million. This is the trend. This will be a boon to us because we have a large population, which means that there is a large and young labor force. This will give us a large domestic market. This will give us opportunities with countries with declining populations. But this will only be a boon to us if the youth of today who will be the work force of tomorrow are given the capabilities and skills that the job market of tomorrow needs,” he said.

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