VICE President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte on Monday recognized that serious problems are hounding the Department of Education (DepEd), but vowed to take steps to accelerate the delivery of basic education facilities and services, take good care of learners and teachers.
She spoke at Monday’s Basic Education Report 2023 release.
The DepEd also launched “MATATAG: Bansang Makabata, Batang Makabansa,” to set the new direction of the agency and stakeholders in resolving basic education challenges.
According to Duterte, MATATAG will have four critical components:
■ MAke the curriculum relevant to produce competent and job-ready, active, and responsible citizens;
■ TAke steps to accelerate delivery of basic education facilities and services;
■ TAke good care of learners by promoting learner well-being, inclusive education, and a positive learning environment; and
■ Give support to teachers to teach better.
Addressing 400 education stakeholders, led by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr., Duterte laid down the challenges and recent accomplishments of DepEd, before unveiling the new battle cry of the basic education sector.
In her speech, Duterte said that the lack of school infrastructure and resources to support the ideal teaching process “is the most pressing issue pounding the Philippine basic education.”
“The Department is not blind to the reality that there is a need to build, repair, and maintain school infrastructures/to accommodate the growing number of learners all over the Philippines,” said Duterte, noting there are over 28 million Filipino learners studying in public schools nationwide.
Their latest inventory shows there are 327,851 school buildings in the country, but only 104,536 are in good condition.
She admitted, as their assessment showed, that the centralized procurement of DepEd has been hounded by:
■ delays in the 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. The procurement practices at the Department of Education had red flags that demanded immediate actions.”
Duterte said a separate strand dedicated entirely to matters of procurement was created to improve procurement. “This strand is ordered to ensure that the delivery of services is done within the period required by law, following the processes mandated by law.”
Enrollment, learner/school data
DepEd said meanwhile, enrollment and learner data since the pandemic has improved.
“We are implementing post-pandemic programs and reforms. After a significant decrease in 2020 due to Covid-19-related school closures, enrollment has since started to recover.” However, she noted that recovery in enrollment is limited only to public schools.
From 2020 to 2022, more than 1,600 private schools stopped operations.
Currently, the DepEd is responsible for almost 80 percent of schools nationwide—of which, 79 percent are elementary schools.
Evidently, the DepEd official said, there is a “wide disparity” between the number of elementary and secondary schools in the country.
With such a disparity, she admitted, inclusivity in education remains a concern.
“Despite gains in bridging gaps, learners from Indigenous People’s communities, Geographically-Isolated and Disadvantaged Areas, Muslim youth, learners with disabilities, and out-of-school youth and adults still require the attention of the community. We need to improve their
participation rate in basic education,” she said.
The core of Basic Education she said, is the curriculum.
The ongoing review of the K-12 curriculum has revealed: a congested content; some prerequisites of identified essential learning competencies are missing or misplaced; and a significant number of learning competencies cater to high cognitive demands.
“For Senior High School [SHS], our work immersion program has contributed to a high passing rate of 90 percent in the National Certificate assessment administered by TESDA [Technical Education and Skills Development Authority].”
However, she said industry partners have expressed concern that the time allotment for work immersion is only for familiarization and not for actual skills acquisition.
“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.”
While the K-12 curriculum promised to produce graduates that are employable but she said,“That promise remains a promise.”
The teachers, Duterte said, are the lifeblood of DepEd, noting that without them, the mission to carve a better future for the children “will fail.”
The assessment of the K-12 Curriculum, also revealed, she said, the “weak” teaching methods of 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.”
Literacy is another alarming issue that must addressed, “appropriately and effectively,” she said.
The 2018 study results of the Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA), she admitted, are “distressing as it is alarming for me as a mother and as Secretary of the Department of Education.”
The study results showed 81 percent of participating Filipino learners could not deal with basic math problems, 81 percent had trouble understanding texts of moderate length, and 78 percent could not recognize correct explanations for scientific phenomena or draw valid conclusions from given data.
“We can do better than this. We are better than this. But studies like these are opportunities for us to thoroughly examine our system and the defects that hurt our children’s abilities,” she said, adding, “The current state of basic education behooves us all to take a courageous stand and calls us to work together with the intention and commitment to resolve the challenges in basic education.”
Image credits: City Government of Davao/Facebook