9 January 2022

Hon. Jason Gonzales

Board Member, Iloilo Provincial Government

Chairman, Synergeia Regional Education Council Panay

I have been listening to the speakers all the way from yesterday and trying to put it all together. In the past few days, we’ve heard and seen the picture of education in the Philippines coming from the lips of the stakeholders themselves. Nakita natin ang picture ng education as seen through the eyes of a local chief executive, of a superintendent, of a representative of Congress, expert educators themselves.

It doesn’t need to be said, but what we see is a challenge of education that is complex, deeply-rooted, and systemic. And, in the time of the pandemic, the inequalities have been highlighted and exacerbated. The gaps between the rich and the poor are highlighted. Lumalaki sila pag nakikita natin ito through the lens of public education. And the problems are remarkably and unfortunately uniform and we hear the same words being used: access, infrastructure, assessment, teacher training, and, at the heart of it all is equity.

When we say that the problems are systemic and when we see them, they can be overwhelming. And one way of breaking it down is to dissect and look at each of the stakeholders separately. Mind you, when I look at them, I look at four entities.

I am looking at schools and under the schools are the school heads, the teachers, the SGC, the PTA. And I think it is fitting that today we end with a sharing from the pupils themselves.

The next entity that I am looking at are the local chief executives and the local officials, particularly the mayors. And nakita natin through the various sharing ang convening power of the mayor and at the same time the capacity to set the agenda. Napakahalaga.

Then, I look at Deped—the different levels of DepEd. And the common thing that I keep hearing across the different speakers the past two days is decentralize, decentralize, decentralize. Particularly, as said by Fr. Ben, curriculum implementation. As said by Mayor Rex, bottom-up instead of top-down. In the national level, DepEd should be an enabler. And, yesterday, in the sharing of the Undersecretary from DepEd, he said all the right things. I guess what I feel is how can we bring it all together in a way that is felt by our most important stakeholders?

And then, finally, the fourth entity that I am looking at are organizations, like Synergeia. Moving forward, what Synergeia has brought us is a different kind of culture and, when we talk about culture, we are really talking about standards. And Synergeia has brought that to us. It has imparted to us, to every stakeholder that has been a part of the training programs of Synergeia, that we were introduced to new standards of performance and of doing things; and we have created here a new education community, moving forward.

I think this is a call to action to all the entities that I mentioned: the schools, the local elected officials, DepEd itself at its various levels, and organizations, like Synergeia. The call is to continue to engage so that being a part of this community becomes easier. We need to continue to listen and we need to have this conversation at every level of our organization

Our challenges are complex, deeply rooted, and systemic, and our solutions have to be the same. In the end, this is a leadership challenge and here I not only talk about mayors or local chief executives or school heads or DepEd national, but the leadership of prioritizing education as one of the most important factors that determine local and national development. In the end, we do it because we care for our children. And so as we move forward. Again we need to continue to engage, and we need to listen and exercise leadership.

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