5 Challenges and 5 Solutions

5 April 2021

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Summary

Sen. Win Gatchalian spoke on defying gravity from the top during the 14th National Education Summit

By: Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Chairman, Senate Committee on Education

Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.  Let me thank Ma’am Nene for inviting me to this very important occasion. Timely ho itong occasion natin because the education sector is experiencing a lot of stress not only because of the pandemic but also because of quality issues. 

To start off, last February 18, one of NASA’s rovers landed in Mars.  Alam niyo ho, noong bata po ako, isa sa mga pangarap ko ang maging scientist. And the branch of Science that I wanted to venture in is astronomy.  Marami po akong telescopes na binili.   That is why every time there is news about outer space or landing on Mars or the moon, I get inspired and worked up.  The name of the rover is Perseverance.   Before, talking about flying to Mars ay parang impossible, but who would have thought that going to Mars now is as easy as going to anywhere around the world.  In fact, this is the 5th rover that NASA sent to Mars.  Before, flying to outer space seemed to be impossible but now it is quite possible going to outer space and back.  Before when we talk about going to Mars, you pass through many millions of kilometers going there and it seemed impossible, seemed unimaginable.  But with perseverance, that impossibility can be a reality.  

It is the same way with education.  That’s why the theme of our event today, “Defying Gravity,” is actually quite perfect to the education sector.  We have a lot of challenges but I just want to identify and mention five of those very critical challenges.   

  1. The National Achievement Test.   We all know that the National Achievement Test result of our students is quite low.  In fact, its hovering at below proficient level.   Kung 75% po ang pasang awa, for Grade 6 and Grade 10, it is hovering below 50%.   This is a challenge that we need to raise and it is already plaguing our school system for the past few years.   This challenge is really plaguing the entire nation, not only in Metro Manila, but also in different parts of the country.
  2. Another one is the PISA Results.  This came out in 2019 and just to refresh everyone’s memory, we were last in the PISA results – last in reading and second to the last in math and science.   When this came out, everyone was shocked.  I remember I was with Fr. Ben in a lot of the events that were geared towards discussing what to do with our PISA results.   This came as a shock to us and a wakeup call that we have to do something drastic in order to arrest the decline of quality in our education.
  3. Another one is the PISA Results.  This came out in 2019 and just to refresh everyone’s memory, we were last in the PISA results – last in reading and second to the last in math and science.   When this came out, everyone was shocked.  I remember I was with Fr. Ben in a lot of the events that were geared towards discussing what to do with our PISA results.   This came as a shock to us and a wakeup call that we have to do something drastic in order to arrest the decline of quality in our education.
  4. Another one is the PISA Results.  This came out in 2019 and just to refresh everyone’s memory, we were last in the PISA results – last in reading and second to the last in math and science.   When this came out, everyone was shocked.  I remember I was with Fr. Ben in a lot of the events that were geared towards discussing what to do with our PISA results.   This came as a shock to us and a wakeup call that we have to do something drastic in order to arrest the decline of quality in our education.
  5. Another one is the PISA Results.  This came out in 2019 and just to refresh everyone’s memory, we were last in the PISA results – last in reading and second to the last in math and science.   When this came out, everyone was shocked.  I remember I was with Fr. Ben in a lot of the events that were geared towards discussing what to do with our PISA results.   This came as a shock to us and a wakeup call that we have to do something drastic in order to arrest the decline of quality in our education.

Because of these challenges, your committee – the Senate Committee on Education – conducted many focus group discussions.  In fact, I employed the assistance of Ma’am Nene and the Synergeia Foundation to conduct various focus groups and workshops.  Ma’am Nene and the Synergeia team became a very important resource group whenever we conducted hearings.  We wanted to find solutions to address these issues and challenges that our country is facing.

One solution is to continue to push for increased allocation of budget for basic education.  The country has done a fairly good job in terms of increasing the budget allocation from 2% of GDP to 3% of GDP.  But world standard dictates that it has to be 6% of GDP.  As the Chairman of Basic Education Committee, we continue to push for higher allocation for basic education.  The more resources we can pump in to basic education, the more resources we can pump in on a per student basis. 

Another bill that we are pushing in the Senate right now is a reform on the Teacher Education Council. Siguro marami sa inyo hindi alam na meron tayong Teacher Education Council.  There is a law and the aim of this law is to put the important actors such as DepEd, CHED and TESDA together and talk.  But obviously, they are not talking or if they are talking, it is just ‘pure talk.’  So, we intend to reform the Teacher Education Council making sure that there is coherence in the teacher education continuum from pre-service to in-service teacher education.  The Teacher Education Council in our proposal will be in charge of the education of our teachers in the pre-service level all the way to the in-service, making sure that it is harmonious and what they are learning in the pre-service level will be used in the in-service level.  We are also institutionalizing the National Educators Academy of the Philippines as the vehicle to strengthen the rescaling and upscaling of our teachers in the in-service level.   This is to improve the quality of teacher education in our country.

This is a very important bill, a bill that is very close to the hearts of Synergeia members, the reengineering the Local School Board.  The underlying concept here is what Synergeia is pushing in the countryside and in the various school boards in our country.  We call it the 21st century School Board Bill.  We will add various important members in the school board.  We will expand the use of school board fund, addressing quality gaps and addressing education gaps in your locality.  We will also improve the transparency in the use of the fund.  We will empower the school board to make sure that the school board will act as the ‘local agent’ for education projects and for education reform in your locality.   This is the vehicle to address education gaps in to improve education quality at a local level.

Another bill that has already been enacted is the alternative learning system bill.   This is important in the context of quality because there are about 20 million Filipinos who did not graduate basic education, literacy is still a very big problem, and reading is a very big problem in many of our localities.  In this bill which has become a law, we gave the Alternative Learning System a home. We created the Bureau of Alternative Education because before, ang ALS pingpong yan sa loob ng DepEd.  With a permanent home, there will be a permanent budget and permanent staffing.   I am also very happy that Ma’am Nene was very active in the discussion of the Alternative Learning System act.  She was crucial in making sure that the private sector plays a very important role in the propagation of ALS all over the country.  It used to be very centralized in DepEd but Ma’am Nene’s suggestion is to tap the desire of the private sector to help out in increasing access to Alternative Learning System.

Another solution that we are proposing is the creation of a National Education Council.  If I ask you meron ba tayong vision for our education system? Kanya kanya yung vision eh – –  ang CHED may kanyang vision, ang DepEd may kanyang vision, ang TESDA may kanyang vision.  There is no unified vision.  We all know that education is a continuum, from basic education to higher education to even, tech voc.  In this proposal, we will create a National Education Council headed by the President who will be the Chief Educator of the country.   This Council will come up with a single direction for the education sector, and the single vision will address long term strategic and collaborative ideas in the education sector.

To address the problem on internet connectivity, we are in the middle of formulating what we call the “One Leaner One Laptop” bill.  Access to internet has become a basic necessity already, just like water and electricity. Hindi ka mabubuhay kung walang kuryente at walang tubig. Ngayon, hindi ka na makakapagaral at matututo kung wala kang internet.   So, we are studying a possibility of giving our learners access to laptops and to the internet through the “One Leaner One Laptop” bill.   Hindi pa naming nirerelease ang bill kasi naghahanap pa kami ng better branding for this bill.

But the best solution actually comes from this group – – the champions of education.  All of these bills will only be successful if we have the Mayors and the stakeholders who will roll them out to the full extent.  Kaya po napakalaki po ang papel ng Synergeia Mayors and the stakeholders of Synergeia – – the principals, the superintendents.   Synergeia expanded its membership to become more participative and more holistic when it comes to implementation pero pinakamahalaga talaga is the mandate and the culture building.  Sabi nga ni Board Member Jason Gonzales kanina, the culture building of Synergeia is transforming ordinary mayors to champions of education.  And we need that.  Dapat ho mas marami pang champions, mas marami pang tutulong para po maayos yung mga problema natin sa edukasyon. Those bills that I have mentioned will be useless if we do not have champions of education who have passion, commitment and dedication to make sure that all of these reforms will be implemented to the fullest on the ground. 

 

To end, I mentioned earlier that the Mars rover was named Perseverance and nung naghahanap po sila ng pangalan doon sa rover na iyon, nagpacontest sila.  A grade 7 student won and his name is Alexander Mather.   He said in his essay, “We are a specie of explorers and we will meet many setbacks on the way to Mars.  However, we can persevere.  We, not as a nation but as humans, will not give up.”  Perseverance is pagtitiyaga.  Alam ko marami ho tayong problema, marami tayong challenges na hinaharap.  Pero kung magtitiyaga tayo, mare-resolve natin ang mga problema natin.   That is also one of the important culture building blocks of Synergeia.  Synergeia has been with us for many, many years since the time of Secretary Jesse Robredo, and one of the most important traits of Synergeia is perseverance – – magtitiyaga tayo hanggang matulungan natin ang pinakaliblib na lugar.   Magtitiyaga tayo hanggang matulungan natin yung pinakahuling bata para matuto magbasa.  Magtitiyaga tayo para makita nating ang pinakahuling bata ay mag-graduate at makakakuha ng maganda at desenteng trabaho.  Yan po ang isa sa pinaka-importanteng katangian ng Synergeia – – ang pagtitiyaga. Thank you so much for the invitation and congratulations to Synergeia and to this very important event!

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