By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The quality of education in the country was put under the spotlight in 2019 following the results of both local and international assessments on students’ performance which highlighted the low performance of Filipino learners.
While the results were heartbreaking, the Department of Education (DepEd) saw a silver lining – that this will serve as a wake-up call to all education stakeholders to work together to achieve one common goal: quality education for all learners.
Challenge of Quality in Basic Education
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said that the performance of Filipino students in large scale assessment – which is the National Achievement Test (NAT) – “gravitates towards the low proficiency levels” especially in Science, Math and English. NAT is administered for Grade 6, Grade 10 and Grade 12 students.
Aside from NAT results, DepEd also revealed the latest result of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD where the Filipino learners placed last among 79 participating countries and near last in science and mathematics.
PISA is a triennial international assessment administered to a representative sample of 15-year old students to test their proficiency in reading, science and mathematics. The result of the 2018 PISA, Briones stressed, “puts in even sharper focus our need to address quality in basic education.”
Joining the PISA for the first time is considered a bold move for DepEd – knowing fully well what the outcome would be. DepEd Spokesperson and Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla noted that given the “historical performance of Filipino learners” in the NAT, DepEd “expected that our learners will also not be able to perform well in PISA.”
While the 2018 PISA results showed undesirable results, DepEd sees this as a starting point – to assess where the Filipino learners currently are. Sevilla maintained that by joining PISA, DepEd “takes advantage of an assessment designed and constantly updated by education experts around the world to complement its own national assessment.”
State of PH education in crisis?
Meanwhile, teachers – who are considered as front liners in the delivery of education –were quick to give their own assessments.
For Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC), the latest PISA result was quite devastating – especially at a time when the DepEd implements the biggest education reform program: the K to 12.
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines couldn’t agree more — noting that the “poor education quality” is due to long-time crises that remain unaddressed as well as the “ill-prepared” implementation of the “faulty K to 12 program.”
The group noted that the country’s poor performance in the PISA “only validates the alarm that teachers have been ringing for the longest time.”
TDC National Chairperson Benjo Basas noted that quality education equates to quality teachers. Thus, the government should prioritize the welfare of its teachers if it wants to uplift the quality of education in the country.
“Sa lahat ng programa ng pamahalaan sa edukasyon dapat laging ibilang o ilagay sa pinakamataas na konsiderasyon ang kalagayan ng mga guro (Among all of its programs, the government should put utmost consideration to the status of teachers),” he said.
ACT Secretary General Raymond Basilio, on the other hand, the “dismal quality” of education has always been the concern of teachers on the ground. “It is in the heart of every issue that teachers have been putting forward ever since—from big class size, to lacking materials and personnel, to teachers’ overload and meager pay, to the faulty K to 12 program,” he said.
Both groups warned that the quality of education in the country will continue to deteriorate if the government –particularly the DepEd — would continue to “close its eyes” on the long-time unaddressed shortages in education needs due to insufficient state funding and inefficient implementation of the program which are considered “major factors” in the education quality backslide.
Taking the first step
Briones noted that the standards of education quality is even made “more challenging” by technology. “Today there is an influx of enormous data accessible in one click – but we don’t know what to do with it,” she said.
In response to the rapidly changing learning environment of present and future learners, the DepEd pushed through the “Sulong EduKalidad” initiative.
“While we are very happy to see major development in terms of access to basic education, we finally need to respond to the biggest lingering challenge of basic education in the country: QUALITY, particularly of our students’ learning outcomes,” said Briones during the launch of the program early this month.
As a rallying call for a national effort for quality basic education, “Sulong EduKalidad” is set to introduce “aggressive reforms” to globalize the quality of basic education in the Philippines.
With various changes happening in the world, Briones said that there are challenges in 21st-century education that DepEd must respond to which include producing a new breed of learners who think critically, improving facilities and equipment, uspskilling and reskilling teachers, and getting help and support from all sectors and communities.
In order to address these challenges which directly affect learning outcomes, DepEd will focus on the core components of “Sulong EduKalidad” which centers on K to 12 curriculum review and update, improving the learning environment, uspskilling and reskilling teachers by “investing and giving our full support to our teachers for their in- service professional development, and provide the proper incentives through career progression and promotion opportunities as they develop their teaching proficiency” and deeper engagement of stakeholders for support and collaboration.
Briones explained that the Filipino learner is at the center of “Sulong Edukalidad” — thus, the first letters of the four pillars of newest initiative form the word “KITE.” Sulong EduKalidad, she noted, is “our commitment to help our learners achieve their full potential, for their kite of dreams to fly high through quality basic education for all.”
‘KITE’ might not be enough
For ACT, DepEd’s ‘KITE’ strategy to address declining quality of education is “inadequate” because it “misses major concerns that impact on education quality.”
For instance, Basilio noted that actions to the K to 12 program “should not be limited” to review and updating but a “thorough assessment and evaluation to see if it really advanced the education objective” for national development. “If found ineffective, why repair a tool that’s not fit for the job?” he added – maintaining that the ‘faulty’ K to 12 program is among the reasons why the quality of education continues to decline.
ACT also asserted that improving the learning environment should be “approached comprehensively” – thus, the student’s learning environment should be looked at as the teacher’s working environment, too. “Improving it should entail sufficient budget allocation and efficient spending to fill in all the shortages as well as enabling teachers to focus on teaching by freeing them from non-teaching duties and substantially raising their salaries,” Basilio said.
Aside from curriculum review and learning facilities, TDC DepEd should also focus on providing support to teachers by hiring more non-teaching who will perform clerical tasks. Teachers, Basas stressed, should also be given “decent” salaries and benefits – among others.
In the coming months, DepEd is expected to further roll out activities, issue policies, and implement programs that are aligned with its latest initiative to address challenges in quality basic education.
While ACT and TDC are optimistic on the DepEd’s new battlecry to address education challenges, they maintained that it will take more than a “KITE” for the dreams of achieving quality education to really fly high.