By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian advised the Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday not to participate in the next round of the Programme for International Student Assesssment (PISA) while it is still addressing the issues with the country’s education system.
Gatchalian made the recommendation after the Senate Committee on Basic Education discussed how the Philippines fared in the 2018 PISA, which found Filipino students at the bottom of the list in terms of maths, science, and reading proficiency out of 79 countries.
“We had just started implementing the reforms, in fact, a lot of it is work in progress right now, so my opinion — and PISA is not a cheap endeavor, it’s quite expensive — we should forego taking it next year, because I don’t think we’ll have any radical impact from now on ’til March of next year,” Gatchalian said in his assessment at the end of the hearing.
Skipping the PISA
Before this, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones had asked for the position of legislators as she admitted that the education agency has not yet decided on whether or not to join the next PISA following the country’s dismal performance in the triennial proficiency test for 15-year-old students.
It was the first time that the Philippines joined the assessment program conducted by the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD).
The next PISA is scheduled on March 2021.
Gatchalian said sitting out the next PISA would also save the government money, which can be used instead for doing research and enforcing reforms in the Philippine education system, he said. According to the senator, the PISA exam cost the country $1 million.
Briones, in the hearing, also said the Philippines should not be instituting education reforms for “ranking purposes.”
Gatchalian observed that the DepEd curriculum has been “‘too congested” for students to absorb within 200 school days. He suggested to authorities to “simplify” its program.
He also appealed to lessen teachers’ loads, particularly from non-teaching duties, so they will have more time to focus on students and work with parents in supporting their children.
Andreas Schleicher, OECD’s director for education and skills, clarified that the PISA results did not mean that Filipino students are not good with the said subject matters. Rather, he said they fell short in using and applying their knowledge in tasks.
“Students spend too much learning materials by heart and little time to actually creatively use and apply knowledge,” Schleicher told the Senate panel via teleconference.
He also said too many extracurricular and social activities “will not help improve academic performance.”
Another factor was the students’ mindsets. “Rather than hard work, a large share of students in the Philippines have believed that success and education is about the genes and the family background when they come from, and a much smaller share of students believe they can actually change — we call it the lack of growth mindset,” he said.
He said the high expectations and low tolerance for failure also affect students’ academic performance, and urged parents to give more support to children.
There should also be more efforts for educational institutions to involve parents and families in school activities, noting that the absence of parents was a “quite common” cause of poor academic performance.