Briones underscores ‘urgent need’ to address equity issues in education

Published October 27, 2020, 3:29 PM

by Merlina Hernando-Malipot

As the landscape in the education sector continues to change, Education Secretary Leonor Briones stressed the need to urgently address equity issues since not all places have the same amount of resources.

(Merlina Malipot / MANILA BULLETIN)

“We really need [a] digital cooperation strategy to ensure high quality and also enrich equity of education,” Briones said during the 9th APEC Conference on Cooperation in Higher Education in Asia-Pacific held Monday, Oct. 26.

During the high-level virtual meeting, Briones—in her capacity as the Secretary of Department of Education (DepEd) and as the Chairman of the Commission on Higher Education Board of Advisers and the Philippine Qualifications Framework – National Coordinating Council—raised the need to respond to equity problems which is not only an issue in the Philippines but to other countries as well.

“We, in the Philippines and SEAMEO, for example, we are very concerned about equity issues,” Briones said.

While the local government has been helping DepEd in addressing and securing education needs, Briones noted that there have been equity concerns due to varying levels of resources in different places. “We would suggest that as we discuss these five topics, perhaps, equity is the most urgent and the most important,” she added.

To address the existing needs of the education sector on a worldwide scale, Briones shared “Cooperative Solutions for Global Education and Sustainability” to international counterparts during the meeting.

“The challenge is to develop general ability to learn knowledge and skill for solving real-world problems and challenges,” Briones said. “It is in this context that I would like to share our reflections on five discussion topics which were identified,” she added.

With the theme “The New Era of Digital Education: Multilateral Approach and Challenges for APEC,” the program aimed to get insights from university presidents, heads of education agencies, and research institutions on what should be the interventions moving forward.

The discussion of the plenary also gave importance to the essence of the digitalization of education and remote learning, especially in situations where face-to-face classes are still prohibited in different parts of the world.
Amid the crisis brought by COVID-19, Briones pointed out that the Philippines has been part of the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization’s discussions on the responses of the different countries to continue education through numerous webinars.

Even before the pandemic, Briones shared that the Philippines already formed an Education Futures Unit – with initiatives from different parts of the world being incorporated into the plan.

“We are all aware that most of us, if not all of us, have been moving into the direction of futures education even without COVID-19,” Briones said. “In 2015, for example, OECD already launched the Futures of Education and Skills 2030 project,” she added.

Due to the shift from face-to-face to remote learning, Briones also discussed that different countries developed remote education policies for the “reason that the pandemic has introduced unprecedented challenges” in Information and Communications Technology.

DepEd opened a new school year amid the pandemic on Oct. 5 using the distance learning approach. Instead attending face-to-face classes in their respective schools, 25 million students are currently under home-based learning where lessons are delivered using multiple alternative delivery modalities.