Ex-DepEd chief calls out Duterte over 'denial' on status of PH education

Published July 29, 2021, 4:38 PM

by Raymund Antonio

A former Education secretary criticized President Duterte’s last State of the Nation Address (SONA) for failing to mention the “education crisis” in the country and claiming that it was able to “provide quality and accessible education” despite the absence of face-to-face classes for more than a year.

The “denial,” former Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro said, means that the country has no “countermeasures” to address the worsening education situation in the country.

Former Education secretary and 1Sambayan convenor Bro. Armin Luistro (Photo courtesy of Melo Acuna / CBCP / MANILA BULLETIN)

“Ito siguro yung pronouncement na malayo sa reality (This pronouncement is really far from the reality),” he added during a recent 1Sambayan media forum following Duterte’s SONA.

Luistro, one of the convenors of opposition coalition 1Sambayan, was the Department of Education (DepEd) chief during the time of the late President Benigno Aquino III.

He pointed out that the Philippines is “a perennial bottom-dweller” in several international assessments on education such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018, the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), and the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics in 2019.

“Palaging kulelat nga ang Pilipinas. Hindi po natin isinisisi ang lahat ng iyan sa Duterte administration, pero hindi natin pwedeng sabihin na (The Philippines is always a bottom dweller. But we not blaming all that to the Duterte administration, but we also cannot say that) despite the non-face-to-face classes, we continue to provide quality education,” he said.

READ: ‘Wakasan na!’: Academics, teachers, and educ workers call to end Duterte’s ‘misrule’

During his SONA on Monday, July 26, the Chief Executive promised quality education despite the pandemic but he did detail his plans during the three-hour address.

Luistro stressed that Duterte did not even mention the welfare of teachers, especially those who languish in remote areas in provinces just to take care of their students.

DepEd earlier admitted that some four million students did not enroll last school year with an Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey pegging the number to 4.4 million.

READ: 4.4 million school-aged Filipinos currently not enrolled — SWS poll

“Kung sasabihin natin na lahat ay okay, at wala tayong gagawing programa para diyan, saan naman pupunta ang ating mga kabataan? (If we are going to say that everything is okay, and we’re not going to make a program for that, where is our youth going?)” Luistro said.

Groups had heavily criticized the DepEd’s push for distance learning, as difficulties hounded the setup for over 25 million students.

That ranges from errors in learning materials to poor internet access, as well as stress taking a toll on teachers’ and students’ wellbeing.

Stakeholders warned of the long-term consequences of these learning challenges. They said that it widens the gap between those with and without access to education.