Education: A shared mission



Education Secretary and Vice President Sara Duterte did the unexpected recently: give the nation an agency report that showed the true picture of the state of the country’s education system rather than do the standard practice of heaping platitudes on supposed accomplishments.

In so doing, VP Sara took the crucial first step in solving a problem: recognizing that the problem exists.
VP Sara did not sugar-coat the apparent dismal situation in the education sector: the lack of classrooms and school infrastructure “to support the ideal learning process,” the state of enrollment in both public and private schools, the flawed procurement system and practices in the education department, and the “congested” yet “incomplete” K-to-12 curriculum.

What was more alarming in the Education Secretary’s report was the state of teachers and learners.
Of our learners, VP Sara called our attention to the “emotional abuse, exhaustion and psychological fatigue” our schoolchildren suffer. What is even more disconcerting is the fact that, despite the taxing demand on our learners, some 81 percent of them “cannot deal with math problems,” “had trouble understanding texts of moderate lengths,” and 78 percent “could not recognize explanations for scientific phenomena or draw conclusions from them.”

The state of our learners must be linked with that of their teachers. VP Sara described that state in these words:

“Teachers need further support, particularly in explicitly and strategically teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

“Lessons lacked in-depth processing to cultivate critical thinking and problem-solving.”
“Finally, there appears to be insufficient knowledge on developing 21st century skills, including higher-order thinking skills among learners.”

VP Sara was quick to point out that our teachers are not to blame for the sad state of teaching our learners. She said, “this is not the fault of our teachers whose dedication, integrity and commitment to serve Filipino children and our country strengthened our collective effort to achieve our shared dreams for our learners.”

VP Sara underscored an important point here: What we want for our children’s education is our shared dream.

As such, education is a shared mission. It is not the sole burden of the Department of Education.
VP Sara gave a fairly well laid-out plan which the education department intends to implement to address the woes she clearly explained in her address. It looks like a carefully studied plan and should significantly transform the way her department had been doing things in the past. We believe we can expect results soon.

The education department cannot do that alone.

The setting for the delivery of the VP’s State of Basic Education Address was interesting. Various sectors were represented in her audience: the executive and legislative branches of government, educators, as well as private sector partners. Our view is that the VP intended to send the message loud and clear: that if we are to raise the level of education of our children and save the basic education system in our country, we all need to get our act together.

The private sector has already taken steps to make its support available. We recall that in June last year, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of Education organized a gab to discuss how the private sector could extend its help to early grade education in the Philippines.

Present at that meeting were the League of Corporate Foundations, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Philippine Business for Social Progress and other major local corporations.

In that meeting, the private sector was called upon to up their support for the education department’s bid to address low reading and math skills plaguing students from kindergarten to Grade 3.

Local government units are doing their share. When they can, they provide logistical support to both teachers and learners, particularly those in public schools.

In addition, local governments allocate an additional one percent of real property taxes collected in their respective areas to the so-called Special Education Fund (SEF). This is another source of funding for the logistical support they are able to provide the schools in their areas.

The other important partner in this shared mission remains the home: the learner’s very first classroom. This is where critical thinking and problem-solving skills are first learned – primarily through the example of their parents.

Home is where the real basic education starts.

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