MANILA, Philippines – As the new government takes office on June 30, the new administration of President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. would inherit several long-standing issues in different sectors, including the education crisis aggravated by the COVID pandemic -19.
Two days after the May 11 election, Marcos has already appointed Vice President-elect Sara Duterte as the new Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd). Critics voiced concerns about the nomination, questioning his expertise and qualifications. For them, Duterte’s vision “does not respond to the current crisis affecting the sector”. (READ: Groups oppose Marcos Jr.’s decision to appoint Sara Duterte as DepEd chief)
But to her supporters, Duterte would do well as DepEd chief because she was mayor for nine years in Davao City. This position, they said, made Duterte heavily involved in many projects in her hometown, meaning she would be a “hands-on” leader as well as the DepEd chief. Davaoeños said social service programs got more funding under Duterte’s leadership. (READ: Sara, the other Duterte)
Leading the agency tasked with fixing the country’s education system would not be an easy task. Experts said the poor quality of education in the country was the result of decades of neglect and underinvestment.
Rappler listed the issues Duterte must address as she takes on the role of education secretary as the country recovers from the disruption to education caused by the pandemic.
Open all schools for in-person classes
More than two years into the pandemic, the Philippines is among the few countries in the world whose schools are not fully open for in-person classes. As of April 22, about 25,786 schools were holding in-person classes. There are approximately 60,000 public and private schools in the country.
World Bank data shows that the Philippines’ proficiency level in learning-adjusted school years (LAYS) would be pushed back from 7.5 years before the pandemic to 5.9 to 6.5 years, depending on the duration of additional school closures and the effectiveness of remote monitoring. learning setup.
This means that while the Philippine basic education system provides 12 years of education, Filipino students display skills equivalent to only about six years of schooling. (READ: Distance learning in the Philippines: A year of successes and failures)
When asked at a recent press conference if more face-to-face classes would be allowed by August or at the start of the 2022 to 2023 school year, Duterte replied, “We are targeting that.”
Hire more teachers, assistants
In a text message to Rappler, Philippine Business for Education executive director Love Basillote said Duterte should hire more teachers and teaching assistants to help students “recover from learning losses.”
The pandemic has highlighted the plight of public school teachers as they struggle to meet the learning needs of their students due to their administrative work. Lawmakers and senators said earlier that administrative work should be offloaded to them so they can focus on teaching.
Best compensation plan for teachers
In a June 18 statement, the Teachers Dignity Coalition (TDC) called for better compensation for teachers and educators, for both public and private institutions. They also called for the provision of free laptops and internet services, as most teachers had to dip into their own pockets to cover teaching costs under the remote learning setup.
For years, teachers have left the country in search of better pay and better working conditions.
The DepEd had said the new normal in education would be a blended learning approach – a mix of online and in-person classes. (READ: What will be the ‘new normal’ in public health education after the pandemic?)
Solves the backlog of facilities in schools
Most schools struggle to meet building requirements for in-person classes, such as having separate entrance and exit doors and providing basic health facilities – including handwashing facilities and school clinics.
The shortage of classrooms was a problem even before the pandemic. A class of 75 to 80 students was crammed into a classroom that was supposed to be for a class of only 40. To compensate for the lack of classrooms, class switching was implemented to accommodate enrollees each year. (READ: Classroom shortages greet teachers, students as classes open)
As part of the new normal, overcrowded classrooms are no longer allowed. The in-person course schedule currently imposes a cap of just 12 students in kindergarten, 16 students for grades 1-3 and 12-20 students for high school, although the DepEd said the health department had already advised them to relax the physical distancing conditions in the classrooms. This does not mean, however, that a class of 70 students would again be crammed into a room.
Revising the K-12 curriculum
“We want an education system that instills patriotism in the hearts of Filipinos and promotes peace and respect for human rights. A program that will produce Filipinos who are proud of their history, culture and traditional values,” said TDC Chairman Benjo Basas.
Experts have called on the government to review the K-12 curriculum to include important issues that need to be discussed, especially in the age of social media. On the one hand, they said that Media and Information Literacy should be taught, not only as part of the high school curriculum, but also for lower grades – as students as young as 7 are already taking online course.
Filipinos have become more deeply immersed in the internet due to the pandemic, especially as almost everything, especially classes, has moved online.
An informal survey by Rappler conducted on its website showed that most respondents were using social media more frequently due to the pandemic. The majority (60%) said they had spent more than four hours a day on social media since the pandemic. Only 18% said they had spent the same amount of time on social media before the pandemic. The survey garnered over 33,000 responses, but only those with no fraudulent responses were included in the analysis (2,324 responses).
Apart from this, advocates have also called for bringing Philippine history lessons back into the basic education curriculum of panlipunan araling (social studies) in high school programs. This is essential, especially considering how information about the history of the Philippines has been distorted in recent years.
There may be other issues in the education sector that require urgent attention. But those mentioned above already give an idea of the hard work of the next head of DepEd. Will Sara Duterte rise to the occasion and prove her critics wrong? – Rappler.com