Continuing challenges in education

Dindo Manhit, President of the Stratbase ADR Institute

Direction is a defining element of change. The express directive of “making education accessible, relevant and liberating” by Education Secretary Liling Briones speaks of a shift in our educational thrust. In this sense, education’s role of serving as the great equalizer becomes more a reality than myth.

To begin with, the current budget for education stands at P553 billion — a 60-percent increase over the past three years. In 2015, the budget stood at P346.66 billion. This alone manifests a commitment to invest in Filipino human capital — one of the priorities of the Duterte administration.

The “trifocalization” approach to Philippine education also makes it one of the most vibrant systems in the world. Like a tripod that ensures a steady foundation of operations, three agencies handle different levels of education — the Department of Education (DepEd )for basic education, the Commission on Higher Education for tertiary and graduate education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for technical-vocational courses and middle education.

The basic and tertiary education systems underwent a transformation under the K-to-12 program. From a basic 10-year education period, two senior high school levels were added. Grade 11 was introduced in SY 2016-2017, and Grade 12 was introduced in SY 2017-2018.

Through senior high school, learners become more immersed in industry needs at the national, regional and international levels. However, meeting national needs is the utmost priority. In this respect, the DepEd is overhauling the curriculum to establish a “spiral” approach designed to challenge and stimulate learners and develop their critical thinking. In the process, myriad issues and learning aspects are integrated, among them science and technology, entrepreneurship, sex education, and environment and disaster preparedness.

Further, two key presidential directives have been added to basic education: drug education and the expansion of the Alternative Learning System (ALS). The ALS, together with the IPED program (which caters to the rights of indigenous peoples to education), is part of a grander scheme to make education more inclusive.

As such, the DepEd is confronted with both old and new challenges to improve and deliver basic education for all. While the problems about the lack of teachers, classrooms, facilities and equipment still exist, the challenge of curriculum revision is also vital.

The Duterte administration’s commitment to provide education for all offers several nodes of intervention that can be done to address the challenges. Aside from the firm resolve to fund and invest in education, the teacher education program should be made as the basic reference point. The teacher is the key to unlocking and motivating the students’ learning process. By addressing teachers’ education, the problem of curriculum revision is also resolved.

The 1966 Magna Carta for Teachers also needs urgent review and updating. Promoting basic education requires a plurality of actors that can provide outcomes-based learning. The goal of making education more inclusive through ALS and IPED likewise needs the collaboration of educators coming from all backgrounds.

Finally, multilevel partnerships between the public and private sectors and between industry and community partners are important ways to address basic education gaps. The process of accrediting education providers based on desired learning outcomes needs to be fine-tuned and aligned with the pressing concerns of basic education.

Despite these challenges, the DepEd appears to be headed in the right direction. With more basic education and job training, we can address not only our national industry needs, but also opportunities offered by regional and international communities.

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