VP Sara vows education reforms, cites K-12 lapses, other challenges

VICE PRESIDENT and Education Secretary Sara Duterte Carpio: Palarong Pambansa will be re-launched

MANILA – Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte pledged to push for educational reforms in response to systemic challenges in various aspects of the sector.

During the launching of the Basic Education Report (BER) 2023 at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.NATL , Duterte openly admitted systemic problems are lurking within the sector which requires collective action from the government.

Top on the DepEd’s concerns are classroom congestion and damaged school infrastructures due to natural calamities that continue to hit the country, affecting learners’ educational spaces.

“The Department is not blind to the reality that there is a need to build, repair and maintain school infrastructures to accommodate the growing number of learners all over the Philippines,” Duterte said.

Duterte also said teachers will never be abandoned, vowing to focus on “upscaling” their knowledge and capacities as educators.

Duterte recognized the sacrifices and integrity of teachers despite the pressing issues hounding the education sector.

“We thank you for your sacrifices. Maraming salamat po sa inyong dedikasyon. Hindi po namin kayo pababayaan (We thank you for your dedication. We will not abandon you),” she said in her speech.

She said it is high time to provide adequate support to address lapses in the Kinder to Grade 12 (K-12) curriculum.

She noted that the DepEd has allocated funds to build more disaster-resilient schools starting this year.

“For 2023, the Department has allocated a total of P15.6 billion for new construction. We will build more resilient schools and classrooms. For 2023, we have the budget to build around 6,000 classrooms,” she said.

To date, only 104,536 out of the 327,851 school buildings in the country are in good condition, according to the BER.

Besides this year’s targets on infrastructure, the DepEd also pledged to provide electricity to schools, especially in rural areas.

“In the next 5 years, we will work towards providing electricity, especially in our last-mile schools. We will provide e-classroom packages for teaching and learning. Each package will consist of 46 laptops, two charging carts, two wireless routers, and one smart TV,” she added.

To realize all these, the DepEd has formed a separate strand solely focused on school infrastructure and facilities.

Employable curriculum

She said the department plans to revise the Kinder to Grade 12 curriculum to ensure graduates are more job-ready.

“Most Senior High School graduates find the need to pursue higher education in order to find employment. The K-12 curriculum promised to produce graduates that are employable. That promise remains a promise,” Duterte said.

According to the Bureau of Curriculum Development, 83 percent of SHS graduates pursued higher education, while only 10 percent of graduates were employed.

“We will revise the K to 12 Curriculum to make them more responsive to our aspiration as a nation, to develop lifelong learners who are imbued with 21st-century skills, discipline, and patriotism,” she said.

She mentioned consulting experts, adapting to local and international best practices and formulating decisions based on evidence to equip children with appropriate skills, instead of mere familiarity.

Duterte then called on the industries to help the sector in breaking down school-to-employment gaps or mismatches.

“To make our graduates employable, we appeal to the industry, and to employers, to accept our students in work immersions, and hire them when they graduate,” she said.

The DepEd shall also work closely with the Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Training Authority to address job mismatch.

Strategies to strengthen learners’ literacy and numeracy capacity shall also be secured with the help of upskilling teachers for more improved teaching methods.

“We will reduce the number of learning areas in K to 3 from seven to five to focus on foundational skills in literacy and numeracy in the early grades, particularly among disadvantaged students,” she added.

Combating corruption

Considering the upcoming huge projects, Duterte vowed transparency to avoid issues of corruption in procurement.

She said that with such issues left unsolved, the DepEd’s action plans for learners might not succeed, hence the move to create a separate strand for procurement.

Based on the DepEd’s assessment, prior practices on centralized procurement involved issues of “delays in technical specifications’ submission; lack of updated guidelines and bidders; and low participation of prospective bidders,” among others.

“There were successful bidders who failed to deliver on time. And worse, there were successful bidders who failed to make deliveries at all,” she said.

“The procurement practices at the Department of Education had red flags that demanded immediate actions… This strand is ordered to ensure that the delivery of services is done within the period required by law, following the processes mandated by law,” she said.

Duterte also vowed to cooperate with other government authorities on clearing such matters to ensure accountability.

“The Department of Education is not without legal problems, but we will cooperate with government agencies for a swift and truthful resolution of these issues,” she said.

Just this month, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee disclosed its report recommending the filing of criminal and administrative charges against several former and incumbent DepEd officials over the alleged overpriced laptop purchase for teachers.

Apart from infrastructure, curriculum and procurement, the DepEd also vowed to address the needs in digitization, the complementarity of public and private schools, learners’ mental and physical welfare, including that of the indigenous groups and learners with disabilities, those in conflict with the law, and to uphold protection against all forms of abuse, discrimination, or threats, as well as ensuring the benefits and protection to teachers.

The DepEd executives joined the signing of its MATATAG (MAke the curriculum relevant to produce job-ready, active, and responsible citizens; TAke steps to accelerate the delivery of basic education services and provision facilities; TAke good care of learners by promoting learner well-being, inclusiveness learning, and positive learning environment; and Give support for teachers to teach better) Agenda wall, in its pledge to advance efforts to produce nation-loving and competent learners.