Bernardo M. Villegas
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Improving Quality of Philippine Education (Part 2)

             Agenda 2 has to do with improving the quality of instruction and teachers with the target that all learners meet basic skills based on international standards.  Teachers should be trained for their empowerment as well as for the creation of context-based learning materials.  Strengthen the implementation of the Instructional Supervision Framework and Middle Leadership Development for Teachers.  As regard systems and structural improvement, the objective is to attain quality teacher education programs rather than focusing on quantity.   There should be reforms in teacher certification, hiring, distribution and promotion of teachers.  Continuing professional development should be made available to teachers.  Priority should be given to developing large pool of early childhood educators.

            Agenda 3 refers to the work place itself.  This is where employers can play an important role in complementing the educational system in the improvement of the quality of education.  Employers should be incentivized to prioritize professional development and employment facilitation.  Through various types of on-the-job training, there should be both abundant opportunities and scholarship for trainees.  Especially at the Senior High School (SHS) level, the curriculum should be improved so that the link between schools on one hand the industries and communities on the other can be strengthened.  Beyond the job-related competencies and skills, there should be an equal stress on mentoring trainees on workplace attitudes and ethics well as relational competencies.  With the increasing availability of Big Data, there should be improved information on the skills that will be needed in the future.  Career guidance services should be institutionalized in the schools.  Expand Alternative Learning Systems (ALS) for dropouts from basic education levels, giving more emphasis to functional literacy and job preparation.

            Agenda 4 involves fully leveraging private education so as to complement the delivery of services. With the increasing disparity between the high salaries received by public school teachers and those in the private schools, the coverage of teacher salary subsidy should be expanded to other grade levels, aside from Junior High School (JHS). Subsidy support programs for private education should be expanded, especially the voucher program to cover Kindergarten and grade school, the JHS Education Service Contracting program (larger amount per student) and SHS voucher and Joint-Delivery Voucher Program for SHS Tech-Voc, which should receive larger amounts and wider coverage.  There should be a limit to the creation of new State Universities and Colleges, of LGU-sponsored new programs and campuses so as not to unnecessarily compete with private schools.  It must be constantly emphasized that the Constitutional mandate is universal and quality education at the basic education level.  Until this is achieved, there should be fiscal prudence of the State in establishing tertiary educational institutions which should be mainly assigned to the private sector until universal education is attained at the elementary and high school levels.

            Finally, Agenda 5 refers to the importance of the National Government devolving more functions to the local government units and school leaders in the local communities under the principle of subsidiarity and as a more practical alternative to federalization.  This should also be facilitated with the implementation of the Mandanas-Garcia ruling which will increase the tax revenues being cascaded down to the LGUs from the national government.  Here, there should be a special effort to involve parents more and more in the education of their children, especially at the Kindergarten and elementary school levels. Parents should be encouraged to actively participate in Parents Teachers Associations (PTAs) in school decision making.  Role models like that of the Nanay-Teacher Program of Valenzuela City and the Parents for Education Foundation (PAREF) in the private sector should be held up for emulation.   All school governing councils should be made functional by, among other measures, implementing the Philippine Professional Standards for school heads and supervisors.

            The members and responsibilities of local school boards should be expanded.  Allowed uses of the Special Education Fund (SEF) should be expanded, applying the needs-based approach to the use of the SEF.  There should be seminar programs and workshops that will improve the capability of mayors for education governance.  Student leaders should also be made part of school governance.  In all of these moves to empower LGU heads, school administrators, parents and student leaders at the local level, there should be a closed monitoring of the increased share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) under the Mandanas-Garcia ruling.  The devolved budgets of DepEd, DOH, and DSWD must go to the Local School Boards (LSBs), Local Health Boards, and day care centers.

            The improvement of the quality of basic education in the Philippines is a herculean task.  All these recommendations of the Philippine Business For Education will take time to implement and even more time to yield results.  We must remember, however, that we are dealing with the children and youth whom we are preparing to be the future workers ten to twenty years from now.  In the meantime, we should also have to retool, upskill and reskill those who are already in the labor force today and are either unemployed (2.6 million) or underemployed (6.5 million).  These 9.1 million individuals are the ones who should be the targets for non-formal, informal and other means of transferring knowledge and skills outside the formal educational system. We should not waste any time in putting together employers, educational institutions and the government (especially TESDA under DOLE) to help these millions of workers become human resource assets today, not tomorrow.  They are the very workers who will enable the Philippine economy to transition to an upper-middle income economy in 2023 and a high-income economy during the decade of 2040 to 2050. They are the very workers who are needed in today’s engines of growth such as the Build, Build, Build programs of both the public and private sectors, the hospitality industry, the health care industry and especially the whole value chain of the agribusiness sector from farming to post-harvest, logistics, food processing, and food retailing.   These sectors today obviously do need rocket scientists as workers.  Even if existing unemployed and underemployed workers are weak in reading comprehension, mathematical literacy and science know how, they can still be upskilled and reskilled in these less intellectually demanding occupations.  So let us not exaggerate the so-called education crisis! For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia.