Lawmaker urges Congress to earmark billions for retooling of educators
MANILA, Philippines — Congress should earmark “billions of pesos” in fresh funding to retool public school teachers following the deteriorating performance of Filipino students in global assessments, according to Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas.
Gullas said in a statement on Sunday that the government was only spending P723 per head annually for the continuing education of teachers through formal in-service training, adding that this was “a ridiculously low amount.”
Under the 2021 national budget, he said the Department of Education (DepEd) only received P675 million “for the in-service training and other learning and development interventions to upgrade the competence of public school teachers.”
In 2020, the DepEd had a budget of only P780 million for the same purpose.
“We should be investing anywhere from P5,000 to P10,000 per head every year to develop the knowledge and skills of our teachers, particularly in English, math and science, through seminars and workshops,” he said.
Earlier, the World Bank (WB) released a report that Filipino students “do not know what they should know in school” while the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2019 by a Netherlands-based research institution ranked the Philippines last among 58 countries in math and science.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones has demanded an apology from the World Bank following the release of its “insulting” report, which she said was based on “outdated” global assessments.
The World Bank later apologized, saying that the report was “inadvertently published earlier than scheduled.”
Gullas, however, said that they were “convinced that English, math and science are not being taught effectively in our public school system.”
He urged the DepEd to partner with teacher training institutions at the University of the Philippines, Philippine Normal University, and the Development Academy of the Philippines.
Vice President Leni Robredo, for her part, on Sunday said the government should consider declaring an education crisis amid the growing needs of teachers and students in the past year, even as the DepEd tries to paint a rosier picture of the country’s educational system during the pandemic.
During her weekly radio show, Robredo noted that the recent World Bank report claiming that the Philippine educational system was “lagging behind”—for which an infuriated Briones demanded an apology—was actually not the first report that showed gaps in the country’s distance learning strategy.
‘Declare an education crisis’
The report, which was based on its 2019 Program for International Student Assessment data, found that 80 percent of Filipinos fall below the minimum proficiency for their grade levels.
“To be fair to the DepEd, I am sure they have done more than what was reflected in the World Bank study,” she said. “But this is why we need an update based on latest data so we know where we are.”
“There are a lot of things we can do, [like] declare an education crisis because we are reactive while our issues are worsening,” she added.
She noted, for example, the seeming “growing digital divide” between private and public schools—a concern that has hounded the country’s shift to distance learning even since last year.
Historically, too, the DepEd has always gotten the lion’s share of the national budget. But from 2017 up to 2021, the Department of Public Works and Highways has taken the larger slice of the budgetary pie, taking P1 billion bigger than the DepEd.
“Let’s do everything we can to overcome this crisis,” Robredo added. “It’s the children who would suffer if we don’t do this.”
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