Pushing Educational Reforms

Manila Bulletin, January 7, 2008 | Go to article overview

Pushing Educational Reforms


Byline: Edilberto C. de Jesus

MANILA, Philippines -- At a meeting of the Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE) in Baguio last week, the President addressed the deterioration of the country's educational system.

She reportedly expressed alarm, in particular, at the decline in the English proficiency of public school teachers.

"Really," the President was quoted as saying, "English is not proceeding anywhere as fast as Math or Science... It is deteriorating. Something must be wrong with the educational system." Although not at the Baguio meeting, DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapus was less tentative in his assessment. He confirmed that something was indeed wrong with the educational system; in his view, the quality of education in the country had sunk in 2006, five years after the President had assumed power, to its lowest level.

The public should welcome the President's statement as a sign that she might have finally heard what has been on the public agenda for over a decade and more. The 1992 report of the Educational Commission established by Congress and the Presidential Commission on Educational Reform (PCER) in the term of President Estrada had described in detail what had gone wrong with the educational system and proposed corrective measures. Unfortunately, many of these recommendations remained words on paper and have not moved towards implementation.

Again displaying her hands-on management style in Baguio, the President ordered that a national education congress, originally planned for May, be pushed forward to January. Media described this congress as a step "to arrest the continuing deterioration of the country's educational system." What is not clear is what this congress, with barely a month for preparation, can be expected to achieve.

It is curious that the President did not give the mandate to draw up a "coherent master plan" for education to the DepEd Secretary, the only education official with full Cabinet rank. The mandate went instead to the PTFE, an ad hoc body headed by Mona Valisno, Presidential Assistant for Education with undersecretary rank. It was Valisno whom Arroyo charged with submitting the first draft of recommendations to her and to education leaders in Northern Luzon for further suggestions and improvements.

Perhaps, the privileged position of Northern Luzon educators came about simply because the meeting with the President took place in Baguio, with many of them as participants. …

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