Education: Notable Gains, Still Much to Improve

Manila Bulletin, December 29, 2017 | Go to article overview

Education: Notable Gains, Still Much to Improve


By Merlina Hernando-Malipot

While the education sector has seen notable gains this year, the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) agree that there is still much to be done to improve the overall quality of education in the Philippines.

This year's hosting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has opened many educational opportunities for Filipino students. Likewise, it also puts the country's education system under scrutiny.

"In so far as basic education is concerned, we stand tall and walk together with our sister-ministries of education in ASEAN," said DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones. During the 2017 Philippine Education Summit, noting that while a good number of our ASEAN fellow ministries of education are catching up with the Philippines, "we are also trying to catch up with those who are ahead of us."

For the higher education sector, CHEd Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said that "globally, we stand about par with developing countries of our particular level and size." She noted that while the 25 percent enrollment rate is sufficient "we want this to grow."

"Compared to our ASEAN neighbors, we are somewhere in the middle - both in terms of participation rate and as well as in the quality of our universities," Licuanan said.

While the country's higher education is faring well, it needs more improvement. "I guess, the cup is half empty, it's also half full," she said. "We have to acknowledge that we have many good things going for our education system," she added.

One of these is the fact that the country's graduates remain desirable as reflected by the number of overseas foreign workers (OFWs) in all countries. "Our human resource is still very attractive and I think it's because of our education system," she said.

Licuanan noted that the Philippine higher education system is "half full [because] we have many good things" it is also "half empty" [because] we need to catch up in other areas. But, she stressed that "the good news is that we are committed to those goals."

The year that was

In separate interviews, Briones and Licuanan also shared their respective agency's achievements and challenges.

For Briones, DepEd's focus for the year 2017 was more on consistently bolstering its programs ensuring learners' welfare and access to education. In 2017, she considers the pushing through with K to 12 Program - particularly the Senior High School (SHS) Program - as one of the DepEd's biggest achievements.

"The achievement is really pushing through with the SHS despite the opposition," Briones said. "Our SHS program is not necessarily for the international market but it is for ourselves... our country is growing at a fast rate and we want to be competitive with other countries," she added.

Briones noted that the increase of two years in the country's basic education cycle "is really, I believe, a step in the right direction because we are more competitive right where we are and more competitive in the international market."

Pushing through with the K to 12, Briones said, was possible with the support of President Duterte. "From the time that he made the appointment, he really allowed us to [take the reign] but first, we had to convince him that we really need the SHS - that's very important," she said.

Another achievement under her leadership, Briones said, is on the management side - particularly in instituting financial reforms. "I introduced changes," she said. These changes include getting two Undersecretaries for Finance "to keep things moving" and increasing Bids and Awards Committees (BACs) to six. …

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