"We need to create an environment that promotes learning."
One of the key ingredients to national development is quality education. Education is essential to having an informed population that exercises various political and democratic rights. These, in turn, influence the course of growth of a country. It cannot be overemphasized that an educated society contributes greatly to the nation’s progress.
Our fundamental law itself reflects this principle. The Constitution mandates the State to give priority to education and further guarantees it the highest budgetary priority. Despite our laws, the performance of our students remains dismal. It can be recalled that the 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) results released last December showed that our students ranked poorly in Reading Comprehension, Mathematics and Science. Recently, the Department of Education (DepEd) Region V also found that thousands of grade school students in the region are struggling readers after taking tests in reading comprehension in English and Filipino. This is alarming.
I recall when I was young, I could already read as early as grade 1. Besides attending school, I learned to read by reading the day’s newspaper for it was the most accessible publication back then. Today’s generation of students, however, appears to have better circumstances and more convenient resources. Yet, their academic performance is not up to par.
In response to the PISA results, the President recently approved the review of the K-to-12 program. The Department of Public Works and Highways also announced that 4,000 classroom projects are ongoing and hoped to finish by 2021. These spark hope for our education system. Yet, are these enough?
We need more inclusive education programs. Reports show that Metro Manila is one of the regions leading in academic performance. This entices students from the provinces to move to Manila to study, and creates an impression of inequity in the quality of education provided across regions. Starting with basic facilities, many provinces suffer shortages of classrooms, school buildings, and even teachers for many years now. In Quezon, for example, many classrooms damaged by past typhoons are still awaiting repairs. Some municipalities still lack classrooms and teachers to accommodate the K-to-12 program.
I urge the government to give equal priority to the quality of education in every region. I call for the expedited construction of school buildings to meet the increasing demand every year. Annual typhoons in the country leave schools damaged, and the delay in the repairs affects the learning progress of children and leads to extended school days and added expenses on both the government and families. I call on our implementing agencies to prioritize the repair and reconstruction of school buildings and classrooms to minimize disruption of classes and ensure a conducive learning environment.
Aside from increasing the wages of our teachers, there is also a need to ensure that teachers are truly competent to teach, and that teaching and evaluation materials are adequate and appropriate. Teachers’ professional development should not be overlooked. Apart from this, our teachers should be allowed to focus on teaching by relieving them of the various administrative tasks that they need to accomplish on top of their teaching workloads. Hiring administrative officers in our schools may help our teachers devote their full attention to the education of our children.
I urge families, especially the parents, to be involved in the education of the children. We need to create an environment that promotes learning. This encompasses provision of adequate and healthy food and poverty reduction measures. As Secretary Briones said before, it takes a nation to educate a child. We need the cooperation of everyone to ensure that we provide quality education to every Filipino child anywhere in the country.