by Andrew J. Masigan – The Philippine Star, 6 Oct 2021
We are in the midst of an educational crisis. Philippine educational standards have deteriorated to such an extent that Filipino children are ranked the least proficient in reading, math and science among 87 nationalities evaluated. This was validated by global academic rating organizations – the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Southeast Asia Primary Learning Matrics (SEA-PLM).
DepEd’s own National Achievement Test (NAT) shows that Filipino students fall below the minimum proficiency score of 75 percent. Grade 6 students clocked in an average score of only 37.43 percent across all subjects in critical thinking, information literacy and problem solving. That’s about 50 percent of the minimum passing score. Meanwhile, Grade 10 students posted an average score of 45.33 percent. The results are both appalling and alarming.
All factors considered, including letters sent to me by concerned teachers and DeEd employees, I have come to the conclusion that the problem lies on three fronts: DepEd’s leadership and culture; DepEd’s internal systems and its budgets.
DepEd’s culture is one more concerned about optics rather than results. Despite multiple red flags raised by global rating organizations, Secretary Briones continues to be in denial about the true state of Philippine education. She insists that our standards are better than what the rating organizations describe.
When the World Bank published its findings about the distressingly low proficiencies of Filipino children, she took it as an insult, not a call to improve. Worse, she announced that the DepEd will no longer participate in the PISA evaluation of 2022 – a move clearly meant to conceal the true state of Philippine education under her leadership.
Window dressing has become part of the DepEd’s culture. Teachers have written to me attesting that DepEd’s district supervisor and the division superintendent are so concerned about not reflecting drop-outs and failing students on their reports that they are tacitly made to lower their standards so that more students can pass. Concerned teachers have also told me that questions in the NAT are leaked to students beforehand so as to realize better outcomes.
The culture of denial, concealment and dishonesty is prevalent among key DepEd executives. Unfortunately, the few at the top undermine the good work of the rest in the department, especially the overworked teachers.
The leadership at DepEd must change to one that is transformative, progressive and transparent. With eight months to go in this administration, we just have to wait until the current leadership is replaced.
As for DepEd’s internal systems, multiple programs seem to be problematic. One of them is the Performance Based Bonus (PBB). PBBs are granted on the basis of drop-out rates and the passing rates in the National Achievement Tests (NAT). The prospect of receiving bonuses for high passing marks compels teachers to pass students even if undeserving.
Performance Based Bonuses are based on the Individual Performance Commitment Review Form (IPCRF), which in turn is connected to the Results-based Performance Management System (RPSM). In a desire of district supervisors and division superintendents to portray their territories as excellent performers (thereby qualifying for a bonus), teachers testified that they are made to fabricate documents reflecting exemplar scores of students.
The curriculum for Grades 1-3 must be reviewed. Evidently, the emphasis on reading, math and science is diluted by other subjects such as music, art, physical education and health. The lack of focus on the basics have resulted in poor learning foundations.
With poor foundations, teachers must often re-teach the basics, including simple vocabulary. This has made it difficult for teachers to complete the curriculum guide in higher grade levels. Further taking away valuable instruction time with students is the mountain of clerical reports teachers must accomplish.
I also learned that sports fests among DepEd teachers have expanded to include provincial meets, regional meets and national meets. Teachers have become too busy practicing for the sports meets that their time with students is cut short.
DepEd rates schools from a scale of 1 to 3 based on the participation of parents in the formulation of learning curriculums. This is called School-Based Management. The much coveted “3 rating” is given if parents play a part in curriculum development. The teacher’s role, in this scheme, is merely to assist the parents. This is fundamentally wrong, say teachers. It should be the other way around, where the teachers recommend improvements to the curriculum while the parents play the supporting role.
As for the DepEd’s budget, the Constitution mandates that the State must allocate the highest budget to education. This includes the DepEd, TESDA, CHED and State Universities. In 2021, the budget for the education sector was P751.7 billion, comprising 16.7 percent of the national budget. However, the increase in education spending was only 7.4 percent over the year prior. In contrast, the DOTr was given a 70.5 percent budget increase, while the DND was given a 16.4 percent increase.
Evidently, education is not high in the priority in this administration. Its share, as a percentage of gross national product, declined to 2.8 percent in 2019 following its peak at 3.6 percent in 2017. For context, education spending in Brunei is at 4.4 percent, Vietnam at 4 percent and Indonesia at 3.6 percent.
Spending per student stood at P7,876 in 2010. It peaked in 2017 at P22,979 before declining to P20,824 in 2020 despite increasing population. Low spending per student is much to blame for the poor academic performance of our youth.
A study conducted by PISA revealed that the Philippines must spend at least P80,000 per student, or four times the current level, for our youth to catch up to global standards. Merely doubling the budget will increase proficiencies of student by only 10 percent.
Exacerbating the matter are the learning deficiencies that resulted from 18 months (and counting) of home isolation of school children.
The next administration must work fast to arrest the educational crisis. I recommend the implementation of the trimestral system to accelerate learning, a rationalization of DepEd systems and a renewed financial commitment from the state.