Press Release
February 28, 2011

February 28, 2011

S. Jt. Res. No. 6


"Reinventing Education"

Over the last 20 years, the education landscape has vastly changed. Novel ways of learning made possible by technology -- combined with the new demands of the labor market and society's changing needs -- make it an imperative for any nation's education system to reinvent itself.

Globally, science, technology, and innovation have proven to be potent instruments of economic growth and poverty reduction. Basic to the realization of this potential is education. This is fundamental for strengthening a country's human capital as well as building a knowledge economy based on information technology.

Sadly, the Philippine education system has failed to respond to the changing needs of our time. The latest National Achievement Test conducted among 1.6 million grade six students shows a mean percentage score (MPS) of 59.9 percent. This means that for every ten items, a grade six student can correctly answer only five items.

The percentage score of fourth year high school students is even worse at 44.33 percent. The science score is 37.98 percent. This means that a fourth year high school student can answer only about 4 out of ten items correctly.

In the High School Readiness Test conducted among our grade six students, only 0.67 percent got at least a passing grade of 75. This means that of the 1.2 million grade six pupils who took the test, only about 8,043 pupils have mastered the basic competencies in Science, English, and Math and are ready to move on to high school.

This is hardly surprising. While other factors explain these poor performances, one critical factor - the quality and number of teachers - egregiously stands out. There are more non-majors teaching science subjects than teachers with science degrees. For instance, 90 percent of physics teachers are not physics majors and 80 percent of chemistry teachers are not chemistry majors.

We are also perennially plagued by resource gaps: textbooks, classrooms, school buildings. These resource gaps have resulted in larger class sizes. The officially approved size of 54 students in a class has gone up to 60. High classroom-pupil ratio affects the students' capacity to learn, as teachers have a harder time teaching a larger class size.

Compare this to other countries' class sizes: Malaysia's 31.7, Thailand's 22.9, and South Korea's 34.7. In secondary school, the Philippines has an average of 56.1, while Malaysia's is 34, Thailand's is 41.5, and South Korea's is 35.4.

Our education disaster is also characterized by the progressively declining access of Filipino children to education, which in effect creates a bigger population of school dropouts.

Looking at the statistics on access to primary education, only 83% are enrolled -- which means that 17% are out-of-school and will be handicapped for life. The numbers are even worse in secondary education where 59% are enrolled, meaning 41% do not get basic high school knowledge. If the trend continues, we will have a population of even bigger out-of-school population than in-school population.

Clearly, we need to undertake deep reforms to save our ailing education system.

The last reform we made was way back in 1990 when we created the Congressional Committee on Education (EDCOM). The EDCOM, which I chaired during my first term in the Senate, was mandated to submit a report that would lay down the agenda for educational reform in the country.

We surveyed the whole education system, including the education bureaucracy. We undertook a painstaking review of the entire Philippine education system. As a result of its work, EDCOM submitted to Congress and to President Corazon C. Aquino, a report entitled Making Education Work, An Agenda for Reform.

From this report, laws were passed to trifurcate the educational system into the Committee on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Department of Education (DepEd) to bring about clear program focus, realistic plans and targets and rational allocation of resources.

But that was 20 years ago. In fact, our education system must be reviewed every five years, to constantly improve our curriculum and teacher training. The system must undertake changes in its methods and adopt to change, just as society's needs continue to change.

The Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering (COMSTE) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts have recommended various steps to rationalize, modernize and raise the international standards of the education structure and curriculum.

Moreover, we are confronted with the K-12 challenge, which all of us would agree is a necessary and long-overdue step but has its obstacles, mainly in the financing of education. We need to study it thoroughly and cast the net as wide as possible in consulting key sectors, as it has the potential to become the biggest education reform we would undertake in recent time.

International agreements such as the Bologna Process, the Washington Accord, the Dublin Accord, the Sydney Accord, the APEC Register and various international accreditation initiatives have created new demands on our graduates and are exacting new standards on higher education institutions.

In view of these gargantuan tasks, the Senate and the House of Represenatives jointly propose the creation of a Congressional Oversight Committee on Education to undertake a national review, assessment and evaluation of the performance of the bodies responsible for the country's basic education, higher education and manpower development.

It shall also probe into the formal, non-formal, informal and alternative learning systems, including contining education at all levels.

The body will produce a report of its finding and formulate short- and long-term policy recommendations in the areas of sectoral plans and targets, governance and management, educational/manpower development curriculum and programs, education financing, and the convergence of various departments and sectors concerned with human resource management.

Mr. President, creating a responsive, modern and effective education system is exciting but difficult work. It will take vision and sustained commitment to achieve our strategic mandate - to uplift the living standards of the Filipino through education.

Thank you.

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