How to remake Filipino educators
We need two things to improve teacher quality in our country: professional standards for teachers and school leaders (e.g., school principals and supervisors), and an independent and separate agency devoted to carrying out these standards.
The core of the first requirement, teacher standards, is completed. Those for school leaders and supervisors will follow.
We now have a nationally validated Philippine Professional Standards for Teachers (PPST) developed through the Research Center for Teacher Quality. After three years of rigorous and painstaking work involving thousands of pre- and in-service teachers, principals, supervisors, and senior officials of the Department of Education from every region of the country, the PPST was finalized on Aug. 4-5, 2016, in a Teacher Education Council workshop. The implementing guidelines were formulated last May. A department order on these standards and guidelines has been readied for signing.
The PPST defines teacher quality in the Philippines. It describes the expectations of teachers’ increasing knowledge, practice and professional engagement across four career stages (beginning, proficient, highly proficient and distinguished teachers). Over time, the PPST will become the new yardstick for teacher professional learning, career development, appointment, retention, promotion and rewards.
The PPST explicitly recognizes the critical place of subject knowledge and how it is taught. However, it goes much further, stressing the importance of proficiency in mother tongue, Filipino and English for teaching and learning. The standards also celebrate diversity in the classroom and encourage the establishment of learning environments that are responsive to learner diversity and foster “respect of the learners’ diverse experiences as inputs to the planning and design of learning opportunities.” Finally, the standards value interaction with the local and national curriculum requirements that can translate content into differentiated learning activities that are relevant to the learners’ linguistic, cultural, socioeconomic and religious backgrounds.
The PPST acknowledges that our teachers are highly motivated, have a strong work ethic, and are eager to do better, despite being overwhelmed with tedious and complicated approaches to many aspects of their professional life. The fixation in the past on their quantitative improvement must now give way to ensuring long-term quality. Overburdensome administrative duties must likewise be simplified through standard-based instruments such as classroom observation, self-assessment and performance appraisal tools.
This early the PPST is being incorporated into current teacher orientation and training programs of various education stakeholders. On July 19-22, the Philippine Science High School System will start training its national management panel on the use of the PPST and its assessment tools. Tertiary education institutions (TEIs) led by the Philippine Normal University, Western Mindanao State University, Bukidnon State University, Bicol University, Pangasinan State University, Cebu Normal University, Leyte Normal University, Palawan State University and Central Luzon State University are conducting a pre-service curriculum audit using the PPST as framework. A few days ago, DepEd Calabarzon expressed support for teacher quality as “the main driver” to improving student outcomes and will hold regional PPST workshops for its 500 senior staff.
The second requirement calls for the establishment of an independent agency exclusively devoted to carrying out the professional standards for teachers and education leaders.
The rationale for such a body is not hard to understand. Having a separate agency to support the DepEd with the standard-setting teacher-quality agenda will allow it to concentrate fully on the implementation of the K-to-12 Law, the financial management of its vast resources, and school building construction and repair. Also, there is a need to review the pre-service teacher education curriculum and the manner how future teachers are educated in light of K-to-12 and mother tongue-based multilingual education.
This agency can be called the “National Teacher and Leadership Quality Standards Authority,” a version of the National Economic and Development Authority for the education sector. The focus of the proposed Authority would be on three key areas all directed at quality school education:
• Quality teaching (hiring, promotion and reward) and quality school leadership
• Initial teacher (pre-service) education and curriculum
• Quality assurance for schools and pre-service teacher education programs.
The proposed Authority will adopt a strategic and outward-looking stance, with greater clarity of regulatory roles and responsibilities, and streamlined processes.
Having been a lawmaker for 15 years, I understand that the establishment of this Authority will require legislation. That is why, as a matter of urgency, a Presidential Commission on Teacher Quality under the Office of the President should immediately be formed and convened. Its members can come from basic education, higher education, technical education, TEIs, social welfare, economic and business sectors, and professional regulatory bodies.
The commission will: recommend changes to current education structures that impact on teachers and school leaders; define the structures, functions, scope, staffing, budget and processes of the proposed Authority; and identify the legislative initiatives needed for its establishment and efficient functioning. Once this Authority is in place, the commission shall cease to exist.
We cannot overemphasize the need for this strategic thrust to be the administration’s education flagship program—a bold innovation that is typical of the President’s brand of leadership.
Lawyer Magtanggol T. Gunigundo I is a former representative of the second district of Valenzuela City and a passionate advocate of education reform.
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