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Swift, slow, open: Ensuring success in education

An elementary diploma does not guarantee full literacy to a Filipino learner. This is what the 2003, 2008, and 2013 versions of the Functional Literacy and Education Mass Media Survey are saying. In the survey, respondents had to answer a comprehension question after reading a short paragraph on the deleterious effects of forest depletion. This question was answered correctly by only 50 percent of elementary graduates and 60 percent of high school level respondents.

Based on the experience of the world’s top performing school systems, what matters most in improving student outcomes is this: selecting the right people and developing them into effective mentors who can deliver the best possible instruction to every child.

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On this score, I can cite three forward leaps that our country has made.

1) With the K-to-12 reforms (which includes our additive language policy), our education system is now aligned with those of other advanced and comparable countries. The spotlight has centered not only on what is taught and learned, but also on the required overall education organization and practices.

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2) There is now clear advice on what teachers and school leaders need to know, understand, and be able to do. This has come about with the approval of the Philippine Professional Standards for Teachers (PPST) and the crafting of the Philippine Professional Standards for School Heads and for Supervisors. These standards are the product of many thousands of practitioners working with common and accepted outcomes linked to international benchmarking. This effort has resulted in an agreed framework upon which to build a rigorous yet nurturing environment for teachers and school leaders.

3) The National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP) is being transformed into a full-blown academy for the professional edification of our teachers and school leaders. NEAP is where they can deepen their subject matter knowledge, heighten their commitment to student learning, hone their pedagogical skills, and reflect on their practice. These attributes are the golden fleece of a quality educator.

These changes notwithstanding, we still lack an oversight agency comparable to those of other countries that can strategically address all issues related to teacher and school leader quality. The tasks are formidable: teacher preparation, registration, recruitment, promotion, career-stage recognition, overhaul of pre-service teacher education curricula and quality-assured programs offered by Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

Such an agency was conceived by the Technical Working Group for Teacher Quality (TWG-TQ) whose members come from our three principal education bodies (Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education [CHEd], and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), the Research Center for Teacher Quality, and top education stakeholders. Headed by Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, the TWG-TQ plans to ask Congress for an amended law on the Teacher Education Council (TEC). The proposed law empowers TEC with the above oversight functions and corresponding resources.

The tri-focal setup of our education system has not worked to collectively focus at a deep and strategic level on teacher and school leader quality. For instance, the PPST stands as an appropriate benchmark upon which both the coverage and quality of pre-service teacher education programs can be measured. There is, however, a separate set of Program Standards and Guidelines that CHEd has ordered TEIs to follow. This move may send conflicting messages on the minimum requirements for pre-service teacher education. A strengthened TEC is expected to promote tighter collaboration and prevent overlaps among education agencies.

With these ideas in tow, I am reminded of what Andreas Schleicher said in 2007 on what governments must do to ensure success in education: swift to adapt, slow to complain (about the difficulties), and open to change. This is the challenge facing Philippine education today, with or without the pandemic.

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Magtanggol T. Gunigundo I ([email protected]) is a former congressman from the second district of Valenzuela City, and one of the principal authors of Republic Act No. 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.

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TAGS: Commentary, education, Magtanggol T. Gunigundo I, school oversight agency, teacher quality
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