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Inclusive, quality-driven, rights-based, equitable

The first of a planned series of education summits was convened last May 14 at the headquarters of FUSE, or the Foundation for Upgrading the Standard of Education.

The summit’s objective was to draw attention to critical reform areas that have not yet been adequately addressed and draw up a declaration of intent that presidential aspirants can hopefully integrate into their respective campaign platforms. However, the suggestion from the president of Ateneo de Davao University, Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ—that an advisory body on education, one that is inured from political pressure, be formed—resonated among the participants, so much so that the summit conveners decided to make it a continuing discussion point in succeeding conferences.

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Both the academics and industry representatives present agreed that the education agenda of the next administration must be inclusive, quality-driven, rights-based and equitable, and that opportunities for lifelong learning must always be evident.

Enabling our graduates with more career choices and improving their overall employability are the key reform thrusts of the K-to-12 Law (Republic Act No. 105330). But Alice Pañares of the National Center for Culture and the Arts pointed out that unlocking and sharpening the K-to-12 learner’s creative thought through a carefully considered arts program is also vital to success in the 21st-century workplace. Pañares, the culture and arts resource person for K-to-12 and a member of the Commission on Higher Education’s technical panel for teacher education, added that the Filipino’s innate talent is much sought after in the creative industries, particularly in the animation and game development subsectors of the IT BPM industry. She said that with K-to-12 curriculum’s equal emphasis on the arts and humanities, our schools will now have the means and opportunity to discover, polish and nurture such talent according to global standards. Meanwhile, Cecille Guidote-Alvarez of Unesco urged all education stakeholders to be more involved in international conferences to amplify the Philippines’ education reform efforts globally.

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Teresita Carey, dean of Centro Escolar University’s School of Education, Liberal Arts, Music and Social Work, said the next president of the Philippines should ensure that all teacher education institutions would be centers of excellence. To this end, she urged the summit participants to lobby for “more teeth” for teacher training to improve its scope, relevance and effectiveness. She said any training will only be useful if teachers can see their way clear to actually using what they learned in class with their students, where it matters most.

“The success of K-to-12 is in the hands of the teacher,” Carey said. To support her position, the participants suggested that the next president’s agenda should include the adoption of concrete measures to restore teaching as a first-choice profession.

Allan Reyes of the Metrobank Foundation reiterated its commitment to recognize teacher excellence through its programs, such as the annual prestigious Metrobank Search for Outstanding Teachers and the Network of Outstanding Teachers and Educators.

Garie Rigor and Anne Sarte of the Philippine Business for Education offered the Manila Declaration on Philippine Higher Education signed in 2014 by over 500 private and state-run higher education institutions (HEIs) as proof of their commitment to an agenda that prioritizes the realization of “an appropriate, responsive and high-quality Philippine higher education.”

Rigor and Sarte pointed out that the signatories to the declaration sought to encourage stronger and sustainable industry-academe linkages and partnerships for curriculum design and practical training and to create a climate conducive to open and honest exchanges of views and ideas.

Picking up on this, the academics and education executives present suggested that the next president could ask Congress to reexamine RA 7722 (or the Higher Education Act of 1994) to ensure that the CHEd would be more developmental than regulatory.

Jose Paulo Campos, chair of the Coordinating Council of Private Education Associations (Cocopea) and president of the Emilio Aguinaldo College, called for the simplification of the process that enables HEIs to incorporate Tesda-approved programs into the higher education curriculum, as envisioned by RA 10647. Alberto Fenix Jr. of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry echoed Campos’ sentiments.

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Patricia Lagunda, also from Cocopea and executive vice president of Baliuag University, said the education agenda of the next administration must be harmonized with those of all education stakeholders including the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). The summit conveners agreed that the PRC needs to be invited to the next education summits.

Ramon Bacani of Seameo-Innotech reiterated his call—made when he was still an undersecretary of education—that the next president must be prepared to directly address the difficulties of completing basic education, which contribute to higher numbers of out-of-school youth.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, according to her staff member Darce Galleon, continues to champion the cause of education reform and is closely studying K-to-12’s social implications.

Education Secretary Armin Luistro, through his representative Nastasia Tysmans, urged the participants to study education issues from a development perspective, as opposed to just finding solutions to existing problems.

Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines.

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TAGS: Butch Hernandez, column, education summit, quality, standards
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