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DepEd must level up

There is nothing new in the Department of Education except for the new Secretary who is capable but finds herself cleaning house and improving structures and systems within the bureaucracy.

Classes have begun in public schools and some private schools but the country still seems divided in the schedule of the opening of classes. Some schools open in the early part of June while others toward August. Shouldn’t there be more consistency? Although the law (RA No. 7797) allows the school opening to happen between the first Monday of June and not later than the last day of August, I believe that this must be changed. We need more unified schedules, planning and structures to become more efficient and less confusing.

Why must the Department of Education level up? Clearly, our country is lagging behind in education. In order for a country to progress, its citizens must be educated and functional. We need better skills in order to be more competitive in the world. The more educated a country is, the more progress there will be. Aside from being competitive, we need to be cultured and socially involved in our country’s concerns and development. Education helps people become employed, fights ignorance and makes a citizenry decide on whom to vote and whom not to vote for. Education can help people know the difference between right and wrong, thereby, contributing in the progress of a nation. The problem is only a few elite get good education and only few state/ public universities give the right kind of education. Many falls in the “so-so” category.

The World Top 20 Project has released its first quarter report on the World Best Education Systems. In this report, international rankings of the top 20 education systems out of 209 nations are ranked. According to its criteria: “Each country’s ranking is based on five educational levels: early-childhood enrollment rates, Elementary Math, Science and Reading scores, Middle-School Math, Science and Reading scores, High School Graduation rates, and College Graduation rates. Each level consists of ranking the top 20 countries by giving a country 20 points for a first place rank, 19 for a second place rank, and so on down to 1 point for a twenty rank. The data is then used to produce the nation’s ranking from a statistical average based on a combined score from all 5 levels. The poll’s statistical data is compiled from 6 international organizations – the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), the United Nation’s Economic and Social Council (UNESOC), The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and Progress in International Reading Study (PIRLS). Then send to each countries Ministry of Education Department to assure the data is accurate.”

The Top 20 countries who rate best in the world are: 1) Finland; 2) Japan 3) South Korea; 4) Denmark; 5) Russia; 6) Norway; 7) UK; 8) Israel; 9) Sweden; 10) Hong Kong; 11) Netherlands; 12) Belgium; 13) Germany; 14) China; 15) Singapore; 16) Portugal; 17) Hungary; 18) Estonia; 19) France; 20) USA. Other survey organizations may slightly differ in the countries ranking but is not that significant. Bottom line is the Philippines is way down in the ranking. This is not good. But with the rate our public education systems, structures and efficiency is going, what should we expect.

Michele Molnar, associate editor of EdWeek Market Brief wrote: Pacific Asian countries have continued to outrank their peers because of an effective education system and culture of accountability. The research showed that teachers, students, and parents took equal responsibility for their roles in education. These countries also valued teachers and schools significantly higher than other nations. The report attributes this to a commitment to attracting good teachers into the profession and giving them the social status of other professionals, setting clear goals and expectations within the education system, and providing autonomy for education professionals to reach those goals.

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Unfortunately, we are not one of the Pacific Asian countries mentioned. We may have the values teachers, students and parents have toward education but the academic structures, programs and competencies lag far behind. Truth to tell, we have been copycats all throughout. Our books are still American-based. We need to do a lot of introspection and create programs, develop textbooks that are meaningful and that inspire the youth to study and cultivate their love for country with a strong sense of social commitment. We need to understand why education is a need in our country.

Government, congress and senate must review the educational law and update and revise them to meet the need of the times and more important the need of the country to move toward progress. Secretary Briones better make her regional directors and their principals accountable for their actions. Many officials need to be given early retirement because they are so backward. Others want private schools to follow every action or standard policies of the public schools. They don’t even know the difference between the set-up of private schools and public schools. The only way to resolve DepEd problem is to change the guards and bring in new and young blood qualified to understand the true goals of education and improve the educational system of the country. A change in mindset is called for. Of course, keep the senior officers who are intelligent and have wisdom.

Strengthening education in the country comes with a strong commitment by government (both local and national) including the House of Representatives to make a difference. It’s not only about the K-12 program (which by the way is still not working). This obligation includes studying the budget, the laws, the unification of DepEd, TESDA and CHED and their programs which by the way must consider the industry’s needs.

Student loans instead of vouchers must be offered, scholarship grants given by different institutions, industries and countries should be provided, educational statistics and data must be available with constant research and teacher training programs as well as school administrative training programs must be constantly updated and required.

By the way, I’d like to call the attention of Secretary Briones on the issuance of Special Order No. (S.O. No.) for Grade 12 graduates. Since many DepEd officials are not clear with Senior High School policies, schools are worried about getting the S.O. No. on time. Will DepEd make the high school students hang in limbo (while they wait to fulfill all their college application requirements) or will they straighten up their act? A sense of urgency is a must.

Our liberty will not be secured at the sword’s point… We must secure it by making ourselves worthy of it. And when the people reaches that height, God will provide a weapon, the idols will be shattered, tyranny will crumble like a house of cards, and liberty will shine out like the first dawn – Jose Rizal

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