By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Joel Villanueva has sought for the passage of a major education reform bill that will improve the quality of teaching, “if we are to reverse the heavy damage wrought by the pandemic on the education of our young.”
Villanueva said improving teacher education, skills, and proficiency is a must for the Philippines “to navigate a changed and challenging post COVID-19 world.”
“As we talk about the future, the focus should not just be on infrastructure but most importantly on instruction,” Villanueva said.
“Yes, we need wired schools, but we must not forget that all these physical advantages will be cancelled if there are no wise teachers,” he said.
Villanueva said teacher quality improvement “was an important national assignment long” before the pandemic began. “Thus, we just simply cannot go back to the pre-COVID state of our schools.”
In many regional and global testing of learners prior to the pandemic, Filipino students scored near the bottom in all subjects, “a wake-up call that something must be done,” he said.
Alarmed over the declining learning outcomes, the Senate held hearings over the past three years on how to arrest this, “and always teacher education is on the top of the to-do list,” he said.
The product is the measure sponsored on the floor Monday afternoon, Senate Bill No. 2152, by lawmakers, including Villanueva, chair of the Senate higher education committee.
The consolidated bill reported out by the Senate committee on basic education seeks the strengthening of the Teacher Education Council (TEC), updating its mandate “so it can meet all the things that need to be done to create a highly-competent and well-trained teaching corps.”
In the campaign to improve teacher education, “a reinforced and reoriented TEC will serve as the command center that will direct all programs aimed at producing better teachers,” Villanueva said.
One mission of the TEC, Villanueva said, is “to end the notoriously low passing rates in the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET).
“Only 3 out of 10 examinees pass the LET. In 2019, out of the 386,840 aspiring teachers, only 125,082, or a mere 32%, passed,” he said.
A major reason for this is the scarcity in schools that consistently produce LET passers, he said. “Majority of schools offering education courses are classified as poor performing. From 2009 to 2019, several colleges obtained zero percent passing rates.”
Compounding this is the fragmented system in producing the nation’s mentors, he said. “There is a need to harmonize and synchronize what CHED, PRC, and the DepED are doing.”
“The division of labor is that CHED issues the guidelines in teacher education. The PRC licenses teachers. The DepEd is the biggest absorber of the talent that CHED and PRC have accredited,” he said.
“The problem is that the pre-service training by CHED, the licensure for service by PRC, and the in-service programs by DepEd do not often follow a seamless progression. This turfing harms teacher development,” he said.
This negatively impacts the learner, “and we have test results to prove it,” he said. “But let me make it clear that this is one of many reasons for such. It is unfair and incorrect to solely blame teacher education.”
He said improving the educational system “is like a course with many subjects, and teacher development is but one of the many.”
“But we have to do our homework now. After one year of school closures, we realized that perhaps no other sector sits closer to ground zero of the COVID-19 pandemic than education,” he said.
“The so-called ‘COVID slide’ will make our children COVID-19 long haulers, with experts warning that many in the ‘Gen Q’ or Generation Quarantine having learned not enough will end up as adults earning not enough,” he said. (AI/MTVN)