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Hopes are high that a proposed measure in the Senate filed by Senator Win Gatchalian will be effective in supporting the education priorities of the Marcos Administration.
We are looking at this issue as face-to-face classes, after more than two years of online learning caused by the coronavirus pandemic, which begin on August 22 for the academic year 2022-2023.
Observers are quick to state that face-to-face classes, on the side of teachers, will provide them with more opportunities for increased interaction with their students that distance learning could not properly address otherwise.
They add that teachers can also closely interact with other teachers and enhance or improve their teaching skills.
For students, face-to-face classes will give them more space to ask their teachers more questions or clarify concepts they cannot readily comprehend.
At the same time, the students – even under the threat of subvariants of Covid – can also re-connect with other students and make new friends in school and perhaps share learning experiences with others to give them new perspectives they can eventually find useful.
But the return to face-to-face classes is only the first bar that should be overcome by the DepEd to bring the Philippine educational system back on track amid the health pandemic.
The government should also address how to reform the educational system to make it more responsive to current needs.
In his first State of the Nation Address on July 25, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said he was giving a careful review of the K to 12 system.
Gatchalian has filed proposed Senate Resolution 5, which seeks a Senate inquiry on the status of the implementation of the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 or the K to 12 Law (Republic Act 10533).
The proposed review seeks to identify strategic solutions to improve the implementation of the law, especially amid growing dissatisfaction over the K to 12 system, his office said in a press statement.
The statement said in Filipino: “As Chairman ng Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, we will cooperate with the administration to make sure that quality education will be given to every young Filipino.”
The 64-year-old Marcos, in his SONA, said the Philippines should do better in international rankings when it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subjects, which has been the call of the lawmaker for years now.
Results of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) 2019 show that only 13 percent and 19 percent of Grade 4 students in the Philippines meet the minimum benchmark in science and math, respectively.
Considering that teachers are one of the most important factors in education, Gatchalian is seeking the full and proper implementation of the Excellence in Teacher Education Act (Republic Act 11713), which seeks to improve the quality of teacher training and education in the country.
Gatchalian’s Senate Bill 476 or the Equitable Access to Math and Science Education Act seeks to establish accessible math and science high schools across the Philippines, particularly in all provinces that do not have at least one public math and science high school.
Marcos also emphasized children’s need for internet connectivity, computers, and educational tools.
To accelerate the digital transformation of the basic education sector, Gatchalian filed Senate Bill 383 or the Digital Transformation in Basic Education Act.
He also filed Senate Bill 474 or the One Learner One Laptop Act, which will mandate the Department of Education (DepEd) to provide a laptop for every learner enrolled under the K to 12 programs in public schools.
Earlier on, citing what experts flagged as a “too overcrowded” K to 12 curriculum, Gatchalian pushed for more focus on younger students’ abilities to read and deal with numbers.
Gatchalian cited the observations of education experts who found that the K to 12 curriculum “needs decongesting” as it requires learners to study too many competencies, eventually affecting their capability to master basic abilities.
The senator said there is a need to refine the curriculum for Kindergarten to Grade 3 learners while pointing to international assessments that showed that the country’s learners are struggling in the critical learning areas of Math and Reading.
He said this would lead to “negative and long-term” consequences for their future and the country.
From where we are, Gatchalian’s measure should be able to support education priorities and put students on a competitive cut against others in the global academic corridor. (ai/mtvn)