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By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian on Saturday urged the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to come up with a program that will professionalize barangay workers, including day care workers and teachers.

Gatchalian cited the examples of the Barangay Health Services and Community Nutrition Services program, both of which are National Certificate (NC) II courses.

“My suggestion is to come up with a program and let’s expand it to some of the barangay-based workers, including day care teachers and the other barangay employees. Ngayon kasi meron na tayo for barangay health workers and barangay nutrition scholars,” said Gatchalian.

“Our day care workers are not certified. They are trained through practice. A lot of them do not have stability of tenure, but they’ve been there for years. ‘Yung iba sa kanila andyan na for 30, 40 years and they want to be professionalized. At least let’s give them a chance to be recognized and certified,” Gatchalian added.

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education has been pushing for the professionalization of child development workers and teachers.

Under the Basic Education and Early Childhood Education Alignment Act or Senate Bill No. 2029, Gatchalian proposed that cities and municipalities shall be mandated to create plantilla positions for CDTs and CDWs.

The proposed measure also mandates local government units to promote and encourage their professional development.

The Basic Education and Early Childhood Education Alignment Act mandates the Early Childhood Care and Development Council to ensure the alignment between the ECCD curriculum and the basic education curriculum.

It also imposes greater responsibilities on LGUs on the implementation of ECCD programs.

Data from the Department of Social Welfare and Development shows that there are 78,693 CDWs in the country.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian filed a measure that seeks to redefine the application of the Mother Tongue as medium of instruction from Kindergarten to Grade 3.

Senate Bill 2457 will amend Sections 4 and 5 of Republic Act 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013.

The senator said the Philippines is a highly multilingual society and data from the 2020 Census of Population and Housing showed that there are about 245 languages in the country.

However, the Department of Education covers only 19 languages in implementing MTB-MLE or only eight percent of the total languages reported in the census.

Gatchalian said that some of the widely spoken languages such as Boholano, Masbateno, and Kankanaey are not among the 19 languages used by the DepEd in the program.

“I propose this legislation to remedy and seek the faithful implementation of MTB-MLE under the RA 10533 by redefining its application to monolingual classes from Kindergarten to Grade 3,” he said.

“This will result in reverting Section 7, Article 14 of the 1987 Constitution on the Medium of Instructions to be used in key stage 1,” the senator stressed. The section states that for purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino, and until otherwise provided by law, English.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian filed a measure that seeks to establish guidelines on the establishment and operation of local universities and colleges.

Senate Bill 2445 or the Local Universities and Colleges Governance Act requires a local government unit to obtain institutional recognition from the Commission on Higher Education prior to the enactment of an ordinance creating an local university or college.

This would ensure that LUCs  meet the minimum standards for quality education.

The senator said CHEd found that nearly  three in every 10 LUCs operate without institutional recognition. 

Gatchalian said there has been a growing demand for higher education in the country and the increase in the number of LUCs has addressed this demand.

He added concerns have been raised regarding governance, sustainability and quality standards in local institutions.

He said that the Philippine Institute for Development Studies has found that the leadership in LUCs is weakened by the three-year election cycle, leading to policy discontinuity, insufficient resource management and ineffective investment strategies

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATORS Sherwin Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva said that the government wasted an estimated P2.77 billion on community-based scholars of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority who did not undergo assessment.

“If you look at the data…community-based ay napakalaki ng total, eh,” Villanueva said, pointing out TESDA’s data that 36.21 percent of their graduates come from community-based programs.

Villanueva also noted that out of the 44,000 clients enrolled in community-based TESDA programs this year, only 17,995 were able to graduate.

Out of that number, only 4,086 obtained a Certificate of Competency, and, from that set, only 3,937 were awarded a National Certificate.

“What happened to the balance?”Villanueva asked.

“The government paid for the training, they went to our scholarship program, but in the end, they were not assessed, therefore the training becomes useless. Because without assessment and CoC, how can they get a job?” Gatchalian said.

TESDA Deputy Director General Aniceto Bertiz III pointed out that the agency is facing a challenge in scheduling assessments, as well as lacking in the number of assessors to conduct these assessments.

TESDA has 7,593 assessors.

Villanueva said that considering that there is an estimated 1.5 million clients in the entire TVET sector in the country, the number would amount to 197 clients per assessor.

“Ang point ko lang, kulang na kulang ‘yung assessors,” Villanueva said.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday urged the government to intensify its efforts to combat the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children, following a report by the Department of Information and Communications Technology that the Philippines ranks second globally in online sexual abuse and exploitation of children.

Earlier, Gatchalian said he was shocked at the Philippines’ world ranking on the OSAEC hotspot list.

“We should really try very hard to get us out of that rank of being number two in the world on OSAEC, and even get us out of that list,” said Gatchalian.

“Aside from the hardware and tools that we need, there are things we can enact quickly to improve communication and coordination to share information as quickly as possible,” Gatchalian added.

DICT Secretary Ivan John Uy attributed the prevalence of OSAEC in the country to the lack of necessary tools to identify and track down perpetrators.

DICT Assistant Secretary Mary Rose Magsaysay, meanwhile, said that the Cybercrime Investigation and Coordinating Center is working with the University of the Philippines to translate materials that would raise awareness, especially in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas.

The DICT is also working with telecommunication companies to block child sexual abuse and exploitation materials.

The Scale of Harm Survey by International Justice Mission and the University of Nottingham Rights Lab estimates that 471,416 Filipino children were trafficked to produce new child sexual exploitation material in 2022.

Gatchalian co-authored two laws that strengthen the government’s capacity to crack down on OSAEC: the Anti-OSAEC and Anti-CSAEM Act or Republic Act 11930 and the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2022 or Republic Act 11862.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian called on the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to address its low enrollment rate, the lowest nationwide.

“Bring the kids to school and retain them,” Gatchalian said.

In a Senate hearing on the preparedness of basic education schools, Gatchalian pointed to the low participation rates in BARMM, which are also lower than the nationwide averages.

During School Year 2020-2021, the participation rate in Kindergarten in BARMM stood at 53 percent, notably lower than the nationwide average of 66 percent.

Similarly, in elementary education, the regional participation rate was 69 percent as opposed to 89 percent nationwide.

The participation rates in junior and senior high school further plummeted to 37 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

In contrast, the nationwide participation rates for junior and senior high school during SY 2020-2021 were considerably higher at 81 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

Gatchalian also pointed out the low cohort survival rate in BARM saying that for every 100 learners in the region who enter Grade 1, only 17 graduate from Grade 12.

“I believe that the first order of business in BARMM is to promote schooling and the second order is to retain learners in school. During my discussions with BARMM governors, it became apparent that many children in the region drop out of school to help out in their families’ farms. They’re forced to work at an early age because of poverty. But, of course, in the long run, the situation may not be conducive to their long-term well-being,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

Gatchalian previously pushed for an enhanced back-to-school program to increase enrollment in the region.

He also sought to strengthen the implementation of the Alternative Learning System in the region to enhance the skills and abilities of the current working population, as well as out-of-school children and youth.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian sought the creation and filling of more plantilla positions under the Early Childhood Care and Development Council to ensure the effective implementation of ECCD programs.

Gatchalian said that there are only 15 plantilla positions under the ECCD Council which prevents the body from effectively engaging local government units.

Under Republic Act 10410 or the Early Years Act of 2013, the ECCD Council is mandated to implement the National ECCD System, which covers the full range of health, nutrition, early education, and social services development programs for the basic holistic needs of children until the age of four.

“We need to increase plantilla positions so we can engage local government units faster. Without the manpower, we cannot mobilize our local government units to strengthen ECCD in the country, to achieve universal coverage, and to produce high-quality child development teachers and workers,” Gatchalian said.

He proposed the reallocation of some of the ECCD Council’s funds for the creation of plantilla positions.He said that while the construction of National Child Development Centers is not a mandate of the ECCD Council, the National Expenditure Program 2024 allocates P170 million under the ECCD Council’s Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses.

The senator suggested using some of these funds to create plantilla positions for the ECCD Council, whose functions also include the development of a national system for early identification, screening, and surveillance of young children aged zero to four.

Gatchalian earlier filed the Basic Education and Early Childhood Education Alignment Act or the Senate Bill 2029 to strengthen ECCD in the country.

(by Dang Samson Garcia)

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian lamented the quality of jobs that graduates of technical-vocational courses are getting.

While eight out of 10 TESDA graduates are employed, their salaries are below minimum, he said.

“The jobs they are landing are below minimum wage. So that’s not commensurate with the one to two-year time they spent – not only their time but also their money,” the senator said.

“They cannot even reap the rewards or get the returns of that investment because of that. I think that’s a very important point that needs to be addressed,” he added.

Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva echoed Gatchalian’s concern.

“Is it our goal to just make sure that our trainees land jobs, or we wanted to get them out of poverty and ensure at least they receive above minimum wage?” Villanueva asked.

“If this trend will continue, then we are only allowing them to land jobs below minimum wage, and there’s no way we can help them actually get out of poverty,” he added.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian wants to ensure that the Department of Education will have the budget to implement the learning recovery plan next year in order to address the learning loss resulting from the Covid19 school closures.

Gatchalian said that programs for learning recovery should be designed to capture students who are struggling to master the competencies required of them to ensure the efficient allocation and utilization of resources.

He asked the DepEd to submit its budgetary requirements for the implementation of learning recovery measures. While the DepEd said that it can tap around P4 billion allotted under the Basic Education Curriculum, Gatchalian wanted to know if the agency has enough allocation to reach learners needing the most intervention.

“Since we are still recovering from the impact of the Covid19 pandemic, we want to make sure that there are funds for learning recovery under the DepEd’s 2024 budget,” the chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education said.

The World Bank estimated that as of June 2022, learning poverty in the Philippines is 90.9 percent.

The DepEd previously announced that it is implementing the National Reading Camp, the National Mathematics Program and the National Science and Technology Program to combat learning losses during the pandemic.

It also implemented the National Learning Camp during the end-of-school-year break of School Year 2022-2023. The program’s phased implementation started with Grades 7 and 8, focusing on Science, English and Mathematics.

By Dang Samson Garcia

SENATOR Sherwin Gatchalian is eyeing the implementation of a universal meal program to address Filipino school children’s nutrition problems such as stunting, wasting, and undernutrition.

“My dream is to have a universal meal program, ensuring that everyone receives sustenance regardless of their nutritional status, just like what other countries are doing. While it will require substantial resources, we will not stop looking for them or innovating,” said Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

According to the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute’s data for 2021, around 2.7 million or 20 percent of children aged 5 to 10 are stunted or have a low height for their age, 2.8 million or 21 percent are underweight, and around 1 million or 7 percent are wasted.

The funding for the school-based feeding program this school year will expand the coverage to 220 days or the entire school year.

In previous school years, there were only 120 feeding days.

From a budget of P5 billion, the budget of SBFP went up to P11 billion under the National Expenditure Program 2024, an increase of 105 percent.

The Department of Education targets 1.6 million beneficiaries from Kindergarten to Grade 6 for next school year.

Citing an internal study on the implementation of the SBFP, DepEd Assistant Secretary for Field Operations Francis Cesar Bringas said the DepEd tends to have the same beneficiaries every year since learners tend to revert to the state of being malnourished if they only receive school meals for 120 days.

The DepEd official added when these learners go back to school from their two-month vacation, they also tend to go back to the state of being malnourished.

“We all know a hungry child will not learn. A lot of these issues happen during the early childhood days, some of which are quite difficult to repair when they enter kindergarten or primary schools. But then again, we need to do this intervention to prevent further regression or further damage in their bodies and in their health,” Gatchalian added.

The DepEd also plans to extend the SBFP’s Milk Feeding Program Component’s implementation from 47 to 55 days.

By Dang Samson Garcia

AMID calls to review the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education or the free higher education law, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian sought to expand the capacity of State Universities and Colleges so that more students can receive free college education.

“Mahalagang hakbang ang pagpapatupad ng libreng kolehiyo upang mabigyan ang ating mga kabataan ng mas magandang kinabukasan. Ngunit dahil sa kakulangan ng ating mga SUCs ng mga silid-aralan, pasilidad, at mga guro, may mga kabataan pa rin tayong hindi nakikinabang sa libreng kolehiyo kahit na kwalipikado sila, at dapat natin itong tugunan,” Gatchalian said.

The lawmaker earlier pointed out how the free higher education law, which he co-authored and co-sponsored, increased the number of learners who pursued college.

Before the enactment of the free higher education law, the progression rates from high school to college stood at 54 percent and 62 percent for Academic Years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015, respectively. When the free higher education law was implemented, the progression rate from senior high school to college surged to an average of 81% from 2018 to 2022.

Gatchalian, however, shared that consultations with presidents of SUCs revealed that some students, who already passed admission exams, end up not enrolling because some SUCs lack teachers, classrooms and facilities that could accommodate them.

Despite the budget increase for free higher education over the years, he lamented that the capital outlay for SUCs did not increase commensurately.

Gatchalian urged the government to develop a roadmap to address capacity issues.

For 2024, the proposed budget for the implementation of the free higher education law is P51.1 billion.

Gatchalian also said that a national screening test to determine the eligibility of students for free college education is unnecessary as SUCs and local universities and colleges already have their own admission exams.

He gave assurances that through the Second Congressional Commission on Education, efforts to strengthen basic education will continue to improve learners’ chances of entering and completing college.