Education as the premise of progress – BusinessWorld Online

Posted: January 2, 2020 at 7:41 am

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The Philippine Constitution clearly states that the State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels of education and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all.

To further emphasize this basic policy, other sections of the Constitution enunciate the duty of the State to establish, maintain and support a complete, adequate and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society.

That education is given one entire article Article 14 in the basic law of the land is a reflection of how our constitutional framers clearly recognize the ardent desire of parents to have their children finish school, face the world and grab economic opportunities, improve themselves and elevate the standard of living of their families. Education is the ultimate enabler for any individual, regardless of location, race, sex, or creed. Oftentimes, it is a vehicle for upward mobility that would allow anyone to transcend the limits of ones birth.

So when the results of the OECD-administered Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018 were recently released, the reaction was utmost dismay, frustration and embarrassment. The results showed that Filipino students garnered a mean of 340 points in reading comprehension, which is starkly below the established average of 487 points. And we all know that reading skills are a cornerstone of a human beings ability to understand, comprehend, decide and take action in response to day-to-day human and societal events. Such skills are crucial to any professional undertaking.

In the areas of mathematics and science, competencies which are core to the nations vision of being globally competitive in technology, industry and innovation, our students got a mean of 353 in Math, and 357 in Science, against a 489 OECD average for both categories. Interestingly enough, China beat the pack by garnering scores higher than the aforementioned OECD averages.

NATIONAL RESPONSE The reaction of the country, at first, was defensive disbelief and eventually, a humbling acceptance. After an honest recognition of the gaps and weaknesses of our educational system, its infrastructure, and issues around teacher-pupil ratio, and classroom shortages, teacher education development program, conditional school feeding and other initiatives are now being revived.

These results are also frustrating and embarrassing to the international community which has depended for many decades on millions of our workers and professionals who enjoyed the reputation of being well educated with good speaking skills and relationship management. If the scores are this low, how can we still be competitive or even respected within and outside of the Philippines?

Particularly encouraging, on hindsight, is the fact that our Department of Education (DepEd) made a conscious and brave decision to participate in PISA for the first time in 2018. Education Secretary Leonor Briones exercised political will by going through the process, accepting the results, and paving the way for understanding the deficiencies of our educational system and providing solutions that are not only relevant for students today but also those belonging to the next generation. And coping with the future risks and opportunities is very important because our youth are exposed to learning and communicating through the use of advanced information technology, artificial intelligence, and robotics. Secretary Briones is fully aware that the tools for future education shall be radically different from what we use today and in the next few years.

NECESSARY SOLUTION Thus, participation in the PISA, no matter how painful the results were, was a journey worth taking. It was the proverbial bitter pill urgently needed to cure the ailing educational infrastructure. In fact, the DepEd launched Sulong Edukalidad which seeks to institute reforms in four key areas of K to 12 review and updating, improvement of learning facilities, teachers and school heads up-skilling and re-skilling through a transformed professional development program, and engagement of all stakeholders for support and collaboration.

Sulong Edukalidad has a great potential of being an effective platform which shall hopefully improve our scores in the PISA and make education a true vehicle for the ordinary students liberation from illiteracy, ignorance, and despondency. The overall agenda to ensure that our educational system shall be at par with the more advanced societies of the world is truly a paramount obligation of the state to its citizens.

Ariel F. Nepomuceno is a management consultant on strategy and investment.

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Education as the premise of progress - BusinessWorld Online

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January 2nd, 2020 at 7:41 am

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