“The Department of Education (DepEd) itself is so huge, so centralized that we cannot really carry out reforms, the way DepEd is structured. That is why we are really pushing in the EDCOM to decentralize [DepEd]”. This is what Fr. Bienvenido “Ben” Nebres, a member of the Second Congressional Commission’s (EDCOM 2) Advisory Council, emphasized during an interview with Rappler’s John Nery.
“Give more autonomy with respect to curriculum, to the implementation, to the division level, or at least to the regional level”, Fr. Nebres emphasized.
During the interview, Nebres shared his hope that the Commission will look at the structural problems of the education system.
“I don’t know if you realize that there are only three signing authorities: the Secretary, the Division Secretary, and the Principals…but you have 800,000 teachers, 45,000 elementary schools…we have to find a structure that is more decentralized so that it can be more effective”, he said.
“It would be great if EDCOM can really reform the K-12 law…and create a more decentralized DepEd”, Fr. Nebres said.
Decentralization is listed as one of the 28 Priority Areas of the Commission. EDCOM notes that we must decentralize the governance structure in education to make the system more agile, participatory, innovative, and responsive.
Dr. Allan Bernardo: Use int’l assessments to guide education reform
In a separate Rappler interview, Dr. Allan B.I. Bernardo, Distinguished University Professor at De La Salle University and member of the EDCOM 2 Standing Committee on Basic Education, shared his thoughts on the country’s dismal performance in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment.
“The results still show that over 80% of students who participated in PISA were still performing below expected standards…so you can imagine what are the implications of this generation of young people who we expect to contribute to our economy in the next 10, 20, 30 years, who can’t do math”, Dr. Bernardo said.
Bernardo also explained how the PISA performance of students in the Philippines is unaffected by their socioeconomic status. “The effect of SES is smaller, so the gap between the highest income deciles and the lowest income deciles is narrower. Is that a good thing? We need to look further in the data, because it may just mean that everyone is regressing towards the mean, so there’s less of a spread in the performance, unlike in OECD countries, where there is more variance”.
“This kind of reflects that we’re really at the bottom and we’re all squished there…it just means that, even those from the higher income families, even those going to the expensive schools, are still not performing at the level of those other countries”, he explained.
Dr. Bernardo continued, “The whole system is underperforming, really – where even the ones who are in the well-resourced centers are not performing at the same level as the best of our neighbors”.
Dr. Bernardo also highlighted the need to use PISA data to inform education reforms in the country. “I think that was the intention of the Philippine government when it decided to participate in these international surveys. It’s to use the rich data to guide our discussions on education reform. I feel we haven’t done enough of that”, he said.
“We need to stay focused on these bad results and go beyond just feeling bad about them. Because there is a lot in PISA that we can learn from”, he continued.
As the Commission wraps up its first year of operation, it also looks forward to the completion of 100-plus research projects from its research arm, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, and its research partners, De La Salle University, the University of the Philippines, and the Ateneo de Manila University. These projects seek to inform education reforms that EDCOM 2 will put forward in the next two years.
Link to Fr. Nebres interview (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZPThnCVlVoY
Link to Prof. Bernardo interview (YouTube): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPVX7h7nNcM
EDCOM 2 is the Congressional body created through RA11899, tasked to undertake a comprehensive national assessment and evaluation of the performance of the Philippine education sector. In the next three years, it will also recommend legislation that aims to address the education crisis in the country.
MEDIA NOTE: All interview requests related to EDCOM II should be directed to the EDCOM II Communications Office at [email protected].