President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. attends the presentation of the DepEd Basic Education Report 2023 in Pasay City on Monday where Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte discussed the challenges facing the education sector. PHOTO BY JOHN RYAN BALDEMOR

Private sector help needed to improve PH education

IN her Basic Education Report 2023, which she presented on Jan. 30, 2023, Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte confirmed that “Filipino learners are not academically proficient” and cited various reasons for that dismal state. She likewise admitted that these students lacked critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. However, she said that these shortcomings were not the fault of the teachers, but a failure of the present education system.

Government officials would always blame the system. It’s the system’s fault! The system has failed them. But who steers and controls the system?

Anyway, my column last week elicited some comments and suggestions from our readers. One particular message in my Viber account stood out — it was sent together with a couple of neatly crafted presentations of a private-sector initiative aimed at improving the country’s performance in the upcoming PISA 2025 examinations. PISA is the acronym for the Program for International Student Assessment, which is administered by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on a triennial basis.

The PISA 2018 “assessed the cumulative outcomes of education and learning at a point at which most children are still enrolled in formal education: the age of 15. The 15-year-olds in the PISA sample must also have been enrolled in an educational institution at Grade 7 or higher.”

Take note that in the reading performance area, the Philippines was at the bottom of the list among the 75 countries and economies tested. In the fields of science and mathematics, the Philippines is second to the last in the said two subjects.

Preparing for PISA 2025

Leo de Velez, co-founder of FrontLearners Inc., sent to me their proposal on how to prepare Filipino students in time for the PISA 2025 examinations. He observed that we “have about two years to prepare and make the improvements effective and structural. We need to start now in preparing Grades 7 and 8 students so that they will be ready by 2025.”

FrontLearners observed that “over almost two decades, Filipino students were not achieving the desired level of learning competencies. This situation was highlighted by results of the Philippine National Achievement Test from 2006 to 2014. This was also reflected on the Philippines’ performance in the 2018 PISA and in the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Studies.”

Also, “efforts to improve student competencies while using conventional ways of teaching have been unfruitful. The economic implication of this dire situation calls for a structural change in the way students are taught. It is time to recognize that the differences in the way students learn should point to ways of teaching that cater to those differences. Investing additional human, financial and technological resources without changing instructional approaches will not yield significant improvement on the students’ competency.”

Available information shows that PISA 2025 will focus on science and three knowledge areas will be added here — sustainability, scientific knowledge, and data science and informatics. These focus areas should be incorporated into the curriculum of the future PISA 2025 examination takers.

In order to meet the PISA 2025 challenge, FrontLearners proposes an eight-point program (which I suggested they submit to the Department of Education for appropriate action).

These are: “1) Assign tech[nology]-abled teachers for Grades 7 and 8 math, science and English (MSE); 2) move up the MSE teachers with their students to ensure learning continuity; 3) update [high school] math, science, reading curriculum to align timing and to add new knowledge areas and competencies that will be covered by PISA exam; 4) advance schedule of some lessons in Grade[s] 9-10 that will be covered in PISA; 5) prioritize budget for TV, interactive devices, curriculum-aligned PISA-related learning resources, and teacher training for computer-based lessons and exams; 6) conduct PISA-like quarterly exam online and offline for progress monitoring of effectiveness of the different improvement and intervention strategies; 7) conduct PISA test-taking exercises to develop students’ technical skills and confidence in taking the computer-based PISA exam; and 8) conduct PISA mock exam to familiarize all teachers and students to the types of questions in the exam, a year or months before the [actual examination date].”

Adjustments in the introduction of topics in mathematics is necessary to equip Filipino students the skills required in PISA 2025. Some of the math items covered during the PISA exam would only be covered in the curriculum after the PISA exam schedule, which is already too late. While most of the students would take the PISA during the second quarter of Grade 9, the topics to be assessed are to be covered in the curriculum only during the third/fourth quarter of Grade 9.

Finally, de Velez wrote that, “[T]he current curriculum covers most of the reading cognitive processes except the corroborating and handling conflicting information and data. We need additional learning activities related to assessing quality and credibility of data and information.”

What is the purpose of education?

Education is meant to impart knowledge and skills to individuals that they can use to live fulfilling lives and contribute to society. Education helps individuals develop the ability to analyze information, think critically and solve problems. Education equips individuals with the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in their chosen careers.

The vice president believes that “children must know that hardships in life are not overcome by the best minds … but by the strongest hearts.” Well, that is her belief. However, education is first and foremost academics, the shaping of the mind into its best form.

The Education secretary further believes that “hard work … hard work … hard work … only if we work the hardest” that we could be successful. Sorry, but I personally do not share the same vision.

For me, I believe in working smart … not working hard!

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