MANILA (UPDATE) — Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte bared Monday the Department of Education's plans to address the multiple problems hounding the country's basic education system.
At a hotel in Pasay City, Duterte launched the "MATATAG" agenda, which would serve as the DepEd's roadmap in addressing challenges in the basic education sector under her 6-year term.
"Today, the DepEd stands before you, heart in hand, humbly seeking your support," Duterte said.
"Improving access, equity, quality, resiliency and well-being will not happen overnight nor can it be done by DepEd alone. We need a national commitment and sustained effort from all sectors of the society," she added.
According to Duterte's presentation, "MATATAG" stands for the following:
- MAke the curriculum relevant to produce job-ready, active and responsible citizens.
- TAke steps to accelerate the delivery of basic education services and provision of facilities.
- TAke good care of learners by promoting learner well-being, inclusive education and a positive learning environment.
- Give support for teachers to teach better.
The DepEd plans to reduce the number of learning areas in the curriculum, and strengthen literacy and numeracy programs.
The agency will also continue to cooperate with the Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to address skills mismatch in the senior high school (SHS) program.
Duterte said a separate strand was created within DepEd to resolve issues on facilities and infrastructure.
The agency also plans to strengthen the "complementarity" between public and private schools through its government assistance and subsidies programs, and the creation of a separate office for the voucher program.
The DepEd will also ensure that students have access to psychosocial services and strengthen inclusive education programs, such as the Alternative Learning System and "last-mile schools," Duterte said.
She also reiterated the promise to relieve teachers of non-teaching tasks and continuously provide them with professional development programs.
Duterte stressed that even before the "MATATAG" agenda, the DepEd had already taken steps on education reforms, including the resumption of 5-days of in-person classes in public schools.
The DepEd also implemented the National Learning Recovery Plan "to support the efforts of our field offices in addressing learning loss," and began upskilling teachers.
Following a review, the DepEd is also finalizing the revised Kindergarten to Grade 10 curriculum, Duterte said, adding that the agency has also started reviewing the senior high school curriculum.
Prior to presenting the "MATATAG" agenda, Duterte admitted that Filipino learners "are not academically proficient" as she enumerated the problems hounding the basic education sector.
"Filipino learners experience emotional abuse and exhaustion. Some Filipino learners suffer from psychological fatigue. And being academically insecure, many of them may fail to meet the standards of the demanding and competitive world," Duterte said.
"These are caused and triggered by conditions present at home, in our communities, and even in our schools as a result of problems ingrained in our system," she added.
Duterte considers "the lack of school infrastructure and resources to support the ideal teaching process" as "the most pressing issue pounding the Philippine basic education."
According to DepEd's latest inventory, there are only 327,851 school buildings in the Philippines, catering to over 28 million learners in basic education.
Of the total, only 104,536 are "in good condition" with the remaining requiring repairs or "set for condemnation."
Other identified issues include "cracks" in the DepEd's procurement practices, the decrease in enrollment in private schools, disparity between the number of elementary and secondary schools in the country, congestion in the K-12 curriculum, employability of senior high school graduates, and lack of support for teachers, among others.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate Basic Education Committee Chairman Sherwin Gatchalian also attended the event.
Advocates have said an education crisis had been plaguing the Philippines even before the COVID-19 pandemic, citing poor learning outcomes and performance of Filipino students in international assessments.
The crisis, advocates said, was exacerbated by the pandemic as schools were forced to close and shift to a less effective remote learning setups.