MANILA - Former education secretary Leonor Briones handed over the Department of Education flag and official seal to Vice President Sara Duterte on Monday as the latter takes over the leadership of the agency.
Duterte also received the Basic Education Development Plan 2030, the first long-term plan of the DepEd to address immediate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on learning, plug remaining access gaps, and improve education quality.
"We look forward to working with you as we take on the task of helping our children become our country’s assets," Duterte addressed the agency after thanking Briones whom she called by her nickname "Secretary Liling."
Briones said that the DepEd never had a long-term plan prior, a limit by the "anticipation of changes in the political, social, and economic environment."
The transition between the two secretaries happened in an event to honor Briones' 6 years of service under the administration of Duterte's father, former President Rodrigo Duterte, and to welcome the new vice president into the agency.
Calling criticisms of the state of the country's education crisis as "much moaning and groaning, and screaming and shouting," Briones cited gains which the education sector enjoyed during her term.
Among them were the identification and targeting of Last Mile Schools, the Alternative Learning System program, increasing teachers' salaries, the empowerment of regional offices in making decisions in their own local schools, and the country's participation in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).
"I was the first who made the decision that we have to look in the mirror and see how we fare with the others," Briones said, recalling that her predecessors never found the need to participate in the international assessment.
However, the Philippines fared dismally in the 2019 PISA, where the Philippines ranked last in reading, and second to last in science and mathematics among 79 countries that participated. This year, the Philippines will participate in the international learning assessment again.
Briones described her successor as kind, gentle, and caring for children, saying she saw her service as Davao City mayor. She said she is confident Duterte will "take care of the young of the Philippines."
"I will [also] take on the task with the reminder that we shall continue to find ways to improve basic education in terms of access, equity, quality, resiliency, and governance," said Duterte.
Duterte will inherit the responsibility of the educational attainment of some 28,033,530 learners, and the management of 60,428 schools and 1,001,590 personnel.
Five days before she officially assumed office, Duterte's newly appointed spokesperson Atty. Reynold Munsayac told ABS-CBN News that "the vice president-elect prepares to take on the education portfolio through 'readings and meetings.'"
Duterte earlier met with the DepEd's private education partners via Zoom, where Briones introduced and endorsed her.
"[I] would like to assure you that we will take these issues into consideration — with the hope of coming up with appropriate actions and effective solutions," Duterte said.
The new DepEd chief, who received her education from private schools, revealed she specifically asked Briones to meet with private educational sector partners exclusively. She heard messages from the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the Federation of Associations of Private School Administrators (FAPSA), and the Coordinating Council of Private Educationl Associations (COCOPEA) talking of various problems faced by the private education sector brought by the pandemic.
"Our task here is to protect our children and ensure that quality education is made accessible for them — whether they are enrolled in private or public schools, whether they are in the cities or the countryside," Duterte said.
She has expressed her desire to open schools for face-to-face classes as the next school year rolls in on August, aligned with Briones's targets.
The DepEd in May said it is developing a "learning recovery plan" that would guide schools in addressing learning gaps prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.