Senate bill eyes college students as tutors to cut pandemic 'learning losses'

Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2022 03:53 PM

A registered teacher wearing a face mask and shield as a precaution against COVID-19 gestures in front of a computer as she and dozens other teachers conduct a teleconference with struggling students, helping them in their school lessons at a local government-sanctioned online tutorial class in Taguig City on March 3,2021. Ted Aljibe, AFP
A registered teacher wearing a face mask and shield as a precaution against COVID-19 gestures in front of a computer as she and dozens other teachers conduct a teleconference with struggling students, helping them in their school lessons at a local government-sanctioned online tutorial class in Taguig City on March 3,2021. Ted Aljibe, AFP

MANILA — A Senate bill eyes tapping college students as tutors for younger children to cut "learning losses" caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Under the Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning (ARAL) Program Act proposed by Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, tertiary level students may volunteer as tutors provided that they are at or above the 75th percentile of their respective schools in the subject that they will be teaching. 

They should also pass a mock tutoring session to be administered by the Department of Education (DepEd). 

During a committee hearing on Tuesday, DepEd-National Capital Region's chief education program supervisor Jennifer Vivas said that as senior high school students progress, "the percentage of learners who are not proficient is increasing," especially in science, math, and English. 

Vivas added that the Rapid Literacy Assessment, which surveyed 388,000 first to third grade students in NCR, showed 49,000 learners cannot read.

"Through the ARAL Program, the culture of tutoring, collaboration ay mas nating mapapaigting (is intensified)... Ang bago po dito (what is new here) is using, tapping our college learners," Vivas said.

"Hindi po siya nag-go against (it doesn't go against) in the existing remediation. It is actually strengthening, reinforcing pa," she added.

Meanwhile, Dr. Marilyn Balagtas, chairman and president of the Philippine Educational Measurement and Evaluation Association (PEMEA), suggested including as potential volunteer tutors all tertiary students, as young as freshmen. 

For UNICEF Education Specialist Nicholas Tenazas, teachers should no longer be tapped as tutors as they are already "overworked".

"In terms of possible tutors, first point would be to maybe not include the current teacher as the tutor. For 2 reasons: number 1, they are already overworked. But number 2, they are the same people that are teaching the same students," he said. 

"So if there are some issues in the classroom that might be leading to poor learning, we might be perpetuating this, we might just be repeating this in the tutoring session," he added.

Tenazas said para-teachers, qualified teacher applicants, retired teachers, and students in teacher education institutions can all be tapped as tutors.

Teaching parents and guardians the necessary competencies per grade level will also help, so that they will know what to teach their children, he said.

BUDGET, COMPENSATION

Gatchalian sought a P20-billion budget for the ARAL Program.

The senator said while this "seems very big at face value", it is "actually quite small" when compared to the P10.8-trillion potential productivity and wage losses in the next 40 years computed by National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). 

NEDA Dir. Girlie Casimiro-Igtiben agreed that the P20-billion allocation is "logical." She said that this must go to the important components of the program, including necessary supplies and materials. 

"There's really a need to invest right now in terms of a recovery program for our learners. There is no appropriate time but now to implement the reforms that we need to really catch up with the learning losses that we had in the last 2 years of the pandemic," she said.

Under the bill, teachers who serve as tutors shall be compensated subject to the existing rules and regulations of the DepEd and the Department of Budget and Management.

But Dir. Perpetual Judea Quiazon from the DBM's Budget Information Legislative Liaison Service said the bill should be explicit on whether or not the tutorial activities would be considered as actual classroom teaching.

"For teachers who are teaching in DepEd schools, if the bill intends to consider the tutorial sessions as actual classroom teaching, the teachers may be paid honoraria pursuant to the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers," Quiazon said.

"For teachers and para-teachers who are private individuals to be hired as tutors by DepEd and to be funded from the budget of DepEd, this will be subject to the existing policy of hiring under the contract of service. This is to be funded from the MOOE (Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses) of the DepEd," she added.