MANILA — Education advocates on Monday are calling for the meeting of an Education Commission to address what they described as a "learning crisis" in the country.
"We are calling for the reconstitution of a multi-stakeholder Education Commission participated by all sectors of society to analyze the gaps, look for opportunities and pave the ground on which we built our [educational] reform efforts," Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) Executive Director Love Basillote said in a virtual press conference.
Basillote explained that an EdCom is different from the Department of Education (DepEd), which manages the delivery of basic education in the country, because the commission is composed of the executive department, lawmakers, and civil and private society groups "coming together to set out the directions for Philippine education."
The EdCom will also discuss not just matters on basic education but also higher and technical-vocational education, she said.
PBEd officials said there has been an education "crisis" in the country even before the COVID-19 pandemic, citing poor learning outcomes and performance of Filipinos in international learning assessments, and malnutrition, among others.
"It was made worse by this pandemic. And our inability to properly respond to the pandemic through a proper distance learning system — through online systems, properly written modules — is evidence of a lack of attention given to education in the past," said PBEd President Chito Salazar.
Basillote urged the government to increase the budget for the education sector and implement a "plan of action" to address malnutrition.
She said there was also a need to strengthen pre-primary education and the implementation of the mother tongue based-multilingual education.
Teachers from kindergarten to Grade 3 are not "well capacitated to teach in the mother tongue," said PBEd Policy and Advocacy Manager Marco delos Reyes, citing data from RTI International 2020.
Basillote also called for the passage of the Teacher Education Scholarship for Achievers (TEACH) Bill that would provide teacher education scholarships and improve teacher quality.
There must also be an independent agency that will assess students' learning, Basillote said.
In the same briefing, Salazar urged people to make education a "priority issue" in the upcoming 2022 elections.
"We need an education president, we need an education legislature and we need an education local government system as well," he said.
A recent World Bank report found that "more than 80 percent of Filipino students are unable to meet learning standards expected for their grade," also citing the country's poor performance in international assessments.
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