House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd District) urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to “shape up” and engage in serious and comprehensive efforts to reform the education system and improve learner outcomes, instead of “explaining away” the issue of functional and latent illiteracy, after an Inquirer article reported that 70,000 grade school students in Bicol “cannot read.”

“Yung point ng DepEd, hindi naman daw “no-read, no-write” ang ibig sabihin nung “cannot read” sa sarili nilang evaluation. Most of us economists and policymakers already knew that anyway, just by reading the PISA 2018 report on the Philippines. What PISA says is only about 20 percent of 15 year-olds can use their reading, science, and mathematics skills in some useful manner.”

“By denying that there is no “epidemic” of illiteracy in the country, what DepEd is saying is wala namang delubyo, baha lang. How is that helpful?” Salceda said.

“Look, I am not faulting DepEd for this issue. Kaya nga systemic, kasi walang isang tao lang na may kasalanan. Faceless ang systemic issues. Pero yun na nga yung punto. SystemicYungg prproblemHindi pwedeng retail problem-solving for a comprehensive problem. Lalong hiHindiwedeng denying away the problem. None of that will work as effectively as just shaping up and admitting that we need to make radical changes.” Salceda said.

“Comprehensive problems require comprehensive solutions. That’s why I have been pushing for the Comprehensive Education Reform Agenda. We need to move towards a better model guided by the simple principle of Not Many But Much. No overloading of the curriculum. No overburdening of teachers. No student left behind.”

“We have models to guide us. The Finnish model, which is recognized as one of the best, if not the best in the world, is light on workload. It has fewer students per teacher. Everyone is trained to be a skilled worker – a hybrid of HUMSS and TESDA. And students are guaranteed free nutritious meals,” Salceda said.

Salceda’s Comprehensive Education Reform Agenda is moving towards the characteristics of the Finnish model of education. HB 6231, or the Teacher Empowerment Act, aims to reduce teacher workload and to improve teacher training to improve the quality of teaching. HB 6247, or the K to 12 Reform Act, will deload the curriculum while enhancing technical and vocational education, improving the quality of learning materials, and correcting other issues in the current K to 12 system. HB 6287, or the Meister Schools Act, will set up schools specially catering to high-value technical skills. HB 6295, or the Universal Free School Meals Program, will guarantee access to free nutritious meals for school children from low-income households.

Salceda is also pushing for safer schools, financing for underserved schools, and a “Build, Build, Build” for education. The economist-lawmaker says he is filing all of the bills by end of February

“Big problems need big solutions. I urge the Department of Education to look at the Comprehensive Education Reform Agenda. We have enough time in Congress to begin deliberations on these reforms during the first half of the year. They will have to appear on the hearings anyway, so I strongly suggest that they study these reforms and make their recommendations as soon as they can,” Salceda said.

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