• Briones commits to improving basic education, vows transparency


    THE Department of Education (DepEd) under the watch of Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday said it is committed to improving the country’s basic education system, as it promised an active, transparent, consultative, collaborative and corruption-free leadership.

    The Education department is also committed to responding to reasonable demands of teachers and non-teaching personnel, Briones added.

    “We will also continue existing cooperation with the private sector and communities, as well as with bilateral and multilateral institutions toward the fulfillment of our vision and agenda,” she said in her keynote speech during the recently held education summit at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City (Metro Manila).

    According to the DepEd chief, she will expand Adopt-A-School project and other partnerships.

    “Thus, we will continue the efforts to get our school-age children to school, and to keep them in school up to completion of basic education. But for those who are not reached by the formal basic education system, the Department of Education under my term is determined to intensify and expand our Alternative Learning Systems [ALS] for out-of-school children, youth and adults whom we are unable to reintegrate to formal education,” Briones said.

    “We will do this through better targeting of beneficiaries, broader coverage and prioritization of these programs by implementing units, partnerships and modalities that fit the circumstances of target learners,” she added.

    Briones said the ALS program will be one of the major legacies of the Duterte administration.

    According to the DepEd chief, education should be relevant and responsive to the needs and aspirations of a country.

    The Education department, under orders from President Rodrigo Duterte, has strengthened and enriched further curricular reforms in connection with the government’s war on illegal drugs and promotion of reproductive health and disaster preparedness, Briones said.

    “Specifically, we are strengthening the drug education component in Science and Health by providing real-life lessons via alternative learning methods, starting in Grade 4,” she added.

    “We are [also]strengthening gender and development component of school curricula especially in relation to sex education and teenage pregnancy. We are giving emphasis to environmental awareness, disaster preparedness and climate-change adaptation and mitigation,” the DepEd chief said.

    Briones also promised to continue implementation of the K-to-12 [Kindergarten to Grade 12] basic education curriculum.

    “I have committed to pursue the full implementation of K-to-12. The program is not about simply adding school years to basic education to be at par with international norm but more about the content and the intended outcomes in terms of upgrading education quality,” she said.

    “The program involves the overhaul of our basic education curriculum to make every learner ready for higher education or for work anywhere, equipped with 21st century skills comprising learning and innovation skills; information, media and technology skills; effective communications skills; and life and career skills,” the DepEd chief added.

    Of the 25 million students in basic education, 21 million are in public schools, Briones said.

    “You can imagine the massive education inputs that we need to deliver on account of overhauling the curriculum and adding to the years of schooling, in terms of constructing new classrooms, hiring and training of teachers, and providing textbooks, learning materials, laboratories and computer packages,” she added.

    Briones noted that the Duterte administration has allotted a bigger budget for the Education department for the next school year.

    “The administration has given its immediate response by proposing an unprecedented 31 percent increase in the DepEd budget for 2017, from P433.5 billion to P569 billion,” she said, adding that the proposed appropriation is now closer to the 4 to 6 of Gross Domestic Product ideal appropriation indicated by international standards.

    “This belies any notion that this government is by any measure abandoning public basic education in favor of privatization,” Briones, a former national treasurer, said.

    The DepEd chief also noted that there was a drastic improvement in the department’s absorptive capacity.

    “As of June 30, 2016, of the P30.3 billion adjusted allotment, P17.6 billion remained unobligated. For the 2016 appropriations, of the P79.3 billion allotment for MOOE [maintenance and other operating expenses]and capital outlay, P63.9 billion remained unobligated,” she said.

    Briones added that she is committed to put in place financial management reforms to ensure availability and timely delivery of infrastructure and learning resources both for formal and non-formal education.

    “We are introducing greater leadership supervision and oversight over finance, administration and procurement. We are setting up an education program monitoring and delivery unit to monitor budget execution and coordinate timely interventions when bottlenecks arise,” she said.

    “We will develop and establish a financial management information system able to track the status of the department’s budget releases real time. We are now in the thick of planning our 2017 activities with the objectives of breaking free from the ‘catch up’ of budget execution that has so far characterize the department’s performance budget,” Briones added.

    She said she is open to experimenting with new ideas and pathways to innovation in teaching delivery and content that can maximize the full potential learners, noting that a liberating education should not overlook the development of soft skills.

    “Not all students can be doctors, scientists, engineers or lawyers. We need to find ways to understand the disposition and interests of our learners, including being artistically inclined, or wanting to take up sports, and be able to offer avenues and teaching support to make those interests flourish,” Briones added.

    “In the current context of work that requires problem solving, working with people and communities, working in teams and working in different cultural settings, we need teachers who are able to teach and train our learners to effectively communicate, collaborate and adapt,” the DepEd chief explained.

    Briones said she is seeking to strengthen ties with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to fully addres problems of deteriorating quality education in the country.

    “To be frank, we have had limited interaction with our attached agencies in the few months that we have been in office. Let this summit start to change that, and find among us greater mutual relevance and reason for common work,” she added.

    “I will conclude by emphasizing the need for us in the education sector, especially the three lead agencies of DepEd [Department of Education], CHED and Tesda] to coordinate better. It is abundantly clear that we face common challenges in society, economy and environment. None of us can meet these challenges alone,” the DepEd chief added.

    “Be it in providing pre-service and in-service education and training of our teachers, undertaking research and development, linking with the national and global economy, forging stronger ties with industry or working for common qualifications standards, and all these require us to work together and in a coherent manner,” Briones said.

    This year’s summit aims to define the medium and long-term education vision and agenda for the trifocal education system – basic education, technical-vocational education and tertiary education.

    The summit also tackled other issues such as linkage of education and the economy; human resource and management issues in education; understanding the condition and needs of learners to guide intervention; digital education and use of technology in the knowledge and information age; higher education as a force of social and cultural transformation; and higher education as accelerator of innovation and inclusive economic prosperity. NEIL A. ALCOBER


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