DepEd: low gov't spending, lack in teacher training behind low PH ranking in PISA

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FILE PHOTO. Education Secretary Leonor Briones says the government failed to spend portions of its gross domestic product (GDP) for education, a factor which may have caused the Philippines to lag behind other countries in the 2018 Programme for the International Student Assessment (PISA).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 5) – The Department of Education (DepEd) said Thursday that it had anticipated the Philippines' low ranking in the 2018 Programme for the International Student Assessment (PISA), pointing to a "correlation" with the current quality of education in the country.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the government failed to spend portions of its gross domestic product (GDP) for education, a factor which may have caused the Philippines to lag behind other countries in the survey.

"'Yung learning environment, taon-taong nasisira mga classrooms, mga equipment. Isang obserbasyon sa report, hindi natin na-reach ang minimum standard percent of GDP spent for education. Mababa pa rin ang spending for education," Briones said.

[Translation: The learning environment, every year classrooms and other learning equipment are damaged. The report also observed that we failed to reach the minimum standard percent of GDP spent for education. We still have a low spending for education.]

Briones noted that access to schools from far-flung areas need to be improved in two years' time.

She also called to elevate the status of DepEd's training arm, the National Educators Academy, into a "real academy" to thoroughly upskill the country's teachers and meet the students' ideal standard for learning.

"Ang ating National Educators Academy, kailangan i-transform into a real academy na [may] puspusang training sa ating mga teachers. Pumasa sila sa LET (Licensing Exam for Teachers), nag-aral na sila sa universities, pero iba na ngayon ang pangangailangan kaya that also explains sa ating mga scores," Briones added.

[Translation: Our National Educators Academy needs to be transformed into a real academy that will thoroughly train our teachers. They may have passed the LET or studied in universities, but the demands have changed nowadays and that explains our scores.]

With an average reading score of 340, the Philippines ranked last among 79 countries in the global survey done by Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) assessing 15-year-old students.

The country also obtained a low average score of 353 in science and 357 in mathematics.

This is the first time that the Philippines joined the assessment program.

READ: Philippines ranks low in reading, science, math, global survey shows

Prior to the release of the PISA results, the DepEd said it had raised in the congressional budget hearings the urgent need to "pivot" to improve the Philippines' education system.

"Hindi pa ito lumabas 'tong mga resultang ito, nagreport na kami sa Cabinet at nagreport na rin kami sa Congress at Senado. Nag-budget hearing ngayong taon, sinabi na namin yan dahil sumali tayo dito, hindi tayo nage-expect na sobrang mataas [ang score]," Briones said.

[Translation: Even when these results were not issued yet, we already reported to the Cabinet, to Congress and the Senate. We raised during the budget hearings that since we joined this survey, we are not expecting that we will get a high score.]

The United Nations recommends that the government should spend at least six percent of their GDP on education. Members of the Senate earlier raised that the Philippines is only spending 3.9 percent of the GDP.

In a separate interview, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian expressed a similar sentiment: that curriculum reform and teachers' training need to be prioritized.

"We're looking at the curriculum, revise it. And make it much more spread out rather than cramped. These are the things that need to be reformed. Too much competencies, possibly too much subjects," he said.

"For me, I am an optimist, and I want to look at the upside, and the upside here is we're doing a lot of reforms already. DepEd is now pivoting to quality, which the legislature will now support. The support will come in funding," Gatchalian added.

The House of Representatives and the Senate are set to finish next week the bicameral deliberations on the proposed P4.1-trillion budget for 2020, a significant chunk of which will be used to augment funding for the agency.

A total of P14 billion will be allocated to the DepEd's quick response fund for the repair of classrooms stricken by calamities and the agency's Last Mile Schools Program, which seeks to ensure that rural schools will also get equal access to quality basic education.