© Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB Senator Sherwin Gatchalian at a Senate hearing, Nov. 4, 2020. Photo: Albert Calvelo/Senate PRIB

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday said the Philippine government needs a call to arms for a drastic and disruptive system-wide reform to solve the country’s education crisis.

“Philippine elementary and high schools have been unsuccessful in teaching the most basic and essential competencies to the vast majority of learners. Hindi maikakaila… na hindi natututo ang marami nating mag-aaral sa paaralan,” Gatchalian said in a privilege speech.

“Masaklap man tanggapin pero lumalabas sa ating pagsusuri na bagsak ang marka ng mismong sistema ng basic education sa bansa,” he added.

Gatchalian heads the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture.

In 2019, the Philippines performed the poorest out of 79 countries in a reading literacy assessment conducted by the inter-government group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

In the same month last year, the Philippines was ranked last out of 58 countries in terms of performance in fourth-grade mathematics and science by an international education cooperative in a study.

According to Gatchalian, any conversation about basic education reform must include the K to 12 Law, which he said is the governing law of our basic education system.

He said the K to 12 program was originally packaged “as a necessary reform to address deficiencies of the previous 10th-grade curriculum and restructure the country’s education goals in line with the development of 21st-century competencies.”

“Eight years after its enactment, however, it does not appear the law has realized the intended boost to learner outcomes,” he said.

Due to this, Gatchalian said government officials must not merely review the K to 12 program “considering the perennial character of [the] education crisis.”

“Based on the outcome of future legislative inquiries and consultations, it would be necessary to pass sweeping amendments aimed at drastically improving the quality of education provided by our basic education institutions,” he said.

“We will need to evaluate the efficacy of the spiral progression, the mother tongue policies in their present forms, the congestion of the curriculum, and other issues in the law,” he added.

According to Gatchalian, he has urged the Department of Education to postpone joining the next Programme for International Student Assessment.

“I went as far as suggesting to DepEd to postpone joining PISA this coming 2021 or 2022, and because the country spends approximately P10 million to join,” he said.

“But we all know without massive reforms and interventions, we all know the outcome. And with this pandemic, the outcome is obvious, no? We might end up in the same place anyway so why waste P10 million if we did not do anything at all,” he added. — RSJ, GMA News