Teachers group flunks Sara as education secretary

Jun. 24, 2024
Photo from Alliance of Concerned Teachers-Philippines’ Facebook page

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Vice President Sara Duterte’s statement that her resignation as education secretary was made out of compassion for the teachers and the youth was confusing for the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT).  

“I really don’t understand what she meant by that statement. On the positive view, maybe she realized she is not effective as secretary of DepEd,” says France Castro, ACT Party-list Representative and House deputy minority leader.

Duterte’s appointment as education secretary in June 2022 by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has been questioned by teachers’ groups and educators. The vice president’s prior work was a lawyer and city mayor, with no experience in teaching.

Her resignation last June 19 was welcomed by ACT, as Castro said this was “long overdue.”

“She should have resigned earlier so there could be a secretary for DepEd who comes from the education sector and knows her role,” Castro said in a statement.  

Duterte had admitted her lack of educational background, particularly during the launch of her Matatag curriculum last year, stating that she relied on her undersecretary and education experts in reviewing and crafting the curriculum.

ACT said the MATATAG curriculum was launched prematurely last school year of 2023-24 as problems within the education sector and its curriculum still needed to be addressed. Castro noted the perennial lack of classrooms, teachers, and personnel.

Castro noted that the K-12 curriculum, launched in 2012, was yet to finish its assessment as instructed by Duterte. 

“There was a failure yet to complete the assessment of K-12, then they piloted the MATATAG curriculum which up to now will again be assessed,” the teacher solon said.

The MATATAG curriculum was crafted to address performance problems in students by focusing on literacy and numeracy.  But Rappler cited a report from the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM 2) and Philippine Institute of Development Studies that there was “no statistical difference in the expected percentage of competencies covered in MATATAG pilot schools vs non-pilot schools.”

Duterte made decisions that were met with questions by the teachers and the public, such as resuming face-to-face classes in the school year of 2022 with ample time for preparation.

Another move that was questioned was the removal of educational posters and materials in classrooms that teachers said are helpful visual aids to students.

The vice president also pushed for the implementation of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in college which was criticized by students and youth organizations.

On the welfare of teachers, Duterte failed to deliver on the promise of salary increases.  But she had ordered an increase in overtime pay.

The non-government organization Inklusibo noted that while the Department of Education got the largest share in the national budget in 2024 worth P924.7 billion, only the Office of the Secretary got a budget increase while other agencies faced budget cuts.

When ACT proposed to her in 2023 to hire 30,000 teachers annually to address teachers shortage, she said this was “impossible” with the government’s limited budget and criticized their call as “deceptive” by “placing  the government in a precarious situation that will ultimately end in failure.”

While the vice president refused to grant salary increase and to hire more teachers, she pushed for confidential and intelligence funds under DepEd to do surveillance in schools, which was also heavily criticized. The education secretary has also resorted to red-tagging and profiling local leaders of ACT, which is a recognized union for teachers.

Now that Duterte exited the education post, Castro said this was a waste of two years that could have solved the education crisis.

The teacher solon asked the Marcos Jr. administration to appoint a new education secretary who comes from the teachers’ sector and not be involved in politics like what Duterte did.

“(Our call) to Marcos Jr in choosing the next education secretary is that there’d be no more political accommodation. Less he’ll choose another person with no competence and no-how in the educational system.  There should be someone who can bring solutions to the education crisis, have compassion for teachers by supporting their call for increase in salaries and benefits,” Castro said. (davaotoday.com)

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