Secretary, Department of Education
July 4, 2016
WHY THIS JOYOUS CELEBRATION?
This morning, we are celebrating not only the assumption into office of the new Secretary of Education. We are also celebrating the determination and courage of my predecessor, Br. Armin Luistro who initiated much needed educational reforms against all odds, amidst concerted opposition and fears about the future of Philippine education.
Last June 13, 2016, both Br. Armin and I witnessed the opening of the Academic School Year 2016-2017 and the launching of the Senior High School Program. Together, we visited several classrooms, talked to the Regional Director, the Division Superintendent, the District Supervisor, the Principal, the school teachers and most important of all, the students. Together, we monitored reports from all over the country on the status of Senior High School enrolment, verified data on teachers reportedly laid off, and the state of school buildings, equipment, and textbooks.
Today, Br. Armin will finally get his dearest wish: to retire to a farm and reflect on his life experiences before going back to the world. Today, I will be carrying on and finishing what he started even as I add my own vision, perspectives and initiatives. But I will not be alone . In addition to my small team, I have the entire educational system--private and public institutions, organizations of schools, civil society organizations, media, and of course the entire DepEd, as well as my personal friends. And yes, the environment of education--the churches, social institutions, and most of all families who still believe in the old adage that education begins at home.
Today, I am expected to lay down my priorities and what spectacular, dramatic objective I will attain in six months. Whatever it is, you and I know I can't do it alone! At any rate I may not be able to do it in six months!
STUDYING THE HOUSE OF EDUCATION
I am joining a venerable old house which is over a hundred years old. Before I make my plans, it is important that I study this house --its strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities and its capacities. A friend and colleague from the National College of Public Administration has advised me to use Sharkansky's model of the public administration system and apply it to DepEd. It is a variation of the input-output model as applied to a government agency.
Among the various inputs to the DepEd system --demands and expectations from the public, human and financial resources -- we decided to examine the budget. It is a matter of extreme urgency. While we have findings about the 2015 and 2016 budgets and would dearly love to poke into their fascinating and scandalous nooks and crannies, we need to focus on the 2017 budget. This is because the budget has to be submitted within thirty days after the opening of the Regular Session.
As mandated by the Constitution, DepEd has the largest budgetary allocation. For 2016, it has a Ph440 billion allocation with 700,000 personnel tasked to deliver services in education. Nonetheless, this allocation is still inadequate in terms of international standards requiring 6% of the GDP to be spent in education.
The pressure to submit a 2017 budget which reflects not only the national objectives of the Duterte Administration but also the specific priorities of DepEd is indeed formidable.
From inputs, we move on to what Sharkansky describes as the "conversion" process. Others call it the throughput or transformation process. This is when resources are converted and translated into actual goods and services. To do this, processes and procedures must be efficient; financing must be prudent and economical. There have to be sufficient teachers, school buildings, tools like computer kits, textbooks and school supplies.
It is an accepted fact that the procurement process is perhaps the most problematic in the "conversion" process. There are many complaints about underspending, wastage, and what we in the academe euphemistically describe as "deviant bureaucratic behavior." A major culprit is delays in procurement. After the need to reformulate the budget, the urgent task to speed up and clean up the procurement process is the next urgent task. We have learned to our bitter regret that fiddling and tinkering with the constitution will not solve bottlenecks in procurement and low absorptive capacity.
Now that the major "star" of the education reform process, the Senior High School Program, has been launched, there is a need to continually monitor and assess the progress of this program whose effects are expected to be wide-ranging. Admittedly, we still lack school buildings, computers and tools, furniture and fixtures and additional teachers. These needs are being responded to as quickly as possible.
And of course, let us not forget to further expand our Alternative Learning System or ALS. My passion for ALS is shaped by the advocacies of Social Watch Philippines, as well as my own life experiences.
Many of you were not yet born when World War II broke out and the Philippines was conquered by Japan. A university in Southern Philippines founded by American missionaries closed its facilities and its American and Filipino faculty fled to the hills. Did the attendant difficulties and the constant fear of capture deter the teachers from continuing their mission to teach? No! they set up a jungle university and continued to teach the mountain communities. They never lost sight of the fact that war or no war, they were primarily school teachers.
During the war my family escaped to the hills with the rest of the family. We hid in a place which took days to reach. My mother who was a teacher did not let the horrors of war deter her from teaching. News would reach them about young women getting raped, pregnant women eviscerated, and children tossed into the air and bayoneted. She gathered the children from the mountain villages and taught them to read and write, using banana leaves with their natural lines, and sharpened bamboo sticks. I was then three years old and listened to the lessons which my mother imparted.
When the war was over, children were tested to determine their grade equivalences. I was then four years old and just went along with my aunt. The district supervisor tested me and decided to promote me by two grades. And I was not even enrolled!
The Department of Education had not invented ALS then but these experiences showed that one can get educated without formal schooling.
I have stated that I am joining a venerable old house. I have to make sure also that the house is not infested with anay and weakened by rot.
It is very likely that at my tender age, this will be my last turnover. With Br. Armin's help, the cooperation of private and public educational institutions, fellow agencies in government involved in education, civil society organizations, faith-based institutions, families and the media, and of course, my new DepEd family -- all the officials and personnel of DepEd, both academic and non -academic, at the central and regional offices, divisions, and schools and learning centers -- this will not only be my last turnover; it just might be my most successful effort!