Situating PISA Within Sulong EduKalidad

Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones

Department of Education

December 4, 2019

SEAMEO Innotech, Quezon City

Participating in PISA

In 2018, DepEd boldly decided to participate in the Programme for International Assessment (PISA), an international assessment that measures 15-year old students’ reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years. We made the decision, despite anticipating a poor showing based on indications from our NAT performance, for a number of reasons:

  1. We want to find out our standing in global education, as we aim to globalize the quality of Philippine basic education;
  2. We want to take advantage of an assessment designed and constantly updated by education experts around the world; and
  3. We want to have data for further study to complement our ownnational assessment.

To many in the country, it should be a wake-up call that the standards of quality are not static, and we need to be always abreast of these standards.

What PISA is not about to us is a ranking system, a competition, and a race to the top. We take it for our own purpose. We also caution that assessments like PISA and NAT do not solely define quality. There are other dimensions of quality that are not comprehended by these tests. Our National Festival of Talents, our performance demonstration of skills, many of the soft skills that we need, these may not be fully captured by these assessments.

But we need to maximize and perform well in assessment standards such as the PISA as we shift our focus to the quality of basic education. These assessments provide us mechanisms for baseline setting, diagnosis, and benchmarking for progress.

Sulong EduKalidad

Yesterday, we launched Sulong EduKalidad centered on four pillars of aggressive reforms for quality:

1. K to 12 curriculum review and update;
2. Improving the learning environment;
3. Teachers’ upskilling and reskilling; and
4. Engagement of stakeholders for support and collaboration.

Many of you are in yesterday’s launch, and I will not repeat my remarks yesterday; I am instead sharing a copy of my remarks. But let me emphasize that interventions are already happening in the concrete.

The curriculum review is ongoing, and we will hear some updates on thisat this afternoon’s panel.

The transformation of the National Educators Academy of the Philippines (NEAP) is well underway. We have secured Cabinet approval of additional plantilla items for the NEAP Central Office and NEAP in the regions. I am just waiting for the final draft, for my signature, of the Recognition Guidelines for all proposed professional development programs or courses for our teachers and school leaders. We are now bidding the refurbishment and renovation of our NEAP training facility in Baguio.

We have secured Cabinet endorsement of our proposal to expand the levels of teacher positions, with the addition of T4 to T7 to the present T1- T3. This will allow for broader promotions opportunities for our teachers but conditioned on professional development.

The Last Mile Schools is a new budget item beginning in 2020, addressing the facilities needs of the remote schools that have facilities gaps.

These are on top of all existing programs of the Department for access and quality.


Regarding the results of PISA, I make the following directives to the Undersecretaries and Directors here today:

Does the choice of language affect test performance? Reading in English is clearly a weakness of our learners, and this may also affect the performance of our learners in Science and Math, as the language of instruction and testing in later grades is English. With this, I direct the Curriculum and Instruction strand, specifically Bureau of Curriculum Development (BCD), and Bureau of Education Assessment (BEA) to study this further, but quite obviously we need to strengthen our teaching and learning in English, if we are to continue with English as our language of instruction and testing.

The ongoing curriculum review should closely examine the emphasis of foundational competencies of reading and numeracy, especially in the early grades. I direct that we make sure that through the curriculum review, these competencies are clearly articulated, and are not sacrificed by congestion of ancillary competencies.

I direct that the Bureau of Education Assessment to be more proactive in interacting with our units and the field to ensure alignment of our national and system assessment with curricular goals and instructional and classroom assessment practices at the school/classroom levels. The first step is for BEA to be more open to the field, not about specific assessment questions, but the assessment standards and tools, as well as the outcomes.There should be greater familiarity with this so that misalignments can be more visible at the level of the field.

Our message in Sulong EduKalidad is that addressing the challenge of quality will be a difficult and long-drawn process, and we need everyone’s support. But to be efficient, one limiting variable for all of our efforts and interventions is to ask: How will this translate in the concrete at the school and classroom level? It is at the level of the school and the classroom that quality will ultimately depend.