Basic education budget hurdles Senate panel

The Senate Finance Committee has approved on Thursday the proposed P551.72-billion budget for the basic education sector for 2020, following the hearing of Subcommittee ‘D’ led by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, the panel’s vice chairperson. 

The budget for the Department of Education (DepEd) and its attached agencies, which increased by 3.79% from 2019’s P531.57-billion budget, will now move to the plenary for deliberations. 

The attached agencies of DepEd include the Philippine High School for the Arts, National Council for Children’s Television, National Book Development Board, National Museum, and Early Childhood Care and Development Council.    

“We are happy to support your budget. I also thank DepEd for acknowledging my observation to create an office on innovation and futures thinking for education,” said Cayetano, who also chairs the newly created Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking. 

During the budget hearing, DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones showed support for the proposal to create a separate committee on innovation and futures thinking in order to confront new trends in the sector.

Cayetano for her part expressed hope that, after receiving the lion’s share of the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, the agency would be able to address concerns involving the country’s public education system.

Among which is the need to improve the teacher-to-student ratio in public schools in the country, by hiring more teachers and adopting learning innovations to oversee the development of students. 

“To address the issue of classroom sizes and the lack of learning resources, I want to start the discussion on blended learning,” the senator said, referring to the education style where students are taught through traditional face-to-face teaching, as well as via electronic and online media.

“I am a proponent of multilevel classrooms. I am also a proponent of personalized education… I have yet to go to a public school where the materials available are overflowing,” she added.

The senator then encouraged DepEd to ensure the full delivery of services under its DepEd Computerization Program (DCP), which gives both public school teachers and students access to multimedia tools and technologies to promote digital literacy.

“There are many ways to teach a child. We can make it more exciting,” Cayetano said, adding that technology-based blended learning could enable teachers to attend to the needs of each child in their class. 

Meanwhile, the senator also urged the agency to step up in improving the quality of the country’s public educators.   

She cited Finland as a model for education reforms, noting that all Finnish teachers have master’s degrees. 

“We should be looking at similar targets. We could [allot] a fund and divide it geographically to provide Filipino teachers with scholarships,” Cayetano suggested.

“What I recommend is to have in-house training, as well as scholarships for international training. So that in the coming years, we will have more quality teachers,” she added. 

Finally, the senator pushed anew for the improvement of Filipino youths’ English proficiency to make them more job-ready and globally competitive. 

“I want to make sure we have a strategic program on [English proficiency] because [this is] our edge among other countries. English competence should not be set aside just because we are teaching [children]  in the mother tongue,”  Cayetano stressed. #

Senator Cayetano expressed hope that, after receiving the lion’s share of the P4.1-trillion national budget for 2020, the agency would be able to address urgent concerns involving the country’s public education system.

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