Pia vows to increase funding for ‘Last Mile’ Schools

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has vowed to increase from P1.5 billion to P15 billion the funding allocation for the Department of Education’s (DepEd) Last Mile Schools (LMS) Program in next year’s proposed P4.1-trillion national government budget. 

Cayetano, the Senate Finance Committee vice chair, said the tenfold increase will benefit 830 Last Mile Schools located in far-flung and hinterland communities across the country.

“I have personally visited some of these schools whenever I would hike or bike to upland communities, particularly in the Cordillera Administrative Region,” she shared. 

A mountain biker and hiking enthusiast, Cayetano regularly visits upland schools in the north to bring learning materials and conduct fitness and football clinics for students. 

She said that LMS usually have multi-grade level classrooms due to the limited number of classrooms accommodating the communities’ entire student population from different grade levels. 

“Multi-grade level classrooms are actually an acceptable education model. My children grew up in this kind of setting. What is important is that the teachers are well-trained to handle multi-grade level classrooms and that the class sizes remain small,” Cayetano explained.

She said the core of DepEd’s LMS Program is ensuring that the schools’ classrooms are made of sturdy material and equipped with the proper learning facilities, including computers that have access to programs complementing the classroom teaching, and electricity. 

The DepEd had originally asked for a P21.52 billion budget for its LMS program for next year, but only P1.5 billion was approved by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), based on the 2020 National Expenditure Program. 

A memorandum issued by the Office of the Deputy Executive Secretary for Finance and Administration last August, however, directed the DBM to include and prioritize the “Last Mile Schools Fund” as a new line item under DepEd’s budget in the 2020 NEP.

“We should not forget about the Filipino families in far-flung areas who also want the best future for their children,” she stressed. “This is one of my ways to ensure that in our shared goal of fostering growth through education, no Filipino child will get left behind.”

“I also hope more senators would be willing to go the extra mile to help our last mile schools, and by actively supporting tax reforms, whose proceeds will help fund social services and our Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” added Cayetano, who also chairs the Senate Committees on Ways and Means and on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. 

As of September 1, there are about 9,225 schools identified as LMS, with CAR (1,223), Western Visayas (824) and Eastern Visayas (1,076) having the most number – excluding the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

According to DepEd, most LMS are more than an hour away from the town center, in places with problems in peace and order, and which private contractors, suppliers and service providers find difficult to access. 

LMS have multi-grade level classes, with less than five teachers, and a student population of less than 100, more than 75% of which are usually indigenous people. They have very limited facilities, which had never been repaired in the last four years. #


Senator Pia S. Cayetano visits students at Lamut Elementary School in La Trinidad, Benguet during her annual trek to far-flung communities in the province. (2014)


Senator Pia S. Cayetano is joined by the UP Women’s Football Team (UPWFT) during her annual trek to far-flung communities in Benguet. In 2018, the senator and the student-athletes handed out books, toys, and other learning materials to students studying at the Lusod Community School in Itogon, Benguet.

Raising teachers’ pay to help affirm dignity of teaching

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said raising the compensation of teachers is the best affirmation of government’s high regard for the country’s educators and their contributions to nation-building. 

The senator issued the statement in time for National Teachers’ Day, which is being observed on October 5 (Saturday).

A staunch education advocate, Cayetano authored Senate Bill No. 70, or the ‘Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education Act.’

The measure proposes a salary increase of P10,000 per month for public school teachers, locally-funded teachers, and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd).

The salary hike shall be granted over three years in three tranches, starting with a P4,000 monthly pay hike on the first year, an additional P3,000 per month on the second year, and a final increment of P3,000 per month on the third year.

The bill is currently being deliberated with similar measures by a technical working group under the Senate Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation.

“Raising the compensation of teachers affirms the dignity of the teaching profession. This will not only improve their lives, but also inspire them to further improve,” she explained.

 

“We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support. Also, we can still do better to make the teaching profession more attractive to the best and brightest,” she stressed.

 

“I want to be able to leave that kind of legacy to our children – that they can go to any school in the Philippines, and get the best education possible because they will be mentored by intelligent and dedicated teachers,” she added.

 

Cayetano pointed out that empowering teachers to successfully fulfill their role in society is part of the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Goal 4 of the SDGs particularly states that by 2030, the supply of qualified teachers in the country should have substantially increased.

   

Apart from the salary adjustment, Cayetano’s bill seeks to grant public school teachers the following benefits: Medical allowance, a yearly bonus based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), and additional compensation from local school board funds.

The former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, Cayetano has championed the passage of landmark laws that enhanced public education in the country, including the National Teacher’s Day Act (RA 10743), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687), Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647).#

Senator Pia Cayetano: “We have so many hardworking teachers who deserve more support.”

Pia: Finance panel approves 2020 budget for CHED, SUCs

The Senate Finance Committee has approved on Thursday (Sept. 19) the proposed 2020 budget of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and 110 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) in the country, following a subcommittee hearing led by Vice Chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano. 

With the approval, CHED’s P40.78-billion proposed allocation for next year will be submitted for plenary deliberations, along with the P49.46-billion proposed budget for the 110 SUCs. 

The committee, on the other hand, deferred the approval of the proposed P15.40-billion proposed funding for the University of the Philippines (UP), pending the institution’s submission of required documents to the committee for review.


Cayetano, the panel’s vice chair, has expressed commitment to review the major cuts in the higher education sector’s proposed funding, with the goal of finding a way to bridge the gap, which CHED officials pegged at P11 billion. 


“The biggest concern of CHED and SUCs is that they have at least P11 billion [budget cut] that is meant to finance [various education programs]. Ito ang hahanapan natin ng pondo,” the senator said in an ambush interview after the hearing.

“These are [for] students who have previously been awarded scholarships, and then may incoming graduates din na mag-aavail [ng scholarships], so may shortage tayo diyan,” she further explained. 
Cayetano said she is already looking into possible sources for the additional funding, among which are unobligated funds from the agencies’ 2019 budget.

“Ang ine-expect kong makuha doon sa mga hindi nagamit, mga unobligated [funds] nila is around P8 billion,” she said, clarifying that the amount is still subject to verification. 

“We consider our human resources as the most important resource that we have. So their education is very important. I already have the source for funding. We just have to rationalize and prioritize projects,” she added. 

The senator further pointed out that the country can still do better in terms of financing the education sector. She cited that the government is spending only 3.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on education, lower than the six-percent recommendation of the United Nations.    

“Our Constitution requires that we prioritize education. Nasusunod naman natin na the biggest agency that receives funding is education. [But] if you compare our spending with other countries, medyo talo tayo. Mas mataas ang spending sa atin ng Laos at Vietnam,” Cayetano noted.

Furthermore, she clarified the status of UP’s budget, which the committee has deferred. 
“On UP, humingi kasi ako ng development sa status ng projects, because a big portion of the higher education budget goes to UP. And I have been a big supporter [of UP’s budget] for many years,” the senator asserted.

“I just want them to properly explain to me what these programs are, the projects, the timelines, the status, so that tuloy-tuloy naman tayong makatulong sa UP at responsible naman tayo sa paglagay ng pondo,” she added. 

During the hearing, Cayetano also vowed to provide additional government support in accelerating infrastructure development for SUCs. She filed Senate Bill No. 64 or the “Build, Build, Build” for Higher Education bill, which lays down a five-year capital outlay plan for state-run higher education institutions.#

Light moment at the finance committee hearing as senators applaud a manifestation of Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ Dela Rosa.
Senate finance committee vice chair Pia Cayetano has vowed to review major cuts in the higher education sector’s proposed funding, which CHED officials pegged at P11 billion.

Pia: We need to put in more funding for higher education

Transcript of interview with Senator Pia S. Cayetano, Senate Finance Committee Vice Chairperson. Topic: Budget hearing for the Commission on Higher Education and (CHED) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs)  

Q: Ma’am, please give us an overview of the hearing and your thoughts tungkol sa budget ng SUCs, ano ang next step ng committee?

Senator Pia S. Cayetano (SPSC): Of course, budget, finances ang pinag-uusapan. And the biggest concern of CHED and the SUCs is that they have at least P11 billion that is meant to finance yung education – kumbaga, sa madaling salita, parang scholarships ng mga bata – na na-cut, na nabawasan. 

So, P11 billion yung hahanapan natin ng pondo. These are students who have previously been awarded scholarships and then may incoming din na mga graduates na mag-aavail, and may shortage tayo diyan. 

We need to address this because we consider our human resource the most important resource that we have. So their education is very important. 

And let me put on record that if you compare our spending with other countries, medyo talo tayo. Our Constitution requires that we prioritize education. Totoo naman, nasusunod naman natin na biggest agency that receives funding is education. However, the recommendation of the UN is 6 percent. And we are only spending 3.9, almost 4 percent. Mas mataas ang spending sa atin ng Laos at ng Vietnam. At alam mo talagang itong mga bansang ‘to, naghahabol, diba?

So dapat tayo, huwag lang din tayong kampante. Kailangan mag-invest pa rin tayo sa education sector. 

I also took note and pointed out that the SUC presidents and CHED also have a role to play. They have to be able to submit all the requirements to prove the funding is properly used. 

But on that note, I am happy that I had 5 or 6 other colleagues who all support education. So I am hoping that they will support my initiative to put in more funding for education in general, capital outlays of the SUCs, and the funding of the education itself through scholarships and grants.

Q: Ma’am, yung P11 billion, may idea tayo kung saan pwedeng i-source out?

SPSC: Pwede naman nating… ang proposal ko nga is tingnan yung doon sa mga hindi pa nagamit nila na budget, yung unused portion nila, and they will give me the final amount. Kasi, meron nung 2018 na nalipat nila sa 2019. Pero ‘pag may natira pa doon, dahil may 2019 budget din, baka pwede tayong kumuha doon. 

Q: Hopefully, sapat na po ‘yun…

SPSC: Well, I don’t know kasi P11 billion yung total, and ang ine-expect kong makuha doon sa mga hindi nagamit, mga unobligated nila is parang P8 billion lang. 

Mga P8 billion is what I hope to get, but that’s subject to verification nila na hindi nagamit yung P8 billion na yun.

Q: Ang hindi na-submit ng UP, ano po ang mga kulang pa nila?

SPSC: Marami, humingi kasi ako ng development sa status ng mga projects, kasi syempre malaking part ng budget [ng SUCs] ang UP, malaki talagang portion of the higher education budget goes to UP. And I have been a big supporter for many years.

I just want them to properly explain to me what these programs are, the projects, the timelines, the status, so that tuloy-tuloy naman tayong makatulong sa UP. Yun lang naman ang sa akin, so that responsible naman tayo sa paglalagay ng pondo.#

Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Pia S. Cayetano leads the subcommittee hearing that discussed the proposed 2020 budget for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).

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.

Give teachers freedom to decide what’s best for their students

Senator Pia S. Cayetano weighed in on the “no-homework policy” being proposed by fellow lawmakers for basic and secondary education, saying that teachers should be given the freedom to choose the most effective teaching methods for their students.  

“No disrespect to the authors of the bills. Being a teacher is a very specific calling, and to be an effective teacher, you need the kind of latitude to decide what is best for your students,” Cayetano said, in response to Senator Richard Gordon’s interpellation after she delivered a privilege speech on Monday (September 2).  

“A good teacher will not just go by the books. A good teacher will identify the strengths and weaknesses of their students. And this is where the correlation [of effective learning] to homework comes in,“ she explained.

“To dictate upon a teacher a blanket prohibition against assignments, or a mandate of exactly how much time to give a student in terms of homework would restrain his or her ability to provide for the needs of his or her students,” added the senator. 

“I do believe that the Department of Education can step up and come up with better guidelines. But as to legislation, I would really worry, Mr. President, if we even have the time… to focus on something as specific as this, as to legislate number of hours [for homework].”

“I am all for studying the effects of homework [on the educational development of students]. But I would like to ask this body to approach this not in isolation. It can’t be [a choice between] homework or no homework only,” Cayetano said, as she enjoined fellow senators to consider measures that can provide more holistic learning environments for Filipino children.

“[We must work for] an environment that promotes learning in the classroom, outside of the classroom, in the homes, in the communities, and wherever they are in the Philippines,” she added.  

Cayetano said she believes younger students should be given less homework, but clarified that she would first want to study proposals carefully before making an informed decision. 

Meanwhile, the senator said numerous studies have shown that homework reinforces inequalities in some countries’ socio-economic classes. She said students belonging to upper and lower classes benefit differently from homework policies since they do not enjoy the same privileges when it comes to education. 

Cayetano lamented that students in lower classes have less access to after-school academic and non-academic programs, a conducive environment for studying, and proper support from their families and caregivers.

Lastly, the senator expressed her reservation about actually enacting a law that could restrain the teachers’ ability to attend to the needs of their students, particularly those who need to put in extra work for certain subjects.  

“Let’s say a student is struggling when it comes to Math[ematics]. The teacher may require that the student does extra work. If we prohibit that, then we effectively ban that student from getting extra work from his/her teacher,” she cited. 

In line with this, Cayetano stressed the need to give more support to the country’s educators, with the goal of attracting the best and the brightest into the teaching profession.   

“I know that our teachers are hardworking, a lot of them were scholars on their own. But the reality is, we could do better in terms of making that career track more effective and more attractive,” she said.

“I want to be able to leave that kind of legacy to our children, that they go to any school in the Philippines, and they will get the best education,” added Cayetano, who filed a bill in the 18th Congress seeking to grant additional compensation for teachers in the basic education. #

Senator Richard Gordon interpellates Senator Pia Cayetano after the latter delivered a privilege speech on the ‘no-homework’ policy during Monday’s session.

Do we need less, more, or no homework?

Privilege speech on ‘No-Homework’ Policy *

Mr. President, the title of my privilege speech is, “What is the purpose of homework? Do we need more or less?” 

So I ask all of you to remember your grade school days. I’m just curious to know if our colleagues have experienced a lot of homework, a little homework, or no homework. May I ask for a very informal survey from my colleagues? 

So, no homework, raise your hand. Minimal homework, ayan, si Joel. Homework, minimal? 

So, a lot of homework? Did anyone experience? Ah, si Grace, a lot. Okay, Senator Grace and Senator Risa answered a lot of homework. 

Si Senator Sherwin, hindi sumagot. Okay. 

So, clearly, we all come from a different background, Mr. President, when it comes to our education experience. Because whether you come from a private school or a public school, there’s also a lot of latitude given to our teachers. 

So in the news for the past few weeks were articles on bills that have been filed to drastically lessen or even ban homework during the weekends. But before we decide, and before I hope that the Senate as a body starts discussing the issue of homework, let’s understand first what is the purpose of homework. 

So this is a summary that we culled from various sources. The purpose of homework is to help reinforce what was taught in class; to gather extra info beyond what was taught; to enhance a student’s knowledge on the subject; and to help struggling students improve their grasp of the topic.

So nowhere there says that the student is meant to study alone. That’s not the purpose of homework, or to learn on their own. It’s really to reinforce, to increase, and enhance their knowledge.

But when we discuss whether we will increase or decrease homework, the question we need to ask ourselves is: Is there a correlation between top performing countries when it comes to education standards and their homework hours?

So, I chose five countries to present to you, I’ll show you the slide. So these are the top 5 countries that will be shown to you are Finland, South Korea, Brazil, Argentina, and Japan. 

So interestingly, these five countries are the top 5 in the least number of homework hours in a week. Finland has 2.8, South Korea has 2.9, all the way to Japan, 3.8. So that’s less than one hour a day of homework. 

What is now their ranking in the educational system ranking? This happens to be a 2014 ranking, there are updates, but I’ll tell you that these countries are more or less still in the top. 

So in terms of the best education system ranking, Finland is top 5, South Korea is number 1, and Japan is number 2. So for the top 5 countries in terms of less homework… you can conclude that there is a correlation if you look at the three. 

But the other two are not in the top, they’re not even in the top 30. So I have more data, but I am keeping you at five to keep the discussion simple. So you can’t really say there’s a correlation because Brazil and Argentina that have very minimal homework are in the top 40 only, not in the top 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. 

Well the reason for that is because there are many other factors that go into the success of an educational program. And I’ll quickly walk you through it. Let’s look at South Korea that has consistently been in the top. Only 2.9 hours of homework per week. However – and I apologize that the print is so small so I will have to read to all of you – that’s a little bit misleading because they only have 2.9 hours of homework, but they have hours and hours of private study time. They have a lot of after-school work, either in the school or outside of the school. That is typical to many, if not all, of the Korean students. And the classrooms have all the amenities of smart technology, high-speed internet, etc. And they also have summer school. So that’s the situation in South Korea. 

Japan, I would say, is similar in the sense that they have very low homework but they also have so much after-school activities, both academic and non-academic. In fact, the teachers and the students are in charge of cleaning their own schools. That’s a major part of their daily activities. They clean their own school. Some schools require that they come in on Saturdays for studies, and they give a lot of time for both academic and non-academic activities after school. 

Finland is actually my favorite. Only 2.8 hours of homework per week. But, let me walk you through all the other amenities and support that Finland gives to their students. School actually starts at [age] 7. So what does that mean? They don’t have to go to school? It’s not required. But they have a very strong early childhood education system in every community. And I think the figure is like, 90% send their children to early childhood education even though it is not required. 

Their schools have free meals, they have easy access to healthcare, they have psychological counseling, and the teachers – this is the best part, as far as I am concerned – all of the teachers teaching basic ed are required to have a master’s degree. It is an honor to become a teacher in Finland. It is one of the most prestigious jobs, to be a teacher in Finland. 

And I watched TED Talks, I would be very happy to share it with you, I’ve watched videos, I’ve read books on the Finnish education. It really was a country-wide decision to make their education system this way. And one last point. There are no private schools. If I say none, maybe there’s one or two, because it says basically there are none. They’re all public schools. So, the conclusion is, no matter how rich you are, you are forced to support a public school system because your kids will go to public school. So that’s how it is in Finland. 

I also want to emphasize that they are very big on giving latitude to the teachers to decide on how to teach. And when they’re questioned, this is based on a US comparative study, would a Finnish family want to transfer to another community or cross-town because there’s a better school, there’s no such thing daw like that in Finland because all the schools are created the same. They have such high respect for the teachers that they will not even think that mas magaling yung teacher dun kaysa sa teacher dito. So ganun po dun. 

Now, this is the sad thing about homework that I want to point out. There are numerous studies that show that homework reinforces inequalities in socio-economic classes in some countries. How does this happen? 

In many countries in the world, those who belong to the upper socio-economic class go to private schools, and they do a lot of homework compared to those who go to public schools. And the outcomes are very different. Those kids in the private schools with a lot of homework end up faring better. So if you look at that study in isolation, you will conclude that more homework is better. I am not prepared to make that conclusion. I’m just pointing out studies that show in a country, there are these inequities that are brought about [by] the different kinds of education that children can avail of.

Let’s dissect that. What difference is there between a private school, where you pay, and where a child will go to, versus a public school? I don’t have a slide to show you, but I can tell you from experience, and I’ve been talking to a lot of parents, and to visiting a lot of schools. 

Number one, it would be access to after-school programs in and outside of school, both academic and non-academic. Let me give you a moment to think about that. All of you who have children have to know that either your child would be involved in glee club, in sports, in arts, in music, in debate, and so on and so forth. 

The school that my daughters went to, which is La Salle Zobel High School, they are very known for sports, so a lot of the kids there excel in sports, and a lot of them go on to participate in… the Atenista sitting beside me is nagkakamot, wala akong plug tungkol sa Ateneo kasi wala akong anak na nag-Ateneo, but I will give you the floor later on.

But my point is, go to a private school and access to activities, both academic and non-academic are never ever wanting. Sometimes, it is subsidized, or the parents will pay extra. The point is, there is access. That is not so in many public schools. 

The other difference between socio-economic classes when it comes to education is the proper environment. Many children coming from an upper class would be able to go home and either quietly study in their dining table or quietly study in their own bedroom, or some would even have a study room. 

Most people who send their children to public schools do not have that. Salo-salo na ho yung dining table, yung living room, nanonood ng kung anuman pinapanood, wala hong opportunity to concentrate. And that has been identified as a major problem in making homework effective. They cannot even focus when they are in an environment like that. 

And third is the support from family and caregivers. Whether it’s a parent or a substitute parent when parents are working and they can afford to hire a tutor, there is support given when you come from a higher socio-economic bracket. Those who come from a lower economic bracket have more difficulty because probably the working mom and dad cannot afford to get a tutor. Baka wala rin naman tita o lola na magtuturo. So wala na ngang magandang environment, wala rin hong support na naibibigay. 

So without that, it becomes extremely difficult to have an effective homework program. 

Meanwhile, I also want to point out the situation of teachers. I am so envious of the reality that in Finland, teachers are one of the highest paid. Why? Because I want to be able to leave that kind of legacy to our children, that you go to any school in the Philippines, and you will get the best education. 

I know that our teachers are hardworking, a lot of them were scholars on their own, but the reality is, we could do better in terms of making that career track more effective and more attractive to teachers. We could do better in trying to pull the best and the brightest into the teaching profession.

Now, why is it so important to have a good teacher? Well, a good teacher will not just go by the books. A good teacher will identify the strengths and weaknesses of their students. And this is where the correlation to homework comes in. To dictate upon a teacher a blanket prohibition against assignments or a mandate of exactly how much time to give a student in terms of homework would restrain his or her ability to provide for the needs of his or her students.

So before anyone concludes that I am pro-homework, I want to put on record that I come from a no-homework background. My mother is a preschool teacher, and I went to a school that had basically no homework for the entire grade school. And I loved it. Maybe because my background comes from being with my mother all the time, I studied on my own. 

And if you look at the successful programs in other countries, that’s what it is all about. It’s providing a learning environment wherever you are, not ABC types of homework. So I am not against homework per se, but I am definitely for creating the best kind of learning environments for our students. 

If we dictate a number of hours, what about those who follow an academic track? My children did not go to an international school. They went to a private school, but not an international school. So I don’t have personal experience with the IB program, maybe somebody here has, want to share it. But all I know is, for those who have sent their children to the IB program, it is extremely tedious and these kids study all day, every day, Saturday and Sunday, kulang na kulang sa tulog.

But they do that because that is what is required to enter a prestigious school abroad. So how can we now say, “Huwag kang mag-homework” kung yun yung requirement para matapos mo yung academic track na yun? Paano natin ili-limit yung…

Or let’s say, a student is struggling when it comes to Math. Pero desidido siya to pursue a career in Science, but there are Math requirements. So, the teacher may require that that student does extra work. So if you prohibit that, then we effectively banned that student from getting extra work from their teacher. 

And I actually had told my kids in high school, “Ask your teacher for more work.” Kasi nga, kapag walang homework, I love it, but if they’re struggling, then they need extra work so that they can catch up. 

So that’s my only concern here, Mr. President. I am such a believer of no homework, I am such a believer. I will end my privilege speech with a photo of a holistic child, because I am in full support of limiting and only focusing on quality homework, because we want a holistic child. That is our objective. 

I made this up. In fact, kulang pa nga kasi meron pa akong dagdag na community and church. But basically, this is what we want for our children. That they learn outside of school. And there are also tried and tested results showing that if you study continuously, you do not give your brain a chance to recover and come back fresh. 

It is actually recommended, before you take exams, that you take a nap, you have a good sleep, because that’s how the brain works. It can only retain memory when it’s given a chance to take a break. So, I repeat that I am all for studying the effect of homework. But I would like to ask this body to approach this not in isolation. Let us look into what we need to do to provide our children with a holistic learning environment.

It cannot be homework or no homework only. It has to be an environment that promotes learning in the classroom, outside of the classroom, in the homes, in the communities, and wherever they are in the Philippines. 

So, I end on that note, Mr. President, knowing that everybody here genuinely wants to be able to provide the best for our young children. 

Thank you! 

*Privilege speech delivered at the Senate session on September 2, 2019 (Monday)

Senator Pia S. Cayetano being interpellated by Senator Joel Villanueva.
Cayetano: “I am not against homework per se, but I am definitely for creating the best kind of learning environments for our students.” 

Pia lauds signing of National Vision Screening Law

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Sunday welcomed the passage of a law establishing a national vision screening program for kindergarten pupils, as she stressed that early treatment of eye problems will lead to better learning among the youth and a sustainable future for the country.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act 11358 or the ‘National Vision Screening Act,’ which seeks to establish a National Vision Screening Program (NVSP) under the Department of Education. 

“I thank the President for signing this relevant measure, which came just in time for Sight Saving Month,” said Cayetano.

The senator first authored and sponsored the bill in the Senate during the 16th Congress and re-filed the same measure in the House in the 17th Congress. The latter became the base bill for the law signed by the President. 

Cayetano said RA 11358 can help fulfill government’s commitments to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goals 3 and 4 of the SDGs.

Goal 3 calls on nations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages, including the provision of essential services based on tracer interventions, like vision screening. 

Goal 4, on the other hand, urges nations to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This includes initiatives to put the development of young children on track in health, learning, and psychosocial well-being.

“Good vision is vital for our children’s learning,” Cayetano said, emphasizing how the law’s objectives and the two SDGs are interrelated. 

She said poor vision at childhood greatly affects a student’s performance in school, and so “ensuring the full well-being of our children is the first step to enable them to reach their full potential and grow up as productive members of society.” 

Prior to the law’s passage, Cayetano has already spearheaded a pilot vision screening test for kindergarten pupils in Taguig City in 2016. The vision-screening was conducted in partnership with the Taguig city government and the UP Manila Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI). 

One hundred fifty (150) pupils aged five to six at the EM’s Signal Village Elementary School underwent a simple vision-screening test, about 15 of whom were found to have vision problems and in turn received immediate and proper treatment. #

Senator PIa Cayetano leads a reading session for pre-school children and their mothers in Brgy. Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. (file photo)
Senator Pia Cayetano with young children at an evacuation center in Quezon City. (file photo)

Bill seeking to produce globally competitive graduates pushed

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for the establishment of a common national policy on education that will train Filipino students to be job-ready and globally competitive.

In filing Senate Bill No. 62 or the ‘Education Roadmap Act,’ Cayetano aims to institutionalize an education roadmap that incorporates the needed skills and competencies that industries constantly look for in new graduates.

The senator said her proposal seeks to guarantee gainful employment for Filipino students after graduation by addressing current ‘overlapping and confusing education policies.’ Furthermore, the measure aims to make the Philippines at par with its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of producing a competitive workforce. 

Under SBN 62, an Education Roadmap National Coordinating Council shall be created to design, formulate, and monitor implementation of the educational roadmap. 

The council shall focus on five key components, namely, Global Languages, Graduate Competencies, Teacher Competencies, Capacity Building for Centers of Excellence, and School-to-Work Transition.

Furthermore, the national policy on global languages shall be aligned with the Common Framework of Reference for Languages to warrant national and global competitiveness, especially in the areas of education and labor. 

“The roadmap incorporates a careful review of existing curricula so that the skills required by local and international industries from new graduates are integrated in our academic programs,” the senator explained. 

“This roadmap also aims to strengthen capacity building for teachers so that they could properly equip their students with relevant skills and competencies,” she added. 

The bill includes a policy for the seamless progression of students from basic education to higher education and, eventually, to employment. This involves strengthening and expanding internship, apprenticeship, and dual-training programs for students, as well as dynamic collaboration among the government, academe, and industry.

“To ensure that our students’ training are aligned with the requirements of their future employers, industry sector representatives shall be consulted or tapped in developing and implementing the educational roadmap,” Cayetano noted.

“Our education program must constantly keep up with the changing and growing needs of industries. We must also secure lifelong learning opportunities for our youth so that they will be globally competitive and job-ready upon graduation,” the senator said.

A staunch advocate of youth empowerment in Congress, Cayetano has championed several measures to improve the quality and accessibility of education. Among her latest proposals is the  Build, Build, Build for Education Bill which lays down a five-year plan to accelerate infrastructure development in Philippine state universities and colleges (SUCs). #

Senator Pia Cayetano has championed several measures seeking to make quality education accessible to the Filipino youth. (file photo)

Pia: Teachers need pay hike to keep up with decent living standards

To be able to teach effectively, public school teachers need to live decently. 
This was emphasized by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, as she noted the huge disparity between the living wage recommended by government economic planners and the current take-home pay of the average public school teacher. 
Recent estimates by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) show that an average Filipino family of five with two working members earning P21,000 each, needs a combined income of P42,000 a month to be able to provide for their basic household needs. 
In the case of public school teachers, where the entry-level pay (Salary Grade 11) earns a gross income of P20,574, Cayetano noted that the amount even falls short of government’s own living wage standards, especially after regular deductions from their basic pay are factored in. 
It is for this reason that the returning senator and former Taguig City representative has been pushing for a substantial hike in the compensation of educators in basic education. 
Cayetano has filed Senate Bill No. 70, the’Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education Act’ among her priority measures in the 18th Congress. 
SBN 70 proposes a salary increase of P10,000 per month for public school teachers, locally-funded teachers, and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd). 
Under the bill, the P10,000 teachers wage hike will be granted in three tranches over the next three years, as follows: P4,000 per month on the first year, an additional P3,000 per month on the second year, and a final increment of P3,000 pesos per month, on the third year. 
On top of the salary adjustment, other benefits stipulated in the bill include medical allowance, a yearly bonus based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), and  additional compensation from local school board funds.
‘Considering their crucial role in society, teachers should receive an average pay that would allow them to keep up with decent living wage standards set by the government,’ said Cayetano. 
“The pay hike rightfully deserved by our teachers will improve their quality of life and motivate them to perform their tasks exceptionally,” she added. “Adequate pay and benefits should also encourage our best and brightest minds to enter the teaching profession as envisioned by our Constitution.”
While admitting that there are serious fiscal considerations in carrying out the measure, Cayetano said the level of pay matters when it comes to strengthening teacher competencies and the overall quality of teaching and learning in the basic education sector. 
As the former chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, Cayetano has worked for the passage of numerous landmark laws to enhance public education in the country.
These include the National Teacher’s Day Act (RA 10743), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687), Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647). #

Senator Pia Cayetano: Teachers should receive an average pay that would allow them to keep up with decent living wage standards set by the government.