DND, UP officials urged to hold dialogue ‘with an open mind’

Senator Pia S. Cayetano urged officials of the University of the Philippines (UP) and the Department of National Defense (DND) to engage in dialogue with an open mind, and in the spirit of finding solutions to differences that led to the unilateral abrogation of the 1989 UP-DND accord.

“I ask both parties to come in with an open mind. Come in assuming that you have a child studying there [in UP],” Cayetano said Tuesday, as the Senate tackled a resolution expressing its sense to welcome the DND’s decision to answer various calls for a dialogue with UP on the termination of the long-standing agreement.

The senator, who earned her economics and law degrees from UP, said the unilateral abrogation of the accord “sends the wrong signal that we cannot even appreciate what was done in the past,” that led the two parties to come to an agreement in 1989.

“I read the statement of [former UP] President [Jose] Abueva on how he and [then Defense Secretary Fidel] Ramos had mutual respect for each other, and so it made it easy for them to come to this agreement. That is what we need at this time, not unilateral actions, which may be based on information that is perceived as facts by one side, but not necessarily facts on the other side,” Cayetano said.

“I am a proud graduate of UP, as so many of our other colleagues are here. UP has molded me. I was never an activist. I was more of a volleyball player, trying to get good grades. My brother, now Congressman Alan Cayetano, was an activist. So iba-iba ang nagiging experience, iba-iba din ang nagiging outcome nitong experiences namin. And we come out, in many ways, molded, inspired, touched by our experiences in UP,” the lawmaker added.

Senate Resolution No. 616, of which Cayetano manifested to be a co-author along with fellow senators, further urged both parties to revisit the accord. It also called on the DND to hold dialogues with other academic institutions to find a common ground that promotes the rule of law, peace, and security, and protects academic freedom and the pursuit of excellence.

Cayetano recalled that she brought the UP Women’s Football Team to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for “a light and fun exchange” between the students and the cadets.

“One of the little efforts that I have done – and I know it’s a very small effort – is I’ve brought the UP Women’s Football Team to PMA twice, so that there would be a light and fun exchange [and] getting-to-know-you among these students of UP and the cadets of PMA. That was done in the spirit of sportsmanship. I think it was a step in the right direction,” she said.

“Sana, ‘yan din ang ipakita natin, tayong mga leaders of these various institutions at the highest level. So that we can really move in that direction — in the spirit of friendship, in the spirit of finding solutions, and not just making a conclusion that ‘my way is better than your way,'” Cayetano concluded. #

Pia cites UP’s high global ranking in research citations

Senator Pia S. Cayetano congratulated the University of the Philippines (UP)  for the high scores it obtained in the latest World University Rankings for its clinical, pre-clinical, and health research citations, noting that Philippine universities have lagged behind in the area of research for the past decades, but UP is  finally putting us on the map of top universities of the world.

 

“Most of us may not be aware of it, but UP now ranks among the world’s top universities in terms of citations for clinical, pre-clinical, and health subjects,” Cayetano shared, following Monday’s (Sept. 21) Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed 2021 budget for the UP system, State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

 

“This is great news coming at a time when the country is realizing how investments in research are crucial to addressing public health emergencies like COVID-19. Despite UP being cited, our overall research capability as a country remains low,” added the Vice Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance overseeing the budget for health and education.

 

The senator was referring to the 2021 Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE-WUR), wherein UP’s citation score for its clinical, pre-clinical, and health research (91.9%) ranked higher than some of the world’s top universities, including University of Oxford (74%), University of Cambridge (68.8%), and Harvard University (66.7%).

 

“UP’s high score is an indicator of the impact and influence of its research, which researchers from other countries have cited for succeeding studies and possible innovations,” she explained.

 

Cayetano added that “strategic investments in public health research and innovation would allow the country to catch up with some of our neighbors in Southeast Asia which have been able to handle COVID-19 more efficiently using advanced science and technology.”

 

“We act surprised that our neighbors, like Thailand and Vietnam, are already developing a vaccine, when in fact, we have not been investing in research laboratories for decades,” she stressed.

 

On the other hand, Cayetano noted that funding for the research budget of the 111 other SUCs in the country is very low compared to the research expenditures of some of our ASEAN neighbors.

 

“Sadly, the budget for research for all the SUCs that Senator Joel Villanueva proposed and that we supported in the 2020 budget, was one of the items that was realigned for COVID response. The same happened to the research budget for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and futures thinking,” noted Cayetano, the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

 

As reported before the committee by Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) President Dr. Tirso Ronquillo, government funding for SUCs’ research and technical advisory extension programs represent just 3% and 2%, respectively, of the P64.7-billion proposed SUCs budget this year.

 

Overall, Dr. Ronquillo noted that the country’s budget for research and development only represents 0.16% of our GDP, which is lower compared to Singapore (1.94%), Malaysia (1.44%), Thailand (1%), and Vietnam (0.53%).

 

“Our finance committee chair, Sen. Sonny Angara understands and supports the need for funding in research. We will work together to ensure we have a strong budget for research for 2021. We already have the foundation and potential. We just need to translate these into concrete programs to better serve the needs of Filipinos,” Cayetano concluded.#

University of the Philippines (UP) President Danilo Concepcion presents a slide to Senate Finance Committee Vice Chair Sen. Pia S. Cayetano showing how UP’s citation scores for its for clinical, pre-clinical, and health subjects outranked some the world’s top universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, and Harvard in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings (THE-WUR).

Strategic foresight needed for future of education

Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking Chair Pia S. Cayetano on Thursday reiterated the importance of strategic foresight in crafting policies that will help the education sector prepare for all possible scenarios in the new normal and beyond.

Cayetano said a clear proof of the importance of Futures Thinking in the sector is the Department of Science and Technology’s (DOST) initiative a few years ago to develop 132 self-learning modules on science and math subjects for grade schoolers.

DOST’s Science Education Institute (DoST-SEI) director Dr. Josette Biyo shared details of this initiative during the Senate Committee on Basic Education hearing. She said the modules were conceptualized before the pandemic four years ago, and were developed in a span of two years.

Following consultations with educators, experts, and DepEd officials, the Institute was able to develop modules, transform them into scripts, and digitize them for animation. Teachers were also trained to use the modules, which the agencies made sure would fit the K-to-12 curriculum.

“We had to tap expert teachers to conduct workshops, write lesson plans, recheck lesson plans, and transform these modules into scripts that have been digitized. After digitization, we validated it. Then in coordination with DepEd, we implemented these coursewares’ [effectiveness] in 20 schools nationwide,” Dr. Biyo shared with the panel.

Dr. Biyo said the self-learning modules for Grades 1 to 8 were already uploaded via DepEd’s learning platform, whereas the lessons for Grades 9 to 10 have yet to be digitized. The two agencies are also discussing plans to develop radio programs for learners in far-flung areas.

Cayetano, in response, commended the DOST-SEI for its strategic foresight in preparing these materials early on, stressing that planning for the future of education indeed requires years of preparation and consultations with experts.

“I want to emphasize – in all fairness to the professionals and officials from DepEd and DOST – that it is really difficult to do this overnight. Obviously, there was a plan and a foresight. All the people who decided to put this together need to be acknowledged for their effort,” the senator said.

“We can now focus our efforts on the other aspects that have not been touched. Since we already have science and math modules up to the 8th grade, maybe we can focus our attention on the remaining grades. Perhaps the private sector can also be tapped to help with this,” she added.

In relation to the future of education beyond the new normal, Cayetano expressed support for bills pending at the committee level, particularly Senate Bills 1460 (Basic Online Learning and Distance Education Act of 2020) and 1565 (Education in the New Normal Act).

She said she recognizes the intention of the proposals, which is to put in place the proper standards for distance education and innovative learning methods when crisis would disrupt our education system.

The former chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Cayetano sponsored Republic Act No. 10650 or the Open Distance Learning Act, which institutionalized distance learning in tertiary education way back in 2014. #

Senator Pia S. Cayetano said a good example of Futures Thinking is the Department of Science and Technology’s initiative four years ago to develop 132 self-learning modules on science and math subjects for grade schoolers.

Lay down plans for blended learning in far-flung areas

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Thursday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to lay down specific plans for blended learning in basic education, particularly for far-flung areas that have limited access to distance education requirements, including the Internet.

“I know what the general instructions (of the President) are, but are there going to be exceptions to these rules? Because it’s even harder to deliver distance learning materials for some barangays which have no exposure or may have very limited exposure to the virus,” the senator asked DepEd officials during the hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education.

Cayetano was referring to the general directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, as recommended by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF), that face-to-face classes shall remain suspended until a vaccine for COVID-19 becomes available.

“Of course we will follow the directive. Don’t get me wrong. But I am proposing that you..make clear what is needed for other scenarios, like in many far-flung areas,” she added.

The senator had been urging DepEd to present concrete proposals since the sixth weekly report of the President was submitted to Congress pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

In the comment she submitted in response to the President’s report, Cayetano asked DepEd to prepare a blended learning method that would include time in school, “provided it is safe… and social distancing measures are in place, such as having a smaller number of students to attend a few days a week on a rotational basis for interaction with their teachers.”

“I’ve been to barangays in the mountains that are not accessible to cars… Yung kaisa-isa o dalawang teacher sa barangay, kahalubilo naman nila ang mga estudyante to begin with because [their community is] isolated. Mas mahirap pang mag-deliver doon ng distance learning,” she explained.

Undersecretary Diosdado San Antonio, in response, acknowledged that the DepEd is aware of the realities that Cayetano pointed out. He said in these particular cases, teachers are allowed to meet a small number of neighboring learners on a regular basis so they can provide guidance in person, but not necessarily inside the schools.

“Those are options that the schools have in terms of ensuring the availability of an opportunity for the youngsters in far-flung areas to be able to learn… Our Learning Continuity Plan (LCP) has identified that as an option,” Usec. San Antonio explained.

Cayetano said DepEd should exert more effort in clarifying and addressing these special scenarios since they already recognize that the situation exists. She said the agency should bring this to the attention of decision-making bodies to carve out better systems of learning for far-flung areas. #

Pre-pandemic picture from Lusod Community School in Brgy. Tinongdan, Itogon, Benguet. Sitio Lusod is an upland community which Senator Pia Cayetano has visited several times.

Make ‘bayanihan’ work to revolutionize PH education for our youth

“The Bayanihan Spirit is called upon now more than ever to make education effective for our young children.”

Senator Pia S. Cayetano delivered this message to the country’s educators on Monday (June 1), as she called for a whole-of-society approach to address challenges to the basic education sector during COVID-19 and beyond.

Speaking before DepEd’s virtual kickoff program of the 2020 Brigada Eskwela and Oplan Balik Eskwela, Cayetano reiterated the importance of blended learning to ensure that no child will get left behind in receiving quality education during the ‘new normal.’

“The urgent task at hand [is] the delivery of the education materials. So we are now rushing to set into place other modes of delivery because the usual physical classroom setting will not be happening anytime soon,” the senator noted.

“However, I’d like to include in the discussion that beyond the delivery of education is [the need to] reach every single child with the help of tools available to us, so we can optimize learning for each child,” she added.

Cayetano said this requires more than just shifting to a different teaching platform – from physical classes to online classes – but a comprehensive ‘blended’ approach, which will employ the participation of parents, teachers, and communities in delivering education to children.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano said educators can turn current challenges into opportunities to jumpstart education for the future.

“I support the initiatives and at the same time challenge DepEd to make the most of these challenging times and really revolutionize education for our young people today,” she said.

Senator Pia Cayetano: “Beyond the delivery of education is [the need to] reach every single child with the help of tools available to us, so we can optimize learning for each child.”

DepEd Secretary Leonor “Liling” Briones, for her part, echoed the senator’s beliefs, stressing that the agency shares Cayetano’s goal of approaching the sector’s needs using a futures thinking mindset.

Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the Department of Education shares Sen. Pia Cayetano’s goal of approaching the sector’s needs using a futures thinking mindset.

Meanwhile, Education Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan also expressed his support for Cayetano’s message. He said there is now a much-needed opportunity to “really transform the [country’s] education system.”

“Hindi po tatalikuran ng ating pamahalaan at ng Kagawaran ng Edukasyon ang tungkulin na magbigay ng kalidad na edukasyon para sa lahat. Hindi lamang emergency response ito, kundi tulad ng sabi ni Senator Pia, kailangan nakatungtong din ito sa mas pangmatagalang vision at innovation for the future of the education system,” Usec. Malaluan stressed.

He said the agency is set to implement blended and distance learning systems in line with the agency’s goal of delivering quality education to children that is geared for the future.

DepEd Undersecretary Nepo Malaluan: “Tulad ng sabi ni Senator Pia, kailangan nakatungtong din [ang mga pagbabago sa edukasyon] sa mas pangmatagalang vision at innovation for the future of the education system.”

DepEd is preparing to deliver different learning modalities to children during the crisis, which include printed modules, online learning resources, and television and radio instructions.

Cayetano added: “I am so happy that [DepEd under] Secretary Briones and I see eye-to-eye on these ideas. But we need to be able to translate this into actual action on the ground with our teachers [and society helping as a whole].”

“I trust that in the weeks and months to come, [we can cascade] all this information and bring our educators up to speed so the knowledge that [our children] will receive outside of the classroom is maximized,” added Cayetano, the principal author of three laws on flexible learning, including the Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647). #

Message to the Oplan Balik Eskwela virtual kickoff program

I’d like to send my warm greetings to Secretary Briones and to my colleague, of course, Senator Win Gatchalian, to my former colleagues in the House of Representatives and to all the whole DepEd family and stakeholders who are listening and watching us today.

Magandang umaga po sa inyong lahat.

I want to keep this very brief, but I’d also like to instill in the minds of every educator out there, and that includes also myself as a parent, that truly, the Bayanihan Spirit is called upon now more than ever to make our education effective for our young children.

I know that the urgent task at hand appears to be the delivery of the education materials. So we are now rushing to determine and to set into place other modes of delivery because the usual physical presence of the teachers and the students in the classroom setting will not be happening anytime soon.

However, I’d like to include in the discussion – and I know, of course, the Secretary and the Usecs. are on this – that beyond the simple delivery of education is our perennial problem on reaching every single child. Because we live in a time where we have all the data analytics, we have all the information that we need, the data. Learning analytics is available to us. We can measure, we can collect, we can analyze the data about every learner in order to optimize the learning for each child. And yet, our country, like many other countries, not just us, [is] still teaching in the mode of a hundred years ago, where there is a blackboard, there is a teacher, and there are students.

And we need to get past that. I want to be able to use this crisis that we are in to jump-start the education of the future. I am so happy that Secretary Briones and I see eye to eye on this, the Usecs. that attend our hearings are on board. But we need to be able to translate this into actual action on the ground with our teachers. We need them to understand. Because even I continue to see that image of a blackboard, a teacher, and students. There’s going to be quarterly exams, and there’s final exams.

But we have all the data that tells us that the learning curve shows that some are advanced and fast learners, and some are slow learners. And we need to get away from that, the model that we have because it perpetuates the stigma against slower learners, when they may not even be slow learners at all, they just may have other intelligence, multi-intelligence that are not seen on the spectrum immediately.

And that is why I have been a proponent for blended learning and I also want to be sure that in our haste to set into place this new modalities of delivery, we do not simply deliver education in a different format, meaning from blackboard it became a computer. Because that is not blended learning. We really need to make use of every instrument that we have, including the parents… every tool that we have, the parents, the society, retired teachers, all the tools available to us to reach children. And especially those children who live in urban centers. The information and knowledge that they receive outside of the classroom is so abundant that we also need to help them filter this and maximize those learnings outside of the classroom to make it relevant to them in the classroom.

I read a study that said the Math curriculum of the United States is “turn of the century,” 1900’s. US na nga ‘yun, ‘no? I don’t think we can say that mas advanced tayo sa US. So I also have concerns of that nature. And I trust that in the years to come, or actually, in the weeks and months to come… Because when I… we have hearings, I know and recognize that the DepEd officials know this. It’s really a matter of cascading all this information and bringing our teachers up to speed.

So I believe that is the bigger challenge. Not simply the fact that our students will not be able to go to the classroom, but the reality that we need to be able to reach every single child and to be able to deliver education to them at each level that each child needs to hear, needs to understand.

So on that note, I do believe that the best time for the Bayanihan spirit to come alive is now. A lot of people know the reality that great things happen in the time of crisis, great ideas come about in the time of crisis. And so I challenge and I support all the initiatives of DepEd to make the most of these challenging times and really revolutionize education for our young people today.

Thank you very much and God bless you all! #

Sen. Pia Cayetano said educators can turn current challenges into opportunities to jumpstart education for the future.

Pia to DBM: don’t slash SUCs’ budget for infra dev’t

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is imploring the budget department to ensure adequate funding for the infrastructure projects of state universities and colleges (SUCs) amid the urgency to realign government funds for the country’s COVID-19 response.
The senator made the pronouncement on Tuesday (May 19) during the Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry into the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just to put on record my concern for our budget of higher education. They are very underfunded to begin with, and we’re very slow to provide infrastructure funding for our SUCs,” Cayetano told Secretary Wendel Avisado of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“If we look at the record, we give them funds not on a continuing basis, but based on a request that they make, which takes many years to be granted. And then we do not give the succeeding funds because we say that the project is already fulfilled. But we know that they get one project at a time, if at all,” she lamented.
The senator further stressed the need to prioritize education, saying that promoting innovations in higher education is essential in adapting to the ‘new normal.’ She added that supporting education is also aligned with the President’s directive to restart and accelerate the Build, Build, Build infrastructure program to reboot the country’s economy.
“It is really a deep appeal that I have for the administration to consider this because it is a win-win [solution]. We know [that the administration is bent on accelerating] Build, Build, Build. So why don’t we also keep building on infrastructure needed for higher education? We hope that we can really make it happen,” she said.
In response, Sec. Avisado assured Cayetano that the budget department will give prime importance to education in terms of budgeting.
The senator filed last year Senate Bill No. 64 or the Build, Build, Build Program for Education bill (Public Higher Education Institutions Act), which maps out a five-year priority infrastructure plan for the improvement of facilities in tertiary education.
She also filed SBN 62 or the ‘Educational Roadmap Act,’ which seeks to institutionalize an education roadmap that incorporates the needed skills and competencies that industries constantly look for in new graduates.
The senator said by ensuring proper funding for the infrastructure needs of SUCs, the government will not lose track of delivering quality education under Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 despite the pandemic.
“Saan po ba manggagaling ang innovation natin kung hindi sa mga kabataan? Futures Thinking, which is a different way of thinking, is really a skill and an academic pursuit [that requires that our students have access to quality education.] So it is really something that I feel strongly about,” stressed Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.
The senator is promoting Futures Literacy among the youth to help the country prepare for future pandemics and other emergencies.
Last May 2, Cayetano hosted a virtual consultation with more than 80 SUC presidents from the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) to listen to their concerns and recommendations in pushing for alternative learning systems for tertiary students during the ‘new normal.’ #
Senator Pia S. Cayetano hosts a virtual consultation with SUC presidents from the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) to listen to their concerns and recommendations in pushing for alternative learning systems for tertiary students during the ‘new normal.’ (May 2, 2020)
Postscript:
In a letter dated May 20, the  Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) thanked Senator Cayetano for her “efforts in tackling our pressing concerns regarding the continuance of the P17.3 billion Programmed Appropriations for Capital Outlays (COs) under FY 2020 GAA relative to DBM NBC No. 580.” 
“Your manifestations and inquiry during the Senate Hearing yesterday were truly reflective of your relentless support towards adequate funding of higher education for its transformation and resiliency during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The way you emphasized the role of SUCs in the attainment of ‘innovations and futures thinking’ was remarkable. It heightens the need for greater funding support for higher education,” read the letter signed by PASUC President Dr. Tirso A. Ronquillo.
“It is with optimism that, through your representation, our request to Secretary Avisado will be favorably considered.”
Letter of the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) thanking Senator Pia S. Cayetano for raising the issue of the infrastructure budget of SUCs at the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on May 19.

Don’t forget PE classes under ‘new normal’ curriculum

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for the inclusion of Physical Education (PE) among the classes to be offered under the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposed blended learning modalities for the ‘new normal.’

“Physical well being is something we cannot simply set aside, especially in this time of COVID-19. We need to keep promoting physical education and regular exercise among our children,” Cayetano said.

The senator made the statement on Thursday (May 14) at the virtual hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s education system.

During the hearing, Cayetano urged DepEd officials to come up with innovative ways to ensure that PE subjects will continue to be taught to students and tailored for different grade levels.

The senator pointed out that various media platforms, including television and the internet, can be used as tools for this purpose, being key components of blended learning. She added that students need not leave their homes to be encouraged to exercise.

She suggested educational programs that promote regular exercise among children, as this could lead to many health benefits and potentially prevent respiratory illnesses.

“Physical education does not have to take up too much space. Government channels can easily air these kinds of shows for students. There are many things that can be done. What matters is we do not disregard PE, and the need to teach our children the importance of taking care of their health while at home,” she added.

DepEd, for its part, informed the Senate panel that it is in the process of coordinating with private sector partners in preparing downloadable videos that teach kids how to learn certain sports and other physical skills.

Meanwhile, Cayetano also pressed DepEd to fast-track its plan to seek assistance from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in using government-run television and radio stations as platforms for delivering lessons during the pandemic.

Tapping state-run channels, including PTV 4, to air educational shows for children was among the recommendations that the senator forwarded to the executive department following the President’s weekly reports to Congress.

Cayetano said that she has repeatedly cited in the Senate’s weekly comments the need to use government TV stations to air educational shows. “The concerned agencies should be coordinating with each other about that by now… Can we get a follow up on that?” she asked DepEd, adding that the agency should take charge of deciding which types of programs PCOO would air in their channels.

“We need to secure the best content for our students. There are many materials out there. But just like textbooks, these need to be filtered. In fact, my suggestions were very detailed to the effect that you have time slots for different age groups: from preschool- to college-level programs,” she noted.

DepEd then assured the panel that it is now finalizing specific strategies to make this proposal possible, including converting educational materials into scripts for TV- and radio-based instructions.

Finally, Cayetano reiterated the need to adopt a Futures Thinking approach in addressing the challenges in basic education, following the disruption caused by COVID-19.

“We have to look into [all possible] futures. This really requires long-term planning, and it never happens at the level that we are discussing it if we are always in the now. That is precisely why I funded the Futures Thinking division in DepEd so that we can plan in this way,” said Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

“This is not just for June. This is not for the opening of classes, this is for the long-term quality of our children’s education,” she added. #

Cayetano urged DepEd officials to come up with innovative ways to ensure that PE subjects will continue to be taught to students and tailored for different grade levels.

 

Innovations needed to educate students in the new normal

“We must take advantage of this crisis and come up with innovative ways to educate our kids during this time of COVID-19.”

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano as she pushed for the establishment of more “blended learning models” to educate Filipino children during the ‘new normal’, amid the disruption of schools due to the pandemic.

The Chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, Cayetano welcomed the plan of the Department of Education (DepEd) to use different learning modalities – including in-classroom study and individual study or online classroom work – for the basic education sector.

“Clearly, the  internet will play a vital role in this proposal, as online teaching is a key component of effective blended learning. So the improvement of internet access in schools and the provision of necessary equipment for teachers to conduct online classes is imperative,” she said.

But the senator also noted that the reality is not all Filipino households have access to the internet. Thus, the need to come up with other alternative modes of learning that can be accessible to more students.

“We tend to reject new ideas during ‘normal times.’ But a crisis is a perfect time to explore other options,” she stressed.

“Why don’t we explore and tap government channels – like PTV 4, IBC 13, and RPN 9 in various provinces – to air more educational shows? There is so much content out there that can be used to educate millions of Filipino children all over the country,” she suggested, adding that the channels can allot regular block time for subjects like history, science, geography, music, art, and more, in between broadcasting relevant news programs and official press conferences of the government.

“I would even recommend that English programs should not be dubbed and kept as is, to give our young learners the opportunity to hone their English communication skills while learning at home,” Cayetano further pointed out.

Meanwhile, in the recommendations she sent Malacañang pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Cayetano noted: “DepEd should provide an update on their preparation in the integration of blended learning in the curriculum, as it is not as simple as using the internet. It includes time in school, provided it is safe to return to school, and social distancing measures are put into place – such as having a smaller number of students attend a few days a week on a rotational basis for interaction with their teachers.”

The senator further suggests that around 20-30 percent of students per class may be allowed to go to school in areas where it is safe for children to go out. She added that the smaller classroom size will promote better interaction and make learning easier for the children.

Cayetano said DepEd can seek assistance from the University of the Philippines (UP) in further exploring online education as part of  its proposed blended learning systems. UP is mandated to share its knowledge and assist national agencies and educational institutions in developing distance education programs – including online learning management systems – under the Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), which the senator sponsored as former chair of the Senate Committee on Education.

“We need a Futures Thinking mindset to educate our children during the ‘new normal.’ Access to quality education is a vital tool in nation-building, and we must use this crisis as an opportunity to innovate and reinvent our education,” Cayetano said, stressing that inclusive and equitable quality education for all is one of the 17 SDGs that the Philippines seeks to achieve by 2030. #

Senator Pia Cayetano and DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones
File photo: Senator Pia S. Cayetano, vice chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, leads a hearing on the basic education budget with Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones (back to camera) on the foreground.

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.