Preparing PH for the next pandemic

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Principal Sponsor, Bayanihan to Heal as One Act

Mr. President, I rise today on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced COVID-19 as a public health emergency. I’ll quickly walk through this history to emphasize the importance of the facts that I’d like to bring up today.

On 16 March 2020, President Rodrigo Duterte placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity through Proclamation No. 929 dated for a period of six (6) months.

The COVID-19 State of Calamity had been extended several times. Proclamation No. 1021, on 16 September 2020; Proclamation No. 1218, on 10 September 2021, and Proclamation No. 57, on 12 September 2022.

The Philippines’ COVID-19 State of Calamity has lapsed on the 31st of December 2022. So it has lapsed.

The DOH had, previous to this lapse, been submitting, had made statements, and submitted an official request to President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. to consider the further extension of the COVID-19 State of Calamity, to ensure that the government would be able to continue to implement the COVID-19 response strategies mandated under Republic Act No. 11525, known as the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act, and Republic Act No. 11712, known as the Public Health Emergency Benefits And Allowances For Health Care Workers Act.

A month ago, before the year ended, the President then expressed, I suppose in reaction to this request for extension, that he was hesitant to continue the state of calamity because according to him, we are technically not in a state of calamity anymore. And our good Senate President, I believe, had made a statement to the effect that it is not good for our image. And I agree with both gentlemen. But I think all of us want to move forward, all of us want to normalize our lives.

But it is incumbent upon each one of us as legislators, as a body, to ask ourselves, ano ba yung effect ng declaration of calamity na yan? Why does the DOH, our technical experts, want us to extend that? So let’s study this, your honors, and give it some time to sink in na ano ba yung effect nito sa atin? It is imperative upon us as legislators to understand what effect the declaration has on our ability to respond to any possible surge in Covid infections.

So this is our situation, your honors. There are important provisions under the laws that I mentioned that are anchored on the declaration of the state of calamity and/or public health emergency by the President of the Philippines. And that is the reason DOH emphasized that without such extension, it would affect the implementation of different COVID-19 response strategies of the government.

So bakit ba kailangan meron tayong COVID-19 response strategies? Well clearly, one of the responses was for us to get vaccinated. So if we did not get vaccinated, saan tayo ngayon, right?

So we need to ask ourselves, hindi tayo expert, I am a lawyer, my colleague over there, Sen. JV who, like me, chaired the Committee on Health, is not a doctor. I am also not a doctor. Sen. Bong Go, our current Chairman of the Committee, we’re not doctors. So we listen to the science. Why was it important that we have these laws that allowed government to take certain actions, which otherwise, without the law, they could not do. Kasi we are governed by laws. And I will go through each one.

First, the law allowed negotiated procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. Ano ang ibig sabihin nun? Ibig sabihin nun, under the law that we passed, pwedeng i-negotiate ang pagbili ng COVID-19 vaccines. Because without that law, you have to go through the public bidding under the Government Procurement Reform Act. So siguro most of us who follow this know na negotiated ang pag-procure ng mga vaccines. So if there will be another variant in the future, without a law, hindi pwede mag-negotiate. Magbi-bidding. And that would take a long time. So that is one effect. I’ll go to the next.

The authority to administer COVID-19 vaccines with emergency use authorization (EUA). Hindi ho ba naaalala niyo, na nung nagkaroon na tayo ng vaccines, andaming nagbabakuna? Every… Kada sulok, kasuluk-sulukan ng Pilipinas, may nagpapabakuna. Well yun ang goal natin. Sino nagbabakuna sa inyo? Do you know that those people who are administering the vaccines had a special authority? Kasi hindi pwedeng kung sino-sino lang nagbabakuna. Hindi pwede yun, it’s not allowed.

So Section 9 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act (RA 11525) specifically says that, it allowed licensed pharmacists and midwives who are duly trained by the DOH to administer COVID-19 vaccines. Without that, hindi sila pwedeng magbakuna. So kung magkakaroon ng surge, wala tayong vaccinators. We don’t have the same amount of vaccinators because they will not be allowed. So right now, hindi na sila covered.

Now, the benefits of health and non-health care workers is another thing. This is a huge help to our dedicated health workers that allowed them during this most difficult time to serve. I won’t go through the details, this has been discussed several times but there is a health emergency allowance that is given to these health workers. Sa low risk areas, P3,000; sa medium risk areas, P6,000; high risk areas P9,000. Well obviously, kung wala namang COVID, wala namang declaration and there is no need, hindi naman ho talaga kailangan ng allowance. Pero kung meron man, then there’s no basis to give them, and syempre, they deserve it naman kung nagkaroon ng emergency and nagtatrabaho naman sila. There are other details on the compensation, kapag namatay, nagkasakit, andyan yan, alam niyo na yan, I won’t go into that anymore.

Next, the utilization of appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund (QRF). This is so important to LGUs because the LGUs submit their requests, together with supporting documents, to the NDRRMC and mahabang diskusiyon ito. But because we have the law that allowed the use of the QRF for COVID, namamadali ang process and it becomes easier for them to access. So again, hindi nila ma-access ito without that. There are also other agencies who have built-in QRFs, including DPWH, DND, DepEd, DSWD, DA, etc.

Another important aspect that is affected by the declaration, the authority of the Health Technology Assessment Council (HTAC) to make recommendations on COVID-19 vaccines based on preliminary data from Phase III clinical trials. Dear colleagues, without this specific authorization to HTAC to make those recommendations, alam niyo naman yun, kapag dini-develop ang isang drug, it takes a long time for these drugs to go to market because it must go through the process. You cannot rush the development of these drugs. But because there was an urgent need determined by WHO and all the recognized health authorities all over the world, it became a standard to allow the drugs even if they were still in Phase III, only in Phase III. So very clearly, what our law says, the HTAC shall have the authority to make recommendations to the DOH on COVID-19 vaccines based on preliminary data from Phase III clinical trials and World Health Organization recommendations, in the absence of completed Phase III and Phase IV clinical trials. So if this law is not in effect, then we cannot access vaccines. So even if the US, Japan, whoever, makes these drugs that are very effective, we cannot access them if they are only in Phase III preliminary trials because there is no law that authorizes the sale or even the donation or use of these drugs in our country.

We’d like to point out, your honor, that the WHO foresees the lifting of the declaration of the COVID-19 as a public health emergency in 2023, but it emphasized that surveillance and monitoring of infections remain critical. So even if the COVID-19 pandemic officially ends, and therefore the virus becomes endemic, the government should continue its ongoing efforts in controlling the spread of COVID-19 virus, because andyan pa rin yun. When you say the pandemic ends, it’s just a change in how the virus is moving around and affecting us. Pero andyan pa rin siya. So we still have to have actions in place. We still have to have that response available so that the most vulnerable in our country, the elderly, the PWDs, those with comorbidities, they are protected. And our health workers, they are also protected and given due recognition for the work that they have to suddenly do in case something happens.

As legislators who have worked on passing the necessary laws that were needed to urgently respond to the pandemic, we must equally be concerned about responding when the COVID-19 virus becomes endemic. Determining the effects of the non-extension of the COVID-19 State of Calamity is very important, dear colleagues.

Ensuring that our ongoing efforts to minimize the effects of COVID on our daily lives – as I mentioned, the safety and welfare of the most vulnerable, the frontliners, the health workers, the economy that we want to revive and we want to continue to see support families, all of these should not be undermined and we need to be able to respond quickly.

Thus, dear colleagues, I humbly submit that this privilege speech be taken up by the Committee on Health so that we as legislators can be responsible in our task and determine what laws need to be enacted to ensure that we learn the lessons. It’s okay, your honors… Let me rephrase my statement. The whole world seems surprised by the effects of COVID-19 and yet, there were enough signals to tell us to be prepared. Your honor, kung ngayon hindi pa tayo prepared sa susunod, wala na ho tayong iba pang sisisihin kundi sarili natin. So let us be vigilant and decisive and responsive to the task at hand, which is to ensure that we are ready for any not even COVID alone, but for future pandemics, health emergencies. And let us pass the laws that will allow our technical people, our health workers, our frontliners, to respond with haste and responsibly as well.

Thank you, Mr President, dear colleagues.#

In a privilege speech on how the country should move forward, following the non-extension of the COVID-19 state of calamity, Senator Pia S. Cayetano urged fellow senators to take the lead in passing the necessary legislation to ensure the country’s preparedness for the next pandemic and future health emergencies.

Towards a sustainable future

Speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Chairperson, Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking

World Summit of the Committees of the Future
Helsinki, Finland

Thank you very much. Good morning to you. It is late afternoon in the Philippines now. I am very excited to be present virtually, although I would have preferred to have the opportunity to be there, except that the invitation comes at a time when the Philippines is in the middle of our budget debates. And it posed great difficulties for me to manage the budget committees that I chair here in the Philippines, so I have to be content to be present virtually.

My name is Pia Cayetano, I am a senator from the Philippines. And I am extremely pleased to join colleagues from all over the world in discussions on what parliaments are doing for futures thinking.

I had the opportunity to listen to the speakers before me and have already learned a great deal in just the last hour or two. So let me share about our work.

In my country, I personally pushed for the creation of the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking in the previous Congress. So this started in 2019. I chaired that first Committee from 2019-2022 and I currently chair it in this Congress.

This was the very first time that the Senate of the Philippines had such a committee, which opened the discussions on the role of futures thinking and what it can do for legislation and policy-making

This actually was inspired from the practice in Finland on the Futures Committee, which I believe started way back in 1990.

So what we do in the Committee is..precisely to track where we are with our SDGs, prepare for various futures, and shift our mindset to futures thinking as a major policy reform.

What I do as the Chairman of this Committee is make interventions on almost any piece of legislation in the Senate, including the national budget, to prepare for various futures and shift to a futures-oriented mindset, through the use of strategic foresight and futures thinking tools.

So, I’d like to give now examples of our work.

Before the pandemic and during the pandemic, the committee held a series of hearings and invited futurists from all over the world to discuss the different futures of the Philippines beyond the pandemic, primarily on education, work and health.

On the national budget, I happen to be the Senior Vice Chair for the Committee on Finance and I handle the national budget for education and health sectors. I have been working on future-proofing these budgets and using strategic foresights.

In the course of my work on the budget, we have provided funding for Futures Offices in: Department of Education; Department of Health, and Department of Science and Technology. A Sub-Committee on SDGs under the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) was also created.

We provided funding for research on the futures of food systems and food security, in 4 State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). I felt that this was extremely important because it is these universities that will be providing us with the necessary research. We also provided funding for the futures of food production, and this was given to the DOST.

We also pushed to grant the Development Academy of the Philippines additional funds to support lifelong learning and capacity building in strategic foresight for government officials and employees. Again, this is very important because in our work in Congress, we need to also ensure that these policy directions that include futures thinking are happening on the ground.

So on hearings in aid of legislation, we filed a Senate Resolution in 2020 to investigate how COVID-19 affected various sectors and their action plans to adapt, innovate and prepare for all possibilities and outcomes post-pandemic.

We had our Senate hearing, and we actually invited Dr. Tuomo Kuosa and Saku-Juhani Koskinen, and we had the Futures Platform from Helsinki, Finland. They discussed their Foresight Radar, which charts how various trends and phenomena will be impacted by certain events. Among the tools were the futures triangle, which helped the Committee in its work in advancing futures thinking in policy-making.

On the futures of health, in our hearings, we ended up with conclusions that you would think are quite simple and common, but sometimes we go through this exercise just to emphasize what should already be obvious.

And these were for the delivery of health services, the focus would be on: primary health care; patient-centered care; increased use of technology (which includes artificial intelligence, use of simulations in medical schools); engagement with different communities; and prioritizing holistic health, wellness and prevention.

I’d like to go to another topic, on the futures of cities and transportation. Actually, before we even had the Committee on Futures Thinking, I had already filed over 10 years ago a bill on sustainable transportation, which emphasized more mass transportation and included mobile transportation.

So in the last Congress, which was 3 years ago, 2019-2022, I authored and sponsored the Safe Pathways Network Bill, and we actually passed this in the Senate but it did not pass in the House of Representatives. So in this Congress that started this year, I refiled the bill and upon further study, called it a name that was more easily understandable by the public, and it is now called the Walkable and Bikeable Communities Bill. This has also passed in the Senate.

This is very exciting for us because for those of you who have been to many Asian countries, not all, but Asian countries including mine, we have a very high population, there is still a heavy dependence on cars. Of course there are public transportation [systems], but these are not enough. So when you look into the future of transportation, you can clearly see the need for investments in public transportation, and also the recognition that with sustainable city models, many will travel very short distances, and therefore, the use of safe pathways networks and interconnected networks of streets and slow streets, people can be more mobile on their feet, on bikes, to allow them to travel very short distances.

Also filed by this representation are bills that support sustainable cities in the future, such as the Sustainable Cities and Communities Act. This is something that I hope to work on more in this Congress.

I’d like now to go to the futures of education. During the pandemic, one of the major outputs of our Committee was the Futures of Education Committee Report. I am happy to share this with anyone who is interested, as I am happy to also get samples of the bills that the colleagues who presented before me have mentioned in your presentations.

So our Futures of Education reported on how we can balance the use of technology in the delivery of education, but how we also need to strike that balance and not be reliant just on technology, because face-to-face interaction and the use of interpersonal skills must also be developed. I remember attending a conference, where the emphasis was on science and technology, and one of the speakers recognized that, and if I am not mistaken, the World Economic Forum, stated that it doesn’t mean that all jobs in the future will be on science and technology. We would also need students, young people, young adults, to reinvent themselves in the areas of creativity and communication.

So let me now go on into future challenges and opportunities. Personally, I have an interest in the futures of water. The growing global population has increased the demand for fresh drinking water. No less than UNESCO states that 80% of the world is exposed to water insecurity, with an impending water crisis to emerge in 2070. With water being vital to all forms of life, how do we meet the water requirements needed to support living organisms and their ecosystem? We will recall, in history, societies were built near water sources, rivers, oceans, and in a way, we go full circle because without this access to clean water, it will create problems for us.

I also like us to look into the future of food. According to the World Bank’s Food Commodity Price Index, food prices around the world have increased by 80%, compared to two years ago. So COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of our supply chain, this continues to be a problem for many countries.

So I already mentioned my interest in the future of cities. There are models in different parts of the world that we can use for our particular needs. And of course, I already mentioned the futures of health. These are all important, the future of education, and how we need to transform our education to meet the needs of the work demands.

So in conclusion, there is much to be done. I am extremely happy to be in the midst of like-minded parliamentarians and policymakers, with the view of using futures thinking tools and strategic foresight to really plot what we want for the future generation of our countries and of the world because we all live together. It is my goal that the future children, the young children, have a better home. We are guided by the principle of intergenerational fairness, where we put ourselves 20, 30, 50 years ahead and see if we are prepared for that future. Thank you very much. #

Attending virtually the World Summit of the Committees of the Future in Finland, Senator Pia Cayetano shared how the Senate panel which she chairs is integrating strategic foresight in government policies and legislation in the Philippines.

Preparing PH for the futures of education

By Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Chair, Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking

I rise today to report on and sponsor the findings and recommendations of the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation and Futures Thinking, jointly with the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, under Committee Report No. 643, on the Futures of Education.

This Committee Report examines the country’s current situation, problems, aspirations, and gathers the recommendations of experts and stakeholders during the Committee’s hearings and further study, in order to secure the best possible future for education. Interestingly, the pandemic gave us the opportunity to invite foreign experts who attended our hearings online.

Mr. President, we have filed a lengthy committee report, and also prepared a detailed sponsorship speech, but in the interest of time, I will just be quoting certain highlights of the Committee Report.

Like many countries around the world, we remain stuck in the factory model of education, a one-size-fits-all model that merely gauges the worth of students according to their test scores. The ideal future of education must instead value, recognize, and hone the individuality of each learner.

According to Dr. Peter Bishop, Founder and Executive Director of Teach the Future in Houston, Texas, “most educators and the society at large believe that the mission of education is to transmit knowledge and experience” to the next generations.

However, he noted that this view means that… “knowledge and experience is useful only to the extent that [what] the students [will] have in the future is the same as the world of the past” but in fact, “much of what schools teach their learners might actually be irrelevant if the world of the future is not the same as the past.”

The World Economic Forum (2020) states that in 10 years, automation technologies, and artificial intelligence (AI) are expected to change 50% of jobs, while eliminating 5% of them. Due to this, 9 out of 10 jobs will require digital skills. 65% of students entering primary school today will work in jobs that do not yet exist.

The Committee makes use of futures thinking as a tool that provides a way of envisioning the different futures of education, and how to achieve the best one.

The Asian Development Bank explains the importance of futures thinking, I won’t read this into the record now, but they are part of this report.

Also in the report, we traced the history of education in the Philippines. We noted that the Philippines mirrored the factory model of education, which was prevalent in the West at the time of the industrial revolution. So, now we ask ourselves using Futures Thinking tools: “what does education look like in 10, 15, 20 or 30 years from now, based on the decisions we make today? What are the new skills and competencies that future generations are going to need? How are we preparing students for jobs that do not yet exist? And what kind of learning environments will be needed?”

Surprisingly, cartoons like “Betty in High School 2021 A.D.” – this is part of the Archie Series – published in 1997, and I show this on the screen, they were able to predict in 1997 that home-based education with the use of technology would become a thing. So if you look at the screen, it shows Betty studying in front of the computer.

In the ideal future of Philippine education, students are not only learning in the classroom, since blended learning and technology allow them to study and learn in different environments.

During the pandemic the lack of interaction between students became evident. Again, this was predicted in the 1997 cartoon series of Betty in High School, wherein Betty and her friends, Archie and Veronica and the like, visited their parents’ school and marveled at the canteen where the students could mix and mingle, and talk about their projects, they marveled at the classroom setting where all the students were sitting together. Something that they were not experiencing anymore, and something that our young students have now been experiencing for the past two years because of the pandemic.

In the ideal future, curricula and courses are redesigned to address the needs of the future economies and technologies.

Teachers are more focused on teaching students 21st century skills and the 4 Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication. Learning is also more personalized to the capabilities of students.

Education is refocused away from learning one field to developing multiple abilities and skills for a variety of fields, keeping future workers adaptable to shifting work environments.

SDG 4 includes the attainment of education for all. Without a clear vision of our desired future of education, students will remain bound to classroom-based learning with little flexibility. Learners in remote areas without the ability to take advantage of technology, may find it very difficult to expand their learning environments and creativity, and learners will lack the skill set to thrive in a more competitive and connected work environment.

It should be emphasized that achieving SDG 4 on Quality Education will help us realize all the other SDGs – such as good health, sustainable cities and communities, decent work and economic growth, among others – and will empower Filipinos with the skills needed to build a successful, dignified life, contributing to not just on the national but on the global stage as well.

But still a lot of work needs to be done to achieve our preferred future. To this end, Dr. Alex Brillantes of the National College of Public Administration and Governance, University of the Philippines, emphasized the importance of cooperation, competition, and thinking globally and acting locally.

By employing futures thinking at the policy level, we can have a systematic assessment of education and its direction in light of the potentials of the future.

On this note, the Department of Education has been one of the first agencies to have created a futures office. According to Secretary Briones, this is the DepEd’s “response to the need for futures thinking in education, for readiness to confront the rapid changes, the challenges, and opportunities of the future.”

We also recognize our colleagues who have also been supportive of institutionalizing and mainstreaming futures thinking in the education sector, particularly:

Senator Gatchalian, the Chairman of [the Basic Education Committee], who has sponsored a number of education reform measures and agrees on the importance of assessing where we are, to come up with solutions to the problems we find, and to look at the future;

Senator Villanueva, the Chairman of Higher Education and TESDA, who has emphasized the need to integrate futures perspectives in higher education; and

Senator Angara, who has adopted our recommendation of funding various futures thinking initiatives in the last three years.

We have various recommendations, which are in our Committee Report. But let me just emphasize:

  • Institutionalizing and providing an enabling environment for Futures Thinking in education and relevant agencies is very important;
  • Focusing on the whole child and supporting their holistic well-being;
  • Prioritizing the knowledge, skills, and mindsets in order to develop 21st Century competencies;
  • Ensuring that our local workforce is prepared to join the global workforce through training in English proficiency and digital literacy;
  • Improving the teaching profession;
  • Taking advantage of and investing in technology and innovation to enhance education; and
  • Crafting and implementing the relevant legislation and policies, and providing the necessary budgetary support.
  • In conclusion, with the world changing and advancing so rapidly, we are faced with the choice of either adapting or being left behind.

In cultivating a better environment for education and learning, we must devote more time and resources into research, planning, and investments to take us steps closer into our preferred future of education.

While this Committee Report is far from exhaustive, the Committee hopes that it is a small step towards bettering our education system for the long-term, and challenging our current views so that we can empower Filipinos with the skills needed to build a successful, dignified life, contributing again not only to the country, but also on a global stage.

Thank you, Mr. President.#

Senator Pia Cayetano: schools should focus on teaching students 21st century skills, including the 4 Cs: critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and communication.

Key gov’t agencies back Sustainable Cities bill

Key government agencies expressed their support to Senator Pia S. Cayetano’s proposal to transform the country’s urban centers into sustainable communities that are better equipped for all kinds of future scenarios, including new pandemics and major disasters.

The Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement conducted a hearing on Wednesday (July 1) to discuss, among others, Cayetano’s Senate Bill No. (SBN) 65, or the ‘Sustainable Cities & Communities Act.’

Filed last year, the bill seeks to support local governments in transforming their respective localities into sustainable communities. This will be undertaken by ensuring access to basic social services, renewable energy sources, efficient waste management systems, and reliable mass transportation.

“Studies show that survival of the people really lies on the sustainability of their community,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking

“When I drafted this bill, a pandemic was not in my mind, but our targets for our SDGs. Now, it is very clear that we need to prepare for all possible future scenarios,” she noted.

Cayetano said the proposal complements the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ (UN) SDGs agenda, particularly Goal 11, which seeks to make cities and human settlements “inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable” by 2030.

Urban Planning Committee Chair Sen. Francis Tolentino described Cayetano’s bill as “very timely,” especially since COVID-19 has highlighted the need for policy and infrastructural reforms to address the “mounting problems in our urban sustainability programs.”

“Sustainability transcends this contagion. And we must look for solutions. More than ever, we have to review and recalibrate our approach on urban development,” Tolentino stressed, citing data estimating more than half of the world’s population will live in urban centers by the year 2050.

Tolentino also suggested that education and the right to adequate housing be included as key targets in creating sustainable cities and communities under the bill.

Meanwhile, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario said SBN 65 will help enable the agency to assist different cities and municipalities in crafting their respective land use and development plans.

“DHSUD fully supports Senate Bill No. 65… [It] will further support the efforts of the national government… in fine-tuning and strengthening the crafting of the Comprehensive Land Use Plans of all municipalities and cities nationwide,” Del Rosario stated.

Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Tonisito Umali meanwhile said that the agency “completely agrees” with the objectives of SBN 65, and how education will fit in the model for sustainable cities and communities, as articulated in the bill’s provisions.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri also said SBN 65 will further promote local autonomy and community empowerment, which is one of the agency’s mandates.

“The department has been implementing programs and projects to promote sustainable communities at the local level. Thus, we manifest nothing but support for this measure,” Usec. Echiverri said. #

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.