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.