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.

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.” 

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)