Press Release
January 25, 2022

Senate Bill No. 2485 / Committee Report No. 446


January 24, 2022

Senate of the Philippines

Delivered by the Honorable Win Gatchalian, Senator of the 18th Congress:

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, last February I delivered a privilege speech, calling the attention of this esteemed chamber to the Philippine education crisis. The data presented during that speech, sourced from pre-pandemic standardized test scores, showed that the Philippine education system has failed to impart basic competency on essential subjects to the vast majority of Filipino learners.

The average score of Filipino learners on the Reading exam of the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA, were the lowest out of 79 participating countries. Filipino learners were second-to-last on the PISA math and science exams.

Filipino learners also came in last place out of 58 participating countries on the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study or TIMMS.

According to findings of the 2019 SEA-PLM, an ASEAN- focused assessment, less than two out of every ten Filipino fifth graders tested showed minimum proficiency in math. Only one out of ten Filipino learners showed minimum proficiency in reading.

Unfortunately, Mr. President, additional data indicate that prolonged school closures caused by the pandemic have made a bad situation even worse. According to the World Bank, learning- adjusted years of schooling or LAYS will decrease from 7.5 years to around 6 years post-pandemic. This means that, factoring in quality of learning, the 12 years of basic education mandated for Filipino learners would only result in about 6 years of effective schooling. In simple terms, this means that Filipino learners will retain even less knowledge, competencies, and skills from their basic education due to pandemic-driven disruptions in their schooling.

The World Bank also forecasts a staggering increase in learning poverty. Learning poverty is defined as the share of 10- year-old children who cannot read and understand a simple story. It is an effective proxy measure for education quality. World Bank's revised estimates show that learning poverty in the Philippines is now at least 90.5%. This means that nine out of ten children of that age cannot read and understand a simple story. World Bank predicts that learning poverty will continue to get worse due to the closure of schools.

Mr. President, the data suggest an alarming escalation of the Philippine education crisis, precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are facing the potential collapse of the education system entirely, as learner outcomes continue to deteriorate and tens of millions of Filipino learners are left behind. We are also in danger of wasting trillions of pesos worth of taxpayer money over the next few years on an education system so flawed that it cannot even accomplish something as basic as teaching our children how to read. Frankly, Mr. President, I am ashamed and outraged at how our education system has failed entire generations of Filipino learners.

The only way to end the education crisis and prevent the complete collapse of the Philippine education system is to dedicate ourselves to achieving groundbreaking system-wide reforms. The gigantic scope of this task is far beyond the means of ordinary committee hearings and legislative work. We must create a powerful congressional body, whose sole purpose is to study the many ills of our education system, and craft concrete legislative solutions to cure them.

It is in this context, Mr. President, that I am sponsoring the Second Congressional Commission on Education or EDCOM 2 Act. The objective of EDCOM 2 is to undertake a comprehensive national assessment and evaluation of the performance of the Philippine education sector for the purpose of recommending transformative, concrete, and targeted reforms. The objectives of EDCOM 2 shall include:

Conducting a review of the observance of the respective legal mandates of the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority;

Determining the factors that have contributed to the continuing failure of learner performance on identified subject areas to meet desired international and local standards;

Recommending specific, targeted and time-bound solutions to enable the education sub-sectors to improve performance vis-à-vis measurable indicators and deliver accessible, inclusive and quality education that is at par with world standards;

Identifying best practices of various national and international educational institutions that can be adopted across the entire education system;

Proposing a monitoring and evaluation plan to ensure the timely achievement of set targets;

Determining the role of local government units in the delivery of basic education services; and,

Proposing additional legislation to further the objectives of the Act.

EDCOM 2 will be composed of ten members, five each from the Senate and the House, who chair the most relevant committees to the mandate of EDCOM 2. They are the chairpersons of the respective Senate and House committees on Basic Education; Higher, Technical, and Vocational Education; Finance or Appropriations; Science and Technology, and Labor and Employment. The members of the Commission are given a period of two years to conduct the necessary consultations, analyze the information received, and report their findings. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies shall serve as the research arm of EDCOM 2 to bolster the Commission's capabilities.

Upon the expiration of EDCOM 2's mandate after two years, it shall be dissolved as the bill then provides for the creation of a Joint Congressional Oversight Committee. The role of the JCOC will be to oversee, monitor, and evaluate the implementation of the recommendations of EDCOM 2.

It goes without saying, Mr. President, that this measure is inspired by the First Congressional Commission on Education established in 1990. Faced with a similar education crisis, the 8th Congress of the Philippines resolved to establish EDCOM 1, to amass information to review and assess the Philippine education sector through extensive direct consultations on an unprecedented scale. EDCOM 1 held grassroots consultations in each region of the Philippines, visiting 18 provinces and 13 regional centers. EDCOM 1 met 33 groups representing public and private schools, teachers, parents, students, special education, local and national Government executives, workers and employers. They invited 378 experts in education, science and technology, language, technical education and training, public administration, finance and the mass media, to share their insights and expertise with the body. It was the most extensive and intensive public consultation in the history of Philippine governance.

Through this extraordinary application of participatory governance and inclusive policymaking, EDCOM 1 crafted the 1991 EDCOM Report - one of the most influential congressional reports ever published. This report set into motion several of the most impactful education reforms over the past few decades. Foremost among them was the breaking up of the monolithic Department of Education, Culture, and Sports in favor of the DepEd-CHED-TESDA trifocalization that exists today.

Mr. President, we know that our education system is in need of reform. However, for any reform to be truly transformative, it must start with a clear and comprehensive understanding of the problems it wishes to solve. And in very simple terms, the purpose of EDCOM 2 will be to devote as many resources as possible towards achieving our ideal of delivering quality education to all Filipino learners. With the advent of virtual conferencing, cloud computing, and other technologies, we have the opportunity to make history once more, by conducting direct consultation with education stakeholders and policy experts on a scale far greater than even EDCOM 1. In essence, Mr. President, what we are proposing is the most intensive policy review in the history of our government. In my view, we can settle at nothing less if we want to end the education crisis and prevent the collapse of our broken education system.

Therefore, I join my co-authors - Senators Angara, Drilon, Poe, Villanueva, and Marcos - in wholeheartedly imploring our colleagues to support the approval of this landmark education legislation. I would also like to thank the many stakeholders who helped us get to this point: DepEd, CHED, TESDA, MBHTE- BARMM, PIDS, Philippine Normal University, UP College of

Education, UP NCPAG, the University of Santo Tomas, Fr. Ben Nebres, Br. Armin Luistro, EDCOM 1 alumni Dr. Imperial and Prof. Sebastian, PESPA, ALCU, PASUC, COCOPEA, Synergia, E-Net, and PBEd.

Lastly, may I also manifest, Mr. President, that House Bill No. 10308, entitled "An Act Creating A Congressional Oversight Committee On Education To Review And Assess The State Of Philippine Education, And Recommend Policy Reforms To Harmonize And Enhance The Policies And Programs Of Philippine Basic, Technical-Vocational, And Higher Education" be taken into consideration under Committee Report No. 446.

We must take decisive action to fix the Philippine education system before it is too late.

Our children deserve better.

Our nation deserves better.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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