Press Release
August 24, 2022


Q: All right, what is your general feedback on the face-to-face classes first day opening?

SEN. WIN: Well, Karen, generally it was peaceful, organized and prepared. Of course, there were other parts of the country wherein they experienced overcrowding of classrooms, lack of chairs, even the other areas were flooded, but generally I would say 90%, it went smoothly. And the reason for that is if you remember last year in November, we already started our pilot testing. And a lot of our principals, a lot of our teachers, a lot of our superintendents were given guidelines to follow and to exercise. So a lot of credit goes to our teachers, principals and superintendents because they follow the protocols and they learned from their mistakes, especially during the height of the pandemic, and they managed to adjust this.

Q: What are your concerns? The DepEd has said they will not be issuing a memorandum directing class size. So we do have some schools that are on two shifts, some schools that have 35 in a class, but you also have some schools at 45 in a class. In Marikina naman, there's a capacity issue where half the students are not going to school. What are your concerns?

SEN. WIN: Karen, it's not a one size fits all problem and one size fits all solution. In the urban areas, we are really experiencing overcrowding in the classroom. I went around Valenzuela, even in Valenzuela, our senior high school, junior and senior high school, the average class size there's about 50 students per classroom, some reach 60 students per classroom and on a national scale, on a whole whole nation scale, there were about 1.5 million students from the private schools who transferred to the public schools, especially in senior high school because in senior high school, it's quite expensive because of the materials that students use. So we saw a huge migration from private schools to public schools that aggravated the situation because even without the migration, some of our schools in the urban areas are already experiencing overcrowding and then you have this migration. That's why places like Marikina, places like Quezon City experience a high volume of students in one classroom.

Q: Okay. And what is the long term solution like in Quezon City, for example, Marikina as well, the problem is space. What is the alternative to a shortage in classrooms with the direction to go back to face-to-face?

SEN. WIN: Actually, look at the entire system. In the entire system, the student classroom ratio is about 35 to one which is not bad because in the provinces where they have luxury of land, they can actually build a lot of classrooms. And some of the provinces, especially in the rural areas, would have 20 students per classroom, 30 students per classroom. It's really here in the urban areas. And building in the urban areas is very, very expensive, for example, in Quezon City, where land values there go around P50,000 per square to around P100,000 per square meter. There's no way to buy land. It's very expensive for the government to buy land. So we're actually studying to file a bill to allow classrooms to be built more than four storeys because there's regulation that classrooms are only allowed up to four storeys because it's very difficult for students to go up more than four storeys. But if you can put elevators, if we put other equipment to easily bring students up to the fifth floor and sixth floor we can conserve land and we can build more that should be looked at in the urban areas.

Q: Okay. All right. So that's the infrastructure side of it. Let's talk about changes in the education system. A few things I wanted to ask you. So you believe the curriculum should be changed from grades one to three, your counterpart in the lower house, Congressman Roman Roman, wants subjects to be concentrated on reading, reading, reading, Math and good manners and right conduct to improve test scores. Where do you stand on that? Schools tend to have too many subjects.

SEN. WIN: Stage one, which is kindergarten to grade three, these are the formative years, and we did this very carefully. For grade one, they would have eight subjects, for grade two eight subjects, for Grade 3 eight subjects. In Tagalog speaking areas, the medium of instruction is Tagalog, and they would learn English for 50 minutes. In the provinces, especially in non-Tagalog areas, they would use the mother tongue, then Filipino as a language then English as a subject sorry, Filipinos are subject then English as a subject. So in other words, in non-Tagalog speaking areas, they would use three different languages. English is just a subject for 15 minutes. So my take on that and based on my consultation with teachers, principals and superintendents on the ground because they're the ones executing this curriculum, it's very difficult for a teacher to teach each subject in a day. It's very difficult for students to absorb three languages and study eight subjects in a day. We also have to realize some realities on the ground. For example, some of our students might be helping their parents in terms of livelihood. Some of our students probably don't have electricity at night. So there are bottlenecks also to learning. So I do agree to lessen the subjects for grade one, grades one, grade two and grade three, and then increase the number of hours for English. I believe that the Filipino can be bilingual, meaning from 50 minutes, increase it for two hours, Filipino increase it to two hours, and then and then use the mother tongue for grades one to grade three. So in other words, a student will have more time to learn English, more time to read in English, more time to learn Filipino, but if the student will not lose his identity or his comprehension using the mother tongue.

Q: Okay, but then I wanted to ask you, language is acquired, right? So technically speaking, the mother tongue, if it's used at home, will be acquired by a child instinctively. It's like having our Filipina nannies taking care of foreigners. Whether they're French, they will learn Filipino whether they like it or not. Because they acquire it. So ang tanong nga ng ilan is, shouldn't English already be the medium of instruction in schools? Because English has to be formally taught, formally acquired the mother tongue whether you like it or not, you will acquire it if you speak it at home and it has no benefit. It has no benefit to us as a nation in the global arena. I mean, of course, locally speaking, we would all want to be proficient in our local dialects. But in the global arena, we are now failing in English.

SEN. WIN: I know that and instinctively for us it seems to be common sense, but there's also science behind mother tongue. And the reason why it's being pushed by academicians by experts, by the academe is because of comprehension. Yes, it's acquired naturally. But if you teach the child or teach the learner using mother tongue comprehension is faster. You also develop confidence and you also develop engagement. And I've seen this actually partly in Valenzuela as well for grades 1 to 3, even Tagalog speaking and we're exposed to English but if you teach, let's say Math to Grade ones, and use English, they tend to be shy and not participative. Because it's a barrier for them. They think in Tagalog, but you have to understand, you have to answer in English.

Q: Isn't that the formative years, I mean, I'm trying to say when you make a child, when they get used to speaking English at a young age, then they become extremely proficient at it, even with comprehension which would then improve our I would have to say not scores, but our soft power in a global scale.

SEN. WIN: Yeah, I get your point. In fact, that's my initial common sense reaction. But we also have to look at the science behind why mother tongue is an accepted practice globally. It's not only in the Philippines, but also globally. It's because the child can easily comprehend using his or her mother tongue in teaching subjects for example, mathematics, if you use the mother tongue to teach mathematics, even though there are some terminologies, terminologies that are in English, the child will comprehend it faster than using English. And that's already proven, but admittedly, admittedly Karen, this needs to be studied because our country is quite complex, we have areas wherein there are three different languages, dialects being spoken in one classroom. There are three or four dialects in one school, and executing the mother tongue or implementing the mother tongue is not as simple because of our geographical complication. So my point of the matter is, the mother tongue is a scientifically based approach. But we also need to study if this approach fits the Philippines because of our setting.

Q: Okay, now, we can talk about that at length. That's a whole other subject, but how would you then improve K to 12? There are suggestions already to review grades 11 and 12. To make it more useful, adaptable, and assessment tests be conducted, so that the core subjects they take in 11 and 12. If a child can be accredited in college, how would you improve the K to 12?

SEN. WIN: Karen, we are going to undergo a K-12 review together with Congressman Romulo in the lower house. And based on my initial assessment, because I've been doing a lot of research on this. There are two very important aspects in K-12 that we have to look at. Number one is to teach kindergarten to grade three, which is the stage one. We have to really strengthen fundamental and foundational skills, reading, math. Those are the things and comprehension of course, so those are the things that we need to strengthen. Because when a child can read, it's easy for the child to move to different levels. So once you're reading and math in the first four years, no kindergarten and grade school. Pagdating sa Senior High School, we found out also that the promises of K-12, which is employment, is not happening, because there is a disconnect between what the industry needs and what we are teaching in our Senior High School. So another problem in senior high school actually graduated with wrong skills, because the industries are not being consulted. So we will actually address that by making sure that the linkage is there.

Q: But then how do you address the foundational issues? In the poverty report, I'm sure you've read that I think coming from the World Bank, that nine out of 10 Filipinos can't read, right? So it's quite alarming and it would be very difficult to teach comprehension and reading when they're older. Because the understanding and the complexity of analysis starts when you're younger.

SEN. WIN: Yeah, we have to look at that report. That report is based on the PISA and other international examinations and basically, that's that report that says that nine out of 10 ten year olds cannot read. And they're actually tested in English. So in other words, we all know that English comprehension is very weak among our grades one to grades three, and we need to strengthen those foundational skills. I totally agree that our competent competitive advantage is English. That's our competitive advantage. I agree that we have to strengthen that. But we also need to balance what science is saying and what the country needs long term. So there's going to be a review that we will be undertaking, making sure that English, reading and comprehension will be strengthened. Balancing our Filipino and mother tongue. And at the end, Senior High School we will link it to what the industry needs.

Q: Okay. Your feedback here from Professor Edna Co, she's the dean of the UP public administration. She says your reforms, your suggested reforms are sound and she asks, can this be scrutinized by education professionals experts? Consider design thinking. In other words, get the stakeholders involved with your discussion, Senator Gatchalian?

SEN. WIN: Karen, we're actually in the midst, Congressman Romulo and I, are in the midst of organizing the Education Commission number two. And this is a an independent congressional commission that will look at the entire gamut of our education system, focusing first on short-term problems, then proposing long-term solutions and also looking at the general or the overall structure of our education system, but we have to address the short term first because the short-term like what you said, our learning poverty is as high as 90%. We need to fix that first so that education commission is open and in fact, we will be inviting experts such as Professor Co to participate because I don't also believe that it's only the politicians who know the solutions we need to get the society and experts to join in and look at and joining the discussion and look up the solutions.

Q: You know what would be interesting? I mean, considering that I know one of your problems and I know you have a meeting so you have to go as soon, is the DepEd has discovered that there are teachers who are teaching subjects that they are not experts in? You heard this Senator Gathalian right? So it affected the quality of the learning itself.

SEN. WIN: Well Karen, that's also another...that's a long discussion, because that's also hitting on pedagogy, but because in our K to 12 system, we actually switch pedagogy so that's a long discussion that we will be looking at the Education Commission.

Q: Yeah. I was thinking there are other countries that actually use volunteers, our private volunteers to teach language, right? So we have Filipino teachers who are earning a lot of money abroad because they teach English, that's the irony there abroad. So would it be possible? I mean, this is more innovative. I know some countries do it. But you have the private sector coming in volunteering once a week to teach basic English.

SEN. WIN: That's very good Karen, in fact, you're absolutely correct, because I saw the main activity now of most countries, most countries, is academic recovery in a short time span. Teach and tutor our students in order for them to catch up because a lot of our students actually, not only in the Philippines, but other parts of the world. A lot of our students because of the pandemic have not gone into a classroom and have not interacted with their teachers and a lot of them regressed in terms of reading and in terms of math and I filed a bill, it's called the Aral bill which is basically academic recovery. And just like what you said, we will use college students because they need to undergo practicum anyways, to tap into the man hours and teach our students how to read. It's important at an early age, we really drill down and put a lot of man hours in training and teaching our students how to read.

Q: Alright, well Senator Sherwin Gatchalian we will have you on Headstart again because education will be the topic in the next few weeks. But thank you for joining me and you take care. I know you're running off to a meeting.

SEN. WIN: Thank you. Thank you, Karen.

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