Press Release
February 3, 2023

Conferment Ceremony: Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Doctor of Education (h.c.)
Philippine Normal University
February 3, 2023 at 4:00 PM

Delivered by the Honorable Win Gatchalian, Senator of the 19th Congress: [Acknowledgment of Dignitaries - AD LIB]

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."

These wise words, once spoken by Nelson Mandela, come to mind as I stand before you to receive the humbling honor you have bestowed upon me today.

One who receives a quality education is armed with a significant advantage in life. He or she will be qualified to undertake more highly skilled jobs, enjoying a much better earning capacity to provide for his or herself and their family. He or she will be better equipped to contribute to nation-building. Every successful learner is a catalyst for positive change.

Sabi nga nila, ang edukasyon ay isang kayamanan na hindi mananakaw ninuman. Nagsisilbi itong susi upang mawakasan ang kahirapan. Nagsisilbi itong ilaw tungo sa maunlad na kinabukasan.

Early on in my career as a public servant, during my tenure as congressman and mayor of Valenzuela City, I witnessed first-hand the transformative might of education to empower individuals, uplift families, and transform communities. 

In Valenzuela, we launched a comprehensive education program to reform our schools and arm learners with sharper weapons forged through education. We built thousands of classrooms, provided quality learning materials, invested in state-of-the-art math, science, and technology infrastructure, provided free meals to kindergarten and elementary school children, and revamped our local colleges and universities.

Our collective efforts in Valenzuela City transformed our local school system into one of the nation's best. Educational outcomes for our learners improved, and we began to produce more teachers, accountants, engineers, and other professionals. These successful learners have gone on to provide better lives for their families while serving their respective communities as esteemed professionals.

The reforms we instituted in Valenzuela City are what inspired me to run for national office. After seeing how the power of education had transformed our city for the better, I was convinced that applying the lessons we had learned at the local level would have the same transformative effect at the national level.

One of the pillars of our local education reform program was expanding access to post-secondary education. After years of work, we were able to provide tuition-free education to students of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Valenzuela and Valenzuela City Polytechnic College, our two local tertiary institutions.

Because of this, hardworking yet underprivileged Valenzuelanos who might not have had the chance to go to college were given opportunities to pursue higher education. Heavy burdens were lifted from families struggling to fund the dreams and aspirations of their college-bound children.

Nasaksihan ko mismo kung paano nito binago ang buhay ng mga Valenzuelano. Kaya naman sinabi ko sa sarili ko: Kung naisulong natin ang repormang ito sa Valenzuela, bakit hindi natin ito isakatuparan sa buong bansa?

Driven by what we achieved in Valenzuela City, I filed the original version of the Free Higher Education Act in July 2015 during my first term as congressman. The bill sought to establish tuition-free education for Filipino undergraduate students enrolled at state universities and colleges.

At first, our proposal was met with skepticism. Many questioned the feasibility of implementing such an ambitious policy. Others dismissed the bill as mere politicking to score points with traditional media and netizens.

Eventually, however, thought leaders and decisionmakers began to rally behind the Free Higher Education Act once we presented concrete data on its fiscal sustainability and immense potential to heighten the educational attainment and earning capacity of millions of Filipino youth. Thanks to the efforts of countless legislators, technocrats, and civil society stakeholders, an expanded and improved version of our original proposal was signed into law as

Republic Act No. 10931 on August 3, 2017. RA 10931 will provide free education in public college and universities and greater financial aid in private institutions for generations of Filipino youth to come.

The Free Higher Education Law is just one of many education reforms we have legislated in recent years, with the wholehearted support of education advocates and experts from esteemed institutions like the Philippine Normal University. I cannot thank the administration and faculty of this institution enough for the keen insights you have provided in shaping the laws we have passed during my tenure as Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, including the Excellence in Teacher Education Act, the Alternative Learning System Act, the Inclusive Education Act, , and the GMRC and Values Education Act.

Truly, the Philippine Normal University has been one of the Senate's foremost partners in crafting transformative education legislation. As a longtime advocate for education reform, it is such an incredible honor and privilege to be awarded an honorary Doctorate in Education from none other than the Philippine Normal University - the country's National Center for Teacher Education and a highly renowned incubator for progressive education policies. I hope to continue relying on your support moving forward, even more so now as an honorary alumnus of your distinguished institution.

Though we have accomplished much together in recent years, we still have a lot of work to do. I have spoken at length about the perennial education crisis that continue to affect our nation. The data on hand paint a sobering portrait of an education system that has consistently failed to instill in our learners the basic competencies they need to succeed in adult life.

Sa kasalukuyan, marami pa rin sa ating mga kabataan ang hindi nakakakuha ng sapat na kaalaman at kasanayan. Dumagdag pa ang pinsalang dulot ng pandemya na naging sanhi ng paglubha ng krisis sa sektor ng edukasyon.

We need to put an end to the education crisis once and for all. You, our noble and selfless teachers, will be at the frontlines of this battle.

Thankfully, our recent legislative inquiries at the Senate have revealed several policy thrusts to help us put an end to the education crisis.

We need to establish an Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning Program, so that learners affected by pandemic-caused school closures can catch up with their studies and get back on the track towards academic success.

We need to take an in-depth look at the successes and failures of the K12 program over the past decade, so that we can better tailor our basic education system to provide quality education and achieve global competitiveness.

We need to prioritize digital literacy and make cutting-edge technology available to learners in all public and private educational institutions, so that our children will be better prepared to meet the challenges of our fast-evolving world in the 21st century.

We need to make sure that teachers earn the salaries they deserve, so that educators can continue teaching the next generations of Filipino learners without having to suffer financial distress.

These are just some of the many reforms we have yet to achieve. The list goes on, and on, and on, just about as long as our education crisis has gone on. Yet, I am confident that we can make significant progress in the coming years, if we can come together and take action to achieve our common vision of a world-class Philippine education system.

With this goal in mind, I most humbly and respectfully accept this Doctorate of Education, honoris causa, from the Philippine Normal University. I sincerely thank you all for welcoming me into the PNU family. Now that we are family, I feel more comfortable asking you for help.

So, please: Help me achieve our vision. Join me in crafting and implementing the reforms needed to build a world-class Philippine education system, for the benefit of the youth and our beloved country.

Together, let us wield the mighty sword of education to change our communities, our nation, and our world for the better.

Let's WIN this together! Thank you, and have a most pleasant afternoon!

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