Press Release
February 9, 2021

One News The Chiefs interview of Sen. Win Gatchalian with Luchi Cruz-Valdes, Amy Pamintuan, Ed Lingao and Roby Alampay on distance learning, teacher quality education and sick books

Q: How would you assess, where we're headed in this experiment we call distance learning?

SEN WIN: This, I can say with certainty, it's going to be very challenging and close to impossible to get good grades this time around because even before the pandemic, we've seen a lot of the international results coming, PISA, TIMSS and the Southeast Asia-PLM, all of them are pointed to one direction, we were last or we were at the very tail end of the spectrum. Everything was pointing towards a very dismal performance of our learners but this was prior the pandemic. So we're now in a pandemic and there's no face-to-face learning, everything is done through modules, we don't have online learning, the notion of our students using the computer is non-existent because almost eighty percent is through self-learning modules. So having said that, learning and teaching is being done remotely through self-learning modules and that is very challenging. Imagine, teachers cannot explain fully and students cannot understand fully because there is no communication on a daily basis.

Q: Many parents are not in the position to teach... How much dependence is there on the self-learning modules? How many students are left to themselves to determine whether or not the modules are actually teaching them the right things?

SEN WIN: This is a classic cliché of 'better than nothing,' it's better than letting our kids sit in their homes and do nothing. So we're struggling definitely but on the brighter side, our teachers are very determined to bring education to the homes and our parents are trying their best to teach our children. You are absolutely correct because I talked to some mayors in Mindanao and they were saying, 'paano magtuturo yung mga parents? They didn't even graduate elementary?' It's very difficult for them but the mayors, the teachers and the community themselves are trying very hard to make sure that their children is somehow absorbing the self-learning modules and the lessons they need to learn but like I said, don't be too optimistic at the end of the school year. There are periodic assessment but we will have an end of the year assessment and I'm very edgy about the results of this.

Q: What are you bracing for? Worst case and best case? Will we actually see what our children learned or not?

SEN WIN: DepEd reduced the number of competencies about close to sixty percent so meaning what's left for the students to learn are the most essential competencies, the competencies that they need to learn in order to move from one grade level, that's the best-case scenario. The worst case scenario is, nobody learns because it's very difficult to absorb, for example just imagine teaching grade ten students trigonometry or basic statistics remotely, through self-learning modules. I've seen it, I have went to a couple of homes in Valenzuela to observe our children learning through self-learning modules and it's very difficult and if they want to contact their teacher, they do it through Facebook messenger, or through text, it's very difficult to explain through text, imagine explaining trigonometry through text.

Q: Midway na itong school year, are you still calling for the review of the materials?... The vaccine is on the way... baka hindi na magamit yan by that time?

SEN WIN: The way the teachers are correcting the modules, is not the entire modules so what they do is they just give out the piece of paper and write the corrections there. Of course the reach is another matter but they have a way of correcting. Actually what is happening is quite questionable because all division they have a quality assurance mechanism. For example, the division of Valenzuela meron silang quality assurance mechanism and that is why I'm quite surprised, I don't know what's happening in our divisions why these types of errors are coming out but it goes to show also as to how the makers of these modules and their concept of quality and concept of what they are learning is also not up to par, especially when it comes to quality, when it comes to stereotyping, the notion of stereotyping, maraming reklamo is about stereotyping and one is an Igorot being one of indigenous tribes being stereotype. The notion of that is quite questionable in our divisions and this is something that we need to investigate.

Q: We've been seeing these errors long before the pandemic, long before the self-learning modules were invented... what is the root of the people producing these materials, the people and the lack of quality?... the people are saying the system is corrupted?

SEN WIN: That's a very accurate question and a very good question, in fact we are spending so much time on this topic and the simple answer to that is teacher quality and teacher education and in fact we have great teachers, our teachers are committed, dedicated, they really try their best to deliver education to the homes but they are only as good as education that they get during college and this is where the problem is. In fact, there is a huge discussion now in the senate and in the academe on how to improve teacher education at the pre-service or at the collegial level because it's affecting also the in-service teachers teaching our students. So it's a continuum, meaning they have to teach them properly at the college level so when they enter the workforce, they already have the proper knowledge and that we're confident that they are trained well and they know the materials they have to teach our children. Also, basic concepts like stereotyping, all of these things, they have to learn these during college.

Q: Teachers are now licensed, I expect an increase in quality, what happened to that? Is that really something that works?

SEN WIN: Just to give body to that comment, just to give you a quick number, the passing grade for licensure examination for teachers, for the last seven years, is only about thirty percent. In fact, it's easier to become a lawyer than to become a teacher and the reason for that is because the knowledge that they are getting in college in the pre-service level, we have to make sure that they are trained properly and we have to make sure that only qualified teachers, teachers with high aptitudes will become teachers. Unfortunately right now, the course of education became a default course for a lot of our kids because they know their security of tenure in government and in fairness we have raised the salaries of our teachers quite high already in the past ten years. In fact the salaries of our public school teachers are getting is higher than our private schools, so that is the default course but unfortunately we also want to get high aptitudes, teachers that have strong aptitudes to become teachers and they should be trained very well and this is what is lacking right now in our policy, parang pwede but they cannot absorb it and when they enter the licensure examination they fail, and this has been a very big problem in the professional aspect of teacher's licensure.

Q: Kung thirty percent lang ang pumapasa bakit the quality is still not so good? Or not as good as we want? There seems to be an inconsistency there?

SEN WIN: Correct. Actually there is also a very big debate now if we are using the right materials to test our teachers. Right now just to give you an idea, the CHED is a different agency that trains the teachers and then you have PRC that tests and assess the teachers and then you have DepEd that uses the teachers. These are all separate agencies and sadly they don't talk as often as they want, they don't collaborate as often. So now there is a sort a silos, there's a group teaching our teachers, a group assessing our teachers and a group using our teachers to teach our students and they are not working the way we want them to work.

Q: Are you in favor of the 'no-fail' policy proposal?

SEN WIN: I'm not in favor of that because the whole point of assessing is to know the strengths and the weaknesses of our learners and if they are weak in a subject matter, let's say Reading, we help them so when they move on to the higher grade level they can adapt to the next grade level with ease but if we don't know the weaknesses are, then mahihirpan siya, when he moves to the next grade level they will have a very difficult time of keeping up with that grade level and most likely he will fail. So it is important to pinpoint where are the weaknesses and how our teachers and our school should intervene in order to help the student.

Q: What should we do this school year? Would you be open to for example to writing off the whole school year and doing it again? There are some subjects that are built on one top of the other?

SEN WIN: Yes, that's correct that's what they call the spiral method. The divisions and the schools are designed to look at the weaknesses of the students and help them, tutor them, launch remedial classes. For example, if they are weak in Reading they come up with reading interventions so that's their design. That's why before the pandemic, during the normal school year, we can pinpoint the weaknesses of our students and intervene. In this case that's possible although it's difficult because in tutoring you need to do one on one, or you need to do small classes but we cannot do face-to-face yet but in theory we should pinpoint the weaknesses, which subject matters they need help and which subject matters teachers need to intervene in order to increase the understanding of our learners.

Q: The material that we're using.. you said that the root is the education of our teachers but the teachers is just one sector, the ones who produce, who publish, who sell, who supply to our government are not the teachers these are people in the business that is what I'm really concerned about... What is the root of that fact that our teaching materials are really subpar and really from time to time are cropped with things that make people feel so dismayed?

SEN WIN: There are two types of materials now, the self-learning modules which were developed by DepEd and the divisions themselves. For example in Valenzuela, we developed our own self-learning modules and we have a quality assurance team there. It goes through a process, they read it, they proofread it, they look at the facts and they quality assure it. The divisions are empowered to do that for the self-learning modules. What we're talking about are the books in general and all the books that are being sold in DepEd goes through a process wherein DepEd also have their own quality assurance team. So before a book is published, it goes through a process of quality assurance, to look for mistakes, to look for facts and the subject matter and then they publish it. In some cases, the quality assurance will miss those mistakes and I've seen some of these materials, they call it 'sick books.' In theory it should have passed the quality assurance system of DepEd but for some reason it missed the mistakes, those errors that came out of the books and that is also a cause of concern and before the pandemic we were actually talking about this and we also want to look at this closely.

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