Education is a shared responsibility and accountability

EDUCATION IS the key to everything that provides comfort, speed, protection and productivity to our world today.

Genuine advances in information technology, medicine, agriculture, business, engineering and every other branch of knowledge would be impossible if education didn’t help us build on the advances of the great minds that ever walked planet earth.

Currently, the race for a cure to the infectious and deadly COVID19 involves extraordinarily educated professionals around the globe including Filipino virologists and epidemiologists.

In fact, it is essential for the Philippines as a developing nation to keep exploring and learning new things. Education is not only about the past and present, but it is also the key to the future.

It will help discipline and teach our children not only for the intellectual challenges and facts but it also teaches them how to think and learn on their own in the 21st century.

There are 259 registered public/private colleges and universities in Central Luzon offering various major and employable courses.

These are scattered in seven provinces, 14 cities and 116 municipalities around the region.

Adjusting to the new normal, most of these schools apply the modes of instruction to online or a combination of online and in-person or classes on campus to stem the transmission of the COVID19.

The local communities and local government units (LGUs) must be empowered as partners in educating the learners, and must participate in providing basic, higher and technical education where every member of the local community, in every barangay or village is involved in governance by mandating education as a shared responsibility and accountability.

Education must be everybody’s business – it should have always been. However, it is not only strategic partnership that is critical to ensure a successful community-based endeavor.

It is the value of collective responsibility and accountability in the delivery of quality education demanding student accountability, parent responsibility, teacher and leader accountability, local school board and superintendent accountability, higher education accountability, education preparation provider accountability, and LGUs accountability.

 The Department of Education is in charge of the central management of the public education system in the country.

It is mandated under Republic Act No. 9155, otherwise known as the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001, to formulate, implement, and coordinate policies, plans, programs and projects in the areas of formal and non-formal basic education.

It supervises all elementary and secondary education institutions, including alternative learning systems, both public and private.

There is a pending bill in the Senate, authored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian which seeks to reinvent the local school board “to bring about large-scale systemic reforms in a centrally managed public education system.”

Under this bill, the existing local school boards are empowered beyond their traditional function for almost 30 years under Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 of allocating the Special Education Fund (SEF) for the supplementary budgetary support to local public schools.

First, it expands the eight-member board to involve other relevant actors in the community and stakeholders of education whose participation is critical to decision-making on issues such as the state and quality of public education within its local jurisdiction and the participation of parents in the education of their children.

The current membership does not enable local communities to participate meaningfully in education governance.

The bill also provides the expanded functions of the school boards, and the utilization of the SEF has also been broadened to include the following: (1) salaries or wages of SEF-paid teachers and non-teaching personnel assigned to public elementary and secondary schools; construction, repair, and maintenance of public elementary and secondary school buildings, equipment, and other facilities; acquisition or procurement of books and instructional or learning materials; educational research; educational summits, community town hall meetings, discussions, and consultations on education; community mapping of data related to education; operation and maintenance of ALS programs within its local jurisdiction; and formulation and implementation of locally oriented non-formal and distance education classes and training programs, among others.

Furthermore, Senate Bill No. 1579 seeks to establish and maintain a school governing council in every public and private basic educational institution to ensure a continuous, efficient and effective basic education service and develop collaborative partnership among the stakeholders in the education community.

Finally, the budget process is mandated to be executed in a participatory and transparent manner, and must ensure that the budgetary allocations are based on need and anchored on the school board’s vision and goals.

It is my fervent hope that our lawmakers consume more time in strengthening our educational system and recognize its urgency and value in realizing our aspiration as a nation to make Filipinos among the best-educated in the world.

I have seen our country’s several attempts in the past to provide various formulae to our primordial issues in education, yet we have not given our local leaders and communities the space to meaningfully participate, be responsible and accountable for our children’s future.