Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones marked her 100th day as Education chief by iterating the Department's 10-point agenda before more than 190 education stakeholders and partners on Oct. 14, and to the DepEd Central Office employees and some regional and division heads on Oct. 17.
Laying out the priorities
Addressing the Central Office personnel during a general assembly on Monday, Briones presented an update on her administration's first 100 days. She also laid out a 10-point agenda, emphasizing how this is based on her team's vision and the priorities of the Duterte administration.
However, Briones was quick to assure continuity of the key programs of the previous administration.
Hindi dahil bago ang Secretary o dahil bago ang administrasyon, ay bago na ang lahat. Kailangan may continuity. Kung anuman ang ginagawa natin ngayon, it builds on the past and present programs, Briones said.
The Secretary also acknowledged the basic challenges of the Department, such as raising the quality of education, making education accesible and relevant to the urgent needs and opportunities of the country, and making education truly liberating.
What the Department has done so far
1. Confronted the inherited problem of budget underutilization and spending backlogs
As the country's biggest bureaucracy with the biggest budget allocation, Secretary Briones explained the need for an efficient organization to help in the delivery of basic education.
DepEd promptly convened a mid-year review of Project Procurement Management Plans (PPMPs) to catch-up on procurement especially of big-ticket items, explored inter-agency mechanisms in obligating allocations for hard-to-move items in the 2015 budget, and constituted an Education Program Delivery Unit to ensure effective, efficient and timely execution of programs, projects, and activities.
2. Responded to the President's education directives
In response to the marching order of the President, DepEd is strengthening the preventive drug education component in Science and Health by providing real-life lessons and alternative learning methods to make the delivery much more realistic and effective, starting Grade 4. Gender and development component of school curricula, especially in relation to sex education and teenage pregnancy, and environmental awareness and disaster preparedness, are being reinforced.
Aside from enhancing drug education, expanding the reach of ALS is another DepEd program that has President Duterte's expressed support.
DepEd is working double-time to revive and expand the coverage of ALS. Alternative learning methods are also being developed for learners in hard-to-reach mountain regions and small islands, as well as densely populated areas.
3. Committed to the full implementation of the K to 12
Secretary Briones reiterated that the continuation of the K to 12 program is not to please the international market nor to cater to the private sector, but to serve the interest of the Filipinos and the country.
The anticipated large number of drop-outs and massive displacement of teachers did not occur. There are more than 1.5 million Grade 11 enrollees and more than 36,000 teacher items were created for Senior High School (SHS).
4. Defended the President's budget in Congress
The launch of SHS demands even more resources. To support the curriculum needs, provision of additional basic resources is underway: P15.5 billion will be allotted to hiring 53,831 teachers, P3 billion for 55.8 million learning materials, P4.5 billion 8,833 science and math equipment packages, and P7.3 billion for 7,260 TechVoc tools and equipment packages.
On October 19, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) that will provide P3.35 trillion national budget to finance government operations in 2017. P567.5 billion is allotted to DepEd, the biggest budget allocation among all government agencies.
Reforms for the long term
1. DepEd identified procurement and management system as major roadblocks. To address these, DepEd introduced greater leadership supervision over Finance and Administration: two Undersecretaries for Finance were appointed�one in charge of the expenditure to make sure money flows and is accounted for, and another to manage budget utilization.
2. DepEd has also met with Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary to reconstitute the Joint Technical Working Group on the Basic Education Facilities and target prompt execution of school buildings construction under the 2017 budget.
3. DepEd is also establishing an Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) to track the status of the Department's budget releases and disbursements in real time.
Changes in the current planning templates will be introduced to address inflexibility in costing standards and delays in field validation of planned projects.
No organization can succeed without an appropriate financial management system which will be used to fund our dreams, promises, and programs, she added.
4. In a move to support the campaign against the proliferation of illegal drug use, DepEd convened with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to form a Working Group that will forge a common legal position on drug testing for students and personnel among DepEd, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and Technicial Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and implement the comprehensive drug testing initiative in partnership with the Department of Health (DOH).
5. One education intervention to help keep schoolchildren in school until completion of basic education is the continuation of school-based feeding programs. The proposal to have the massive feeding program will be reviewed amid budget implications.
6. Briones stressed that to be part of DepEd, excellent education credentials are but the minimum qualification. Employees should strive to be more capacitated and informed on the state of education and the needs of the country. Therefore, the agency will introduce curricular and non-curricular programs, and undertake institutional capacity building to be responsive to the aspirations and urgent needs of the nation.
Improvement of the capacity of teachers, education leaders, and DepEd personnel includes the strengthening of DepEd Regional Offices' capacity in managing and hosting training programs, and the training on curriculum for teachers and ALS facilitators.
7. Secretary Briones emphasized the importance of integrating, reflecting, and expressing the Philippines' rich historical experiences in the educational system. She acknowledged the challenges to move away from data and technology to innovation, creativity, critical thinking, and acceptance of and adjustment to changes.
During the 6th APEC Education Ministerial Meeting (AEMM) in Peru, Briones said that while Science and Technology is also being offered to students as early as Grade 3 and 4, DepEd is loyal not only to the culture and arts but also to Philippine history and the directions of the development program.
8. DepEd is eyeing the expansion of the scope of academic and non-academic employee welfare through the improvement of the provident fund.
9. Department leadership will be active, transparent, consultative, collaborative, and corruption-free. A regular general assembly with the employees will be held to update on the development in the agency. There will be briefings by each Undersecretaries and Assistant Secretaries with directors on current programs.
10. Amid concerns and debates, Secretary Briones maintained that the Department will continue partnerships with the private sector.
Source: Philippine Information Agency