‘Not a sexy subject’

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva - The Philippine Star

If there is a logical argument favoring Charter change (Cha-cha) put forward that so far came up, it is the one during our conversations with Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo. Speaking at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum last Wednesday, Romulo argued on the need to introduce competition in the targeted economic sectors as the way to improve efficiency and reduce corruption in the government.

Romulo voted with the majority of the House of Representatives when they approved on third and final reading Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) No. 7 before the lawmakers adjourned for their Holy Week break. RBH No. 7 limits the amendments to the country’s 1987 Constitution to three economic provisions only, one of which is to lift the 60-40 equity restrictions on education institutions.

Joining our conversations with Romulo at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay news forum, Land Transportation Office (LTO) chairman Vigor Mendoza II conceded on the need to amend the existing ownership restrictions on public utilities to bring more capital investments to mass transport system in the Philippines. In addition, Mendoza noted the increased interests of both local and foreign investors to produce and operate more efficient and environment-friendly electric vehicles (EVs) here in our country.

“We’re encouraging the use of e-vehicles. We’re very supportive of e-vehicles because of their environmental impact and fuel-saving. But foremost of our concern is road safety of motorists, including the rest of the people on the roads,” Mendoza explained.

Romulo agreed with Mendoza, a former col

league in the previous Congress when the latter was still 1-UTAK (United Transport Alliance Koalisyon) Party-List Representative. Amending these economic provisions, Romulo pointed out, should open them up to more investors and players coming in to compete. And to a certain way, he added, it will address the problem of corruption in the government deterring investors to do business in the Philippines.

“The corruption problem is due to inefficiencies and it is a product of lack of competition,” Romulo cited.

Romulo clarified RBH No. 7 only targets the existing equity restrictions on tertiary or higher education referring to universities and colleges but does not include the basic education covered under our country’s K-12 system. As the chairman of the House committee on basic education, Romulo agreed with those who opposed Cha-cha on the need to preserve the Filipino values intact as embedded in our country’s basic education system.

As the co-chairman of the 2nd joint congressional Education Committee (EdCom-2), Romulo believes there is indeed urgent necessity to open up ownership on higher education in privately-run universities and colleges in our country. Romulo recalled when the country adopted the 1987 Constitution, there was no wi-fi or online and smartphones yet.

“But times have changed when technology is now accessible to everybody. So there should be a free market of ideas,” Rep. Romulo stressed.

By liberalizing equity, ownership should keep these private institutions of higher learning at par with the advancements in science and technology to improve the quality of education, Romulo elaborated. Romulo recalled the first EdCom recommended to split into three agencies the previous Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS).

In our existing set-up, the basic education was given to the Department of  Education (DepEd) while the universities and colleges were placed under the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The third agency handles the vocational schools placed under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Currently, Romulo disclosed, the EdCom-2 is reviewing the K-12 curriculum amid the “learning crisis” that evolved through the years since it was implemented.  The K-12 was signed into law on May 15, 2013 by the late President Benigno Simeon Aquino III as Republic Act (RA) 10533. It sought to improve the basic education system in our country by strengthening the school curriculum and lengthening the number of years of basic education from ten to twelve years.

One indicator of the current state of basic education is the performance of the country in the latest assessment of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Romulo cited. The PISA is an international study which began in the year 2000 that aims to evaluate education systems worldwide by testing the skills and knowledge of 15-year-old students in participating countries/economies. Romulo rued that the PISA score of the Philippines showed Filipino students remain among the world’s weakest in math, reading and science.

Romulo mentioned having authored and sponsored at least three remedial legislations on the K-12 Law to address the gaps and weaknesses experienced by teachers, students and their parents.

The first is Education Pathways bill for those who completed junior high school or Grade 10 will have two options: skip college to pursue a technical-vocational pathway at TESDA, or pursue a college preparatory program under DepEd. This provision of TESDA taking over the technical-vocational courses for junior high school completers is a departure from the current K-to-12 law, which places the jurisdiction of all senior high school programs, including technical-vocational courses, under the DepEd.

Romulo also pushed the approval of House Bills No. 2188 and 3925 seeking to suspend the use of the mother tongue as medium of instruction for Kindergarten to Grade 3. It aims to address the patent lack of learning materials on mother tongue language in schools and ensure the adherence to the constitutional mandate of providing quality education that is accessible to all learners in the basic education.

And the third House Bill approved, he cited, was the lifting of the mandatory “spiral progression of teaching.” The existing approach is designed to build on the same concepts in each grade level and develop in increasing complexity from Kinder to Grade 10. This is to expose the learners into a wide variety of concepts/topics and disciplines until they mastered it by studying it over and over again but with different deepening of complexity.

So when we talk about education, it is not a sexy subject matter, the 57-year-old Congressman quipped in a light vein.

Levity aside, Romulo shared that he and his wife, former Valenzuela Councilor Shalani Soledad plan to make their family bigger with a child soon.

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