Luistro defines DepEd’s 2013 milestones
December 29, 2013
Manila, Philippines — For the Department of Education (DepEd), the year 2013—just like any other year—is one filled with challenges. But, unlike any other year, 2013 is a year that is filled with accomplishments.
“When we look back in the year 2013, it was marked by too many disasters,” said Education Secretary Armin Luistro. “Kapag tinitingnan ko yung past year, di naman kami ganito kahirap,” he added.
He said that this year dealing with pre and post disaster better—especially after Typhoon “Yolanda”—is among lessons that the DepEd had to learn. This, of course, is on top of all the other tasks that the Department has to accomplish in line with the reforms that have been initiated in the previous years.
In an exclusive interview with the MANILA BULLETIN, the DepEd Chief shared what he considers the “top five education stories” for the year 2013.
DEALING WITH DISASTERS
For the first time, DepEd had to closely monitor four severely-affected regions with over one million affected students and personnel affected by “Yolanda.”
“Yolanda,” said Luistro, was the only typhoon that DepEd had at least two days of preparation. In fact, he had time to issue an urgent memo to the schools to prepare. “Bago pumasok ang Yolanda, medyo kampante ako dun na maraming schools na nag-prepare,” he explained. And yet, three days after the news came out, he realized that “it was worse than what anyone could ever prepare for.”
Despite the eminent damage particularly in Region 8 where even the DepEd Region Office was not spared, Luistro had to make a stand and urged school heads to resume classes as “soon as feasible.” He said that DepEd had to deal with a lot of stakeholders since not everybody agrees that schools should open immediately after a disaster. “But, we’ve been consistent with that position from the beginning because we’ve always felt that schools are the best ways of bringing the community life back to normalcy—it’s the first step,” he added.
Luistro also commended the efforts of DepEd local officials, principals and teachers despite having “very little resources” they were able to resume classes. “When I look back and I see that our schools even in Tacloban have resumed, I’d say that’s one of our little accomplishments,” he said.
As an educator, Luistro considers the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Anti-Bullying Law as one of the milestones for DepEd this year.
The Philippines, Luistro said, is one of the first nations in the world to even come up with a law on bullying, including cyber-bullying. “It is an imperfect law and the IRR will not be able to anticipate all the problems and challenges but, I think it is a milestone,” he said.
Luistro said that the signing of the IRR for Anti-Bullying Law this December strengthens DepEd’s Child Protection Policy (CPP) which has been implemented since 2012. “I am proud that DepEd is one of the first agencies, locally, that was able to push for and actually sign and implement the CPP ahead of the other agencies,” he added.
K TO 12 PROGRAM.
Undoubtedly, the K to 12 is the biggest reform in the country’s basic education—but, it is also the biggest challenge for DepEd.
Luistro said that 2013 marked the third year of implementation of the K to 12. “The devil really is in the details,” he said. Currently, DepEd is finalizing the new K to 12 curriculum—from Kinder to Grade 12—and intends to release it by the end of this year.
With all the things that needed to be done—from teachers’ training to rewriting not just the education framework but also all the learners’ modules—given very little time, Luistro admitted: “Minsan, tinatanong ko ang sarili ko bakit ba tayo nag-K to 12? But when I look back at 2013, ito yung hump that we’re already going over.”
During the first two years of K to 12 implementation, Luistro said that there were times when he didn’t know where DepEd was and how to go above the challenges. “Ngayon, medyo nakakahinga-hinga na ang Department pati na din yung mga teachers at yung mga principals because we’re able now to identify how to improve,” he explained.
ACCOMPLISHING THE ‘IMPOSSIBLE’
Luistro said that 2013 is the cut off year when it comes to addressing the five shortages in basic education—classrooms, teachers, seats, textbooks and sanitation facilities—as promised to President Benigno Aquino III. “I am happy to say that all of that, if not majority of it, have been achieved this year,” he said.
Luistro said that all public schools now have 1:1 ratio when it comes to textbooks and chairs. This year is also historic for teachers, he said, with DepEd hiring the biggest number of teachers which is equivalent to six years. “We hired 61,500 and next year, in the 2014 budget, we will have another 33,000 so we would have addressed the shortages,” he said. For classrooms and water/sanitation facilities, he said that all provisions for all those supplies are already there.
“This is a milestone for the Department because I do not know of any year in the Philippines when anyone can say that we have the basic inputs or resources in place,” Luistro said. When he assumed office in 2010, everybody was telling him that the perennial shortages in basic inputs would not be solved. “Pero lima lang ang aming inilista at kahit walang pondo nun, di ko alam kung saan kukuha, the most important was to identify what those needs are and everything else should fall secondary to that,” he said.
In the last three years, Luistro said Deped has exhausted all possible means to address those five inputs. “Wala kaming ginawang iba kundi tugunan ang limang yan hanggang matapos at natapos naman,” he said.
For Luistro, putting the foundations to institutionalize the reform is yet another accomplishment for DepEd this year. “The only real sustainable program that you could do is taking care of people and making sure that there are changes and reforms that are also happening via a solid training program,” he said.
Luistro said that the leadership programs for DepEd local officials aim to change their mindsets and provide them with competencies so that they are not reliant on connections or other non-professional support. “This is what we have been focusing this year which I think is a very practical program to address real needs in their respective areas,” he said.