The now-notorious World Bank report on the state of education in the Philippines was a major topic of discussion during President Rodrigo Duterte’s weekly Talk to the Nation broadcast late last night, July 12.
The 2018 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report had already caused quite a stir when it was first released two weeks ago, showing that around 80 percent of Filipino students fell below minimum proficiency for their grade levels. Among the list of 79 countries who participated in the assessment, the Philippines came in last in reading, and second to last in science and mathematics.
It caused a further stir when Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones demanded—and received—an apology from the World Bank for the report. The World Bank later removed the report from its website, saying that its release was “an oversight”.
However, Sec Briones used her time during last night’s broadcast to give a backgrounder on the PISA report, admitting that the department had known about the results as far back as December 2019. “Ngayon, lumabas ang result December 4, 2019, kasi 2018 ang exam,” Sec Briones said. “One day before, we already reported to your office, Mr. President, because we already knew at that time that the Philippines was not doing well.” (“Now, the result came out on December 4, 2019, because the exams were held in 2018.”)
Briones reminded President Duterte that she had given a “full presentation” on the PISA results in February 2020, “with all the recommendations that should be initiated to perhaps mitigate the situation of the PISA results because we knew already even before the results came out that we were not going to do so well.”
Prior to that, Briones said that she had known that the state of education was not exactly stellar when she took on the appointment as DepEd secretary in 2016. “At the time, 2016 pa, Mr. President, when you appointed me, I already said that we will join the international assessments, so we will see how we fare with the rest of the world. Kasi tayo, we have our own national assessments and we noticed that our national assessments, Mr. President, were not exactly very exciting.”
That said, Briones was adamant that the poor results should not be blamed on her or on the current administration. Briones—who repeated that she was “the seventh Secretary of Education” four times during her speech—emphasized that she was the only DepEd secretary to have consented to participation in the PISA study.
In an apparent response to Vice President Leni Robredo’s statement asking the government to recognize “a crisis in education,” Briones continued, “I don’t know who should judge whether we have a crisis in education or not. And so kung sabihin natin we have a crisis in education, saan nanggaling ‘yung crisis in education after 123 years? After 47 secretaries of education? After seven secretaries of education who refused to participate in the international assessment?”
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