Local school boards summit tackles education crisis

Third District Representative Francisco Benitez (Contributed photo)
Third District Representative Francisco Benitez (Contributed photo)

EDUCATION stakeholders, 13 local government units and three from the private sector, converged on March 30 in Talisay City in a Local School Boards Summit hosted by Third District Representative Francisco "Kiko" Benitez in partnership with Synergeia Foundation Inc. to look at the critical issues affecting student performances - participation, retention, cohort survival, reading comprehension, numeracy, stunting in children, and discuss challenges faced by the education sector in the province.

Synergeia Foundation’s goal is to help transform leaders, institutions, and communities into sustainable partners towards achieving effective and efficient educational governance systems.

Benitez, who is also the commissioner of the Second Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM 2), opened the summit by emphasizing the magnitude of the crisis facing the education system.

He cited a pre-Covid-19 pandemic report by the World Bank, which revealed a learning poverty rate of 90 percent in the Philippines, with nine out of 10 students not performing at their appropriate grade level.

Benitez also noted that Filipino students spend more time in school than almost any other country, yet their competencies are six years behind.

The solon stressed the need for collaboration to address the education crisis, stating that "anything to do with education must be a whole-of-society concern and a whole-of-society initiative because, at the end of the day, what we create and what we do in education is literally our future."

He highlighted the importance of gaining a deeper understanding of the potential impact of education reforms within localized contexts.

The recent Mandanas-Garcia ruling, which devolves education to local government units, has caused confusion among various stakeholders, including the national government, Congress, and the LGUs.

He warned against the dangers of inaction, citing the potential for continued learning loss among children and long-term consequences for the country's labor market.

"But in that space of not knowing, we cannot wait... If we do not do anything, this will bite us in the butt in at least 10 to 15 years," he said.

Representing Synergeia in the summit were president and chief executive officer, Dr. Milwilda "Nene" Guevarra, and mentors, Philippine Red Cross Governor and former Silay vice mayor Francis Joseph "Jay" Jalandoni, former Negros Occidental governor Rafael "Lito" Coscolluela, former Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental mayor Bambi Villarosa, former E.B. Magalona mayor Alfonso "Diding" Gamboa, and former PhilHealth president Reynaldo Aquino.

Among the participants were president of the Negros Occidental Association of Chief Executives (ACE) and Victorias City Mayor Javier Miguel "Javi" Benitez, Murcia Mayor Gerry Rojas, Isabela Mayor Irene Montilla, Sipalay Mayor Maria Gina Lizares, La Carlota City Mayor Rex Jalandoon, and Vice Mayors Nicolai Jalandoni (Talisay City), Eric Matulac (E.B. Magalona), Justin Gatuslao (Himamaylan City), Juan Miguel Montilla (Isabela).

Capping the summit was a workshop and action planning where participants tackled initial plans on what the Local School Board can do to improve their local educational system.

"Today is just the beginning. The idea is that if you go back to your localities, there will always be a tension between abiding by national standards and localizing it to what we need in our own context, the issue of devolution has to be a balancing act," he emphasized in his closing message, as he also pointed out the need for balancing national standards with local needs through the concept of devolution.

He said that measurable targets and outcomes, linked with clear mechanisms, are essential in achieving this balance.

He suggested four categories: prioritizing learning outcomes, enabling teachers to perform their tasks, providing sufficient inputs for the learning environment, and involving the local community in decision-making through school councils and local school boards.

Benitez expressed gratitude to all participants and Synergeia and challenged all to go beyond the workshop and work on the implementation of the action plans.*


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