Gatchalian urges gov’t to improve quality of teacher education, training

Robie de Guzman   •   October 16, 2020   •   136

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday reiterated his call for mechanisms that would help improve the quality of education and training of teachers in the country.

In a statement, Gatchalian said that he finds the low passing rates of the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) alarming and in need of improvement.

During a Senate hearing, the Professional Regulation Commission Board for Professional Teachers said that from 2014-2017, the passing rate was 48.86 percent for first-time LET takers for the secondary level.

At the elementary level, the passing rate among first-time LET takers for the same period was 30.65 percent while 43.44 percent for both elementary and secondary levels.

Gatchalian said that last year’s passing rates were equally dismal with 27.29 percent passing rate for elementary level LET takers in March 2019 and 31.34 percent for those who took the licensure exams in September 2019.

For the secondary level, the passing rate for LET takers in March 2019 was 25.95 percent and 39.69 percent for those who took the September 2019 licensure exams.

“At the end of the day, what we want is better outcomes for our learners. Better outcomes come from better inputs, and teacher quality and teacher education are part of those better inputs,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture, also pointed out that the Philippines ranked lowest in Reading Comprehension and second lowest in Science and Mathematics in the 2018 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among 79 countries.

He also cited a study by the World Bank Group and Australian Aid which showed that except for English elementary teachers, the average elementary or high school teacher in the Philippines could correctly answer fewer than half of questions on subject content tests.

Gatchalian Senator Sherwin Gatchalian noting that it is the primary end-user of graduates of Teacher Education Institutions (TEIs).

Pre-service education refers to teachers’ training before they become classroom teachers.

The senator said his Senate Resolution No. 526 seeks to ascertain the challenges and limitations affecting the quality of teacher education and training and the performance of TEIs so that efforts can be directed towards strengthening the pre-service and in-service programs that are responsive to the demands of the 21st century.

“DepEd has almost 85 percent of our students and close to 75 percent of our teachers. So my analysis is that if we fix and strengthen our public school system, we strengthen the entire country,” Gatchalian said.

Schools urged to strictly enforce health protocols, alternative work set up for teachers

Robie de Guzman   •   October 15, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday called on public school officials to strictly enforce health protocols and alternative work arrangements laid out by the Department of Education (DepEd) to protect teachers and non-teaching staff from possible coronavirus disease infection.

In a statement, Gatchalian said this is to prevent the uptick of COVID-19 cases now that teachers and other school personnel are expected to be out in the field to carry out their tasks and distribute modules to students.

The senator made the call after 10 high school teachers in Ilagan City, Isabela reportedly tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) after attending a meeting.

Two students were also reported to have contracted the virus.

Ilagan City is under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) until Oct. 16.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate committee on basic education said the incident in Ilagan City should remind public school authorities to ensure the safety of their personnel.

They should equip their personnel with back-to-school essentials such as masks, face shields, and personal protective equipment (PPE). The health care needs of teachers and staff infected with COVID-19 should also be given immediate attention.

“Ngayong nagsimula na ang klase, lalo nating dapat tutukan ang kalusugan ng bawat guro at non-teaching staff lalo na’t sila ang nagsisilbing mga frontliners sa pagpapatupad ng distance learning sa gitna ng pandemya,” Gatchalian said.

He also said that since classes are in full swing, an arrangement between DepEd and PhilHealth should already be operational to inspire and sustain the confidence in the roll-out of distance learning program.

“Kailangang siguruhin natin ang kanilang kaligtasan sa kanilang pagtatrabaho at kung sakali namang tamaan sila ng sakit, dapat matiyak natin na makatatanggap sila ng agarang tulong medikal,” he said.

DepEd Order No. 011 s. 2020 identifies alternative work arrangements such as work-from-home, skeleton workforce, four-day workweek, and staggered working hours.

In areas under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), schools and DepEd offices may operate at full operational capacity as may be allowed by required health standards, including physical distancing protocols.

In areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ) like Metro Manila, however, personnel reporting physically for work should not exceed 50 percent.

To help with early detection of possible COVID-19 cases, DepEd’s required health standards, which are outlined in DepEd Order No. 014 s. 2020, mandate schools and offices to have a provision of referral services that will link learners, teachers, and personnel to the appropriate health facilities.

Under its required health standards, DepEd is also tasked to coordinate with the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and work out a possible institutional arrangement.

Gatchalian wants to regulate online business transactions to protect consumers

Robie de Guzman   •   September 4, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday pushed for the passage of a bill seeking to put in place strict regulations to protect consumers amid the radical change in the country’s business climate with more online businesses registering.

In a statement, Gatchalian said his Senate Bill No. 1591 or the Internet Transactions Act aims to update the country’s regulatory environment to protect consumers from “unethical and unscrupulous practices” on the internet.

Gatchalian said it is important for the government regulatory board and online shopping platforms “to get their acts together” to easily track down those liable from unscrupulous online trading as more and more people and entrepreneurs are shifting their transactions online.

The lawmaker took note of the significant increase in the number of online businesses registering with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) from March 16 to August 31, or a total of 73,276 businesses registered. This is a sharp rise from the 1,753 online businesses that have registered with the agency before the strict community quarantine was imposed in the country.

While e-Commerce makes transactions easier and faster and strengthens the country’s digital economy, Gatchalian said consumers may run the risk of being fooled into buying products to the detriment of their health.

He is particularly referring to supplements being sold in various online selling platforms despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is a dilemma of the future. There are a lot of online platforms right now and they have the entire marketplace where suppliers can get all the products all over the world. Walang habol ang online buyers kung may problema sa nabili nilang produkto. They are left holding the bag,” he said.

“So, this is something that the bill wants to solve – to make online platforms liable so that they can keep track of the supplies they’re selling in the marketplace,” he added.

He said online selling platforms should step up and implement measures to stop unscrupulous activities.

“What are they doing to stop this? Up to this time, this is still happening. Our kababayans are consuming all products they see online but obviously these online platforms are not doing enough,” he added.

Gatchalian stressed that it is paramount to enact the bill into law to resolve key concerns in the country’s eCommerce industry such as internet and logistics infrastructure, payment mechanisms, taxation, and online consumer complaints.

Gatchalian backs military deployment to help enforce quarantine measures

Robie de Guzman   •   August 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian is in favor of mobilizing military personnel to strictly enforce quarantine measures, citing the need to support the police and barangay officials on the ground who have been falling ill due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

In a statement on Sunday, Gatchalian said that if quarantine measures, especially the on-going modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) in Metro Manila and nearby provinces of Bulacan, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal), are not enforced, it becomes useless to shut down the economy because the virus will only continue to spread.

“I agree that we need to mobilize the military in so far as putting more boots on the ground and enforcing the MECQ because if we don’t enforce the MECQ to the letter, then it is useless closing the economy,” Gatchalian said.

“It’s a double whammy. You don’t stop the virus and you’re preventing people from earning,” he added.

Gatchalian also made an example of the increasing number of infections among police and barangay officials in Valenzuela, which is now almost at 2,000.

These officials, however, are the only ones that local governments can immediately deploy to enforce quarantine measures.

He said that by calling for military back-up, local governments can increase the number of enforcers to ensure that quarantine measures are effectively imposed.

“For practical purposes, we really need to have more enforcers on the ground, and this is where the military plays a very big role,” he said.

“In fact, kami sa Valenzuela we wrote AFP to give us more military presence kasi nga ang dami naming police na nagkakasakit,” he added.

The lawmaker also stressed that increased military presence in a locality does not mean they are taking over the enforcement of quarantine measures to beat COVID-19.

He shared that in Valenzuela, deployed military personnel take their directions from the police chief and the local chief executive, adding that the military do not have policing powers. He also said that the display of authority by military personnel compels the public to follow quarantine protocols.

Gatchalian also debunked the notion that the national response to COVID-19 is militaristic, emphasizing that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is not the one enforcing the strategy to beat the virus.

He pointed out that aside from the health aspect of the response to COVID-19, there are also logistics concerns that are best assigned to the military. These include the transportation and distribution of personal protective equipment, and other health supplies.

Gatchalian also emphasized that those who are leading the national response to COVID-19 were specifically appointed for task-driven roles, with medical experts still leading the health aspect of the country’s coronavirus strategy.

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