Mandatory continuing education for teachers pushed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   July 20, 2019   •   1488

FILE PHOTO: Students orientation on the opening of classes for school year 2012-2013 in a school in General Santos City. (RITCHIE TONGO / Photoville International)

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday said he has filed a bill pushing for the establishment of a mandatory continuing education program for elementary and high school teachers.

The Senate Bill No. 367 or the Continuing Education for Teachers Act seeks the government to implement a comprehensive national program for mandatory continuing education for all teachers in both private and public educational institutions as well as formal and non-formal institutions of learning.

“As of this moment, there are no existing free programs for continuing teacher education in our country,” Gatchalian said in a statement, adding that teachers are left to their own devices if they wish to further develop their training and education.

“Acknowledging the need to continually educate our teachers and to further develop the teaching profession, this bill seeks to provide a mandatory teacher’s education program to be implemented by the government at no cost to our teacher,” he further said.

Under the bill, the mandatory continuing education program shall consist of at least 24 hours of compulsory continuing education activities each year. This will be held preferably at least eight hours per day on consecutive days, at the end of every school year and before the resumption of classes.

The program shall also be conducted in the school district where the teachers belong, as determined by the Department of Education (DepEd).

Teachers who possess a post-graduate degree are not covered by the proposed measure, but may opt to attend the program.

“Teacher effectiveness depends on whether they know what to teach and the best way to teach it,” the lawmaker said. “The environment in which teachers work has significantly changed over the past decades, yet the method of teaching has not been sufficiently adapted to the current times.”

“Unless actions to update teaching in the new environment take place, there will not be a substantial improvement in the quality of our students,” he stressed.

Gatchalian’s bill also orders DepEd to create an Executive Committee directly responsible for the effective implementation of the program.

The senator said a P100 million budget will be appropriated for the initial implementation of this program to be incorporated in DepEd’s annual budget.

Bill seeking accessible interventions for learners with disabilities filed in Senate

Robie de Guzman   •   July 23, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said he has filed a bill seeking to increase access to early interventions and diagnosis for learners with disabilities, especially now that the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic threatens their access to essential health and education services.

In filing Senate Bill 171 or the Inclusive for Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act, Gatchalian said interventions should be available to children aged zero to four at child development and daycare centers.

The lawmaker stressed that early detection and interventions in these centers can help learners with disabilities in their developmental milestones, especially when they join regular classes.

“Bilang pinakamalapit na mga institusyon sa ating mga kabataang may kapansanan, dapat may sapat na kakayahan ang ating mga child development centers o day care centers upang masuri ang kakayahan ng mga batang may kapansanan,” said Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.

“Sa pamamagitan ng mga maagang pagsusuring ito, malalaman natin ang mga hakbang na dapat nating gawin upang maging angkop sa isang batang may kapansanan ang edukasyong kanyang natatanggap,” he added.

Child development workers, however, need to be capacitated so they can address developmental delays and provide minimum interventions for learners with disabilities, Gatchalian said.

He also noted that during a Senate panel hearing, it was learned that less than 10 percent of child development workers are trained to manage children with disabilities in daycare centers, as shared by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Program Management Bureau (PMB).

In the absence of developmental pediatricians to provide medical diagnosis, Gatchalian said child development centers can conduct assessments to identify risks of developmental delays. These assessments are done with screening tools such as the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) checklist.

The senator also noted the estimation made by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth), stating that there were 5.1 million children with disabilities in the country as of 2018.

Data from the Department of Education’s Learner Information System, however, reveals that as of July 15, only 51,375 learners with disabilities are enrolled for the coming school year.

“Every child has a right to an education commensurate with his abilities and to the development of his skills for the improvement of his capacity for service to himself and to his fellowmen,” Gatchalian stressed in the explanatory note of the proposal.

Gatchalian pushes for business loan program to curb joblessness amid pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Wednesday called on the government to carry out a subsidy program that will help curb the rising unemployment rate in the country brought about by the ongoing novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gatchalian, the vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, suggested for the government to adopt a subsidy program similar to the Paycheck Protection program of the United States to prevent further lay-offs amid the public health crisis.

He said the Paycheck Protection Program is designed to provide incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

Under this setup, business owners can get full loan forgiveness as an incentive as long as the funds are used for eligible expenses.

This way, the company gets to retain its employees while maintaining its operations.

Gatchalian believes that if this program will be included in the proposed Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, dubbed as the Bayanihan Law 2, it will significantly help employees and companies.

“Marami talagang kumpanya na nagda-downsize at sigurado akong mas marami pa ang mawawalan ng trabaho. Tiyak babalik din sila sa gobyerno, sa LGU o sa national government. Hindi na yan kakayanin ng gobyerno. Babalik at babalik sila sa gobyerno para humingi ng suporta,” he said.

“A Paycheck Protection Program-like subsidy will hit two birds with one stone. You secure the tenure of employees and at the same time you generate the economic side,” he added.

The government has implemented the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) program, which provides a P5,000 to P8,000 wage subsidy to employees through the Social Security System (SSS).

But Gatchalian pointed out that this one-time subsidy does not provide long-term support to employees.

The senator said many Filipinos have lost their jobs after companies opted to downsize their operations to trim their losses as they weather the economic impact of the pandemic.

Citing a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Gatchalian noted that 7.3 million Filipinos are unemployed as of April 2020, an all-time high unemployment rate.

The lawmaker also warned of uncertain labor market recovery after a study by the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) revealed a 14% drop in global working hours during the second quarter of 2020, equivalent to the loss of 400 million full-time jobs, based on a 48-hour working week.

The same ILO study projects a decrease in working hours of 4.9% in the second half of the year which is equivalent to the loss of 140 million full-time jobs.

Gatchalian said there is a need for the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs in the country, and it will need an estimated P301 billion to create direct and indirect jobs for those impacted by the COVID-19-induced economic crisis for the rest of the year.

“The government has been calling for Filipinos to help spur the economy by spending more and taking advantage of record-low interest rates. But how can Juan dela Cruz think of spending his hard-earned cash during this crisis when he isn’t sure whether he’d be able to keep his job the following day,” he said.

That’s why I implore the government to prioritize the preservation of jobs of our kababayan so that they’ll be able to contribute in reviving our economy back,” he added.

Gov’t urged to grant incentives, not taxes to online sellers

Robie de Guzman   •   June 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday called on the government to extend fresh capital and other financial assistance, instead of implementing “untimely” new taxes to online entrepreneurs amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a statement, Gatchalian said online sellers should be covered by the microfinancing program of the Small Business Corporation (SB Corp.) under the Department of Trade and Industry to help them grow their business and recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.

The senator noted that DTI’s SB Corp. has a P1 billion Enterprise Rehabilitation Financing facility under the Pondo sa Pagbabago at Pag-asenso (Covid19 P3-ERF) to support micro and small businesses affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The microfinancing program offers a minimal interest rate of not more than 2.5% per month with no collateral requirement.

Micro enterprises with asset size of not more than PhP3 million may borrow PhP10,000 up to PhP200,000 while small enterprises with asset size of not more than PhP10 million may borrow a higher loan amount but will not exceed PhP500,000.

“Ang DTI ay dapat magbigay pa nga ng puhunan sa mga Pilipino na nawalan ng trabaho at gustong makaahon sa kahirapan sa pamamagitan ng pagnenegosyo sa online. Sa ganitong panahon ng pandemya, mas magandang nasa tahanan lang sila at nag-nenegosyo. Nabibigyan pa nila ng trabaho ang mga delivery service riders.” Gatchalian said.

“Hindi lang basta ayuda ang hinihingi ng mga negosyanteng ito. Ang hinihingi nila ay malaya silang bigyan ng oportunidad na makapag-negosyo para may kita sila,” he added.

Gatchalian, vice chairman of the Senate committee on economic affairs, issued the statement following Bureau of Internal Revenue’s (BIR) move to require online sellers to register their business until July 31, and pay taxes if they are earning higher than P250,000 a year.

The lawmaker believes that registering businesses with the BIR is ineffective since its system requires an applicant’s physical presence at this time when people are still being restricted from leaving their homes.

“Nakita ko na hindi rin handa ang ating pamahalaan na buwisan ang ating mga maliliit na negosyante dahil yung ultimong pagre-rehistro ay hindi pa sila handa kaya huwag na nating ipilit sa ganitong panahon ng pandemya, dahil hindi lang marami ang naghihirap kundi marami rin ang natatakot na lumabas ng kanilang bahay,” he stressed.

Aside from providing capital, Gatchalian also urged the DTI to make use of the Philippine Innovation Law to enhance the competitiveness of these online sellers.

The law aims to harness innovation efforts to help the poor, the marginalized, and MSMEs to be a part of the domestic and global supply chain.

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