Zanti Alfonzo Gayares

In the recent SONA, Marcos addressed another set of delusional perspectives of the education sector as it goes antithetical to the realities faced by the country in the sector. This leaves education rotten and wrecked with various problems, especially those that are considered prolonged. In the speech, we see no reforms and fruition of promises. Rather, it is the pretentious illusions, overstatements, and unrealistic paradise of Marcos for the sector. 

Cartoon by John Dave Poot

Marcos situated his speech about the education sector highlighting the learning recovery as the forefront of the education agenda. Mainly, he staged the MATATAG agenda for the basic education, mentioned the enhancement of the curriculum and the substantial focus for stakeholder’s welfare. It can be noted that in the previous SONA, Marcos promised the review of the K-12 curriculum. Although he mentioned that the government is working on recalibration, reforms and concrete actions were not seen along the way. It’s been almost a decade since it was institutionalized, yet the system fails to fulfill the hopes of betterment for the sector as it exacerbates the existing atrocities, especially on the aspect of stunted learning competencies, the struggle of learning loss, and absence of equitable opportunities for both teachers and students. 

According to the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), the Department of Education is currently reviewing the Senior High School curriculum. On the other hand, the K-10, which was mentioned by Marcos in the speech, was completely revised by the department and is expected to take place in the 2024-2025 school year. In an expansive view, the current education curriculum was expected to be reviewed 5 years after the implementation. However, this was not fulfilled as the Congress Oversight Committee was not able to provide a review back then. Looking at these accounts, it is clear how impeded the assessments were, how it caused obstructions on the development of the sector, and how badly it complimented the country’s struggle on other aspects such as the pandemic. Partnered with the failure of the president to address a clear focus and plan to relevant calls of the sector, the issue has worsened.

It was also narrated in the speech that one of the fulfillments of the administration was the revival of face-to-face classes followed by the country’s trends on pandemic situations. Marcos pointed out the adoption of learning methodologies and alternative delivery and modality in ensuring the unhampered learning. Marcos failed to elaborate this aspect of the speech, leaving an unclear thought of feasibility and a perplexing direction of plan. This is a hanging desire as it bumps with the fact that there are other issues along the way such as the ineffective implementation, absence of training in handling the learning modalities, and the sufficiency of the resources. 

In connection to the recalibration of K-10 as mentioned, there is an emphasis on reaching international standards and the commendations for higher education in reaching worldwide rankings. This corrodes with the goal of making it responsive and relevant as it stabilizes the will of continuation of the production of cheap and docile laborers who will work for the best interest of foreign institutions. Apparently, we can view Marcos as someone who is delusional as he shared this lean-on foreign trajectories in the education sector. This is not new for his administration since his past SONA also cascaded these pointers, specifically the goal of reaching foreign standards. In addition, this tendency also exacerbates the struggle of accessibility as it compliments the commercialization of education, making the education and profit-oriented institutions with the goal of reaching foreign measures. This indicates the prolonged struggle of the sector in the colonial structure which was perpetuated for so many years. 

It is significant to understand that the crisis of the country within the sector does not only start from the pandemic. Rather, it was ingrained through years, varying from administrations. The accessibility of education is both an advocacy and struggle for the country as dilemmas are still along the way such as the commercialization of education and the inefficacy of the education system. Alliance for Concerned Teachers (ACT) called out on this as one of their demands. The need for a comprehensive learning assessment nationwide. This will certainly help in critically viewing the improvement points of the sector and in crafting the reforms and policies for it. 

More than the opening of classes as an initial ‘achievement’ for the administration, the learning crisis at hand urges a demand of accountability with the delays in process which aggravates the situation. The current conditions call for the need of urgency on establishing reforms and policies anchored to the experiences and with full realization of the struggle of the sector. As much as resilience is a good trait and asset, it is not the core compass of learning stability; rather, it calls for urgency in reforms. 

Furthermore, it is also a cloudy and a heavenly depiction of betterment as Marcos mentioned the retrofitting of classrooms to be climate-ready and disaster prepared assets. In reality, teachers and students used to suffer in too much heat exhaustion in classrooms during the summer season and struggled to capacitate within a few rooms whenever a typhoon came and some of the facilities were unavailable or destroyed. This aspect is also questionable as to why the department struggles to act swiftly on this given the budget allocation and the controversial confidential funds of Sara Duterte is at hand. 

According to Duterte, the current budget of the MATATAG agenda is not enough to cover the requirements of the notion. If the budget is less, fruition is far. This adds up to the inability to assure the revisions of curriculum will take a good headstart for the sector as it ramps up a new set of dilemmas such as the burden for the teachers in facing the delayed and stunted learning in the quest of having equipments such as technology and upskilling the youth with the relevant assets they can use. Moreover, it is essential to seek transparency with the governance of the Department of Education in terms of the funds. In this way, it can clear out on how the department allocated or used the funds for the sector.

On another note, it is absurd for Marcos to emphasize the world-class attainments in education as it faces a stunted system and is being doomed with attacks. Ironically, he even praised the performance of Sara Duterte, stating that the Vice President helps the sector. It can be noted that Duterte is a notorious red tagger. Way back to the recent statements of Duterte, there were attacks against the ACT partylist and even imposed sanctions to teachers who will take part in the maneuvers of the partylist. This is a clear ambush to the democratic rights of the stakeholders of the sector, making it an unsafe and not a mass-oriented one. Furthermore, there was no space in the speech, speaking for the lost students and the growing cases of desaparecidos. In this way, Marcos fails to address the safety of the sector and provides substantial plans to secure the democratic spaces of the schools. 

All in all, Marcos’s SONA does not address the comprehensive struggle of the sector. It is covered with delusions and unparalleled plans which blurs the priorities. Generally, the speech also suggests that the government has the least plans for the education sector as Marcos only shared a couple of paragraphs for it addressing the state of education. There were tons of unheeded calls and this sparks the need to amplify the restoration and genuine reforms for the betterment of education. The SONA 2023 shared not achievements but delusions and illusions of paradise in midst of the education quandary.