Angara a perfect choice, but faces heavy burden as new Education chief

(BUSINESS MIRROR) THE health secretary, lawmakers and business groups on Tuesday hailed President Marcos Jr’s selection of Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara as the new  Education Secretary, calling it a perfect choice for a sector in crisis, but said he had a lot on his plate because of this.

“We thank President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. for his excellent choice in the next leader of our partner DepEd,” Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa said in a statement.                

“Health and Education are natural partners in the development of our nation. The prevention and control of disease as well as the promotion of wellness begins in the hearts and minds of our children,” Herbosa said.    

Health literacy, he stressed, is needed for Universal Health Care to succeed, and the campaign needs a good leader in education.              

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) was not too happy, though: the DepEd Secretary should ideally be an educator or someone from the academic sector with public school teaching experience, it said.                

Nonetheless, the group acknowledged President Marcos’s prerogative to appoint Angara as the new DepEd Secretary, succeeding Vice President  Sara Duterte effective July 19, 2024.               

They also presented critical areas that they said require Angara’s immediate attention: Support legislation proposing salary increases for teachers; Implement the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670) welfare provisions; Provide mandatory legal support for teachers facing charges while on duty; Incorporate discipline enforcement into the child protection policy; Implement DepEd Orders No. 2 and 5, s. 2024, addressing administrative task reduction and overtime pay for teachers; Reform the GSIS or establish a separate insurance system for teachers; Simplify the employee performance rating system by abolishing the RPMS and provide comprehensive, free training for teachers; Expedite the promotion system, particularly for senior high school teachers, and implement the career progression policy outlined in EO 174; Address resource shortages, including classrooms, instructional materials, and support personnel such as guidance counselors, librarians, health workers, and other non-academic staf; and  Revise the curriculum to align with our sociocultural context and reinstate Philippine history in high school.

House Deputy Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Partylist Rep. France Castro and House Assistant Minority Leader and Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas challenged Angara “to hit the ground running and immediately address the education crisis in our country as well as the long-standing demands of teachers and education support personnel.”

“We urge the new secretary to face the challenges and problems of the K-12 program head-on and overhaul the system. The program has been fraught with issues since its implementation, and it’s high time for a comprehensive review and necessary reforms,” Castro asserted.

Castro expressed hope that Angara’s experience as a commissioner of the Second Congressional Commission on Education (Edcom 2) would inform his approach to the critical issues facing the education sector.

Brosas, meanwhile, urged Angara to reconsider his previous stance on mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) and the K–12 program, both of which he had expressed support for in the past.

“As one of the authors and sponsors of the K-12 program, Secretary Angara now needs to confront the issues surrounding it. They once said that K-12 would benefit the youth, but we see now that it has only deepened poverty and unemployment among them,” Brosas said.

Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez emphasized Senator Angara’s rich experience and dedication to public service, underscoring his suitability for the critical role of leading the DepEd.

The Makati Business Club (MBC) wished Angara “all the best in this critical role, to ensure that elementary and high school principals and teachers are equipped with the literacy, technical, and character skills needed to prepare Filipino children and youth to meet the challenges of the future.”

MBC said the senator’s work on education policy and legislation includes proposing Senate Joint Resolution No. 10 for the creation of the Second Congressional Commission on Education, serving as one of Edcom 2’s Commissioners, and co-chairing its Governance and Finance Standing Committee.

Citing the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s latest Program for International Assessment Report (PISA), MBC said the Philippines ranked last among its Asean peers in the areas of science, reading, and mathematics.

The Department of Education welcomed the appointment of Angara. “The DepEd community looks forward to working with the new leadership as we continue our relentless pursuit towards improving the quality of Basic Education in the country,” the DepEd said in a statement. Angara assumes his new post on July 19.

Angara’s peers in the Senate were all praises for him. “Secretary Angara’s task ahead is indeed gargantuan, but I have full confidence in his ability to lead the DepEd with excellence and integrity. His proven track record in legislative work, particularly in education reform, uniquely positions him to address the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. His background in both Philippine and international education systems equips him with the necessary perspective and expertise to elevate our educational standards,” said Senate President Chiz Escudero.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said Angara’s push for the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act paved the way for tuition and other fees to be free in state universities and colleges—a big boost to expanding access to majority of Filipino youth.

Sen. Nancy Binay said Angara is the best person fitted for the job as education head. “There is really a need to strengthen our curriculum which can be seen as a reflection in the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) that we have a lack of creative thinking when it comes to solving particularly math and science problems,” said Binay when asked about what Angara should prioritize among the problems in education sector.

“Sen. Sonny Angara is one of the most qualified and acceptable DepEd Secretaries among education reform advocates,” said Sen. Risa Hontiveros.  Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz, Claudeth Mocon, Butch Fernandez, Andrea E. San Juan