Lifetime reform of the Philippines education system

Teachers are at the heart of this reform.

The Philippines is experiencing a once in a lifetime reform to its education system that is impacting on all primary and secondary school students, over 600,000 teachers and more than 1,700 pre-service teacher preparation institutions.

Researchers from the SiMERR National Research Centre at UNE are supporting the Philippines in this reform. Positive reviews of the research and support provided from 2012–2015 has resulted in their tender being extended until June 2019.

Professor John Pegg

John Pegg, Professor and Foundation Director, SiMERR National Research Centre, UNE

The K to 12 Education Reform commenced in 2011. It involves adding three extra years to the Grade 1 to 10 basic education with grades being offered at K, 11 and 12. All previous grade syllabuses were subjected to extensive review and modernisation with a new set of syllabuses for one primary grade and one secondary Grade released each year since 2012. Starting in July 2016 some 1.4 million students entered Grade 11 (instead of a tertiary institution) for the first time. These students are being accommodated in 30-to-40,000 new classrooms and are taught by 30-to-40,000 teachers, who have never taught Grade 11.

In July 2018, many students in this current Grade 11 will enter tertiary study. These students will be two years older than first-year tertiary students in the past and will have completed an additional two years of schooling. The implication is that all tertiary courses and programs need to change to accommodate an older and more school-educated clientele.

Researchers from the SiMERR National Research Centre at UNE are supporting the Philippines in this Reform with a focus on enhancing in-service and pre-service teacher, and teacher educator quality. This followed a successful tender to an initiative developed by the Australian and the Philippine Governments to support the K to 12 Reform. The aim is to undertake strategic research to provide evidence-based advice to both the Department of Education and the Commission of Higher Education in the Philippines. The tender, the largest ever won by staff in Education at UNE, was for a three-year period until June 2015. Positive reviews of the research undertaken, and support provided, resulted in the tender being extended until June 2019.

At the core of the research program is the creation and operationalisation of the Philippine National Research Center for Teacher Quality (RCTQ). RCTQ has 12 staff, who work in partnership with SiMERR, to undertake large-scale national strategic research studies. The Center, situated in the Philippine Normal University, is legislated as the lead tertiary institution in Education.

The first set of four large-scale national studies has been completed and policy implications are being shared across the country to senior personnel, schools and tertiary institutions. The data collection involved many thousands of elementary and secondary teachers, pre-service teachers and teacher educators.

All the research undertaken can be considered within a ‘system’ framework where different aspects of teacher quality are all linked and mutually support a common core. Here, the common core is represented by a validated set of national professional standards for teachers in the Philippines that capture, through the voice of the profession, the requirements for effective teaching at different career stages (ranging from pre-service to exemplary teachers).

This approach provides the basis for elementary, secondary and tertiary sectors to work from the same agreed platform and understanding of teacher quality. Meaning, aspects of teacher quality, such as teacher preparation, selection, aspiration, promotion, professional development, in-class observation and reflection, and, in the case of tertiary institutions, quality assurance procedures, can all be traced to an agreed common core.

Teachers are at the heart of this reform. By raising the quality of education, by supporting the leadership and professionalism of Filipino teachers, this SiMERR/RCTQ international collaboration will enable inclusive education and better opportunities for all, in particular for the most disadvantaged.

Professor John Pegg is Foundation Director of SiMERR National Research Centre, School of Education, UNE.

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