THE Department of Education (DepEd) on Tuesday launched a framework designed to decongest public schools and equalize the level of teaching between the public and private schools.

Meanwhile, Senator Sherwin Gatchalian said public schools can learn from private schools, adding that students’ good performance is attributable to the high level of support the teachers gave them. “One of the most important reasons why we did not regress during the pandemic is because of our teachers. That’s a very important factor,” he said

The structure, dubbed Public-Private Education Complementarity Framework, was rolled out  during the 2023 Private Education National Conference which sought to promote coherence in the development of a mixed education system in the country.

Vice President and concurrent Education Secretary Sara Duterte said every Filipino student, either from public or private school, deserves an equal opportunity to learn and reach their full potentials.

She pointed out that at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant  number of students transferred from private schools to public schools, resulting in congestions among state-run schools while some private schools experienced declines in enrolment, prompting some of them to shut down.

“The pandemic forced us to reckon with the weaknesses of our education system. Many Filipinos lost their jobs, and the uncertainty forced many parents to send their children to public schools. This experience taught us that the demand for quality education far exceeds the capacity of our public schools,” Duterte said in a statement read by DepEd Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo.

Duterte also said that through the framework, congestion in public schools are addressed while at the same time providing wider access to quality education for students from low-income families.

“With this framework, we are leveraging the strengths of both the public and private sectors. Let us foster a collaborative environment where public and private schools work together to address the challenges and opportunities facing Philippine education today,” she added.

Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education cited results of the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) which showed that the country’s 15-year-old learners did not regress despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The senator also noted that the DepEd initiative will improve the quality of education for all Filipino learners, considering their poor performance in the 2022 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

“Kung titingnan ang grado naman ng private school, mas mataas kaysa sa public school. So ibig sabihin, meron tayo pwedeng matutunan na maganda sa private school natin na pwede nating dalhin sa public school. Isa sa nakikita kong pwedeng pagtulungan ay maimprove ang quality, at of course marami pa (If we look at it, private schools have a high level than public schools. This means that there is something in private schools that we can teach in the public schools. One area that we can look into is the quality (of education),” Gatchalian said in an ambush.

“If public school learners now would have access to private schools at no cost, then it will also greatly improve our performance not only in large scale assessments, but in our own assessments at the national level we can see the impact of our learning recovery plan,” DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Bringas said.

The DepEd said the framework will be the basis for the roadmap, and a Department Order will be issued after the launch. Target implementation will be in the first semester of 2024.

The index of teacher support reveals that the level of support provided by Filipino teachers to their students (0.50) is higher than the average (-0.03) in Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) countries.

During the forum on the 2022 PISA results, Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Gina Gonong pointed out that students who attend classes with supportive teachers, in most or every mathematics lesson, scored 17 to 27 points higher than those who received less support.

Eight in 10 students reported that most teachers were fully committed to make their students learn.

He, however, pointed out that changes in the country’s scores in Reading, Mathematics, and Science between 2018 and 2022 were not statistically significant.

Gatchalian reiterated the need to roll out learning recovery programs and other reforms in basic education to further improve learner outcomes.

He also emphasized the need to support the teachers by upholding their welfare and improving their working conditions.

Gatchalian recently filed Senate Bill No. 2493, or the Revised Magna Carta for Public School Teachers which seeks to amend the 57-year-old law of the same name.

Among the bill’s provisions are the reduction of teaching hours from six to four and a prohibition from assigning teachers to do non-teaching tasks.

They may also be called to render overtime work only when extremely necessary, but with extra remuneration equivalent to 25 percent of their basic pay.