In November 2022, I had the privilege of being the discussant of a paper by Dr. Helena Agnes Valderrama, professor at the University of the Philippines Virata School of Business, titled “The Quest to Transform PH Basic Education: Execution as the Imperative.” The paper was presented at the 2022 BSP-UP Professorial Chair Lectures, an annual event hosted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) in cooperation with the University of the Philippines (UP), where UP Professorial Chairholders are invited to give a lecture on their written research.
Dr. Valderrama’s paper reviews the Basic Education Development Plan 2030 (BEDP 2030), the medium-term roadmap to improve the delivery and quality of basic education. Dr. Valderrama acknowledges that BEDP 2030 (available online at DO_s2022_024.pdf [deped.gov.ph]) does “appear to be the most comprehensive plan developed to date to address the pressing and persistent issues of the sector.” It identifies the goals and aspirations for basic education, looks at the current sector situation, develops the desired outcomes, and identifies strategies, output measures, and indicators to monitor.
Dr. Valderrama observes, however, that while historically there has been no shortage of studies, analyses, and recommendations on how to turn the performance of the Philippine basic education sector around, and despite the significant effort and resources poured into Philippine Basic Education for decades, the pursuit of transformation seems to be at a standstill. For her, what is crucial in determining actual performance is the execution of plans and strategies to determine actual performance.
Using insights from private sector approaches to close the strategy-to-performance gaps and from existing survey of literature of historical education reform efforts, she synthesizes her key execution recommendations as follows: 1.) Fully implement School-Based Management; 2.) Enforce transparency and accountability through regular, accurate, timely, and accessible performance data throughout the Department of Education (DepEd) hierarchy; and, 3.) Prioritize the BEDP outcomes, to start with quality.
Given the space constraint for this column, I focus my comments on School-Based Management.
I agree that School-Based Management (or SBM) is a crucial execution strategy towards translating the BEDP into satisfactory outcomes or performance. I look at SBM in two senses: One, to mean greater decentralization of decision-making and resources to the level of schools. Two, to make schools a main unit for planning and for monitoring and evaluating performance.
With respect to decentralization of decision making, an overall framework is given by Republic Act 9155, or the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001. It enunciates the principle of shared governance, whereby every unit in the education bureaucracy up to the level of schools is assigned particular roles, tasks, and responsibilities. Overall policies, plans, and standards are set at the national level, which are in turn translated into regional, division, and school-level programs, projects and services adapted to fit local needs.
At the school level, the school head performs the tasks of instructional leader and administrative manager, with authority over developing school education programs, school improvement plans, and managing the personnel and physical and fiscal resources of the school.
This shared governance is adopted by the BEDP in its implementation strategy. Each region, schools division, and school shall formulate their respective basic education plans contextualized to their actual situation; however, strategies must all contribute or complement the national directions, targets, and strategies outlined in the BEDP. The school level localized plan shall be in the form of a School Improvement Plan for the periods 2022-2025 and 2025-2028.
In terms of decentralization of resources, the general appropriations identify the funds that may be either centrally or locally managed. Netting out P512.5 billion in Personnel Services (salaries), already corresponding to 76% of DepEd’s P676.1-billion 2023 budget leaves 19% for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE), and 5% for Capital Outlay, to be managed either centrally or locally. Of P128.5 billion in MOOE, P30.9 billion or about 24% is either directly released or downloaded to schools for school operations. The rest of MOOE and most of Capital Outlay are largely centrally managed. The highly centralized programs include school buildings, textbooks and other instructional materials, and computerization.
From the perspective of decentralizing resources for SBM, the distribution of general appropriations between centrally and locally managed funds may be reviewed to determine whether and to what extent to reallocate the budget to school level management. Caution should be taken, however, that any redistribution will have administrative consequences such as new challenges in procurement and fiscal management and accountability.
It is in the second sense of SBM — that of making schools the main unit for planning as well as for monitoring and evaluating performance — where there can be a substantial gain in execution. This should be in two parts.
The first is to include quality in the targeting, monitoring, and evaluation of performance. If we look at the historical planning and monitoring parameters of DepEd, they are heavy on physical input targets, such as number of classrooms built, number of teachers covered by professional development programs, number of computer units provided, and so on. Their impact on quality outcomes is assumed to follow automatically, and there is hardly any attempt to provide measurable links between education inputs and target quality outcomes.
The second is to bring the targeting, monitoring, and evaluation of quality outcomes to the level of schools. Thus, quality-related targets — such as the attainment of learning standards of literacy and numeracy skills and application of 21st century skills to various situations — can be expressed in school-based targets with clear linkage to specific programs, projects, and expenditures, whether managed at the central or local levels. For example, targets and monitored data in terms of aggregate or physical units, such as number of classrooms built or textbooks printed, can be expressed in school-contextualized targets and monitored data, such as percentage of schools achieving 1:1 textbook to student ratio, or the ideal classroom-to-student ratio.
Learning outcomes targets can be expressed not just in terms of aggregate percentage of students achieving proficiency, but in terms of number of schools whose students make the cut. To facilitate school-based targeting and monitoring of quality outcomes, the results of large-scale assessments like the National Achievements Tests must be integrated into school-based data.
Alongside the traditionally extensive data that the DepEd generates on physical inputs, the school-level monitoring and evaluation of the quality of the goods, facilities, or programs will accelerate the narrowing of the strategy-to-performance gap.
Nepomuceno A. Malaluan, a former DepEd undersecretary, is a trustee of Action for Economic Reforms.