DepEd Order No. 91
I work for an organization that does community-based education reform programs. Currently we are operating in 164 municipalities all over the country and our programs cover nearly two million public school children.
We rely on a number of assessment tools to gauge the academic performance of pupils in our sites. We track their performance over the years to help us measure the impact of our interventions. One of these tools is the National Achievement Test (NAT), which is administered yearly by the Department of Education (DepEd).
In the school years before SY 2008-2009, DepEd’s National Educational Testing and Research Center (NETRC) annually provided us a copy of the results for the entire country. They came in nifty Excel spreadsheets like this and showed the mean percentage scores (MPS) per division per region for that particular school year. It was a relatively hassle-free transaction.
In SY 2008-2009, DepEd, in typical government fashion, decided to make a simple process unnecessarily difficult. They decided that they would no longer release the results for the entire country. They made us make separate requests for each division in which we have projects. It took them forever to process our requests. We received some of the results, we didn’t receive the others.
Then to make matters worse, this SY 2009-2010 they issued DepEd Order No. 91, s. 2009 to “regulate” the use of the NAT results.
Before a “researcher” can obtain a copy of the results, he/she must first jump through the following hoops:
- Prove that he/she is qualified to do research work (They do not, however, specify what kind of proof they require. And anyway, what if I’m not “qualified” to do research work? What if I’m just an ordinary citizen who wants to know the levels of academic performance in different parts of the country?)
- Present a copy of his/her approved thesis/dissertation proposal signed by my thesis adviser (But… I’m not a student and I’m not going to use the results for a thesis/dissertation. Why is there the implicit assumption that the only people who want a copy of the results are students?)
- Submit an endorsement signed by his/her dean (What dean?)
- Sign a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) stating that he/she:
- Will not compare regions, divisions, schools and examinees without taking into consideration other variables that may have a substantial effect on the outcome of the test (Well, what if I’m not going to use the results in a study? What if I’m going to present the results in an education summit to show a particular community just how badly their kids are performing compared to the national average and to drive home the point that their situation is dire and that they need to do something about it?)
- Will furnish a DepEd a copy of my study (Paranoid much?)
- Pay the corresponding fee for the data requested (We didn’t have to pay for the data before. Now there’s a rate of 1 peso per pupil. I was aghast. So if we want the NAT results of 1.76 million pupils does that mean we have to pay 1.76 million pesos?!? I nearly fell out of my chair when NETRC said yes.*)
Furthermore, NETRC will only release 10% of the actual number of examinees per test per year. The 2009 NAT was taken by some 1.76 million pupils from 31,196 public and 2,386 private elementary schools nationwide. That means at most, we can only get the results for 176,000 students. Such a small percentage does not paint an accurate picture of academic performance in the country.
But that seems to be the whole point of Order No. 91. DepEd says they want to “safeguard and prevent the misuse, mishandling, misinterpretation, exploitation and manipulation” of the NAT results, but to me the subtext of that policy reads, “We don’t want to show anyone the results because they make us look bad.”
DepEd is perceived to be the least corrupt government agency and has an approval rating of 62%. I guess people don’t know just how bad things really are. How devoid the system is of professionalism, transparency and accountability. How bureaucratic and inefficient it is. How appallingly feudal the culture is, how superintendents are lords and their divisions their personal fiefdoms. How politicized appointments are and how much discretion there is over the use of funds.
One of the groups I’m involved with, the Movement for Good Governance, just held a roundtable discussion on education reform with leading experts on the topic. The results will be published in a paper that will form part of our 2010 development agenda. In the mean time, the following make for good reading on the subject:
- The Challenge of Governance in a Large Bureaucracy (Department of Education) by former DepEd Undersecretary Juan Miguel Luz
- Department of Education: When Refroms Don’t Transform (UNDP Philippine Human Development Report 2008-2009)
- United Nations: The Philippines trails Tanzania, Zambia in education
- Education for All – Global Monitoring Report 2010
- UNICEF EAPR Statistics on Philippine Education
- UNESCO Statistics on Philippine Education
- NSCB Statistical Indicators on Education
* So apparently there are packages of sorts. The NETRC guy I was talking to said that if we want to save we can opt to pay per school instead of per student. The sample computation they gave me for one of our schools in Tondo came up to 320 pesos for two school years (SY 2008-2009 and SY 2009-2010, which are the school years we don’t have data for). That rate brings the total cost down to a less shocking amount, but it’s still prohibitive. We have programs in thousands of schools! I can understand charging a small processing fee but their rates are unreasonable. These test results are public records and should be made available without restriction. Congress needs to pass the freedom of information bill post haste.