DACS: Continuing to Provide Catholic Education with Courage and Hope

[Address and President’s Report: DACS Regional Assembly, 2014, DACS Training Center]

Your Excellences, the Most Reverend Archbishop and Bishops of the Davao-Digos-Tagum-Mati Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction: Most Rev. Archbishop Romulo G. Valles, DD, Archbishop of Davao; Most Rev. George B. Rimando, DD, Auxiliary Bishop of Davao; Most Rev. Guillermo V. Afable, DD, Bishop of Digos; Most Rev. Wilfredo D. Manlapaz, DD, Bishop of Tagum. DACS is deeply honored and inspired by your presence today. Your joining us in this regional assembly of school administrators is a concrete manifestation of your pastoral concern for us who serve and labor in the education apostolate.

To the officers and members of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS) Board of Trustees; the schools heads and administrators of all member institutions; guests from the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) National Board and CEAP National Secretariat, friends: I greet all of you with gratitude for this opportunity of coming together to enrich friendship among us and re-energize our solidarity as a community of Catholic schools.

 

But we come together today not without grave concern, considering the shadows that fill us with uncertainty and foreboding, even as we try to keep up with the unrelenting pace of change that seems today to chronically destabilize our institutions and organizations. Sometimes, indeed, we are tempted to turn responsibility for all our crisis-plagued Catholic schools to government, as Bro. Armin Luistro, Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary once suggested, and reinvent ourselves into religious-education powerhouses for the public schools. But it is in struggling with such temptation that we are challenged to recommit ourselves to our vision and mission precisely as Catholic schools. That was particular intense in the CEAP recently as it grappled with and shall continue this year to grapple with the challenge of “Philippine Catholic School Standards.” The temptation forces us to articulate what makes us good schools and why they are worth sustaining, but even more importantly, what makes our good schools Catholic, and why they continue to be apostolic powerhouses for the mission of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. This is particularly urgent at this time as government seems to have committed too facilely the nations basic and higher education institutions to the yet uncriticised ASEAN Economic Community. Meanwhile, influential business groups like the Philippine Business for Education (PBED) are also positioning themselves to integrate higher public and private education in the country according to their interests, thereby subtly subsuming all higher education to their agenda. A major part of our agenda in this general assembly, as in all general assemblies through the Philippines, shall be to contribute to the discernment of these standards in the Philippines for Catholic schools, initially for basic education, ultimately, for tertiary education, against which we can freely measure ourselves as Catholic schools and continue to construct a roadmap for ongoing improvement.

Even as we speak, bills are filed or being filed in congress; regulatory policies and directives are being crafted and issued by government agencies; these challenge the very existence of private schools. We are astounded by this treatment. Lip service is paid to the complementarity between public and private education systems, but in actuality the aggressive trajectory of the development of public basic education and public higher education institutions threatens the very existence of private schools, including the best of our Catholic schools. Government continues to use its legitimate regulatory function to illegitimately issue unfunded mandates through an obfuscation of minimum and optimum requirements. Demanding implementation of K-12’s intensified methods of instruction and assessment, higher teacher qualifications and upgraded skills, higher standards of facilities and equipment and greater student services all result in an overburdened and underfunded Catholic school that continues to exist on higher tuition and fees exacted from beleaguered parents. The situation is unsustainable. And exasperating. While government continues to issue unfunded mandates, when finally the private schools agree with their client parents that higher tuition and fess must be paid to achieve higher quality, government disallows this, preferring to pander to the complaints of students who wail they cannot pay for private education, rather than to support the increase in quality that it itself insists on. Unless urgent policy is achieved that defines a genuine complementarity between the public and the private schools, we can foresee the demise of the Catholic school. If Catholic schools recently reeled at government using taxpayers’ money to pay public school teachers a minimum of 18,000 pesos, they will perish should the Trillanes Senate Bill to raise the minimum salary of public school teachers to 36,000 pesos ever pass. In place of the quality education for which private Catholic education has been prized, we will end up with a homogenized public school system unchallenged by private schools, and therefore subject to the inefficiencies of public offices and the party-political onslaughts of politicians whose politically-motivated “recommendations for academic positions” in practice may carry more weight than the quality of a candidate’s academic degrees, pedagogical skills and research abilities – as assessed by unbiased third parties.

Pressed by these manifold issues and concerns within and outside our own schools and institutions, we feel it necessary to close ranks, inspired by our common quest for the truth and unwavering in our commitment to the service of human society through our schools’ dedication to evangelization, religious education, and inter-religious dialogue in today’s complex world. This is particularly urgent in Mindanao where our schools may be being called to play pivotal roles to advancing the peace process that reached a peak in the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement Bangsamoro (CAB). In Mindanao, we must all work together, schools, parishes, NGOs, private and public sector alike, to make sure that no matter how politically compromised the President may be today because of his defense of his activities under the DAP, the peace not be snatched away from the Bangsamoro and from Mindanao. We must continue to make contributions through Catholic education to a Mindanao that supports the development of genuine faiths in diversity, yet move them away from fundamentalism, ideological cooptation and violence.

This is reason we are here, why DACS and CEAP, are here today. On the regional and national levels respectively, these organizations embody the mandate and aspirations of Catholic schools in the Philippines. They create spaces for collaboration so that we empower ourselves together to push towards and beyond fixed standards. They ensure that we remain constant in our identity and mission.

As President of DACS and as Regional Director for CEAP, I wish to highlight briefly the important directions DACS has pursued and its accomplishments in the past year towards helping Catholic schools. There are eight general areas:

1.  On Legal Issues and Advocacies

DACS-CEAP XI has continued to critically support the implementation of the Enhanced Basic Education Law – the K-12 Law (RA 10533).

DACS-CEAP XI has been representing and assisting schools in responding to various legal issues such as those brought about by the Revenue Memorandum Order No. 20, s. 2014 which without benefit of consultation imposes onerous conditions for receiving a Tax Exemption Ruling from the BIR when our Constitution already declares our non-stock, non-profit school tax exempt in a manner that is self-implementing and therefore requires no implementing law nor a BIR Tax Exemption Ruling. We consider the RMO that requires the latter unconstitutional.

DACS has also been updating schools on the content and implications of other important issuances by CHED such as CMO 46, s. 2012 or the Policy-Standard to enhance Quality Assurance Philippine Higher Education through an Outcomes-based and Typology-based QA.  The CEAP has raised objections against this CMO based on its confusing complexity but also on its infringement against academic freedom. It has not succeeded in moving CHED to change its policy. In pursuit of acceptable national policy on Quality Assurance, it now supports House Bill No. 3393 entitled “Ensuring Quality in all Higher Education Institutions through a Quality Assurance System.” This was filed in Congress through Rep. Roman Romulo, Chairman of the House Committee on Higher Education, after consultation with CEAP representatives.

DEPED issuances relative to the Implementation of K-12 had also been forwarded to DACS members to keep them informed about developments on the program. The recent one among these is the proposed Implementing Rules on the Labor Component of RA 10533

During DepEd-CEAP Mindanao Summit last February 17-18, we have also registered our serious concern about the proposed Senior High School (SHS) Curriculum where all thirty-one (31) prescribed subjects in the Senior High School will be required 80 hours per semester. Mapped out, this is equivalent to some 6.5 hours a day or 32 hours a week. The tertiary-education planner knows this load to be unbearable. The curriculum is weighted now towards precollege preparations, which effectively kills the earlier possibility of a meaningful pre-work track. We have vigorously represented our reservations to the DepEd, but there doesn’t seem to be a will to change this at this time. Instead they are telling us that these hours need not be “contact hours.” Meanwhile, we await the final document on the SHS curriculem.

2.  On Plans to Design a Regional Strategy for Implementation of K to 12

Last November 2013, DACS initiated the Regional Conversations on K to 12 to listen to school leaders and administrators about their plans and concerns towards the implementation of the Senior High School Program. Among the agreements reached by all is the support for the full implementation of the K to 12 Basic Education Program and to work out a scheme for a network of Senior High Schools that will serve students of Region XI, coming both from private and public schools. It was also agreed that there was need to consolidate regional information and data pertinent to the K to 12 implementation, and for this a collaborative DACS-DEPED K to 12 Readiness Research Survey shall be undertaken.

Hence, a collaborative study was conducted early in 2014 by research teams from DACS Research Institutions and the Department of Education. Partial reports from the researches revealed the following notable information:That the majority of parents and students in Region XI still prefer the academic tracks and that among the different courses the ones given the highest choice are Nursing, Bachelors in Elementary Education, Communications, Civil Engineering and Accountancy.

  1. That the projected tuition fees by schools for Senior High School Program range between Php20,000 and Php21,000 and that given the average income of Php 11,175.78 among the surveyed families, there will be a possible shortfall of about Php 1,168.31 in the family expense for education by 2016.
  2. That majority of Industries in Region XI or 75.1 % of the 164 sampled companies are willing to hire SHS graduates especially especially if equipped with skills from the area of accountancy, business and management, ICT and Industrial Arts, and that the most needed occupations for the next five years include the wholesale and retail trade and motorcycle technicians.
  3. That only Digos City, Panabo City and Tagum City out of 10 Divisions in Region 11 may not have problems with a shortage of facilities for SHS assuming that all private and public Grade 10 students will enroll in Grade 11 by 2016 . This means that there will be a demand for engagement of the private school sector in SHS.
  4. That 50% of the surveyed second year college students will be willing to volunteer and be trained to teach in the SHS.

The research data will still be subjected to further analysis and interpretation so that we can use the results for designing a regional coordinated strategy for the K-12 Program and provide data for further policy formulation.

  1. On the design of a Common Framework for Christian Formation in Basic Education

In response to the call for a common framework to integrate Christian Formation lessons, the services of the Campus Ministry, and the programs of Community Engagement, the DACS Committee on Christian Formation has started the consultations among CLE coordinators in the Basic Education for the assessment of the different programs offered by Catholic schools, and has started as well to design a common framework that will articulate the teachings of the Church as embodied in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the proposed standards for Catholic schools in the Philippines.

I would encourage everyone to support this undertaking so that we can attain harmony and coherence in the Christian formation programs offered by Catholic schools.

  1. On the Celebration on the Year of Faith

To impress upon the youth the significance of the Year of Faith and the Era of the New Evangelization as proclaimed by the Catholic Church, DACS organized an overnight Youth Camp for the Year of Faith last October 25-26, 2013 at the Ateneo de Davao University- Matina Campus. The activity gathered around 1,800 Catholic students from Catholic schools, non-sectarian private schools and public schools from the Dioceses of Davao, Digos, Tagum and Mati.

Through the activities which included praise, prayer and reflection, inspirational talks, group sharing and dynamics, cultural presentations and the Eucharistic celebration, we believed that we were able to awaken and nurture seeds of faith among the young participants give them an experience their gift of faith. I would propose that a similar gathering be organized for all Catholic educators especially in this Year of the Laity.

  1. On the actions of the DACS Board of Trustees

Your Board of Trustees has been meeting quarterly to tackle organizational and many educational concerns that affect member schools. The Superintendents Commission composed of the four (4) Diocesan Superintendents of and one (1) representative of the Congregational schools has been providing valuable support in taking care of the welfare of the diocesan clusters of DACS schools and in cascading to the Diocesan level the thrusts and programs of CEAP and DACS. So far, for SY 2013-2014, twenty-one (21) Board Resolutions have been passed and implemented.

Among the actions of the Board is the Resolution to apply for Philippine Council for NGO Certification (PCNC) accreditation, a quality assurance process that will attain for DACS a certified Donee Institution status. Once we have this, DACS will be able to enjoy exemption from donor’s tax .

  1. On new institutional members

It is with great pleasure, that we welcome three (3) new members of DACS: the Anthony and Mark Cavanis Elementary School, the Fr. Domenico Masi and Sisters of Mary Immaculate Learning Center and the Jesus and Mary Thevenet School Foundation.

This increase in our membership to sixty-four institutions in Region XI is a proof to our dynamism as a communion of Catholic schools. We anticipate that more Catholic institutions being established by new religious congregations in DADITAMA will also become members of DACS.

  1. On GASTPE-ESC Management

Since 1990, DACS has been the Regional Project Secretariat of the Educational Service Contracting Program under the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE). Our DACS office has been assisting the Department of Education and The Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE) in implementing the program that benefits 147 private school institutions, 38,079 high school students, and 1,058 licensed teachers in Region XI. These for a total grant of Php 190,395,000 for ESC and Php 12,696,000 for Teachers Salary subsidy in SY 2012-2013.

DACS is also very much involved in the conduct of the Certification Program a requirement to ensure quality of education in participating schools.

8.  On Partnerships with other Government agencies and NGOs

DACS has continued to be an active member in different bodies of the Local Government of Davao such as the Watershed Management Council, The Davao City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and with other agencies such as Davao City Water District with which we have a Memorandum of Agreement for the promotion of the Adopt-a-Watershed Program.

We also enjoy a membership of good standing with the Association of Foundations of the Philippines that provides us the opportunity to learn from other organizations and to share our own best practices in leadership and management.

All these things were made possible because of the excellent support of the member schools, the leadership of the DACS Board and the dedication of our Office Personnel.

I thank all of you for your active participation in all our programs and activities!

 

Let us continue to fulfill our mission in Catholic schools. This is our calling; this is God’s mission: to pursue the truth, to instruct in truth, to labor in truth for the acceptance of God’s Reign in our schools, country, and globe. As we look forward to the Year of the Poor, may we especially dedicate our efforts to bringing hope to those who are least, excluded and forgotten in our midst.

May God bless us all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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