DAVAO ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC SCHOOLS, INC.
Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines-XI
Virtual General Assembly, July 16, 2021
By: Fr. Tomas P. Avila, Jr.
There is a current and persistent clamor to declare a crisis in Philippine Education. The 2021 World Bank global education report found that eighty percent (80%) of students in the country do not meet the standards for their grade level. (DepEd, 2021) Even if the Department of Education has contended that the data were obsolete and that the World Bank did not follow protocol in publishing its report, results of international assessments of students as recent as 2016, 2018 and 2019 showed that Filipino students consistently performed poorly in reading, writing, comprehension and mathematics.
The pandemic has made the situation even more dire. Based on data from Philippine Business for Education, for SY 2020-2021 around 2.75 million in basic education are unenrolled. (The ASEAN Post, 2021) That is a very large number of out-of-school-youths who have lost the opportunity of formal learning.
On the other hand, because of the lockdown in the school system, millions of students are confined in their homes for more than a year now and have to grapple with the problems of blended and distant learning, not the least of these are poor connectivity, lack of functional computers or gadgets, absence of personal socialization, malnutrition and even physical abuse.
All these factors are sure ingredients for a disaster in our educational system which long-term consequences will mean retrogressing of our human resources and the weakening of economy. Without any official declaration, we know that for decades now Philippine education has been in crisis – before, because of issues in accessibility and now, due to general decline in the quality of educational outputs as demonstrated by students.
Many of us in the private schools are familiar with these problems in the system. We have our fair share of challenges in ensuring balance between sustainability of our institutions and quality of instruction. Through the years, we have been threatened by declining enrollment exacerbated by the increasing cost of maintaining and upgrading our schools. Today, we are sad to announce the closure of one of our mission schools starting this coming school year because its yearly enrollment could not anymore support its operation. In fact, another DACS institution of Higher Learning has to close indefinitely its basic education department because of financial woes.
Yes, even Catholic education is not spared from a form of crisis. But for sure this goes beyond the problems of affordability or accessibility, although oftentimes these have been reasons cited to explain decline in enrollment in Catholic schools. The crisis in Catholic education is rather about the tension between the value of a solid catholic faith formation which supposedly only Catholic schools can provide and the goal of attracting more students by delivering quality instruction and professional training, which catholic schools and universities are largely perceived to be offering.
This crisis is described by Paul Santos in Catholic Education Resource Center (2012), “When we no longer see our schools as integral to our faith, they become orphans lost in the wilderness of the secular world, taking direction from wherever they can find it. In our attempts to find the best business model for our Catholic schools we have forgotten that our schools are a faith-based business. Our capital is the faith we put into them. When that capital dries up, our schools wither and become something other than what they should be. Our student population declines, our funds dry up, and parishioners… see little reason to support the schools. Even more tragically, our schools lose their way in the morass of academic excellence at the expense of their evangelical mission. …We should know we have reached a crisis of faith when we see the salvation of our schools in the wealthy donor rather than in the body of faithful who comprise our church. We should know we have a crisis of faith when our eyes no longer focus on Jesus as the sole purpose for our schools.”
A deeper appreciation of the nature and mission of Catholic faith formation, however, will let us realize that it should have no conflict at all with the pursuit of quality or the relentless quest towards excellence or to labor for its sustainability. We simply have to set what our number one priority is. To form our students to search for God in their lives will necessarily bring them to exciting quest for the Truth and instill in them a value for excellence. If Catholic families, parishes and community value their faith and would desire their children to love and embrace that faith, then Catholic schools would be vibrant and growing institutions of learning to where communities of families will enthusiastically send their children not only to be educated but also to cherish and celebrate the gift of faith they have received.
This I believe is how we should meaningfully celebrate the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines, that as Catholic schools we renew our commitment to be effective instruments in forming and instilling the gospel values in our students, teachers and all who are part of our community. We have to be transformed and be transformative as institutions so that all who come to us become sincere seekers of the Truth, joyful bearers of the gift of faith and faithful followers of our Lord Jesus.
This is the vision we share as DACS and CEAP – that as Catholic schools we become more a community of faith encountering Jesus among ourselves and with those we serve as we collaborate for the good of all and for the transformation of our society.
This is the commitment that has always guided as DACS. In the midst of the pandemic we continue to show encouragement for one another and to serve in ways within our mandate and capabilities. Here are the DACS highlights in 2020-2021:
- On the actions of the DACS Board of Trustees
The Board of Trustees has met in four (4) regular meetings and three (3) special meetings to discuss responses to the pandemic. The Board has passed a total of thirty-two (32) resolutions to be confirmed by the General Assembly.
This year we have also started to activate the various commissions to provide recommendations to the board for priority programs and activities for the association.
- On Collaboration with the Catholic Education Association of the Philippines (CEAP)
The DACS President has regularly represented the association to the Board of the CEAP and has been part of consultations on issues affecting private education. We have also sent two DACS teacher-scholars to the CEAP Justice and Peace Academy Certificate Program. We have also sent participants to various CEAP teachers development programs such as the Online Course Design and Management
DACS continues to be represented in CEAP commission meetings for the National Basic Education Commission, the Technical Vocational Education Commission and the CEAP Research Committee.
- On DACS Advocacies
Our DACS Advocacy Commission, with the leadership of Fr. Joel E. Tabora, SJ, has initiated several activities and formulated position papers on various urgent educational, social, political and environmental issues. Among the position papers adopted by DACS are the following:
- A Published Manifesto on Democratizing Internet Access through the use of Satellite Technology as a Social Imperative and a Common Good
- A Letter to Davao City Government Against the passage of the Ordinance requiring the teaching of Davao History
- Statement supporting Stand of the Ateneo Schools of the Philippines on Solidarity with Myanmar
- A Position supporting CEAP Statement on Killing of Activists and Response to Lt. Gen. Parlade Jr.’s and NTF ELCAC’s Pronouncements
- A Statement on Vaccine Equity and Justice
- Notes on Academic Freedom in the Philippines
- A Position Paper (Decreeing Falsehoods in Mining) Against Executive Order 130 Lifting the Moratorium in Open Pit Mining in the Philippines
- A Unity Statement on Tampakan Mining
- A Call for the Extension of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority to 2025
- A Commentary on Section 5 of Substitute Bill to R.A. 6728 (GASTPE Law)
A document entitled, Primer on Tampakan Mines and Mindanao Ecology has also been produced by the ADVOCOM and uploaded in the DACS website to serve as an accessible supplementary material for environmental education in science and social studies.
The Advocacy Commission also organized important forums such as the following:
- A Pakighinabi on the Proposed Extension of the Bangsamoro Transition (February 19, 2021)
- A Pakighinabi with Young Lumads on NCIP’s directive against the Use of the term “Lumad” (April 29, 2021)
- A Pakighinabi on Moro Killings in South Cotabato (June 30, 2021)
We commend the Advocacy Commission for its weekly meetings and for the significant number of statements and documents it has prepared for DACS making our association very much engaged and taking a moral stand on urgent issues affecting education and the society as a whole.
- On the DACS Collaborative Tracer Study for Senior High School.
The DACS Tracer study is a collaboration of DACS higher education institutions and is conducted in partnership with the Department of Education, The Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.
Participating institutions are 60 private senior high schools and 70 public senior high schools in the eleven (11) Divisions of Region XI. More than 13,000 senior high school graduates responded to our online interviews.
Initial results show that 82% of the study participants pursued higher, or college education, 8.73% sought employment, 2.67% took up Middle Skills, and 2.28% entered entrepreneurship. We note that 4.42% of the study participants did not pursue any of the career outcomes envisioned by DepEd. Among the reasons cited for this include: early pregnancy, early marriage, working abroad, helping parents in the family businesses, saving for college, undecided, no money, and peer pressure.
As the research is still ongoing, more important data such as alignment of senior high school track to career choices and employment, will be generated. We expect this research to be completed before the end of the year.
We thank all the DACS higher education institutions and their research departments for collaborating in this study which results can be bases for policy and curricular reforms in the Senior High School program.
- On DACS Involvement in COVID19 Response
Early in the pandemic last 2020, some of our DACS schools offered their facilities to provide rest areas for medical front liners.
Recently, DACS has been tapped by the Davao City government to coordinate the vaccination of private school personnel. With Ateneo de Davao University and San Pedro College offering their facilities as vaccination Centers together with their volunteers, we were able to provide vaccines to more than 3,000 teachers and staff of private schools in Davao City.
We are thankful for these opportunities to do our part and to contribute to the fight against COVID19 and help the country achieve herd immunity against the virus.
- On the services of the DACS Office and Training Center
Despite the lockdowns and flexible work arrangements, our DACS staff continue to provide valuable assistance to our members especially in the area of information dissemination and the management of our regular office programs and services. The DACS Secretariat also represent DACS in meetings and consultations called by government agencies and private organizations.
For the coming schoolyear, I propose that we consider the following directions:
- To continue to initiate programs to help capacitate our school administrators to adapt and survive the effects of the pandemic.
- To explore more programs to strengthen the quality of instruction by upgrading and retooling our teachers in their professional skills.
- To continue the DACS advocacy agenda guided by the CEAP JEEPGY Pillar Programs for us to respond effectively and appropriately to socio-political, educational and environmental issues
- To re-engage DACS for the 2022 Elections by adopting or formulating a political education program and to facilitate the registration of eligible students with the COMELEC aligned with CEAP Campaign (Vote LOVE)
- To Relaunch or reintroduce the Philippine Catholic Schools Standards among schools.
- To encourage a more collective celebration by DACS of the 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines as we also prepare for the 60th Foundation year of DACS in 2023.
- To revisit our DACS Vision Mission Statement to make it more relevant to the present time
These are what we propose to do together, but again, we rely entirely on the Lord to provide the necessary grace for us to discern and follow His will and to give us the material and spiritual resources to allow us to collaborate for the welfare of Catholic education and for the common good.
Thank you to all for your being with us in this Regional Assembly. We thank Sr. Marissa R. Viri, RVM and the CEAP for the leadership and support it provides to our regional association. I thank the incumbent and outgoing officers and members of the Board of Trustees and its commissions. I thank the staff for their commitment and service to the organization.
I shall be ending my term as President of DACS although I will remain to serve as Superintendent and Ex-Officio member. I express my sincere appreciation for your trust and support as we faced together the challenges four our schools these past few years.
May God continue to bless our work, guide us as we navigate towards an uncertain future but keep us ever joyful and committed to our mission, knowing that it is the Lord who owns the vineyard and who will provide for all our needs.
- Department of Education Website
- The ASEAN POST
(July 15, 2021)
- Paul Santos. “Our Catholic Schools: A Crisis of Faith.” Crisis Magazine (May 24, 2012).