Lawmakers called for a national evaluation policy that will ensure evidence-based budgeting for all government programs and the accountability of civil servants.

“Clearly there has been limited attention, budgetary support, provision of personnel for monitoring and evaluation and only lip service has been given all these years to M&E (monitoring and evaluation),” Senator Imee Marcos, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said at the National Evaluation Policy (NEP) Forum in the Senate.

Marcos noted that the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), which conduct monitoring and evaluation, are understaffed with only 12 research fellows keeping an eye on a budget of over P4 trillion. Evaluation in particular should be more comprehensive and better financed, the legislator added.

“It is important that evaluation results be established as a requirement for the national budget or for any budgeting for that matter and that no fund releases can be made without monitoring and evaluation first,” the lawmaker said.

“Digital technology has made evaluation simpler so there is no excuse not to evaluate government projects and programs comprehensively and well,” the lady senator added.

Bills have been filed in the Senate (Senate Bill No. 788 by Sen. Risa Hontiveros) and House of Representatives (House Bill No. 3293 by Rep. Alfred Vargas) in an effort to put together a national evaluation policy. The NEP forum–the first in a series on crafting such policy–discussed evaluating the Department of Education’s (DepEd) K to 12 Program.

Marcos said given the cost of K to 12 on the government and parents, it is imperative to at least determine the program’s tangible results and accomplishments.

Senator Win Gatchalian, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, stressed that monitoring and evaluation are important to exert accountability.

“Accountability is very important for all of us, especially for civil servants,” Gatchalian told the forum. “It’s also very important to make sure that our schools deliver the goals that we need to deliver. We need to deliver performance.”

“We need to deliver performance.”

But to do that, the veteran legislator added, accountability must be ensured, and the measure of school performance must also include grades, particularly in national achievement tests.

The seasoned lawmaker earlier filed a resolution seeking an inquiry into the state of basic education in the country after the global study in 2018 of the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA showed the Philippines ranked lowest in reading comprehension and second lowest in science and math out of 79 countries.

The lawmaker commended the DepEd for acknowledging that quality is a big challenge facing the basic education sector and for starting a process to review the K to 12 curriculum.

The senator called for the reform of what educators admit to be a congested curriculum.

He quoted an education official as saying that during the school year, students need to learn 200 competencies or about one competency per day.

There is also a disconnect between textbooks and the curriculum guides, he added.

“The low-hanging fruit is to reform the curriculum as fast as possible.”

“To me, the low-hanging fruit – and I hope the DepEd could also acknowledge this later on – is to reform the curriculum as fast as possible,” Gatchalian said.

“Cascading the reform to teachers is a bigger challenge because of the many levels within the huge department,” he added.

Gatchalian urged the bureaucracy to work fast on tweaking the curriculum so reforms can be cascaded down to teachers in time for school year 2020-2021, which starts in June.

He warned that if reforms are not implemented soon, no dramatic change can be expected in the Philippines’ score in the next assessment of PISA in 2021.

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