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Saturday, July 04, 2009

Chiz pushes for fixed term for DepEd chief

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday pushed for a fixed term for the secretary of education to insulate the department from politics and maintain continuity in its programs.   

"We must ensure that the education of our youth is not tied to the fortunes of the appointing power or the politics of the day," he said.

"We can insulate the Department of Education given the president's power to reorganize government by simply providing that its secretary be not co-terminus with the appointing power. We can ensure a fixed term in law for him," Escudero said.

The 39-year old senator also favors the decentralization of the Department of Education so appropriate policies are crafted and problems immediately acted on at the regional level.

He said the next president should also form a commission to develop a master plan that will set benchmarks and timetables to bring the country's level of education at par with the best in the region.

"The Commission can map out a painless transition from the current 10-year basic education cycle to 12 years," Escudero said.

In his talk at an education forum, he also reiterated his proposal for government to increase the education budget from 12% to the Southeast Asian standard of 20 percent.

He said the government is only spending US$138.00 per student compared to the Thailand's US$853.00 and Singapore's US$1800.00.

Escudero said the constitution's mandate for government to give education the highest budgetary priority has not been followed since its ratification in 1987.

"The highest budgetary priority is being given to debt service. They were able to circumvent the constitution by considering debt service as an off-budget item," he said. Debt service is currently at about P600 billion while the budget for education is about P160 billion.

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