Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda

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The Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) is a package of policy reforms pursued by the Department of Education (DepEd) to improve the quality of education in the Philippines and attain the Education For All (EFA) goals in 2015.

The BESRA was developed in August 2005 primarily from the research work of those in the academe, such as a report on Multiliteracy by Dina S. Ocampo and a sectoral study on National Learning Startegies in Science and Mathematics by Science Education Institute Director Ester B. Ogena. It was formally implemented in 2006.



The BESRA seeks to attain the four Education for All objectives by 2015. These are:

1.Universal Adult Functional Literacy - All adults, defined as one beyond school age, should be competent enough either in their native tongue, in Filipino, or in English, to be considered functionally literate regardless of level of schooling.

2.Universal School Participation and Elimination of Drop-outs and Repetition in First Three Grades - All children aged six years old must enter grade school, and are prepared to learn and achieve the required competencies from Grades 1 to 3.

3.Universal Completion of the Full Cycle of Basic Education Schooling with Satisfactory Achievement Levels by All At Every Grade or Year - All children from six to eleven years old must be on track to complete elementary education with satisfactory achievement levels at every grade. All children from twelve to fifteen years old must complete their secondary education also with similar satisfactory levels at every year.

4. Total Community Commitment to Attainment of Basic Education Competencies for All - Every community should mobilize all its economic, social, political, and cultural resources plus its capabilities to support the attainment of basic education competencies in both Filipino and English.

Key Reform Thrusts

To achieve these objectives, the BESRA focuses on specific policy actions that fall under these five key reform thrusts.

  1. Get all schools to continuously improve
  2. Enable teachers to further enhance their contribution to learning outcomes
  3. Increase social support to attainment of desired learning outcomes
  4. Improve impact on outcomes from complementary early childhood education, alternative learning systems and private sector participation
  5. Change institutional culture of DepEd to better support these key reform thrusts

Developments and criticism

The implementation of the BESRA was seen as a welcome move by many, both in the private and public sector. Several landmark initiatives by the DepEd have been based on the BESRA, such as the institutionalization of multilingual education, the Third Elementary Education Project (TEEP), and the Secondary Education Development and Improvement Project (SEDIP).

However, years after its first implementation, many of the proposed reforms have not been fully implemented. As Niceto Poblador said in the column “Beyond reform, beyond transformation,” published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last 25 January 2009, the primary hindrance to any true reform in the education sector was the resistance of “entrenched elements in the bureaucracy and by elements outside the system whose interests firmly lie on the status quo.”

Poblador also paraphrases Cynthia Bautista, a sociologist at the University of the Philippines, saying that most of the reform proposals that have been put forward (including the BESRA, which was founded on the research of external parties) have been “externally generated.” Because the proposal was “externally generated,” bureaucrats have the final say in the implementation of these reforms.

This was also echoed by an analysis of the Philippine Human Development Report (PHDR) 2008/2009 on, saying that the DepEd has failed to sustain reforms into “large scale, integrated and sustained outcomes.” The PHDR also blames the lack of government support for the failure of some reforms initiated through the BESRA because it forces the DepEd to almost completely rely on foreign funding for its projects, which includes a US$200 million loan from the World Bank in June 2006. Once these funds run out, the projects for reform are dropped.

Funding for the BESRA was also sidelined by the controversial Cyber Education Project (CEP), which led to the NBN-ZTE scandal. The overpricing in the CEP as compared to the budget allotted to the computerization project of the BESRA (P26.48 billion for the CEP, 235 million for the BESRA computerization project), were detailed in the policy brief by the Senate Economic Planning Office in May 2008.




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