National Achievement Test, Performance-Based Bonus system, not the solutions to improve education system

The only way [to improve the education system] is to have a higher budgetary allocation to education to solve shortages in classrooms, equipment and facilities and to increase the salaries of teachers. There is a need for a comprehensive professional development program for teachers to continuously equip them and further their knowledge and capacity to teach. “ – France Castro, Alliance of Concerned Teachers

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – What was originally intended as a measurement of the competencies developed by students in different grade levels has lost its effectiveness after it became a major criterion for determining the bonuses of teachers, under the newly-introduced Performance-Based Bonus system. Thus, progressive teachers are calling for the immediate abolition of both the National Achievement Test (NAT) and the Performance-Based Bonus system.

According to DepEd, the NAT is a standardized test designed to determine the achievement level, strengths and weaknesses in five key curricular areas – English, Filipino, Math, Science and Araling Panlipunan – of students in grades three, six and fourth year high school (or grade 10).

“It aims to provide empirical information on the achievement level of learners that will serve as guide for policy-makers, administrators, curriculum planners, supervisors, principals and teachers in their respective courses of action. The NAT also aims to determine the rate of improvement in basic education with respect to individual schools within a certain period,�� DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali explained in one of his column.

“However, this is not happening now,” said France Castro, secretary general of ACT. In a statement sent to Bulatlat.com, Castro said teachers are being forced to do “teaching for the test” so that their students would get higher results in the NAT. “They are forced because NAT results are used as a basis in the allocation bonuses for the teachers under the Performance-Based Bonus system.”

Castro said in “teaching for the test,” students are taught the answers to questions that are most likely to come out in the exams.

“’Teaching for the test’ is technically a form of cheating,” Castro said.

“If we really want to test the level of understanding and learning of students, tests such as the NAT should be done without any other preparation such as reviews. But because NAT results are taken as a criterion for the annual teachers’ bonus, teachers are forced to conduct reviews and work under the framework of ‘teaching for the test.’”

The Performance-Based Bonus system, which is a policy of the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III, is a scheme wherein government employees, instead of receiving annual increases, get bonuses based on their performance as well as that of their agency or department.

As for DepEd, Castro said, NAT results account for 30 percent of the criteria in determining bonuses. “Other criteria include school’s drop-out rate (30 percent) and efficiency in submission of liquidations and other documents related to the school’s operations.

“With the big weight being given to NAT results, teachers are really pushed against the wall,” the national president of ACT Benjie Valbuena said.

“Aside from this, they are also commanded by their superiors to conduct reviews and even leak the contents of the test as well as other forms of cheating. Teachers would not do it without the order of the principal that is why the threat of DepEd Assistant Secretary Umali’s that teachers caught doing so would face administrative charges is illogical and baseless. Filing charges against teachers would hamper any investigation as to the roots of the cheating. The DepEd should give an environment that is free from fear for the teachers –witnesses to come out.”

Valbuena added that the NAT is an example of an exercise in futility. “Does NAT prove anything? Does it solve the problems affecting the education system in the country?”

The NAT achievement results (measured in terms of the “mean percentage score”) of elementary and secondary students during the past years, according to Umali, are still below the DepEd’s target of 75 percent.

Public school teachers have protested against the Performance-Based Bonus system saying that the scheme is not fair for teachers who diligently teach their students.

According to ACT, when the new bonus system was implemented, only around one percent of teachers were able to receive the full amount of bonus amounting to P35,000 ($775.61) and the rest received only P5,000 ($110.80) – only half of the regular amount they were receiving as bonuses before the Performance-Based Bonus syStem was introduced.

“Despite the dismal amount of the salaries of teachers, the bonus, which augmented the income of teachers, has drastically been reduced,” said Castro.

She added, “If the DepEd and Aquino are really sincere in increasing the quality and standard of Philippine education, it is not through National Achievement Test or the Performance-Based Bonus system. The only way is to have a higher budgetary allocation to education to solve shortages in classrooms, equipment and facilities and to increase the salaries of teachers.”

Castro also said that aside from decent and higher salaries, there is a need for a comprehensive professional development program for teachers to continuously equip them and further their knowledge and capacity to teach.

“Mechanisms such as NAT and the Performance-Based Bonus system are nothing but schemes done to confuse us about the real solutions to the problem. Both should be abolished immediately.” ()

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