DepEd to stop recognizing best ‘Brigada Eskwela’ implementers
MANILA, Philippines — After some “issues and concerns” were raised over the conduct of its nationwide “Brigada Eskwela” campaign, the Department of Education (DepEd) said that it would stop recognizing the best implementers of the public school maintenance program for this school year.
“There will be no certificates of recognition given to school heads and teachers, which has corresponding points for outstanding accomplishment for the purpose of promotion and office/individual performance,” DepEd said in its Memorandum No. 20, s. 2023.
Although issued last month, the memorandum was released on the agency’s website only last week. Education Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo said that under the new policy for Brigada Eskwela, all participating public elementary and secondary schools would receive a certificate of recognition for complying and working with partners that provided support to the campaign.
Schools division superintendents, however, would be allowed to “exercise their sound discretion” on how they plan to recognize schools with an exemplary implementation of the program.
“The [schools division office] level recognition shall focus on the partners and stakeholders on their voluntary contribution and participation [in] Brigada Eskwela,” Escobedo said.
First launched in 2003, the Brigada Eskwela — or the National Schools Maintenance Week program — encouraged public schools to partner with local communities and organizations from both the public and private sectors in carrying out minor to medium repairs weeks before the opening of classes.
The campaign was institutionalized in 2008 through DepEd’s Department Order No. 24, turning it into a yearly undertaking and making it a permanent part of the school calendar.
It has since continuously evolved and in 2022, DepEd focused on three programs:
- the Brigada Eskwela sa Paghahanda, which includes the preparation of schools for face-to-face classes
- the Brigada Eskwela Plus, which seeks to increase learner participation and reduce dropouts, and improve education quality in participating schools to increase student performance
- the Brigada Pagbasa, an after-school reading remediation program
In the 2021 National Brigada Eskwela Awards, DepEd recognized 130 schools from 16 regions under different categories such as small schools, medium schools, large schools, and mega schools for both elementary and secondary levels.
It also gave out several special awards to the schools and partnership coordinators, including Best Home Learning Spaces, Best School Community Home Partnerships, Best Brigada Eskwela Collaboration, Best Partnership Engagement Activity, and Most Prepared School.
Although DepEd did not specify the issues and concerns that prompted the changes in the program, some public school teachers had said in previous interviews with the Inquirer that the competition aspect was forcing them to solicit support — whether in cash or in kind — and even use their own money to improve their classrooms. In fact, some had jokingly referred to themselves as “solicitors general.”
A teacher from Quezon City, who asked for anonymity, also commented that they had no choice but to solicit “because we want our school to be recognized as one of the top performers.”
Based on the general criteria for selecting the best Brigada Eskwela implementing schools, the resources generated (specifically, the prevailing market value of items donated and equivalent volunteer hours) accounted for 15 percent of the supposed total score of each participating school. The other criteria were school preparation effort (25 percent), engagement activities (25 percent), impact on school performance (25 percent) and “bayanihan” effort (10 percent).
Another teacher who also asked not to be named called out the contradiction in a DepEd memorandum which said school heads should “engage education partners during Brigada Eskwela for resources generation” for the printing of materials and the acquisition of sanitation and medical supplies, among others.
But in the same memo, the agency said no fee should be collected from parents or solicited from other volunteers and stakeholders.
Reached for comment on Sunday, Ruby Bernardo, president of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers-National Capital Region union, said the removal of the program’s competition aspect was a “positive step.”
“However, schools still need to be provided with enough funds they could use to repair and prepare classrooms before the opening of classes,” she told the Inquirer.
—WITH A REPORT FROM INQUIRER RESEARCH
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