An open letter to the incoming education secretary

Managing for Society
The Manila Times
June 7, 2022

I always eagerly wait for an incoming president's announcement of cabinet picks. Being an educator for nearly 40 years, I'm particularly interested in who will lead the Department of Education (DepEd). So when I heard that president-elect Marcos had selected vice president-elect Sara Duterte as the next Secretary of DepEd, I thought I'd write her to share my education wish list for her consideration. 

I was inspired by the DepEd vision on its website, which states in part: "We dream of Filipinos who passionately love their country and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation." My wish list is based on this vision. Here's my letter:

Dear Sec. Sara:

Congratulations on your selection as incoming Secretary of Education. I believe that we are at a critical time in our history to strengthen our basic educational system. I hope that my suggestions will be helpful for your plans for the department's thrusts and programs for the next six years.

I have five suggestions.

Suggestion #1:  Strengthen the capacity of our young people in critically pursuing the truth. The main goal of basic education is to form productive citizens who will be engaged in democratic nation-building. Without the basic capacity for differentiating truth from falsehoods, productive citizenship becomes impossible. People depend on facts and data in practically all aspects of Philippine life – whether deciding on where and what to buy daily essentials to taking a stand on important public issues. However, social media has become the primary source of information for many young people. Therefore, they need to be critical users of such information to avoid being misled or manipulated.  

Suggestion #2:  Prioritize basic skills in reading, math and science.   Our repeated cellar-dwelling results in the Program for International Standards Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) examinations for reading, math and science make it clear that we have a major education and literacy crisis. We are already in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Without strong basic skills, our young people will not be ready to engage in the new workplace and the sweeping changes that various technologies will bring about.  

Suggestion #3:  Vigorously implement education on good morals and right conduct. Now that Republic Act 11476, or the Character Education/Good Manners and Right Conduct (CE/GMRC) Act of 2020 has been promulgated, let us not lose time in strengthening the social fabric of our country founded on the best Filipino values. In the past several decades, we have seen a terrible decline in behavioral norms, especially in family life, respect for elders, everyday civility, and sexual mores. A cohesive society is built on social ethics and positive social standards that most people will abide by.  It’s basic pakikipagkapwa-tao.

Suggestion #4:  Prepare the young to be engaged citizens. The first principle in the Philippine Constitution is that "The Philippines is a democratic and republican State. Sovereignty resides in the people, and all government authority emanates from them." Unfortunately, many young citizens prefer to vent their complaints to their friends over social media rather than directly communicating these same concerns to their elected officials and government agencies. Young people have to understand that citizen engagement makes democracy come to life. It is not enough to be active only during elections.

Suggestion #5:  Gear up the youth for harnessing modern technologies. While we are known as heavy users of information technology platforms such as social media and mobile data, our young people have to learn what makes such platforms possible. In addition, they need to learn the basics of machine learning, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. These advances are transforming the world as we speak and will dominate the world that today's young people will be living and working in.

You can count on my support in preparing our youth for the challenging world they will face in the near future.


Ben Teehankee

Dr. Benito Teehankee is the Jose E. Cuisia Professor of Business Ethics and Head of the Business for Human Development Network at De La Salle University. Email: