Towards a more improved RA 10612: DOST-SEI to prioritize ensuring the scholars’ success in their STEM teaching journey

Driven by the call to create a solid foundation for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and produce more dynamic educators who will uplift the significance of such fields in present society and encourage more Filipino youth to venture in various careers of S&T, the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI), in collaboration with the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC), hosted a Roundtable Discussion on Republic Act 10612 or the “Fast-Tracked S&T Scholarship Act of 2013”–an act expanding the coverage of the Science and Technology scholarship programs and strengthening the teaching of Science and Mathematics in secondary schools.

The roundtable discussion was conducted in efforts to further review and scrutinize the research findings and recommendations of the evaluation study on the Scholarship Act.

Its main rationale was to gauge the future directions of the program while looking at the gains, challenges, and implications of the policy’s implementation during the past 13 years, hence the title “Looking back, Moving Forward.”

The discussion sought to delineate the continuous contribution of DOST-SEI’s scholarship programs to the nationwide S&T education and to illuminate the path forward in improving such programs – putting the spotlight on the growing need to overcome barriers in providing support to the scholars, as well as in assuring the scholar-graduates’ success in their journey towards teaching STEM.

The roundtable discussion featured the views and perspectives of the Scholarship Act’s key stakeholders, implementers, and policymakers on the results of the evaluation, discussing the importance of and priorities for advancing the scholarship program.

DOST-SEI Director Dr. Josette Biyo emphasized the country’s growing need for a critical mass of STEM educators who proactively contribute to nation-building by teaching the value of science, technology, and innovation. She, then, recognized the Institute’s achievements in having molded generations of deserving scholars and in having produced more teachers at the frontline of STEM education through the scholarship program.

Similarly, DOST-SEI Chief Science Research Specialist Mr. Peter Gerry Gavina also forwarded how the scholarship has continuously enticed college students in their college sophomore year to pursue a career in science education, helping accelerate the number of STEM educators in the country.

Both, however, acknowledged the many concerns surrounding the scholar-graduates’ deployment in educational institutions and return service requirement. Nonetheless, they assured that the Institute is fully aware of such concerns and is always considerate of the scholars’ feedback on the scholarship programs.

“We take time to listen to the sentiments and experiences of our current scholars under the program and we aim to address their concerns at various levels in the implementation of the scholarship,” said Dr. Biyo.

(From left to right) Mr. Maguerra, Dr. Biyo, Hon. Romulo, Ms. Crisostomo, Mr. Sebellino, and Dr. Ilanan discussing the gains, challenges, and implications of the implementation of RA 10612 through the years.

The Department of Education (DepEd) Teacher Education Council Executive Director Mr. Runvi Manguerra and Assistant Chief of the Bureau of the Human Resource and Organizational Development (BHROD) Ms. Ruby Chanda Crisostomo also reflected on issues of delayed deployment and limited employment opportunities, promising to improve coordination among schools and institutions to complement the demand of the schools vis-à-vis the supply of STEM teachers.

Also participating in the roundtable discussion was the Chairperson for the Basic Education and Culture Committee Hon. Roman Romulo who also stressed about the importance of coordination between DepEd and schools to ensure the scholar-graduates’ deployment to their teaching positions. He requested DepEd to provide data and specifics of schools that lack STEM teachers and highlighted the need to appropriately match the supply of RA 10612 scholar-graduates to the current demand of schools all over the country.

Meanwhile, Philippine Normal University Dean of the College of Flexible Learning and ePNU Dr. Celia Ilanan acknowledged concerns on delayed training and forwarded that one way to improve the Scholarship Act is to include pre-service training provisions for scholar-graduates even before they were deployed, establishing a structured and efficient process for its delivery.

Principal author of RA 10612 and former congressperson Angelo Palmones also contributed to the discussion and shared a brief background of the law, as well as his insights in further improving its implementation. He also expressed his intention to review the evaluation more conscientiously before endorsing changes in the law and demanding actions from the House.

Meanwhile, after sharing his experiences and voicing his concerns as a beneficiary of the scholarship program, scholar-graduate Engr. Aaron Sarmiento is hopeful that the meaningful dialogues built during the discussions would help grow the number of scholars that the program supports and the projects and efforts that the Institute puts forward. He is certain that the valuable insights gained from the discussions can be useful in ensuring the success of the scholars in their journey towards teaching STEM, as well as in helping elevate the quality of STEM education in the country.

Scholar-graduate Engr. Sarmiento sharing his experiences after being deployed as a teacher in their local secondary school.

Mr. Ariel Sebellino of the Philippine Press Institute acted as the moderator of the discussion and forwarded that the media also have a role in promoting the scholarship program. Also present in the RTD were DOST Undersecretary Maridon Sahagun and PSSC Executive Director Dr. Lourdes Portus who welcomed the participants and guests and gave an overview of the RTD’s goal, respectively.

Keeping in mind the views of the beneficiaries and other key stakeholders, the DOST-SEI pledged to continue to work closely together with policymakers and program implementers in continuously revisiting and reviewing the Scholarship Act to further improve the support they provide to their scholars and ensure that they flourish in their career in science education  – transforming them into more than just beneficiaries of the scholarship but also agents who play a critical role in accelerating the country’s collective future as a nation.

Upon the discussion’s conclusion, the Institute looks forward to having more relevant and more significant dialogues that aim to better revamp certain aspects of the scholarship program and further improve its implementation. They plan to establish a technical working group for more rigorous monitoring and evaluation of the program’s policy.

The roundtable discussion was conducted on July 3, 2023, in two subsequent sessions. The first session highlighted the views and sentiments of the implementers and beneficiaries, while the second one included that of the policymakers.