This editorial cartoon was done with AI assistance.

The newsroom of Palawan News had been rooting for President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to make a smart decision in filling the education secretary post recently vacated by Vice President Sara Duterte. He delivered to our amazement.

The appointment of Senator Sonny Angara, announced yesterday, was a win for the administration for at least two very important reasons. First, Angara was a strong candidate from the start, with a solid background in public governance and a genuine advocacy for education. Second, the appointment was far from a case of political accommodation, which was the primary consideration in the case of Sara Duterte. It was impressively a practice of strategic decision-making informed by the gargantuan challenges facing the entire education system.

Important entities in the education sector had vouched for Angara, including the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities, according to a Malacañang statement. These endorsements signify stakeholder confidence in the candidate’s capacity to get the job done.

It is interesting to note that his father, the late Sen. Edgardo J. Angara, or Seja as he was fondly addressed by staff, was the author and chairman of the Joint Congressional Commission to Study and Review Philippine Education (EDCOM I) in 1990. In 2022, EDCOM 2 was created and the young Angara was also a member.

Two important tasks are immediately poised upon Angara at this juncture. One pertains to crafting his long-term vision for uplifting the standard of Philippine education. We feel it is the easy part, as Angara understands the problems besetting the sector and he would have relevant ideas moving forward.

The second task is identifying a starting benchmark for himself. Simply put, it is an administrative assessment of where the department currently stands in terms of accomplishments against targets. This one will prove to be daunting, even messy, when he takes into account what his predecessor had actually accomplished. It is akin to opening a can of worms but it needs to be done if one is to start on a clean slate.

An important follow-through task is setting his goals for the department by which he can be assessed performance-wise at the end of his term. This will involve identifying attainable and measurable targets given all factors that come into play. It is a task for public management experts like himself, which we are confident he can do.

Angara’s biggest challenge is uplifting the quality of education, exemplified by the poor scoring of Filipino students in global assessments. To be sure, the short remainder of his term is not enough elbow room to test effective long-term measures.

For the country’s sake, we are rooting once more for Angara’s success. While he may not be able to overhaul the decades of decay in the department as shown by the international test results of our learners, the least we expect him to do is to lay a solid foundation that will strengthen the educational system in the long run.