MANILA – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday said there is an urgent need for the creation of math and science high schools in every province, citing a report from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics that the Philippines has one of the lowest number of researchers among the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

“A robust research and development sector is essential to achieving high-income status. This specialized academic preparation opens doors to critical thinking, financial literacy, and evidence-based decision-making and these skills are highly critical to the improvement of the nation’s economy as it relies on a workforce proficient in math and science,” said Gatchalian, noting that the Philippines has only 186 researchers per million inhabitants.

The chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education also pointed to a report from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2018, which showed that the Philippines ranked second lowest in Science and Mathematics from 79 countries that participated.

In the 2019 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Philippines also came in last out of 58 countries in mathematics and science.

The Southeast Asia Primary Learning Metrics (SEA-PLM) 2019 also showed that only 17 percent of Grade 5 learners met the minimum standards in mathematics expected for the end of primary.

To address these issues, Gatchalian has filed Senate Bill 476, or the Equitable Access to Math and Science Education Act, which seeks to provide equitable access to quality education in the pure and applied sciences, mathematics, and technology for all Filipinos to nurture future generations of scientists, mathematicians, engineers, and other professionals who will serve the nation as catalysts for scientific, technological, and industrial progress.

“Ang math at science ang ating pundasyon upang isulong ang inobasyon sa ating bansa. Kung mapapatayuan natin ang bawat probinsya ng pampublikong math at science high school, matitiyak natin na bawat sulok ng bansa ay magkakaroon ng mahuhusay na (Math and science are the foundations to promote innovation in our country. If we can build public math and science high schools in every province, we can ensure that all corners of the country will have competent) Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) professionals na makakatulong sa ating pag-unlad (that will help in our development),” Gatchalian said. (With a report from Leonel Abasola/PNA)