"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Monday, July 23, 2012

Public Education Reform, RH Bill, and DepEd's K to 12

The State of the Nation Address has been given by the president and DepEd's K to 12 was not mentioned. Nonetheless, "So What's News" had a bingo:

Downloaded from  http://sowhatsnews.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/lets-play-sona-2012-prediction-bingo/
Some of the problems Philippine Basic Education faces, however, were mentioned:

...We were also left a long list of obligations to fulfill: A backlog of 66,800 classrooms, which would cost us about 53.44 billion pesos; a backlog of 2,573,212 classroom chairs, amounting to 2.31 billion pesos.... 
...And what of our students—what welcomes them in the schools? Will they still first learn the alphabet beneath the shade of a tree? Will they still be squatting on the floor, tussling with classmates over a single textbook? 
I have great faith in Secretary Luistro: Before the next year ends, we will have built the 66,800 classrooms needed to fill up the shortage we inherited. The 2,573,212 backlog in chairs that we were bequeathed will be addressed before 2012 ends. This year, too, will see the eradication of the backlog of 61.7 million textbooks—and we will finally achieve the one-to-one ratio of books to students. 
We are ending the backlogs in the education sector, but the potential for shortages remains as our student population continues to increase. Perhaps Responsible Parenthood can help address this.... 
...Year after year, our budget for education has increased. The budget we inherited for DepEd last 2010 was 177 billion pesos. Our proposal for 2013: 292.7 billion pesos. In 2010, our SUCs were allocated a budget of 21.03 billion pesos. Since then, we have annually raised this allocation; for next year, we have proposed to set aside 34.99 billion pesos of our budget for SUCs. Despite this, some militant groups are still cutting classes to protest what they claim is a cut in SUC budgets. It’s this simple: 292.7 is higher than 177, and 34.99 is higher than 21.03. Should anyone again claim that we cut the education budget, we’ll urge your schools to hold remedial math classes. Please attend.... 
...If you have a problem with the fact that before the year ends every child will have their own chairs and own set of books, then look them straight in the eye and tell them, “I do not want you to go to school....”

 And, of course, to the above, the Catholic Church is quick to respond:

“We don’t see any connection between the education problem and the bill promoting and funding contraceptive usage,”

-Fr. Melvin Castro
Executive secretary, Episcopal Commission on Family and Life,
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.


The above photo downloaded from  http://www.facebook.com/actphils

"Diving into a new curriculum that has spiral approach, mother tongue based - multilingual education wipes out all current textbooks and introduces new items to the budget but we'd rather have no children?"
There is a difference between "responsible parenthood" and "population control". However, in the president's speech, since the phrase is preceded by "potential for shortages remain as our student population continues to increase", the two have been equated to each other. First, there are shortages and it is wrong to state that there is none. "Potential" is simply not the right word. Second, "responsible parenthood" does not equal "population control". The former comes with a conscious and deliberate effort to address sustainability and to build a better future, while the latter is simply an imposition. And most importantly, the State should be first to set a good example of "responsible parenthood". A responsible parent sees to it that each child receives adequate care and attention. Education for all cannot be compromised by engaging in programs that waste and stretch resources. A responsible parent does not gamble his or her limited budget on unproven and risky ventures while neglecting the basic needs of the family. A responsible parent prioritizes. Only when a parent realizes what it really takes to help a child grow does responsible parenthood begin. Only when the State finally fulfills its obligation to its youngest citizens does it understand "responsible governance".

There is indeed that temptation to solve problems by simply eliminating the perceived cause. The disappearance of a problem, however, is not a solution. The desire to eliminate a problem usually comes with frustration. And it comes with an eagerness to leave the problem behind to address and do other things. DepEd's K to 12 is such. 

Cedar Riener, assistant professor of Psychology at Randolph-Macon College, offers an excellent metaphor to understand public education in his blog entitled, "Public Education is a Community Garden". It is a must-read for education reformers, teachers, parents and students. The metaphor starts by citing the diversity of needs of plants, conditions for growing, and skills among gardeners. In more than one way, schools face a great diversity of objectives, resources, pupils and teachers. Attending to a community garden does not call for bulldozers, outside contractors or architects. Public education reform is not a revolution, but more of an evolution, slow but steady. A community garden likewise does not succumb to market pressure. The economy should not be dictating what public school education does. Instead, public school education should shape and drive the economy. Community gardens have people on the inside, the gardeners, who have their own views. The details are theirs and with these, they can provide appropriate and applicable responses. Teachers and principals are on the front line of public school education. They alone can provide innovative and relevant solutions to the challenges they face. What they need is time, energy and support, not a detailed list of what should be done and how things should be done.

A Community Garden, downloaded from  http://sloanstcommunitygarden.wordpress.com/
Public school education like gardening is organic, much more complicated than drawing a curriculum. Proponents of DepEd's K to 12 are fixated at the curriculum, thinking that it is the only ingredient of public school education. Alternatives are always asked from critics of K to 12, as if designing the curriculum is the only solution necessary for solving problems in basic education. It is obviously not and neither is making poor children disappear. Riener elegantly writes:
"But before we have a deeper, more sophisticated discussion about different seeds, soil types, what kind of plants we value, we have to stop the bulldozers and stop attacking the gardeners. What would reform look like, you ask? More compost (resources, aides), more water (interesting content), better tools (higher teacher salaries across the board), and maybe a smaller row to hoe (class size). But this is not the same as saying the garden is perfect as it is."
Critics of K to 12 are not saying that nothing should be done. Critics of K to 12 are offering not just criticisms but alternatives. Critics of K to 12 offer a prioritization. First, upgrading teachers' salaries is not only important for education reform but is also simply demanded by justice and fairness. Quality education is not achieved by demoting a teacher's job to a subservient role of following a lesson plan designed by outsiders to every single detail. Only teachers have the opportunity to really know a student. Teachers do not need specific instructions. Teachers need time and energy which they can only get if they need not worry about their own and their family's survival. Only by providing teachers with decent salaries would the State and the society really understand what it truly takes to rear a child. This is no different from parents. Responsible parents who understand what they need to provide their children make the right decisions. A government which neglects the basic needs are like parents who produce babies without due attention to the responsibilities each child brings. And a government cannot expect from its society what it does not do. As long as parents view children as potential source of labor and income, responsible parenthood is not possible. And as long as the State view its citizens as sources of cheap labor and overseas remittances, responsible governance will not happen.

1 comment:

  1. We recently published an article that you may be interested in entitled, “12 Ways Parents Can Contribute to Education Reform” (http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2012/07/12-ways-parents-can-contribute-education-reform/).

    After having followed your blog for a while, I feel that this article would align well with your blog's subject matter. I thought perhaps you'd be interested in sharing this article with your readers? Thanks, and keep up the great blogging!