"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

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Did Educators in Universities in the Philippines Miss the Big Picture?

Posing this question probably sounds disrespectful. Contempt, however, is the last thing this blog is about. This question is more of a bewilderment bordering into frustration. Some of the ills the new DepEd K+12 curriculum is addressing are problems currently plaguing the higher education system in the country. The main reason why diplomas from the Philippines do not compare favorably from those abroad is not really about what students have been taught in elementary or high school. It is the typical college curriculum that has not kept with the demands and opportunities of this world. Philippine institutions of higher learning have become cradles of remedial education and for this reason, university faculty have not been using their knowledge to teach courses with substantial content. Diploma mills have become widespread and courses offered in college are truly no different from those provided in decent high schools. The new DepEd K+12 curriculum was in fact seen by some university faculty in this light and lent support in the hope of curing the problems currently plaguing university education. In this light, it is mind boggling to see the following headline:

Above captured from Rappler
Colleges should not be providing remedial education. The objective of getting rid of diploma mills, of course, means educators at the college level who are not providing higher education must leave. What is even more perplexing is the reality that problems in higher education could have been addressed without an expensive and highly disruptive shift to a new basic education curriculum. It becomes apparent then that one of the aims of DepEd's K+12 is to simply transfer faculty from colleges who are not serving the goals of higher education to the added two years in basic education, the senior high school. It does seem that people were not paying attention.

DepEd undersecretary Yolanda Aquino was pretty clear in describing what the additional years of K+12 entail:
"In senior high school or Grades 11 and 12, the subjects are Languages, Literature, Math, Science, Contemporary Issues (global issues, politics and governance, society and culture) Social Sciences or Humanities and track-specific subjects. Those who will go to college will take any specialization in academics while students who prefer tech-voc will continue to specialize in the course they took in Grades 9 and 10. At the end of the school year, students will earn a Certificate of Competency (COC) in Grade 9 and a National Certificate 1 or II in Grade 10. 
Students in Grades 11 and 12 will undergo apprenticeship or practicum at companies identified by their schools. Quijano says the TLE courses are according to labor demands and in partnership with the business sector and the community."
And the following statements from a consultation meeting involving the departments of labor and education as well as the commission on higher education should have been crystal clear:
“Redundancy is an authorized cause of termination of employment. Because of economic exigency, employers will be forced to terminate employees. Those who do not have students, are no longer needed,” said Romeo Montefalco, Jr., officer in charge of the Bureau of Labor and Relations of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).
Montefalco met with teachers and non-teaching personnel of various institutions from across Mindanao in Davao City recently to discuss the K+12 program of the government. Also present during the consultation were officials from the DepEd and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
 
At the consultation, the fear of the college educators was highlighted. Faced with the gnawing concern, Montefalco said those who will be losing their jobs will be most likely “absorved” by the government to teach in public schools.
He said there will be about 85,000 open posts for teachers as the government will implement the K+12.
 
Another solution seen is for college professors to teach students in grades 11 and 12.
The plans have been laid out clearly, in my opinion. Of course, these are not necessarily well thought. Transfer of college faculty to senior high schools assumes that the logistics are in place. Are the college faculty in the same place as the high schools that need them? That would be the first question.

K+12 in the Philippines is really different from education systems in other countries. People easily mistake the new curriculum as a simple copy of what is done in the West. It is certainly not the K-12 system of the United States. The two additional years are basically in the middle, between primary and high school. In fact, it is quite difficult to distill what Grades 6, 7, and 8 really are in the US system. Some have algebra during these years while others do not. That is why there is a movement called "The Common Core", to ensure that the topics covered would become uniform across the country:

The Common Core in Math for Grades 6, 7, 8 in US K-12
The additional two years of DepEd's K+12 really have something different in mind. It was not really meant to address problems in basic education. Educators in universities should have known this. That is why it is perplexing to see some of them raise concerns now.

The fact that K+12 is trying to address problems in higher education is one of its greatest weaknesses. Higher education, unlike basic education, is certainly not for everyone. Problems in colleges should have been addressed at a much smaller scale. The problem in basic education centers on learning outcomes and adding two years only skirts around the real issues of poverty in communities, shortages in resources, and lack of support for teachers. K+12 may in fact drive unwanted people away from higher education, but it does not solve the problems of basic education.





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