"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

Sunday, March 29, 2015

DepEd's K+12: Realities and Illusions

Learning depends on so many things. This is the reality. Suggesting and expecting a panacea to solve ills plaguing basic education is an illusion. Identifying the resources required to improve the quality of education is rational. Making a wish list without considering what it takes to reach such goals is irrational. No one could disagree with the objectives of DepEd's K+12. No one should disagree with attempting to improve basic education. However, reason calls us to beg to differ against any wishful thinking. DepEd's K+12 is wishful thinking.

The president of the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd), Chito Salazar, writes on an opinion article in the Inquirer the reason why businesses should support DepEd's K+12:

There are key reasons for such low quality: the insufficient amount of public resources invested in education, resulting in inadequate provision facilities such as classrooms, textbooks and toilets; not enough quality teachers or quality teacher training opportunities; and the short, 10-year basic education cycle.

There are at least three different factors influencing the quality of education in the above paragraph: resources, teachers and length of basic education. The opinion stated above does not bother to unravel how each of these factors affect learning in the classroom. One could easily imagine that adding two years to basic education without addressing resources as well as teacher effectiveness is really an exercise in futility. DepEd's K+12 is a pointless endeavor as it only manages to enumerate desirable education outcomes without any evidence backing its implementation. DepEd's K+12 does not adequately consider what is necessary to achieve its goals. Making up a list of dreams cannot reform education. Anyone can easily come up with a wish list. What is needed is a way to reach those dreams. Such can only be achieved with a thoughtful consideration of currently available resources and a sound application of interventions and approaches supported by peer-reviewed research in education. Education reform must be based on evidence, not on opinions.

Teacher quality is instrumental in learning outcomes. Aiming for an advanced high school curriculum, for instance, requires addressing whether there are enough teachers who could teach such courses. How many could teach calculus? How many could teach world literature? How many could teach philosophy? How many could teach physics? How many could teach chemistry? Drawing a senior high school curriculum that offers these courses without considering that there are not enough teachers who are qualified to teach these subjects is wishful thinking. The courses need not be among those considered as advanced academic subjects. Even vocational subjects require expertise from instructors. Without the needed teachers, none of this is reachable and to claim otherwise is really deceiving the public.

PBEd should know quite a bit regarding the current status of teaching since it has been monitoring the passing rate in teaching licensure exams.

Above copied from The Summit Express
The Professional Regulations Commission in the Philippines reports in 2014 that 25,301 elementary teachers out of 70,786 examinees (35.74%) and 26,767 secondary teachers out of 77,803 examinees (34.40%) successfully passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers (L.E.T.). These percentages, 35.74 for elementary and 34.40, for high school are the national passing rates. The following table from PBEd, for example, tells quite convincingly the sad sorry state of teacher education in the Philippines. This table shows the number of teaching schools that scores below the national passing rates (which are already dismal).

Above copied from LET Schools Performance Table 2014

When more than half of the teaching colleges, even in the National Capital Region (NCR), fails to produce teachers who could pass a licensing test, it is not that difficult to draw the conclusion that teacher education institutions in the country are grossly deficient.

Salazar also states that "A deeper analysis of the results showed that most were entering college with only Grade IV to V reading and math competencies". Recognizing this predicament should easily direct attention to quality and not quantity of years in education. With this in mind, the number of years of basic education should be the last place to look at when it comes to the poor state of Philippine basic education. Problems can only be faced with realism, not with illusions.

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