"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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

K+12 Kills the Initiative from Teachers

 It is now evident that various sectors, basic education teachers, college instructors, and parents, are all voicing out their apprehension regarding the new curriculum. Opponents of DepEd's K+12 cite inadequacies in resources as well as expected employment problems of teachers in higher education. Some also denounce the lack of support for nationalism in the new curriculum. Unfortunately, even if these external challenges are mitigated, the curriculum itself has serious problems. These problems that we now hear from various groups do not really cover completely the ills this new curriculum is set to bring. DepEd's K+12, being a dictated curriculum in basic education, kills what schools in the Philippines really need, an organically developed framework for basic education, one that has grown out of the classroom, from bottom to top and not the other way around.

"All I remember of math is that in Grade One, we added small numbers. In Grade Two, we added numbers a bit bigger. All the way up to Grade Six, we were still adding numbers, but big long ones. The teachers taught us fractions along the way, but I didn’t really get it." This confession comes from a college student according to Queena N. Lee-Chua. Those who are familiar with research in math education would recognize this as a result of a spiral approach in teaching mathematics, an integral part of DepEd's K+12. The spiral approach is perhaps not intrinsically bad, but in the hands of teachers who have not owned the approach, in classrooms of more than forty students, and with bad or missing textbooks, a spiral curriculum is simply bound to fail. DepEd's K+12 not only embraces this approach for mathematics but also in the sciences, guaranteeing complete failure in both math and science education. 

Adding kindergarten and two years at the end of high school are indeed challenging especially in terms of resources. These additions do require classrooms. However, constructing classrooms is not as challenging as reforming how subjects are taught. Once there is funding and available lots, infrastructure can be easily built. Improving how math and science are taught, on the other hand, requires teachers who could implement the new curriculum. Five years ago, Bienvenido Nebres S.J. warned how K+12 could kill Understanding by Design(UBD):
“Through the years, in the Philippines, we typically bring in a new approach, usually theory-derived and usually from the US. Then we develop materials and, if funding is available, implement on a national scale. Then we train through a cascade, from national to regional to division to district and, lastly, to school levels. By the time we get to the actual implementers, the classroom teachers, there is only a short time left. The new approach and books wipe out the past, but since training gives no time for actual classroom teachers to absorb them, they are not really learned. If and when the K-12 curriculum comes into play, this will be the next UBD killer: Attempt to implement too many initiatives simultaneously.”
Above copied from Dr.McLaughlin's Class

Understanding by Design is a framework where teachers think purposefully about curricular planning, without offering a rigid process or prescriptive recipe. When the teachers are in fact at the center of developing a curriculum, there is a greater chance for a change in the curriculum to be successful and effective. This takes obviously more time, but this is what is needed in Philippine basic education. It is the approach that is practiced in successful countries such as Finland and Singapore. DepEd's K+12 can be criticized from so many angles, but similar to medicine, the wrong prescription not only lead to bad effects, but the most damaging result is that it prevents application of the correct therapy. The biggest sin of DepEd's K+12 is killing what Philippine schools really need.


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