"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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Voices that Need to Be Heard

Right before classes started in the Philippines, Kristine Felisse Mangunay and Tarra Quismundo of the Daily Inquirer reported the following, "Unable to resist a last jab at the group of ralliers, the president said: “We heard they’re only about 20, but that they’re carrying five banners each. You just might hear them complain about unfair labour practice because of that,” he added, drawing laughter from the audience." This was apparently the president's response to a group of protesters from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers rallying against DepEd's K to 12 just right outside the Convention Center during his speech. The following photo does not show five banners for each person, but chances are high that such demonstration would draw a similar response from Aquino.

Above copied from a Facebook post of John Silva
The above photograph was posted with the following notes from John Silva, a trustee with Synergeia Foundation, a coalition of individuals, institutions, and organizations working to improve the quality of basic education in the Philippines.
There is an ongoing demonstration in front of the Department of Education by those opposed to the implementation of K-12. 
In our own experience in Synergeia, an organisation devoted to teaching teachers to be better at their work, we have a consensus, heard from most teachers, that K-12 does not work. There are implementation problems, teachers not trained, books not delivered and for many of us in Synergeia, we consider the expense of additional years a burden. We believe that we should enhance the current grades so that each year, from Kinder on, are truly educational experiences for the students. Right now, they are woefully inadequate and schools become day care centres or prisons to keep students for the required hours. So many brains lost. That's why we lag so far behind. 
The Department of Education is a major disappointment and reflects badly on the Aquino Government.
A  report from Miguel Ortilla of CNN Philippines echoes some of the points raised by John Silva.

To view this report, please click here
Aquino should realize that the number of voices opposing or supporting what his administration does in education is not a true measure of correctness. Being right is not really a popularity contest. First, whether choices or preferences made are well informed matters in any survey. Second, voices that need to be heard are often muted and ignored. Third, those who have voices and influence are usually in power and those who cannot speak are often powerless.

I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Milwida Guevara, President and CEO of Synergeia Foundation during a round-table discussion back in 2006 in Washington, DC. The discussion was sponsored by the Southeast Asia Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University. During one point in the discussion, Guevarra was actually in tears as she related to us some of the challenges schools in the Philippines were facing. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J., the founding chair of Synergeia, asked the following question in 2010:
“How does adding two more years help out? What good does it do to the 600,000 that do not finish Grade 4? Or to the 700,000 who do not finish Grade 6? Or are they saying that they just don’t care?”
These are voices that definitely need to be heard.

Teachers carry a huge responsibility in their classrooms. It is only expected then that teachers cannot really abandon their post to rally along the streets of Manila. There are half a million teachers, but they are scattered all over the country. Some are even serving children in remote areas that would take a day or two to reach from an urban area. Teachers are likewise in a difficult position. Teachers are employees of the Department of Education. Supervisors or superintendents are often more interested in promoting the agenda of the central office than finding the truth. And with a president who would not hesitate to throw a jab, void of any sensitivity or compassion, who would really voice out?

Solving the problems of basic education require us to listen to those who are inside the classrooms. Simply listening, however, is insufficient for their voices are weak. We need to seek. The people at Synergeia had done so.


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