"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, October 15, 2015

A Seed Needs Fertile Ground

The Commission on Elections has set the following dates, October 12 through 16 this year, for filing of candidacy. It is no surprise to see posts and news about candidates saturating both social and mass media. Among the candidates for vice president is Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the son of a former dictator. While in the Senate, Marcos Jr. in a press release stated the following, "the K to 12 program, which will add two years of schooling, is not an effective way to improve the quality of education in the country. Instead, raising the competency of teachers and upgrading educational materials are the keys to raising the quality of education of Filipino students."  

Reforms in education will only work with good implementation. Changes in curriculum can only be delivered to the classroom through its teachers. Teachers need to be prepared. Teachers need to be on board. Without support and engagement from the front line, education reforms are bound to fail. For this reason, empowering teachers is crucial. Teachers' empowerment, however, cannot happen automatically for it requires both time and opportunity.  A sound and responsive school leadership, in the hands of a principal, is a must. Teachers need to work together as teams, learn from each other, and share their skills and knowledge with others. This does not happen overnight, but for any education reform to be successful, this is required.

Mason Crest Elementary School students had no classes last Friday, October 9. The day was used by the teachers as a Professional Development and Learning Day. The photos below shared by the school on its Facebook page could provide an overview of what it takes to empower teachers. The caption accompanying these photos could give the essence of this day:
"Although there was no school for students on Friday the staff at Mason Crest continued our collective professional development and learning today. In order to honor our mission of ensuring high levels of learning for our students the adults have to continue to learn at high levels!"

In this first photo, one of the principals at Mason Crest, Sherry Shin, was starting the day's discussion with a reflection on How Do We Prioritize. This specific slide said:

How Do We Prioritize?
Given all the standards in every grade and content area, how do you decide what is most important for students to know and be able to do?

This slide alone pointed out something that most reforms had failed to acknowledge. The delivery of a curriculum, no matter how well it was designed, would never be perfect. This is quite a sobering realization. The curriculum is simply a wish list and frequently, we expect too much.

Another photo showed how teachers were sharing what they were learning from research.



But most of the photos shared were about teachers talking, discussing with each other.


The Department of Education in the Philippines would be better positioned to implement reforms if the teachers in its public schools are empowered like the teachers at Mason Crest. Teachers should come first. Otherwise, reforms are bound to fail.





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