Quality Is Not in Numbers But in Substance

A request has been recently made by the Philippine government to Canada's Ministry for Citizenship and Immigration to relax its hiring rules for Filipinos. Currently, Canada equates a four year college degree in the Philippines to two years of tertiary education. The request is made in the light of a looming shortage in Canada's labor force. (http://dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/newsroom/dfa-releases/5727-dfa-secretary-bats-for-canadas-recognition-of-phl-earned-academic-degrees-to-spur-hiring-of-filipinos)

At first glance, the recognition of education may be mistakenly regarded as a simple matter of years. And with this cursory perspective, sound bites that translate standards of education to number of years can be propagated. And if repeated enough, this becomes true in the minds of the public. A colleague of mine could not believe that government officials (DepEd division superintendents in Pangasinan) in the Philippines could issue such a statement:
"the six division superintendents stood with conviction that problems on the shortage of classrooms, insufficiency of books and school facilities have been age-old problems in most schools — so whether to implement K to 12 or not, these problems would still be present." 
The statement has just been reiterated not just once, but twice in the website of the Philippine Information Agency.

As a member of a faculty of a university, I have served in both graduate and undergraduate admissions committee. Reviews of applications take time because such examinations, unfortunately, are not just looking at numbers. There are sets of numbers to be seen in applications; grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test scores. If decisions on admissions are based solely on these numbers then admissions committees are not really necessary. Computers can easily sort these numbers out. A correct evaluation of education goes much farther than looking at numbers. Canada equating four years of college education in the Philippines and other developing countries to two years of education is not so much about years, but more about what courses a student actually takes in college.  Taking algebra as a college course does not count much if science and engineering degrees are involved. With regard to employment or admission to graduate programs, courses that fall under General Education generally do not capture the stage. But these courses are in college, even in developed countries, because education does more than prepare students for either employment or graduate education. What admissions committees and employers are looking for is qualification and competence. This, of course, is a matter of quality of preparation a student has received in his or her education. Shortage of teachers, classrooms and learning materials affect the quality of education. There are students who may excel in spite of this great lack, but these are exceptions. That colleague of mine who could not believe what government officials are stating believes that the government must address the basic needs first before venturing into new programs. If basic needs are not met first then it should be obvious that additional years are likewise doomed to fail. 

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has recently issued the following statement:

Despite the various campaigns undertaken by the Department of Education (DepEd) in promoting its K to 12 Basic Education Program, many teachers,  students and parents remain confused, disappointed and dismayed of its implementation when classes in public schools opened last  June 4. 
DepEd proclaimed , there is no stopping the implementation of the K to 12 being pilot tested this school year – not even its legality or the perennial problems faced by students  Education Secretary Armin Luistro said DepEd  “I have been saying this before, if we will not start the program now, when?”
“Pnoy and Luistro remain deaf and blind on the realities on the ground”, Ms.France Castro, Secretary-general of ACT said. Opposition on the implementation of K to 12, now on its second phase, sparked anew when shortages in basic inputs, particularly in classrooms, teachers, and sanitation facilities greeted most of the 21.49 million students in public schools this year. 
Teachers from Alliance of Concerned Teachers ( ACT) are calling on the DepEd and the President to stop the K to 12 program because it is not a solution to our educational system’s problems.  The lack of readiness to implement the K to 12 is evident with the faulty curriculum and insufficient funds to cover the basic inputs such as shortages on teachers, classrooms, textbooks, chairs and sanitation facilities. 
“If President Aquino is genuinely concerned on the quality of our education, he should   not blindly follow the dictates of monopoly-capitalists., address our own problems and get real,” Ms. France Castro ended.

The group of teachers will hold a dialogue with President Aquino on Tuesday afternoon (3 pm) June 26, 2012. I hope their voices are not only heard but heeded. 

Finland has been sharing its success story with developed countries. And some educators in the United States are listening. Linda Darling Hammond writes:

"One wonders what we might accomplish as a nation if we could finally set aside what appears to be our de facto commitment to inequality, so profoundly at odds with our rhetoric of equity, and put the millions of dollars spent continually arguing and litigating into building a high-quality education system for all children. To imagine how that might be done, one can look at nations that started with very little and purposefully built highly productive and equitable systems, sometimes almost from scratch, in the space of only two to three decades."
Finland has nine years of basic education:

Source: The Education System Chart is published by The Finnish National Board of Education.
 And Finland's foundation for its basic education rests on its teachers:


"....Finland has created an inspiring and respectful environment in which teachers work. All teachers are required to have higher academic degrees that guarantee both high-level pedagogical skills and subject knowledge. Parents and authorities regard teachers with the same confidence they do medical doctors. Indeed, Finns trust public schools more than any other public institution, except the police. The fact that teachers in Finland work as autonomous professionals and play a key role in curriculum planning and assessing student learning attracts some of the most able and talented young Finns into teaching careers." 
-Pasi Sahlberg

While in the Philippines....

"....How can we attract and retain good teachers in basic education? Besides raising their salaries and restoring their professional pride, we should also upgrade the normal schools and colleges of education: these are our primary fields of recruitment. Pero tila mababa rin ang kalidad ng mga ito. UP professors have complained that the knowledge levels of BSE degree holders who are taking graduate courses is pathetic. They seem to have mastered the techniques of teaching but not the subjects they are supposed to teach...."
Francisco Nemenzo Jr., former president, University of the Philippines


PRESS RELEASE: June 26, 2012

Spokespersons: Ms. France Castro, Secretary General, Cellphone No. 09178502124

Mr. Benjie Valbuena, Vice-Chairperson; Cellphone Nos.:09182399222;09162294515
Media Liaison – Zenie Lao, Cellphone No. 09198198903

Teachers hold a rally at Mendiola Bridge to press action on President Aquino’s unfulfilled promises for the education sector

President Aquino will celebrate his second year in office as President of the country on June 30th. But we, teachers, one of his so-called “masters” has not found a reason to celebrate his Presidency.For one, he had snubbed our call for dialogues in the past.

We are supposed to have a dialogue with him today but again even booking an appointment with him is getting close to impossible. Hence, he lost his chance to explain himself before us prior to his delivery of State of the Nation Address (SONA) next month.“With this development, President Aquino’s “FAILED “mark on his Report Card from the “University of the People” stays. His eyes are fixated on other nations’ predicament. Actually, he went overboard. He committed $1B for IMF which could have been used to cover basic shortages in our education system,” Ms France Castro said.

Instead he must focus on and give more time, funds, resources and prepare the implementation and development of Quality Kinder Education as the foundation of basic education for the Filipino youths.PNoy promised the Filipino people among other things, to improve the quality of education for he considers education as a primary tool to address poverty. But his actions prove it otherwise. He remained deaf and blind to the demands and calls of the education sector.PNoy’s education program called K to 12, spelled further degradation of our public school system in particular.

Government’s neglect of social services like education is reflected in the budget. Though DepEd had the biggest allocation for 2012, the P238.8 B budget is still insufficient to address the shortages. It is crucial to note that the increase remains grossly insufficient in addressing the needs of basic education alone. Diminishing public funds for public education remains a major issue such that our educational system is in perennial crisis.If many so-called education reformers really want to close the student achievement gap, they should direct their fire away from public school educators and take aim at the real issue—poverty.

This crisis only confirms that the Philippines have yet to liberate itself from the age-old problems, which have plagued it in the economic and political spheres. The much-trumpeted new epoch of free competition and borderless economies has not resulted in any real development but only in a more intense form of economic domination and exploitation of the poorer countries by the advanced capitalist countries.

We, teachers must work together with the basic sectors to get PNoy’s full attention. The parliament of the streets has been a tested formula to effect changes. Our rally today which symbolizes our thirty years of existence for genuine service to the teachers and our Motherland is another step forward to gain more victories for the education sector and the Filipino people in general.

“Hence, this administration must heed our call to Scrap Pnoy’s K to 12 which is foreign oriented, has no quality and an additional burden on teachers, children and parents! Promote the formulation of a nationalist, scientific and mass oriented education,” Ms France Castro ended.