What a New President Means to Philippine Basic Education

The Philippines has just elected a new president, Rodrigo Duterte. In a country where basic education is highly centralized, the presidency can indeed have a significant impact on how children are schooled. Duterte had been known as critical of Aquino's K to 12. Duterte won the election obviously from a dissatisfaction in the current administration. Whether the newly elected president would do something beneficial to Philippine basic education, of course, remains to be seen. 

Above copied from Global Friends of Rody Duterte
Duterte was seen as "people's last hope". Sadly, his story reminded me of a play our class had as a project in college. It was a play about a young man named Lukayo.
Lukayo grew up in a village that was being terrorized by a monster. The monster had been blamed for dead livestock, destroyed crops, and an overwhelming fear gripping the entire village.  
Lukayo, as a child, was very obedient. He took part in household chores. And as he grew up, it became clear to everyone in the village that he was a very good man. Lukayo had a very close friend named Enteng. Enteng and Lukayo were of the same age and the two shared a lot while growing up. Lukayo became strong and wise and the time came for him to realize that he must confront the monster to save his village. Lukayo spent a lot of time training and preparing himself for this daunting task. And Enteng was always there, giving him moral support, cheering him at all times.  
So Lukayo had to leave his family. He was about to make this treacherous journey and was determined to destroy the monster. The path was full of danger and traps, and Enteng was the only one to accompany Lukayo. Along the path, something very bad happened. Lukayo was forced to make a decision, a choice between continuing his quest for the monster or delaying his journey to save his dying friend. Lukayo made the very painful decision of leaving his friend Enteng to die.  
Lukayo finally reached the cave of the monster. Inside the cave, the only thing that Lukayo saw was this creature that was no more threatening than an old twisted broken twig. Lukayo could not believe that he sacrificed everything for nothing....  
Lukayo came back to the village. The village was no different from what it was before. The only difference was that the gossip was no longer about a monster, but about some other sort of plague. Lukayo had to sit down and whispered to himself the following:  
"This is what it means to be number one. To be alone. To be on top means to be by yourself, with no one else. And then you ask yourself, is it worth all the sacrifice?"
Being a leader does not necessarily mean to be alone, but one has to choose wisely.

And perhaps, it is only timely to rehash one of the initial posts in this blog which mentions the thoughts of Flor Lacanilao:
...Persistent problems include poverty, fast population growth, poor basic education, resource over-exploitation, environment degradation, graft and corruption, and common crimes.  
I have explained that those problems are interrelated, forming vicious circles of cause-and-effect. For example, poverty is partly due to corruption; corruption, partly due to poverty. The same relation exits between poverty and overpopulation; and between overpopulation and poor basic education. The interrelated vicious circles constitute a complex national problem, which every past administration had tried to solve but failed. (See "Only science can solve poverty," Philippine Daily Inquirer or PDI, 6/21/2007.) 
In 2010, at the start of his term, I posted at online science forums a reminder, calling the attention of President Aquino -- that corruption is not the main cause of poverty. And that stopping corruption will not end poverty. It was then time to educate the public -- for the President to address the true causes of national problems. He should at least be able in 6 years to put in place the established essentials of sustainable growth. 
In that commentary, I also said, "Studies abroad and our experience tell us that corruption and poverty form a vicious circle. Whereas honest leadership had reduced corruption and at least, perceived reduced poverty -- as was reminiscent of the time of President Magsaysay and President Cory -- we saw corruption and poverty mushroom again.” 
Our basic education problems are being similarly addressed.  It has become worse because their solution lies also elsewhere. Many studies, including those of Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate in physics, have shown that it is doubtful to make progress at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at higher education.  This and other reasons show why DepEd's K to 12 program is headed for failure (more in  "K+12 most likely to fail,"  PDI, 2/17/2012). 
In these two examples of addressing problems -- poverty and basic education -- failure is easily predictable. But it takes properly trained and experienced natural and social scientists to make such assessment. Many international studies have shown this. Hence, putting such right people in charge, or directly involved, in reform initiatives is another basic prerequisite to successful programs. It is critical in improving higher education and science ("Democratic governance impedes academic reform," PDI, 3/14/2011). 
The right people are those who have made major contributions to their respective fields of endeavor, as indicated by properly published works and citations. Important are papers in journals and citations listed in Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index.  Such properly published authors have the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly.
The lack of such expertise among the wrong people in charge explains why, even with the advice of respected natural and social scientists, the decisions of those in charge -- based largely on personal opinion and common sense -- often prevailed.  
With the mounting global threats -- from terrorism, infectious diseases, and disasters from changing climate -- President Aquino must seriously consider putting more right people in charge. How to choose the right people is described in "Energy crisis and climate change" (PDI, 4/26/2012).
The following excerpt from a piece written by the Philippine Star, "So you want to be president? A close look at those who want to lead: Rodrigo Duterte", unfortunately, is worrisome.

Duterte seems to be taking quite a simplistic look at the challenges faced in Philippine basic education.

I can only hope that Duterte does listen to the Flor Lacanilao's advice.

And congratulations and God bless, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte.