Educational problems

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By Neil Honeyman

An Independent View

Monday, May 12, 2014


WHAT is the objective of our education system? Constitutionally, we require all students to receive quality education for the six years of elementary schooling.

We fail this straightforward Constitutional requirement.

We lack every conceivable resource necessary to provide quality education at any level. Partly as a result of this but also for socio-economic reasons, only 66 percent of those who enter Grade 1 complete Grade 6. One of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations and signed by most nations, including the Philippines, is that 100 percent of our students will finish Grade 6. There are to be no drop-outs by 2015. We have not made any progress at all in achieving this Goal. The dropout rate was approximately 33 percent in 2000 and is still approximately 33 percent.

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Logically, therefore, our education policy should primarily address the problem of elementary school students failing to complete Grade 6.

The lack of resources permeates every aspect of our education system.

The second aspect is the demonstrable lack of effectiveness of our education program. Everyone agrees that global competitiveness is a desirable attribute of any education system. Yet we do badly on all international comparisons involving the basic, internationally comparable, subjects of reading, math, and science.

To be globally competitive, therefore, we should introduce these subjects, including information technology, at Grade 1 level. Sadly, we are going backwards. Science used to be taught in Grade 1 but under recent changes to the curriculum the introduction of science has been deferred. Are the education mentors afraid of a scientist humiliating the authorities as Galileo did 400 years ago?

The third area is the inefficiency of the curriculum. There is excessive emphasis on rote learning but no recognition that it is understanding, not parrot-fashioned learning, that makes for an educated individual. Students are instructed to learn to spell correctly words for which they do not understand the meaning. Students are not taught how to write essays fluently.

The current situation is that we need more resources so as to implement the Constitutional provisions relating to education and also to the 1982 Education Act.

But no. The Department of Education (DepEd) has pushed through a venal Congress (now representing the weakest arm of government since the Judicial Branch, unlike the Legislative Branch, is now showing some much-needed independence from the all-powerful Executive) an Education Act which is inappropriate for our needs. This Act shows disregard for our Constitution for which secondary schooling, though offered, is not compulsory.

Now we have a high-handed but unimplementable compulsory 13-year program (compulsory kindergarten followed by six years of compulsory grade school followed by six years of compulsory high school).

No country in the world, other than the Philippines, has a compulsory 13 year program.

The length of an education system is not as important as defining clear objectives.

A straightforward example is the 36th Batch of skills training for sugarcane farm workers and their dependents which starts today.

The courses which are mounted by the Sugar Workers Foundation Livelihood and Technical Skills Training Center of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters (NFSP) are registered with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and include Shielded Metal Arc Welding, Automotive Servicing, Building Wiring Installation, and Computer Literacy.

NFSP president Enrique Rojas succinctly defines the purpose of the program: “From being manual laborers, we transform our students into skilled workers and thus make them more fruitful contributors to our society while also improving the quality of their lives.”

There you have it. We wish DepEd officials could be as equally clear and pragmatic as the NFSP.

Then we would have a workable, globally competitive education system which would greatly assist the economic growth of the Philippines.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 12, 2014.

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