Abellanosa: The poverty of Philippine education

FOR ALL its verbal gymnastics, the Department of Education has not changed, apparently and practically, anything in the educational setup. Much has been said about “education in the new normal,” especially claims to adaptiveness in the curriculum and technology. Reality speaks louder, however, that teachers and students, most especially in public schools, are back to business, and therefore back to the same problems.

Indeed, there is so much truth in what has been said: “we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” There is nothing to expect, therefore, from the bureaucracy that is part of the problem. This is clear now that classes are back onsite. What we have are the same old concerns on manpower, instructional materials, classrooms, and above all the very compromised curriculum and instruction.

For many years, Philippine education has been in a sad state. However, our sadness has been multiplied twice or thrice in the context of the pandemic. The many limitations in the educational process have created learning and relational gaps among students. The effects of which will become more evident in a few years. Although already we are seeing graduates who are, unfortunately, produced “in mass” like uniformly packaged bottled waters.

Equally worrisome a reality is the lack or absence of comprehensive planning and coordination among our public agencies. This is not to say that they are not doing anything. The question is whether they are doing the right thing.

The utilization of modules in lieu of real-time instruction has been a very significant factor that contributed to the pupils' and students’ learning gaps. Mainly to be blamed for this is no less the inability of the State to find ways to capacitate Filipino learners with the needed technology.

A core problem is the quality teachers. Even if we assume that all teachers are committed or dedicated to their profession (although this assumption may not be entirely true), what is more bothersome is how ill-equipped some of them are.

We are talking about instructors and formators of the 21st century and in the context of the changes in our academic landscape. Supposedly we should be talking about classroom instruction that is both informed and upgraded by innovative technology solutions. Sadly, in the area of technology, the pandemic has highlighted how impoverished our educational system is, especially the public school system when it comes to EdTech. A substantiation for this contention is found no less in the responses of the School ICT Coordinators in a study that was conducted and produced by USAid in 2020.

The study reveals that there continually exists some knowledge deficits and gaps in terms of practice among teachers, this despite the country’s two-year experience with online learning due to the pandemic. Even at the tertiary level where digital literacy is supposed to be higher, the same challenges were experienced in ways not different from the Basic Ed.

Precisely why politicians who would love to make promises during elections – about poverty, reforms, and better education for all – are “unbelievable.”


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