My position as an English teacher here in Davao city has offered me a unique insight into the inner workings of the Philippine education system.
This is my privilege. It is always fascinating to gauge upon the norms and practices of institutions in a country very different from one's own.
Here at my place of work, Stockbridge American International School, we are currently in the process of transitioning towards the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, which promotes student-led, skills-based learning.
In the meantime, we still adhere to the guidance of the Department for Education, known to all as DepEd.
The Department for Education’s short and snappy acronym quite literally permeates throughout the land, with “DepEd” and its torch-laden logo seen proudly sprayed across the tin roofs of schools in every corner of the Philippines.
DepEd certainly makes their mark in more ways than one. Hundreds of orders are directed to their schools, with strict compliance often a requirement.
Whilst I do not doubt the honest intentions of DepEd and its army of dedicated employees, I have to admit that it is a recent Order that has irked me to the point I have been compelled to write about it. It’s about the walls.
Last year, DepEd issued a direct order to schools requiring them to “keep classroom walls bare” and to “take (away) everything on them”, including educational posters and visual teaching aids.
Even artwork and decorations were not exempt from this sweeping and brutal cull.
Vice-President Sara Duterte, who is also the Secretary of Education, went further when offering a clarification on the implementation of the policy. She stated: “take out everything on the wall. Let learners focus on their studies. Classrooms and schools should be clean and functional.”
With that, the walls and corridors of the schools were condemned to nakedness, exposing cracked and faded paintwork that had long since seen the light of day.
A sorry sight that reflected the short-sightedness of this policy move.
Because, as the walls lay bare, so too does the education.
My problem with this DepEd directive is not necessarily the intention, but instead with the potential for a severe implementation of the order, and the consequent indiscriminate trashing of displays that would follow such.
The potential eventuality of empty walls in schools flies in the face of progressive educational ideals, which DepEd should otherwise be trying to aspire to, for the betterment of educational outcomes across the Philippines. To be continued tomorrow