Education reform

Published by rudy Date posted on April 16, 2009

The Final Report of the Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE) contains several recommendations to reform our educational system. Many of these recommendations are not new, but were widely discussed and agreed upon in earlier surveys, such as the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM, 1992) and the Presidential Commission on Educational Reform (PCER, 2000).

Allow me to pick out certain recommendations that I find most interesting.

For basic education, the PTFE (echoing EDCOM, PCER, and DepEd itself) recommends, among other things, the use of vernacular languages: “It is important to strengthen the use of mother tongue or lingua franca as the language of instruction in the early years of schooling. This facilitates student learning of all subjects, including science and mathematics, the national language and English as a global lingua franca.”

All (and I mean all without exception) studies of language and learning, both here and abroad, show that young students learn more quickly and more effectively if taught in their mother tongue. Those advocating the exclusive use of English as medium of instruction in basic education are, to use the late DepEd Secretary Raul Roco’s word when describing them, idiots, because they refuse to acknowledge what every researcher and every country in the world already know – that using a foreign language as medium of instruction in grade school is guaranteed to make young children illiterate. (The late DepEd Secretary Andrew Gonzalez used even more colorful language when describing intellectually-challenged kibitzers; it was Gonzalez who institutionalized the current DepEd policy of using the lingua franca as medium of instruction for the first three grades.)

The PTFE also recommends that teachers should visit homes. There are teachers who do visit the homes of their students, but they are the exceptions. Most teachers have no time left for such a crucial duty after they teach, do lesson plans, fix their classrooms, and prepare for frequent non-teaching duties (such as preparing food for “The Visitation of the Gods,” as the classic short story by Gilda Cordero Fernando puts it).

In the old days (even allowing for a little nostalgia), teachers were held in high regard in their communities. They were called “maestra” or “maestro” and often consulted in all matters. Today, many deans of schools of education lament, education is usually the career reserved for the least gifted of siblings. “Mag-titser ka na lang” (you are only good enough to be a teacher) is often the advice given to such children.

By visiting homes, teachers will show the families of their students that teaching requires extremely high intellectual and social skills, as well as tremendous amounts of patience and compassion. Teachers will again become models for highly-gifted children. Instead of education being the last choice for a fulfilling career, it might eventually be the first choice (as it should be).

For higher education, the PTFE notes that “in Singapore and European countries, the last 2 years of pre-university are very similar to the first 2 years of general education in Philippine colleges. . . . We, thus, propose benchmarking the first two years of our 5-year professional programs with the 2-year pre-university programs in Singapore and European countries. What is important in the discussion of a 12-year pre-university program is to specify the content of the 11th and 12th years and benchmark these with programs abroad.”

For technical-vocational education, PTFE has extended the current Ladderized Education Program (LEP), because students streamed into polytechnics are automatically ladderized if they wish to continue to the university.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need not worry that they will lose students to the polytechnic stream. Most of our HEIs can offer both polytechnic and university courses and, therefore, still capture all of our high school graduates.

There are only a handful of HEIs that do not and should not offer polytechnic courses. These are what are known as “research universities.” These are, for example (in alphabetical order), Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, UP Diliman, UP Los Baños, UP Manila, and UST. In these universities, even if teaching is valued and rewarded, internationally-recognized research is always considered more important than excellent teaching. One cannot imagine any of these universities offering TESDA courses such as Automotive Servicing, Massage Therapy, or Training for Household Service Workers.

Most of the other 2,000-plus HEIs in the country, however, will not have any identity problems offering TESDA-related courses (perhaps not Massage Therapy, but Animation, Software Development, and Finishing Course for Call Center Agents). What will happen, then, if the PTFE recommendations are fully implemented, is that most HEIs will have two types of students – those in the polytechnic stream that may or may not continue to the university stream, and those already in the university stream.

The PTFE has many more recommendations, including necessary legislation (such as giving CHED more teeth). It will be impossible for the present government, with only a year to go, to implement all of them, but there is nothing to prevent it from starting to implement at least a couple of them before we elect a new President and have new heads of DepEd, CHED, and TESDA.–Isagani Cruz, Philippine Star

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