By Isagani Cruz | Updated December 30, 2010 - 12:00am
The term “K+12” has misled some into thinking that the P-Noy government regards the addition of two years to basic education as the solution to all our education problems. P-Noy has never said that and neither has Secretary Armin Luistro. In fact, P-Noy and Luistro have repeatedly said the opposite, namely, that K+12 is only one of ten major education reforms that the government is undertaking.
During the campaign, P-Noy spelled out at least 10 education reforms. The others, in addition to K+12, are ensuring universal pre-school for all five-year-olds, integrating the Madaris schools into the education system as a subsystem, reintroducing technical-vocational education into high school (not just Senior High School), making every child a reader by the end of Grade 1 (instead of Grade 3 as in the previous administration), upgrading the proficiency of all students in mathematics and science, increasing government assistance to private schools, using three languages for instruction (mother tongue as main medium for all levels, Filipino for national communication, English for international communication), raising the quality of textbooks, and encouraging local governments to build and manage schools.
In essence, P-Noy’s educational agenda is really Total Education Reform. For convenience, let me refer to it as TER.
For several years now, educators have been advocating a Higher Education Reform Agenda (HESRA), equivalent to the Basic Education Reform Agenda (BESRA) that the government has adopted. International developments, such as the Bologna Process, Asia-wide accreditation, and the Washington Accord, have made it imperative that all (not just some) tertiary curricular programs be reengineered. The General Education Curriculum (GEC) has to be radically revised, not just because most of its content will already be taken up in Senior High School, but also because the Knowledge Economy and the decline in the world’s spirituality (as UNESCO puts it) demand new ways of educating leaders. Most difficult of all, parents have to be reeducated to accept technical-vocational education as equal in stature to academic degrees.
K+12, being merely a tenth part of TER, will not work if DepEd is left alone to implement it. Let me go through an example to show why DepEd cannot and should not do it alone.
Take Kindergarten. Starting June 2011, all five-year-olds will be required to take Kindergarten. Otherwise, they will not be allowed in June 2012 to go to Grade 1.
That seems simple enough, until you realize that DepEd is not the only government agency in charge of Kindergarten. There are, for example, DSWD, ECCDC, LGUs, SUCs, and LUCs. To build schools and pay expenses, DPWH, DBM, and NEDA, among others, have to be on-board. There is also Congress, which has to amend laws that restrict the use of government funds to the system we have today. (I use acronyms because the full names would take up too much space in this column!)
It is also not only the government that needs to get into the act. The private sector, represented by various HEIs and pre-schools, needs to share expertise and even facilities for all children to have a real chance to be in Kindergarten. Even foreign funding agencies have to refocus their agendas in order to take into account the much larger number of children entering school.
Even the curriculum of Kindergarten cannot be left only to DepEd. It is foolhardy to design a curriculum for Kindergarten without knowing what the end product of education is going to be. This is the lesson we learn from outcomes-based approaches. The needs of society and the world, both in terms of employment and entrepreneurship, should dictate what CHED and TESDA should be producing. CHED and TESDA, in turn, should dictate what DepEd is producing. Within DepEd itself, Senior High School should determine what Junior High School graduates should know and be able to do, Junior High School should tell Elementary School teachers what to teach, and – to bring us back to Kindergarten – Grade 1 teachers should decide what Kindergarten graduates should be like. In other words, it is the output that should determine the input, not the other way around.
This is the reason that I think it an extremely wise move for Aquino and Luistro to convene an inter-agency Task Force on K+12.
The Task Force is headed by a steering committee, in turn headed by the heads of the three education agencies – Luistro (DepEd), Patricia Licuanan (CHED) and Joel Villanueva (TESDA). The steering committee consists of representatives of several stakeholders, including the Senate, the House of Representatives, NEDA, DOLE, DSWD, PBEd, COCOPEA, ACT, PASUC, PTCAs, and student governments. Five advisers have been named to the steering committee, namely, Ester Ogena (PNU), Mariano Piamonte (Party List), Ed de la Torre (E-net), Gregg Bañaga (Adamson), and myself.
Four Technical Working Groups report to the steering committee: Research Studies, Curriculum Enhancement, Nationwide Consultations / Education Summit, and Legislation / Communications. Each TWG has representatives from various stakeholder groups, as well as the top officials and experts of the three education agencies.
Nothing will happen, however, unless P-Noy takes personal charge of all of TER. Can he wield the tremendous powers of his office to make everybody march to the beat of a single drummer? I believe that he can. After all, he represents hope, including the hope that something will finally be done to totally reform our education system.
By Isagani Cruz | Updated January 6, 2011 - 12:00am
In 1996, Cynthia Bautista, Edna Manlapaz, Mona Valisno, and I put together what is now known as General Education Curriculum A (GEC-A), also referred to as CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 59, series of 1996. GEC-A is still followed by all college students majoring in humanities, social sciences, and communication.
A year later, Mona Valisno and I worked on GEC-B, which is a condensed version of GEC-A. GEC-B is also referred to as CHED Memorandum (CM) No. 4, series of 1997. GEC-B is still followed by all college students majoring in subjects other than those mentioned above.
GEC-A requires students to take 63 units (not counting Physical Education and National Service Training Program). These academic units are distributed this way: 24 units of language and literature, 15 units of mathematics and natural sciences, 18 units of humanities and social sciences, and 6 units of government-mandated subjects.
GEC-B requires students to take 51 academic units, distributed this way: 21 units of language and humanities, 15 units of mathematics, natural sciences, and information technology, 12 units of social sciences, and 3 units of mandated subjects.
In both curriculums, the subjects are defined, even coming with sample syllabuses and titles of recommended library holdings. That was, after all, the 20th century – the last century. (By the way, curricula and syllabi follow Latin, not English, grammar.)
Enter our century, with its knowledge economy, globalization, technological revolution, and paradigm shifts. Four developments, in particular, have rendered both GEC-A and GEC-B obsolete or (more charitably, since I was partly their author and I have to save some of my pride) overtaken by events: the Bologna Process, the UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century, the Aquino government’s K+12 program, and the creation of the CHED Technical Panel on General Education (TPGE).
Among other things, the Bologna Process is forcing us to specify Minimum Learning Competencies (also known as Standards, Qualifications, or Outcomes) for each subject in GEC, and to include graduates, employers, and faculty of other universities in syllabus development.
DepEd has articulated MLCs for every subject for almost a whole century now, but CHED has not really gone through such a detailed exercise. It is one thing to say that the objective of a subject is to have a student know and do certain things, and quite another thing to say that, after a student passes a particular subject, the student should be able to do something measurable and concrete that will be useful to self, as well as to society as a whole.
Even our best universities rarely, if ever, include graduates, employers, and faculty of other universities in curriculum committees, but that is what Bologna requires. The idea is to make education relevant to the world outside a particular campus. In fact, since Bologna is aimed at making national degrees internationally equivalent, curriculum committees in Philippine universities should have not only Filipinos as members, but a lot of foreigners as well.
UNESCO represents the current thinking of the majority of university administrators. To remain in step with the rest of the world, we have no choice but to take UNESCO seriously. After all, the Philippines signed the Declaration.
Among other things, UNESCO demands that general education must respond to national and international challenges, have a strong research component, focus on values (traditional, scientific, and spiritual), and be multi- and inter-disciplinary. In other words, UNESCO demands that our GEC must radically change.
K+12 should bring down to the high school level such subjects as Calculus, Statistics, Inorganic Chemistry, Literary Theory, Filipino Linguistics, and Research Paper Writing. Current GEC subjects in Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Literature, Filipino, and English will obviously be too elementary for college.
TPGE (which I headed since it was created in May 2009, until December, 2010, the end of my term) started out thinking about Pre-University, shifted gears because of K+12, and is now proposing major changes in general education. (To be continued)
SPECIAL THANKS. I want to give my very special thanks to three very special people who saved my one and only grandchild from severe pneumonia during the Christmas holidays: JUN DE CASTRO (F&B manager of El Nido who managed to get seats for us on fully-booked return flights to Manila when we had to cut our vacation short), JULIET GOPEZ-CERVANTES (who personally went to the Emergency Room of St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City to check on my grandson, even though she was extremely busy; she even stayed on as Attending Physician), and MARIA IMELDA V. BAUTISTA (the pediatrician who did not just treat the four-year-old apple of my eye, but explained everything patiently to all of us). By the way, after staying five days in the hospital room, my daughter and my son-in-law, both Americans used to Stanford University Hospital (one of the world’s best), now view St. Luke’s Global as world-class or truly global.
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK: Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller not just reading, but good manners. If you want to be known as a great teacher, teach your students good manners and right conduct (to use the old phrase). If your students rush into an elevator even before people inside can leave it or if they break into queues or if they shake somebody’s hands while looking elsewhere, you had better rethink your teaching philosophy.
By Isagani Cruz | Updated January 13, 2011 - 12:00am
One of the problems about talking about “General Education” is that the term does not mean the same thing around the world.
In most European countries, the term refers to what we call “basic education,” namely, elementary or primary school and high or secondary school. To make things confusing, the terms “high school” and “secondary school” are themselves defined in various ways.
In the United States, the term refers to the first year of what we call “tertiary education” or “undergraduate education.” To make things even more confusing, those taking master’s degrees are called “undergraduates” in Sweden.
In the United Kingdom, there is a law (coming into full effect in 2015) that defines what we call basic education. Until they are 18, all British children are forced to take the following courses before they go into a university: “English (Welsh is also a core subject in Welsh-speaking schools), mathematics, science, design and technology, information and communication technology, history, geography, modern foreign languages, music, art and design, physical education, and citizenship. In addition to these core subjects are a number of other compulsory courses, such as religious education” (list provided by the British Council).
Because European and British students take what we call GE courses before they get to a university, they need only three years of college to earn the equivalent of our bachelor’s degree. In fact, courses like medicine and law take only five years to complete after high school. (After K+12 and the new GE curriculum are safely installed, I shall start advocating lessening the number of years to earn an MD or an LlB. UP has already started a shorter MD course. Law schools might want to start thinking along the same lines. I clearly have a lot of battles left to keep this column going for a long time!)
As far as I know, the Philippines is the only country in the world that requires two years of general education after high school. This was one of the reasons the Arroyo administration wanted to call the first two years of college as “pre-university” or “pre-baccalaureate.” Why we have two years rather than one year (as in the American system) or no years at all (as in the European system) is probably due to the perception (often unfounded) of Filipino college teachers that Filipino high school teachers do not know how to teach.
Before revising the General Education Curriculum (GEC) as it now stands, we have to go back to the concept or philosophy behind education. What, exactly, is the purpose of education? Is it merely to keep children occupied until they are old enough to vote, go to war, get married, get a job, establish a company (not always in that order)? Is it to ensure that children get the skills to be employed so capitalists or government officials can keep corporations and agencies going? Is it to brainwash children so they do not stage revolutions against the government? Is it to make sure that they can get to heaven when they die? Or is it merely to make them go through what we (teachers and parents) went through to get to where we are today?
We have to be very clear in our minds why we are educating our children. This is the main reason the CHED Technical Panel on General Education (TPGE) decided to revisit the rationale of GE in college.
What was – is – the rationale for general education?
CHED Memorandum Order 59, series of 1996, puts it in one sentence: “The implementation of the new GEC must be characterized by an interdisciplinary approach which would help the students see the human being as an integral person living in both a national and a global community.”
The sentence is full of key words – interdisciplinary, human, integral, person, national, global, community. Each of these key words requires a book, but let me try to explain each of them by citing examples.
Let me use as an example the case of a person going to see a doctor. (I see a lot of doctors these days, because my body is frantically trying to keep up with my advocacies.)
A doctor who only looks at the medical chart and laboratory results of a patient cannot cure that patient. Harvard Medical School professor Jerome Groopman, who calls medicine “a mix of science and soul,” ends his book entitled How Doctors Think (2007) by recalling how he learned from a novelist how to treat cancer patients.
We have an example closer to home. Top international oncologist Dr. Romy Diaz, who treats the very rich and the very poor, has his cancer patients in Makati singing happily using a videoke while having chemotherapy.
That is interdisciplinarity in action. (To be continued)
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK. From the Centre for Learning and Teaching of Manchester Metropolitan University comes this tip: Do not use the deficit model (what students do not know) but the non-deficit model (what students already know) of education. Too many Filipino teachers complain that students do not know how to do this and how to do that, instead of building on what students can already do. Education is not a plumbing job (plugging holes), but an artistic creation (molding what is into what can be).
By Isagani Cruz | Updated January 20, 2011 - 12:00am
According to CHED Memorandum Order 59, series of 1996, general education demands “an interdisciplinary approach which would help the students see the human being as an integral person living in both a national and a global community.”
Let me continue to explain the key words in that sentence through examples.
First, the word “human.” In the film Patch Adams, the main character (played by Robin Williams) protests when a doctor refers to a patient by number rather than by name. Patients are human beings that have names and personalities.
Similarly, teachers that look at students as mere names in a class list are not doing their job. A good teacher knows every single student, not just by name, but by attitude and capability. When I observe a class, I have a simple measure for finding out if a teacher is good or not: a teacher who divides a class into buzz groups by simply asking everyone to count off is too lazy to sit down and figure out who can work best together.
Now, the word “integral.” Students know very well that they cannot shut off the world when they sit down for a test. Their latest encounter with their classmates or their parents necessarily affects their concentration. One of the problems with so-called standard multiple-item tests is that they assume that everybody thinks exactly in the same way at exactly the same pace. A student, like everybody else, is an integral person, which means that he or she always thinks with the heart and feels with the brain.
The word “national” appears simple, but it is not. Look at newspapers. Last Sunday, only one newspaper (Philippine STAR) thought of putting on its front page the news about 47 people dead because of floods in southern Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. The other newspapers thought that it was not of national importance, even if the rains affected most of the country. Other newspapers routinely put things that occur in Metro Manila on its front pages (even heavy traffic, for heaven’s sake!) and ignore major events happening outside the center of government.
General education must make students aware that the country is much bigger than Metro Manila. The Philippine Literature course (for which I did the syllabus) in the GE curriculum makes this explicit: “The student must have written a term paper of at least five pages analyzing one literary text written in the language of the region or by someone born in the region where the school is located.” It is wrong to assume that Metro Manila writers are superior to writers in other regions just because they live or work in the capital. Literature in Cebuano or Capampangan is as “national” as literature written in Tagalog or English. Literature in Tagalog or English is as “regional” as literature in Bikol or Ilocano.
Finally, the term “global.” As early as 1996, it was already clear to CHED that the fate of our country is closely tied to the fate of the whole world. We cannot say that climate change, the knowledge economy, and the war on terror do not concern us. Like it or not, even if we want to be nationalistic and think only about ourselves, Filipinos are dying from floods during what should be the dry season, many of our best intellectuals are working abroad, and somebody throws a grenade somewhere near us every so often.
Students must be made to realize that what we do affects everybody else, and what other people do affects us.
Since I wrote the final draft of CMO 59, I can tell you where I got that definition of general education. I plagiarized it from the description of general education in the old manuals of the Department of Education, Culture and Sports. Education is education, and its nature, purpose, and outcome have not changed since the time Confucius and Socrates convened what today would be called classes.
Recently, the CHED Technical Panel on General Education came up with a definition of general education that keeps the same centuries-old concept but uses words more comprehensible to students and teachers in the 21st century:
“The objective of Philippine education on the tertiary level is the holistic education of Filipinos who contribute humanely and professionally to the development of a just and economically-robust society in an environmentally-sustainable world through competent and innovative leadership, as well as productive and responsible citizenship. General Education (GE) on the tertiary level addresses the development of the human being. Some of the outcomes expected of students finishing GE are: an appreciation of the human condition, the ability to personally interpret human experience, the ability to view the contemporary world from both Philippine and global perspectives, the ability to reflectively and critically discern right and wrong in today’s world (beyond compliance to rules, laws, and expectations in traditional culture), the ability to tackle problems methodically and scientifically, the ability to appreciate and to contribute to artistic beauty, and the ability to contribute personally and meaningfully to the development of the Philippines.” (To be continued)
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK. From South Africa comes this sensible tip for veteran college teachers: Take a one-year leave from teaching and work full-time in a corporation. In this way, you bring current real-world experience into the classroom.
By Isagani Cruz | Updated February 3, 2011 - 12:00am
Education, like life itself, starts at birth and ends with death. The division among elementary, secondary, and tertiary education is convenient for government planners and curriculum designers, but it is not based on human nature. There is no major difference in the learning abilities of children in Grade 6 and those in First Year High School; if we use the new nomenclature, Grade 7, the difference is even more clearly not there, because in private schools Grade 7 is still in elementary school.
The term “lifelong learning” is appropriate, because people really start learning while they are infants and never stop until they are old and grey. At The Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential (IAHP) in Philadelphia, new-born babies are taught how to read and it is not unusual for two-year-olds to be already reading books. (The IAHP principles are championed in the Philippines by Diliman Preparatory School’s Nikki Coseteng.) As for the other end of life, that the elderly can learn to do something they have never done before is proven by first books written by people in their eighties.
Because basic education forms only part of what should be a seamless education cycle, it is wrong to restrict the planning of the K+12 curriculum to DepEd. This is the reason the government has wisely made the three heads of education agencies (Armin Luistro of DepEd, Patricia Licuanan of CHED, and Joel Villanueva of TESDA) co-equal chairs of what is known as the Steering Committee for K+12, a huge body that consists not only of government agencies but of private organizations and individuals.
Both CHED and TESDA are very much involved in DepEd’s curriculum planning. For bureaucratic purposes, of course, DepEd will implement K+12, with CHED supervising the training of K+12 teachers and TESDA providing the technical-vocational expertise for the non-academic portions of the curriculum. But planning K+12 involves changing not just the current Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), but the General Education Curriculum (GEC) of the tertiary level, as well as the curriculums of undergraduate and graduate major programs.
Let us take Calculus as a simple example. Everywhere else in the world, Calculus is a high school subject. In the Philippines, the GEC requires students to take Algebra. Once Calculus is included in the BEC, the Algebra subject will be unnecessary. In fact, since DepEd is thinking seriously of including Statistics and Financial Literacy as subjects in the BEC, the mathematics requirements at the tertiary level have to be completely rethought.
What CHED’s Technical Panel for General Education (TPGE) recommended last year as the one and only required Mathematics subject in college is “Applied Mathematics.” This course (as well as other courses in the GEC) is envisioned to be “multi-disciplinary and interdisciplinary, with emphasis on developing the critical and creative capabilities of students.” This course will be required of all college students, whether they are going to major in engineering, philosophy, literature, or even mathematics itself.
It would not make sense to teach the derivation using calculus of, say, the volume of a pyramid to a mixed class consisting of history majors, political science majors, fine arts majors, engineering majors, and math majors. While everyone would have had Calculus in high school (after K+12 is fully implemented), the derivation of the formula would completely turn off the political science major and, on the other hand, would be merely a boring exercise for the math major.
What a GEC subject should do is to explain why majors of any kind need to know the volume of a pyramid. The history majors need to know why the Egyptians used the pyramid form rather than, say, the spherical form to honor their pharaohs. The political science majors need to know why our society has a pyramid structure. The fine arts majors need to be able to use the pyramid in their paintings and sculptures. The engineering majors need to know why pyramids are better or worse than columns in holding up bridges. The math majors need to know that the tedious process of deriving the formula is something they have to learn in their math classes, but the significance of the volume of the pyramid to innumerate mortals is something they have to appreciate.
In other words, the idea of a GEC subject is not specialized or professional training in a particular discipline (such as math), but education in the classical sense, namely, educating a person rather than propagating a discipline or learning area. The GEC is merely part of the fabric of tertiary education. As the CHED TPGE puts it, the first objective of the GEC is “an appreciation of the human condition.” Why do people behave the way they do? Why did the Egyptians work with pyramids? Why do we allow the country to have a pyramid economic and social structure? Why are people not used to seeing pyramids hold up bridges? Why are most Filipinos innumerate? Questions of this kind should lead students towards a better understanding of why we are the way we are.
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK. From the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia comes this advice for veteran teachers: Compile a Teaching Portfolio, which “is essentially a factual description of individual teaching strengths and accomplishments supported by relevant data and analyzed personally to show the thinking process behind the artifacts.”
By Isagani Cruz | Updated February 10, 2011 - 12:00am
In April 2009, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) formed the Technical Panel on General Education (TPGE). The TPGE was tasked to restudy CHED’s General Education Curriculum (GEC) in the light of what the Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE) had recommended as the “Philippine Main Education Highway.” In particular, the TPGE was mandated to recommend two related but distinct programs: a Revised General Education Curriculum (RGEC) for all undergraduate students and a two-year post-secondary Pre-University program to prepare high school graduates to go to college.
By August 2009, the TPGE was ready with a draft of the general principles governing both the RGEC and the Pre-University. Knowing that the PTFE had already consulted just about everybody in education before it came out with its “Education Highway,” the TPGE decided to consult only the major stakeholders in tertiary education.
On Aug. 19, 2009, the TPGE met the heads of all the other Technical Panels of CHED. The Technical Panels agreed that the RGEC should be the same for all college students regardless of major. The Technical Panels also unanimously endorsed the idea that the RGEC should not take more than a year for a student to finish, rather than the almost two years it currently takes.
On Oct. 7, 2009, the TPGE met with the heads of all the Boards of Examiners of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). The Examiners promised that future board examinations would follow the new curriculums for various professional majors that were sure to be revised to conform to the RGEC and the Pre-University.
In that Oct. 7 meeting, representatives of 90 professional organizations were also present. The organizations suggested general competencies that they wished all students would acquire before they graduated from college.
On Dec. 9, 2009, the TPGE convened a group of experienced and nationally-known educators to work on the details of the curriculum. Patricia Licuanan, then president of Miriam College and not yet the Chair of CHED, was one of the invited experts, and she contributed substantially to the designs of the RGEC and the Pre-University.
The TPGE was scheduled to meet with presidents of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in three regional meetings (Manila, Cebu, and Davao) in early 2010 to finalize the RGEC and the Pre-University, but due to the presidential elections, everything was put on hold.
The Aquino administration changed the terms but not the spirit of the education reform started by the PTFE. It dropped the idea of a post-high school Pre-University and decided to add the two missing years in our education cycle to high school itself. Now named Senior High School (the name might still be changed after ongoing national consultations), the years between the current Fourth Year High School and the current First Year College still follow the general philosophy of the Pre-University, namely, that many subjects that are now taught in college should be taught before college.
In particular, the government is eyeing the current college subjects that the PTFE and the various consultations identified as being on the secondary level, such as Differential Calculus, Integral Calculus, Differential Equations, Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, English, Filipino, Rizal, Physical Education, and Philippine History. (Some of these subjects need to be transferred to DepEd from CHED by legislation.)
Before the Aquino administration, these were the general principles agreed upon by the stakeholders consulted by the TPGE:
First, while the educational system should have 12 years of pre-university education, not all students need to go through the Pre-University or, in today’s terms, through the entire K+12 cycle. Smart students can be accelerated and exempted from the extra two years. The TPGE included only four subjects in the Pre-University: English, Filipino, Mathematics, and Science. Students exhibiting excellent skills and knowledge in these four fields should be allowed and encouraged to go directly to First Year College.
Second, the RGEC should consist of subjects in the following areas of learning: Arts and Humanities, Mathematics and Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences. Unlike the current GEC, however, these should not be taken as isolated or discipline-specific subjects. RGEC subjects should all be taught in an interdisciplinary way, with students (and teachers!) able to situate the subjects within the larger context of general education.
Third, the RGEC should include Integrating Courses, which allow students to bring together the knowledge and skills they get from most of their college subjects, as well as to form their own personal philosophies of life.
Fourth, all subjects in the RGEC should be experiential, that is, based solidly on the personal experience of the students. That means, for example, that education should be culture-based. Everything should be related to the immediate environment of the student (“immediate” refers to the family, the community, and the country). While global or timeless concerns need, of course, to be addressed, the focus should always be on the experiential and practical.
Fifth, the principle of Academic Freedom, enshrined in the Constitution, should be strictly followed. This is probably the most radical reform that the TPGE proposed during the Arroyo administration. Instead of CHED being the regulatory agency that it is now, with CHED orders being regarded as set in stone as the Ten Commandments (and as frequently violated!), schools should be able to do without feeling guilty what the Constitution says they have the right to do, namely, to choose who to teach (admission requirements), what to teach (curriculums), and how to teach (instructional strategies). Fortunately for Philippine education, Chair Licuanan, in her very first address when she assumed office, stressed the developmental rather than the regulatory nature of CHED. (To be continued)
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK. From Brent Vasicek comes this timely tip to bring the world into your classroom: Ask your students to write a letter to a child (of their age) in Egypt, giving advice to the child about what to do in the midst of the violence.
The House of Representatives has a Committee on Basic Education and Culture, composed of 65 members, chaired by Rep. Salvador H. Escudero III. The Committee is mandated to propose legislation on “all matters directly and principally relating to pre-school, elementary and secondary education, science high schools except the Philippine Science High School System, teachers’ and students’ welfare, alternative learning systems and community adult education, the national language, libraries and museums, and the preservation and enrichment of Filipino culture.”
The Committee has been going around the country holding public hearings on the proposed bills adding two more years to our basic education system. I have been privileged to have been designated a Resource Person during these hearings. I went to the first one (in Iloilo), but following the orders of my doctors, had to skip the next ones (in Cebu and Davao). Fortunately, Paraluman Giron, recently retired Regional Director of DepEd, was willing to substitute for me.
Last week, I was in Cagayan de Oro City with some of the members of the Committee, namely, Reps. Jorge Almonte, Fatima Aliah Dimaporo, Florencio Flores Jr., Mariano Piamonte Jr., Rufus Rodriguez, and Pryde Henry Teves. Escudero presided over the three-hour public hearing. Rodriguez was our extremely generous host.
I am usually given fifteen minutes to start the session with a briefing on K-12. Using a PowerPoint presentation prepared by DepEd (which I revise to suit the audience), I tackle three basic questions: Why, How, and When.
I begin by pointing out that the K-12 program involves not only DepEd, but also various other agencies of the executive branch of government (such as CHED, TESDA, DSWD, DOST, DOLE, ECCDC, and NCCA), as well as the House and the Senate (which have to pass the necessary laws).
Since the Why is being tackled extensively nationwide by the Speakers Bureau of DepEd, I start with it. Primarily, we need to add two more years because we cannot effectively teach in ten years twelve years’ worth of lessons, 16-year-old graduates of the current ten-year program are too young to be employed or to start a business, and our country has the shortest basic education cycle in Asia.
I then add my own analysis of the drop-out statistics of DepEd. You know what I mean: out of 100 students in Grade 1, only 43 finish high school and only 23 enrol in college, leaving 20 unemployable young persons in limbo. I then point out that these out-of-school youth are obvious beneficiaries of the K-12 program, because they can be in school for another two years learning skills that will get them jobs not requiring a college degree.
I spend most of my allotted time on the How. I show how the program enhances the present educational system. I focus on what makes the K-12 program essentially different from the present system. In both Junior High School (Grades 7-10) and Senior High School (Grades 11-12), the decongesting or loosening up of the curriculum will allow students to take up electives that are directly related to livelihood.
Examples of these electives are subjects that will prepare a student for his or her choice of the most in-demand jobs in the Philippines and abroad (as listed by DOLE on their website), such as welding, call center agent, waiter, electrical technician, sales person, merchandiser, plumber, cook, mason, and the like. TESDA has tried-and-tested training programs for these types of in-demand jobs, and it is working closely with DepEd to ensure that the electives will match industry needs.
Academically inclined students can take electives to prepare them for higher-level college subjects.
I end by showing the timeline of the program (the When).
The program has actually begun, with the registration of children in free Kindergarten classes (handled by DepEd and DSWD). The K in K-12 starts in a couple of weeks.
Next year, the children now in Kindergarten will be in Grade 1. They will follow the new K-12 curriculum, which is being fine-tuned by inter-agency Task Forces involving various government and private groups and individuals.
Also next year, the students entering Grade 7 (what we now call First Year High School) will also be following the new curriculum. They will form the first cohort or batch to have six years of secondary education. This batch will enter college or start working in 2018. That gives Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) enough time to revise their curriculum and staffing.
DepEd has an entire year to train next year’s Grade 1 and Grade 7 teachers. A year later, they will train the teachers of Grade 2 and Grade 8. By training teachers of only two grade levels per year, training resources will not be overstretched.
DepEd also has time to build the extra classrooms for Grades 11 and 12, since the first affected cohort will reach Grade 11 only in 2016.
So far, the public hearings have elicited mostly supportive and constructive responses. This is a good sign that the public now understands why President Noynoy Aquino made the addition of two years to basic education the key to his program of education reform.
Working with them closely, I must say that our Representatives in Congress are impressive persons, with hearts firmly set on helping the poor get employed and the country catch up with our neighbors.
Although the latest in-house survey puts public approval of the K-12 plan at 70 percent, there are still some lingering questions that need to be answered. These questions are usually brought up when I give lectures on K-12, either in the public hearings of the Congressional Committee on Basic Education or in various school forums.
Question: Will the next administration return the basic education cycle to ten years and undo the K-12 reform?
Answer: Not if the K-12 reform becomes a law. That is one reason the legislators are conducting public hearings and working to have the law passed. Once something becomes a law, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to change it.
Question: Why can we not implement Grade 11 in June 2012, instead of 2016 as envisioned in the plan?
Answer: One of the major reasons for adding two years to the basic education cycle is the congestion of the curriculum. There are too many subjects being taught in too short a time in the current curriculum. The new K-12 curriculum expands the time allotted to these subjects, without adding new subjects. This means that some current subjects may be taught in a different year from the year they are taught now.
For example, instead of Rizal’s “Noli Me Tangere” being taught in Grade 9 (the current Third Year high school), it could be taught in Grade 11. (This is just a theoretical example; the actual curriculum has not yet been finalized.) If we instituted Grade 11 immediately, students who have already studied the “Noli” in Grade 9 would have to study the “Noli” again in Grade 11. This is the reason that it is important for high school students to start using the new curriculum only in Grade 7. The new secondary school (Grades 7-12) curriculum starts in June 2012. The students entering high school next year will get into Grade 11 only after four years, or 2016.
Question: Can private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) use their teachers for Grades 11 and 12?
Answer: This question assumes that Grades 11 and 12 are exactly the same as First and Second Year college (what is referred to as General Education or GE), so that college teachers can simply become high school teachers. The new K-12 curriculum, however, since it merely expands the current ten-year curriculum, does not cover many of the GE subjects. Teachers of GE still have to be trained to teach high school subjects.
There is also a bureaucratic problem. To teach high school, a teacher has to have passed the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). Most college teachers have not passed LET (unless they are teaching in colleges of education). Of course, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) could do away with the requirement with a simple memorandum, but that is easier said than done. PRC necessarily has to think a lot before it changes any of its policies.
Question: Can the government just pay private HEIs to handle Grades 11 and 12? There is, after all, a legal mechanism called Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE), which allows DepEd to pay the tuition of public school students studying in private schools.
Answer: HEIs spends a lot more per student than what GASTPE gives. Since free basic education is a constitutional right, public school students cannot be turned away just because there is not enough money for GASTPE. A private school will go bankrupt if it is forced to subsidize too many public school students.
Question: Does every student have to go through the 12 years of basic education?
Answer: Most students will have to, since that is the system. But the system is different from individual cases. Just like in the present ten-year system, there are students that are advanced for their age and should certainly be accelerated. (If I may be immodest, I take myself as an example, because I was accelerated twice in grade school, making me at 14 the youngest high school graduate of Lourdes School during my time.)
The brightest Grade 10 students from public and private high schools can certainly be admitted immediately into HEIs. This is guaranteed by the Constitution, which says that all HEIs are given the academic freedom to choose who to teach or, in other words, who to admit as incoming freshmen.
Question: Does DepEd have enough money for Grades 11 and 12?
Answer: Yes, there is, as long as Congress allocates that money and as long as corruption is minimized, if not stopped. Congress has already planned how to allocate money for the next four years to prepare for the full implementation of Grade 11 in June 2016.
On the personal level, if you really believe that all Filipino children should have a chance to get 12 years of free basic education, then all you have to do is to pay taxes, not bribe anyone, and ask for official receipts every time you purchase anything. Such small actions, if all of us do them, will ensure that government has enough money not just for Grades 11 and 12, but for all the social services that we expect a civilized country to have.
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK: Use rubrics to make your teaching outcomes-based. Here is an example of a writing rubric: “The student used helpful transitions between main points.”
Mona Valisno’s forthcoming book, “The Nation’s Journey to Greatness: Five Decades of the Philippine Educational System,” contains a proposal to solve one of the vexing problems with the K-12 program, namely, the spectre of private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) not having incoming first year students for two straight years (with a ripple effect in later years).
Valisno knows what she is talking about. She is the only Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary who also served as a Commissioner in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). She was also Presidential Assistant (PA) for Education, overseeing both DepEd and CHED, as well as other government agencies engaged in public education. As PA, she convened the Presidential Task Force on Education (PTFE), the most recent of several bodies since 1935 that suggested solutions for our perennial problems in education.
In her book, Valisno writes: “Instead of DepEd providing facilities and other resources for Grades 11 and 12 students in the public schools, including hiring new teachers, it is recommended that existing resources and facilities in public and private colleges, universities and technical-vocational training institutions be utilized, with DepEd underwriting the costs under a full scholarship arrangement.”
She cites the findings of the PTFE that our first two years of college are almost identical to the last two years of pre-university education in Asian and European countries. Since subjects taught in college in the Philippines (such as Differential and Integral Calculus, Differential Equations, General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Inorganic Chemistry) are taught in high schools elsewhere in the world, there is no reason, she argues, that we cannot have colleges simply convert the first two years of college to the last two years of high school (or Senior High School, following DepEd nomenclature).
The Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations of the Philippines (COCOPEA) has actually proposed something similar, but what is new in Valisno’s study is her estimate of how much the government would spend if all Grade 11 and Grade 12 classes were held in HEIs rather than in DepEd schools. She bases her figures on past data about the percentage of high school graduates that actually enrolled in college.
“From an estimated 1.5 million high school seniors,” she writes, “some 375,000 students could proceed to the universities for their Grades 11 and 12 education. Following a rough estimate of P30,000 per school year per student, some P45 billion may be incurred, to be charged against DepEd. The investment is worthwhile and is a lot cheaper than if DepEd will provide all the resources required for Grades 11 and 12.”
Relative to the total budget of DepEd and if we consider that our government spends only roughly 3 percent of GDP on education (world average in 2002 was almost 5 percent), P45 billion is very small.
“In addition,” writes Valisno, “there are anticipated benefits. DepEd can continue building new classrooms, hiring more teachers, buying more furniture, books and others for its incremental enrolment in Grades 1 to 10, since the resource requirements of Grades 11 and 12 will already exist in reputable colleges and universities. The financial viability of private colleges and universities will be assured over the long term, as there will be continued enrolment of first year students, to be paid for by government through DepEd.”
In her book, Valisno also has a number of things to say about technical education, but it is her proposal for Grades 11 and 12 that interests me here. Note that she is not proposing this as a transition or stop-gap measure until there are Grade 12 graduates ready to go to college. Instead, she proposes that Grades 11 and 12 be permanently housed in HEIs.
I may have misinterpreted her, since I read only a portion of her manuscript and not the entire manuscript, but I think that this is what she is saying. She is saying that DepEd should really see things from CHED’s point of view.
Valisno’s idea is only one of several models being proposed to solve the problem of the missing freshmen. It is certainly a lot better than the most extreme proposal I have heard so far, which in essence says, Tough!
This extreme proposal says that, like typewriters, videotapes, and beepers, private colleges and universities may be turning into dinosaurs. After all, every business or institution has a life expectancy. Progress entails casualties. So, Tough!
Since I have taught in private schools most of my life (except for short stints in UP Diliman and in foreign public universities), I think that this extreme view is unacceptable.
I will take Valisno’s proposal any day rather than just throw in the towel.
On the other hand, between having HEIs take over Grades 11 and 12 completely and having HEIs just fold up, there are other proposals to solve the problem, such as Career Academies and Junior Colleges. More on them in future columns.
TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK. From the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning of the University of Western Australia comes this teaching tip: “Expect more and you will get it. High expectations are important for everyone — for the poorly prepared, for those unwilling to exert themselves, and for the bright and well motivated.”
By Isagani Cruz | Updated January 5, 2012 - 12:00am
2012 will truly be a new year for Philippine education.
In June 2012, students entering the first grade of elementary school and those entering the first year of high school will follow the new K to 12 curriculum.
Students already in elementary school today will have 12, rather than 10 years of basic education.
Students already in high school today will still have only four years of high school, but will have the option of taking two years of voluntary Senior High School in selected public and private schools.
Let us go through these developments one at a time.
What is in store for six-year-old children entering Grade 1 in June?
First of all, they will all have some form of pre-school education. Those in public schools will already have had a full year of Kindergarten. Those in private schools will most likely have had even more than one year of pre-school.
According to DepEd, only those who have had pre-school or Kindergarten will be allowed to enrol in Grade 1.
A question that always arises during discussions about K to 12 is this: what happens to the six-year-olds that have not had Kindergarten?
DepEd has proposed a solution. There will be an intensive Kindergarten in April and May. For children still without some kind of pre-schooling, there will be an even shorter quasi-Kindergarten during June itself.
Of course, there are serious problems with such an arrangement, but a little pre-schooling is better than none. The idea, however, is sound: children entering Grade 1 should already have experience in being in a classroom, socializing with other children.
What will Grade 1 be like in June?
The biggest change is in the duration of classes. Starting in June, Grade 1 students will stay in school for only half a day.
A typical Grade 1 class will have the following schedule:
Homeroom = 10 minutes
Reading and Writing in the Mother Tongue = 40 minutes
Oral Fluency in Filipino = 40 minutes
Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (EsP) = 30 minutes
Recess = 20 minutes
Mathematics or Arithmetic = 30 minutes
Araling Panlipunan (AP) = 30 minutes
Music, Arts, Physical Education, Health (MAPEH) = 30 minutes
That is the schedule for the first semester (or the first two grading periods) for Grade 1. During the second semester (or the last two grading periods), Oral Fluency in English will be added for 40 minutes.
In the first semester, the student will stay in school for only 210 minutes or 3 1/2 hours. In the second semester, that will be extended to 250 minutes or a little over four hours.
The second biggest change is the use of the mother tongue both as medium of instruction and as a separate subject.
As an example, take a typical Grade 1 class in Cebu. In June, the students will devote one period to Cebuano. They will learn how to read using Cebuano texts in the time allotted for “Reading and Writing in the Mother Tongue.” Students will also use Cebuano to study the other subjects, including Arithmetic.
The third biggest change is in the way Mathematics, AP, and Filipino will be taught. DepEd has decided to use the Spiral Approach. Simply put, that means that everything will be taught all at once, but in small doses.
The approach is best illustrated in Mathematics. In the current approach, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are taught separately and in sequence.
Using the Spiral Approach, a typical lesson could go this way:
Take a group of five children. How many pencils do we need to have if each child would have one each? That is addition.
If another group of five children joins us, how many more pencils do we need? That is multiplication.
If one of the children goes home, how many pencils will we now need? That is subtraction.
If we had ten pencils and these two groups came to us at the same time, into how many groups of five pencils each do we need to arrange the pencils? That is division.
Instead of students learning the mathematical functions one lesson at a time, they will learn them all at once, within the same lesson. (This example is deliberately simplistic, but you get the idea.)
The fourth biggest change is the introduction of MAPEH. In the current curriculum, MAPEH starts in Grade 4. In the new curriculum, students are introduced to Philippine music, Philippine arts, physical education, and health issues immediately in Grade 1.
The biggest changes in Grade 7 (New High School Year 1) are the Spiral Approach and a new period called “Individual / Cooperative Learning.”
These big changes exemplify the major features of the new K to 12 curriculum.
The K to 12 curriculum is research-based. In order to draft it, curriculum designers had to look at what other countries are doing (thanks to foreign funding agencies that allowed Filipino experts to travel to other countries and foreign experts to come to the Philippines), what current pedagogical theories say (thanks to several local and foreign universities), and the situation on the ground (thanks to comprehensive reports from DepEd field offices). The designers have adapted the best practices of other countries to our own culture and experience. (To be continued)