Keep our learners safe
Classes have begun once more for 27.7 million students and about half a million teachers. I wish them all the best, and I am sincerely hoping that 2017 will finally be a breakthrough learning year for every Filipino student. With all the reforms put in place in the past decade, we have every reason to nurse high expectations.
This year, the new K-to-12 curriculum will be implemented much more broadly, under all kinds of classroom conditions and teaching environments. There will definitely be a lot of problems along the way, but any good teacher will tell you that this is a very good way to field-test and improve learning content and teaching strategies. I’m particularly excited to see the effect that Mother Tongue Based Multilingual Education (MTBLE) will have on significantly improving literacy and comprehension levels in the early grades. I’m proud to say that the Eggie Apostol Foundation has been an MTBLE advocate at about the time the concept was first introduced to the public. I’m likewise optimistic that the specialization tracks in senior high school will enable students and their parents to make more informed career choices.
In remarks at the opening of public school classes last June 5, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the Department of Education would expand the Alternative Learning System to encourage more out-of-school youth to return to school. She cited the availability of night school for young people who have day jobs, and said learning centers would be set up for those needing to learn to read and write. She observed that poverty and the distance between school and home are among the primary reasons school-age children drop out.
How to protect young learners and ensure their wellbeing? According to Education Undersecretary Jess Mateo, all public and private schools must organize their own child protection committee (CPC) to ensure that cases and instances of abuse are closely monitored at school level. Each CPC should be composed of: the school head/administrator as chair; the guidance counselor/teacher as vice chair; representatives of the teachers as designated by the Faculty Club; representative of the parents as designated by the Parents-Teachers Association; a representative of the learners as designated by the Supreme Student Council; and a representative of the community as designated by the Punong Barangay, preferably a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children.
Furthermore, the DepEd encourages learners, parents, teachers, and other stakeholders to refrain from engaging in discriminatory acts against people’s opinion, status, gender, ethnicity, religion, as well as moral and physical integrity.
The DepEd also prohibits the use of corporal punishment or any kind of punishment imposed for an alleged or actual offense, whether carried out by a teacher, school administrator, an adult, or any other child who has been given or has assumed authority or responsibility for punishment or discipline.
Briones assured the public that the DepEd has constantly been reminding both teachers and students that “we are no longer in the dark ages where might is always right.”
Turning her attention to the situation of school children in Marawi City, Briones said that around 20,000 learners were expected to be displaced by the armed conflict and that it would take time for them and their families to return given that many houses and establishments had been destroyed in the fighting.
She noted that an influx of Marawi student transferees was also expected in Zamboanga and Cotabato apart from Iligan and Cagayan de Oro, and said school officials had been instructed to admit these learners even without strict documentation.
These end-to-end measures to improve overall education quality and make our schools a safe place for all learners are the best made in recent memory, brickbats from hyperpartisan quarters notwithstanding.
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Butch Hernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.
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