Learning in context
Traveling to Kidapawan is not difficult at all despite the distance. Still, the beauty of the countryside really makes things seem so much better. In Hekasi, our schoolchildren were taught that Mount Apo is this city’s main tourist attraction and that the Manobo tribe lives there.
The Eggie Apostol Foundation’s MTBMLE expert, Ricky Nolasco, and Maritz Resol went to Kidapawan for the Pagtudlo 2013 conference and materials development workshop for the K-to-12 language arts, mathematics and “araling panlipunan.” Our onsite academic partner was the University of Southern Mindanao, with Eimer M. Estilloso as our designated conference director and the esteemed Leorence Tandog—the dean of the USM College of Education—as the executive committee chair.
Education experts and theorists will tell you that there are a number of education traditions that revolve around the various aspects of education quality. At Pagtudlo 2013, the discussions and workshops gravitated toward indigenization.
In the chapter titled “Understanding Education Quality,” the 2005 Education For All Global Monitoring Report describes the notion of quality in the indigenous tradition as that which “reasserts the importance of education’s relevance to the sociocultural circumstances of the nation and learner.” The report further points out that “mainstream approaches … are not necessarily relevant in very different social and economic circumstances. Assuring relevance implies local design of curriculum content, pedagogies and assessment. All learners have rich sources of prior knowledge, accumulated through a variety of experiences, which educators should draw out and nourish. Learners should play a role in defining their own curriculum.”
In his lecture on math curricula, Saburi Yutaka of Fukui University emphasized as much when he pointed out that “it is indispensable to give special consideration on learner’s language to make classroom discussion free and rich.” Saburi sensei (as the participants respectfully addressed him) also stressed that “curriculum developers must give sufficient consideration [to] the learner’s culture in order to make the learning context more attractive or real [for] the students.”
Dean Tandog herself had much to say about the learner’s role in her own curriculum. In a study that she and her associate Daryl Mae Catubig conducted on the Teach Back strategy, Tandog observed: “Mathematics classes are thought to be difficult and always make students afraid. Hence, it is not surprising that there is low performance in mathematics and related subjects among the college students in the country including the University of Southern Mindanao as evidenced by a large number of students who [are failing in math] and [have difficulty] in statistics.”
The Teach Back strategy, as its name implies, simply calls for the student to discuss portions of the subject matter with his peers in a classroom setting. For her research data, Tandog implemented the Teach Back strategy for a randomly sampled experimental group. Their test results were then compared to those of a control group taught by conventional methods.
Tandog said of her findings: “The difference in the gain scores between students taught using teach-back strategy and traditional method was not significant. However, an average college student who would score in the 50th percentile level when taught using traditional method will score in the 58th percentile level when taught using teach-back strategy. This indicates that teach-back strategy promotes higher learning than traditional method.” She added that the Teach Back strategy gave the added benefit of promoting positive learning, sharpening thinking skills and improving the social skills and self-esteem of students.
Meanwhile, Estilloso’s research on an actual implementation of MTBMLE at the Kabacan Central School in Cotabato drew much interest from the participating public school teachers. Estilloso and his team found out that even in a multilingual classroom, learning was much more improved because the pupils were able to interact with their teacher in the language they speak at home.
In one instance, the class was made up of Ilokano, Ilonggo, Tagalog, Maguindanao, and Cebuano-speaking pupils. As a teaching strategy, the teacher used Filipino but code-switched to the pupils’ mother tongue as needed.
Estilloso’s research data showed that in this scenario, the pupils were more engaged and active in the class, even if the discussions and explanation of the subject matter took a bit longer due to the code-switching. The teachers who participated in the study commented that their pupils learned to read faster and understood the material much better than before. This, despite the fact that the teachers only had two training sessions and had no learning materials produced in the mother tongue.
The Pagtudlo Conference, which was a breakthrough for the region in many respects, was not without its share of scheduling glitches, transportation and accommodation foul-ups, and resource-mobilization issues.
Nevertheless, Tandog and her team were justifiably proud that USM was able to bring some experts to share insights with and impart knowledge to the teachers of Kidapawan and nearby areas. She expressed a sincere desire to hold more of these workshops because as any educator will tell you, learning is a continuing process.
Butch Hernandez (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.