Looking back, looking forward | Inquirer Opinion
The Learning curve

Looking back, looking forward

/ 12:12 AM December 31, 2016

In 1996, Ms. Eggie Apostol invited Jose V. Abueva, Belinda A. Aquino, John J. Carroll, SJ, Ma. Cynthia Rose Banzon Bautista, Maria Serena Diokno, Amando Doronila, Melinda Quintos de Jesus, Felipe Miranda, Joel Rocamora and Rigoberto D. Tiglao to write about Philippine politics, economy, art, culture and life in general 10 years  after we freed ourselves from the Marcos dictatorship.

Their work was published in “Looking Back, Looking Forward” with Lorna Kalaw Tirol as editor. It is no coincidence that these writers are educators in their own right, because education is the crucible for genuine social transformation.


Let’s now look back at how education has sought to reform itself.

In their 2008 UP Centennial Lecture titled “When Reforms Don’t Transform,” Drs. Dina Ocampo, Ma. Cynthia Rose Banzon Bautista and Allan Bernardo said that “education reform often resembles relief operations that hurriedly address obvious gaps and plug problematic holes in the system. In contrast, countries that successfully reformed their educational systems used a long-term transformational approach. They first reckoned with a rather simple question: ‘How do we reform the school system so that students learn better?’  Corollary is the more difficult problem: ‘What should students be learning in schools?’  These countries have grappled with defining what kind of knowledge and skills their citizens need to allow them to be effective participants in today’s rapidly changing, highly networked, knowledge societies.”


In 2009, the late Mario Taguiwalo wrote that “Many education reformers, past and present, have wasted credibility, public support and so much good will because they thought they could pursue education reform under a dictatorship, or under a regime ridden with corruption, or under an administration that cheats its way to power. It is time that we confront this harsh reality: education reform of the right type, scale and scope can only truly happen in a political regime with legitimate democratic mandate and with capacity and commitment for good governance.”

Since then, the private sector and government have worked together to create an enabling environment for learners at every education level, from basic and technical vocational to post-secondary and tertiary.

The Ladderized Education Act of 2014 (Republic Act No. 10647) contemplates a system of equivalencies and assessments that would give college credits for technical vocational course a learner may have taken, subject to certain terms and conditions.

The Open Distance Learning Act of 2014 (RA 10650) expands access to quality tertiary education through “the promotion and application of open learning as a philosophy of access to education services, and the use of distance education as an appropriate, efficient and effective system of delivering quality higher and technical educational services in the country.”

And finally, there’s RA 10533 or the K-to-12 Law, that brings basic education up to global standards through a thoroughly revised 12-year curriculum that incorporates career specializations  at senior high school or Grades 11 and 12.

Now let’s look forward.

The infrastructure shortages and resource gaps will continue to be there, and the overall quality of instruction will still be endemic issues in 2017. Access to quality education will continue to be biased in favor of higher income families. However, it appears that education stakeholders have learned well from past experience: reform efforts moving forward generally appear more systemic and far-reaching.


Our schools and teachers however will face a new challenge in 2017. They are tasked with cultivating in their learners a deep sense of national identity and a firm adherence to a life of dignity and respect. They will find this very difficult to do if EJK continues to be a state policy and the remnants of the Marcos dictatorship succeed in revising history in their favor.

Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation.

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TAGS: dictatorship, education, K to 12, martial law
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