Teaching and its lost shine

/ 05:32 AM October 05, 2017

Teaching may be one of the world’s noblest professions, but as the miserly compensation for such a heavy responsibility shows, the profession is vastly unappreciated — hardly cause for celebrating World Teachers Day. Which is ironic, because next to one’s parents, people often credit good teachers as their biggest influence and the moral force that started them on the right path.

So unpopular has teaching become that in September last year, Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the Department of Education needed to fill more than 30,000 teaching positions in its implementation of the K-to-12 program.


The dismal results of the teacher licensure exams in almost a decade also reflect the fading prestige of the teaching profession and the deteriorating quality of this college offering.

Reforms are definitely in order, according to the Philippine Business for Education, which noted that since 2009, the passing rate of teachers averaged only 31 percent.


This was way below the government’s target passing rate of 53 percent and behind the average passing rate of those who took up medicine, the sciences, maritime, engineering, accountancy and agriculture.

Teaching may have lost its shine as well because of the lackluster teachers who rely on old-school pedagogy, such as rote memorization and prescribed textbooks, to get through their class.

A recent research by educator Antonio Calipjo Go on how Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule is taught through public school textbooks is instructive. Most of the text on Philippine history focuses on the Spanish colonial era up to the Commonwealth years, as if the country’s story ended there.

Any mention of martial law is often compressed into a paragraph or two, and focused only on this period’s “achievements” while ignoring its abuses.

No wonder millennials have no idea of the Marcos legacy and almost elected his namesake to the vice presidency.

In contrast, teaching history in other countries, Japan among them, start with field trips among elementary pupils who are shepherded into museums and historical sites, with their teacher or guide explaining the significance of the exhibits they were viewing.

How much more real would Marcos’ martial law have been had teachers invited victims and survivors of torture to speak about it? Lacking that, a visit to the Bantayog ng mga Bayani would have helped as well.


In the United States, laudable is California’s initiative in 2013 to pass a law that highlights the role of Filipino migrants in the early years of the trade union movement and revisits history to make it more diverse and inclusive.

Instead of just focusing on Mexican leaders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta of the United Farm Workers, the new law requires schools to teach students about the important contributions of Filipinos, led by Larry Itliong and Philip Vera Cruz, who began the protest strike before the Mexican workers led by Chavez joined it.

Another bit of good news is how US educators and advocates teaching kids about the Filipino story now have more resources to work with. Many California colleges and universities now offer courses on Filipino-American history, with Carlos Bulosan’s classic, “America Is in the Heart,” required reading in many of these courses.

Locally, history professor and Inquirer columnist Ambeth Ocampo has demonstrated how past events can be dusted off and made interesting and relevant to today’s youth.

A former student recalls how Ocampo brought pictures to class, even a slide show on the life of Rizal, told anecdotes and stories to bring historical characters to life, and generally made history sound fun.

Revered historical figures are brought down from their pedestal to make them relatable. Active interaction with students — most of them techies and internet junkies — are made possible with a blog and a Facebook account that Ocampo maintains, as he communicates via the medium with which most young people are familiar.

As the multiawarded historian and professor himself said: “As I matured as a teacher I began to teach history as a formative rather than an informative subject. I learned that the magic of history was not in stray data but in connections that make the trivial relevant.”

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TAGS: ambeth ocampo, Department of Education, education, education reforms, Ferdinand Marcos, Inquirer editorial, Leonor briones, Marcos martial law, Philippine Business for Education, Philippine history, teaching, World Teachers Day
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