Is civic education an imperative? (2)
A huge part of children’s education is attributed to their teachers, especially those who are in charge of their early formative years in school. This was highlighted in several sessions of the 2023 Civic Education Summit held in Manila on April 27-29.
In the session where I was one of the speakers, I was asked, along with my co-panelists, about the role of civic education in shaping young learners. While the theme of the panel session was quite broad, panelists were guided through a set of questions that focused more on how teachers and the entire school system can ensure that children learn the basics of not only the substantive subject areas but also how to become future law-abiding citizens, respectful of their elders and of the range of diversity of peoples around them. One question became the main topic: how are teachers able to do this when they are overloaded with work, other than teaching?
Promoting civic education entails the support of every individual involved in the teaching and learning environment, starting with the administrators of schools to instill the values of respect, mutual tolerance, and being empathetic with the learners. This goes beyond the teaching of basic subjects and making sure that teachers are also given the same enabling environment to make them better educators and facilitators of learning. Certainly, this means teaching students to embrace the culture of appreciating diversity in the classroom so that it will not become an arena for bullying and other acts of intolerance. This also means starting with the teacher or learning facilitator.
On the second day of the conference, the assistant secretary of the Department of Education shared details of the new program of his boss, Vice President and concurrent DepEd Secretary Sara Duterte. His talk focused on the concept of “Bansang Makabata, Batang Makabansa,” as the overarching framework of Project Matatag that Duterte has envisioned to solve the country’s education woes.
Matatag is the acronym for four components that are supposed to be made operational under Duterte’s watch: “Make the curriculum relevant to produce competent and job-ready, active, and responsible citizens; Take steps to accelerate delivery of basic education facilities and services; Take good care of learners by promoting learner well-being, inclusive education, and a positive learning environment; and Give support to teachers to teach better.”
These are ideal goals to work for; all education systems and teaching approaches must be learner-centered, and the curriculum for learners must be designed to prepare them to be job-ready and make them good citizens in the future. We also expect our government to deliver quality education services by providing a conducive environment for learning and to ensure that no child, of whatever ethnic group, ability, or disability, will be left behind in the process of educational development.
More importantly, we need to see more institutional support for our teachers who are already overburdened with tasks outside of their required teaching loads. Some teachers I know are teaching more than eight classes a week and with five different preparations. They also are supposed to gather nutrition data from their students and initiate the cleaning of their classrooms and the entire school premises.
Project Matatag’s support for teachers is mainly in the form of providing them opportunities to acquire skills in blended and mainly digital-based teaching and learning. But the reality in many rural areas in Mindanao will not enable this type of support. Poor families have a hard time coughing out even P500 for a stable internet connection; they cannot also afford to buy smartphones that can access internet-based data and presentations.
Teachers need support, but more than just providing facilities and opportunities for upskilling, they also need to be treated humanely by not overburdening them with too many tasks not related to teaching. A tired teacher is also a “lazy” teacher: she will not be motivated to be more creative in teaching subjects that integrate concepts and skills that promote civic education.
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