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The education revolution, yet again

/ 11:07 PM January 13, 2012

Very recently, Education Secretary Armin Luistro announced that Grade 1 pupils and first year high school students for school year 2012-2013  will be taught using the new K to 12 curriculum. Luistro shares the hope of many education reform advocates that this time around, the incoming grade schoolers and high school freshmen will find going to school “a fresh, enjoyable, dynamic, learner-centered” experience.

Luistro said the shift to a 12-year basic education cycle is really not the most notable feature of K to 12. “The real revolution in education is to make the curriculum so attractive, enjoyable and a real learning experience for the students,” he pointed out. He added that being learner-centered, the K to 12 curriculum seeks to deviate from current teaching strategies that are heavy on memorization but put very little emphasis on critical thinking.

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From what I understand, the K to 12 curriculum is still in the process of evolving. There are still quite a few issues that need to be threshed out. One of them, of course, is the use of the mother tongue as a medium of instruction during the early years of schooling. In previous commentaries, Dr. Ricky Nolasco, the Eggie Apostol Foundation’s adviser on mother-tongue based multilingual education, has repeatedly maintained that to optimize learning and comprehension, the child’s first language (i.e., the language spoken at home or L1) has to be used as the medium of instruction for the first six to eight years of schooling.

Luistro says that the K to 12 curriculum will use the child’s mother tongue as the MOI only up to Grade 3. Nolasco contends that empirical evidence shows that doing so has proven to actually impede rather than enhance learning. He adds that developing the materials to support teaching in the mother tongue could also prove to be a major hurdle.

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In an effort to address this issue, the Department of Education has been working with Greg and Diane Dekker of SIL Philippines, the country’s pioneers in MTBMLE. In fact, SIL is perhaps the only entity here that possesses definitive and cumulative research data on MTBMLE derived from several years of assiduous study in the public schools of Lubuagan, Kalinga.

The Dekkers have recently been conducting a series of workshops (in Cebu, Davao and most recently in Tagaytay) aimed at developing an MTBMLE materials development kit that features an extensive set of exemplars to aid teachers. DepEd’s indefatigable Dr. Rose Villaneza and Dr. Paraluman Giron have been quarterbacking this initiative and they have been largely successful. However, their efforts might be just a drop in a very huge bucket if nothing is done to scale up and propagate the Dekkers’ stellar work across the entire basic education system.

All these attempts at education reform bring to mind the comments of two of the country’s best educators. The first of them is former Education Secretary Dr. Edilberto de Jesus. While surveying the education reform landscape during his term of office, De Jesus remarked that all the initiatives that he was seeing were good by themselves but they were not on a magnitude that would make an impact. This is one of the reasons why De Jesus, aided by his extremely capable undersecretary Mike Luz, conceptualized the bridge program, the forerunner of K to 12. At that time, De Jesus saw that based on the cumulative results of the National Achievement Tests (NAT) and the TIMSS (Trends in Math and Science Studies) tests, there were clear learning gaps in the transition from grade school to high school, and from high school to college. Through the bridge program, De Jesus sought to fill those gaps so that the student would be better prepared for the rigors of higher learning. Sadly, the program did not take flight. However, De Jesus must be pleased that his brainchild has evolved into the K to 12 program.

The next education luminary is of course Dr. Dina Ocampo, dean of the UP College of Education and a recipient of the very prestigious Metrobank Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award in 2009. In her lecture, entitled “When Reforms Don’t Transform,” which she delivered jointly with Dr. Allan Bernardo and Dr. Cynthia Rose Bautista, Dr. Ocampo said that “children who are made to read in a language they do not understand get into the habit of not thinking about what they read. Worse, their self-esteem suffers. They feel marginalized in classrooms that are supposed to liberate their minds.”

Ocampo also spoke of “seasons of reform” characterized by “projectization.” She pointed out that the DepEd “does not seem to have fully embraced the tasks of processing the lessons of every reform project, drawing their implications, and planning how to scale up ideas that work. Instead, DepEd seems to have simply moved from one project to the next, without really fully connecting the projects to its larger reform agenda.”

Note however that this lecture was delivered in 2008. From the looks of things today, it does seem like the DepEd was listening back then.

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

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TAGS: education, featured columns, K-to-12 curriculum, opinion
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