The foolish fire of miseducation | Inquirer Opinion
Commentary

The foolish fire of miseducation

Classes in all Philippine public schools began as they usually do, indelibly and permanently marked by a pernicious shortage in almost all that is basic and elementary, needed and necessary, for schools to operate properly and well—classrooms, desks, teachers, toilets, a safe and clean supply of water, proper ventilation, and that heart and core of the entire teaching-learning process: textbooks.

The K-to-12 Basic Education Program, the flagship project of the Aquino administration, is now on its third year of implementation, yet only Grades 1 and 2 in the elementary level and only Grades 7 and 8 in the secondary level have been provided the requisite textbooks. (Not permitted by law to publish its own books, the Department of Education resorted to calling it other names instead, such as “learning material,” “learner’s material,” or “learning module.” I prefer to call them textbooks, for that is what they really are.) The other grade levels continue to use textbooks that are not compatible with the new K-to-12 curriculum. Most of these textbooks are outdated and outmoded, like the one used in the subject Filipino in Grade 6 (“Landas sa Wika”), which has been used nonstop since 1999.

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The Grade 7 and Grade 8 learning materials were the subjects of eight letters to the editor I wrote to the Inquirer, which questioned the two textbooks’ lack of quality and integrity. Those petitions were ignored by the DepEd. Were the errors corrected? If not, why not?

The DepEd came out with an advertisement, an “Invitation to Bid,” in the Dec. 27, 2013, issue of the Inquirer, which stated that “the DepEd intends to apply the sum of Three Hundred Eighty-seven Million Pesos (P387 million), being the approved Budget for the Contract to payments under the contract for Printing of Grade 9 Learner’s Materials.”

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But try to visit any public secondary school in your area and ask the Grade 9 teachers there what books they are using, and chances are you’d be told pointblank that there is none. So what are the Grade 9 students supposed to do in their

English classes—count on one hand the very many honest legislators there are in Congress? If the Grade 9 learning materials are not ready as of this late date, why did the DepEd invite printers to print in December 2013?

That the amount of the contract was pegged at P387 million proves that the learning materials already existed when the ad came out, for only the actual and physical dimensions, the quality of the paper used, and the number of pages can determine the cost and the price. But what do you know: Very few teachers have seen the very few Grade 9 learning materials for English that had actually been printed, those that carry this caveat on their covers: “For Mass Training Only.” Was this intended to preempt or forestall the presence of many errors? Should the book that is used to train teachers not be error-free?

When you do get to see the Grade 9 learning material in English published by the DepEd, titled “A Journey through Anglo-American Literature,” and if you know where to look and what to look for, you will also see the many errors that I am now seeing. I am halfway through this 637-page compilation of articles mostly taken from the Internet, but I have already identified more than 600 errors.

When the textbooks are not yet ready or they are simply not there, what are the public school teachers using in class? What will be their basis for making the scope and sequence, the course outline, the syllabus and the lesson plans which they need in order to properly implement and

apply the imperatives of the curriculum guide? Can you make a lesson plan out of the thin blue rarefied air of empty platitudes, propaganda and broken promises?

With regard to textbooks, students studying in public schools have four options to choose from: Use textbooks that are outdated and outmoded, torn and tattered; use textbooks that are half-ready or not ready at all; photocopy the textbooks and learning materials themselves, using their own money; and use textbooks that are full of errors. Choosing between a textbook that is nonexistent and one which is infested with so many errors is like choosing between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is like asking children to go to battle with no weapons at all or with weapons that malfunction and don’t work. They stand to be decimated and killed.

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With its humongous budget of P337 billion, I wonder why the DepEd can’t come up with sensible, reasonable, rational and useful textbooks that instruct rather than deconstruct, textbooks that teach and not bleach and blanch the mind. Why can’t the team of 19 wise men and women, six of them with PhDs, a team composed of 10 authors who are public school teachers, four reviewers, two language editors, two consultants and one content reviewer—why can’t they get their act together and produce something they can show the Grade 9 students and their grandchildren with confidence and pride?

Error-riddled textbooks burn with the ignis fatuus, the unseen foolish fire, of Miseducation, providing neither heat nor light, yet burning, burning all that it comes in contact with.

Antonio Calipjo Go is the academic supervisor of Marian School of Quezon City.

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TAGS: education, K-to-12 Basic Education Program, nation, news, Philippine public schools, text books
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