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A better, safer and kinder nation

In his inaugural speech, President Duterte called on everyone to recover and revitalize the lost and faded values of  “love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished.”

Whether Mr. Duterte realizes it or not, the task of cultivating and continuously reinforcing a strong sense of citizenship and nationhood in generations of Filipinos rests on two places: our homes and our schools.

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The Department of Education envisions “Filipinos who passionately love their country and whose values and competencies enable them to realize their full potential and contribute meaningfully to building the nation.”

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) believes in “demonstrated competence, institutional integrity, personal commitment and deep sense of nationalism.”

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The Commission on Higher Education sees itself as “the key leader of the Philippine Higher Education System, effectively working in partnership with other major higher education stakeholders in building the country’s human capital and innovation capacity towards the development of a Filipino Nation as a responsible member of the international community.”

Finally, the 1987 Constitution itself makes it a matter of state policy that the education system “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency.”

Years before, then Education Undersecretary Mike Luz talked of “disconnects” in the entire education system, all of which contributed to a state of general underachievement in our learners. There have been many instances of high school sophomores being practically illiterate, in the sense that they could properly enunciate the words they’re reading but were desperately unable to derive meaning from what they had just read. We’ve also seen the same weakness in comprehension that cause technical-vocational students to waste precious time trying to learn new technologies or master the use of machines on which they did not train. And what about the thousands of college graduates who fail to land well-paying jobs simply because they couldn’t express themselves sufficiently to convince the interviewer that they’re worth hiring?

Since then, the three education agencies (DepEd, CHEd and Tesda) have been on an unrelenting quest for relevance. All education policies and programs now speak of “global competitiveness” and “world-class competencies.” The K-to-12 program is underway, with over a million students enrolling in Grade 11 this school year. CHEd’s “once-in-a-generation” faculty development reform thrust is getting support where it matters: from private business. Tesda has expanded its reach to underserved areas by offering its courses online, for free.

The private sector has been equally unrelenting in its commitment to education quality improvement. Modern business organizations now evaluate themselves based on a “triple bottom line” that measures their social and environmental impact together with profit-versus-loss.

The Eggie Apostol Foundation lit the flame through the Education Revolution in 2002 to encourage parents at home to do two things: to consistently expect excellence from the schools that serve their communities, and to commit to helping these same schools meet their expectations. Bigger and better-funded nonprofit associations, notably Philippine Business for Education and the League of Corporate Foundations, started to look at ways to systemically improve education quality.

The legislature enacted laws like Republic Act No. 10533 (or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013), RA 10647 (also known as the Ladderized Education Act of 2014), and RA 10650 (or the Open Distance Learning Act) and provided for the tertiary education transition fund. All of these serve to institutionalize qualitative changes in the education system.

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The Duterte administration’s “Change is coming” agenda calls for more investments in “human capital development, including health and education systems, and match skills and training” and in “promoting science, technology and the creative arts to enhance innovation and creative capacity.”

That’s all well and good, but this is something that every administration since Cory Aquino’s has been calling for. I feel, however, that Mr. Duterte is on to something very meaningful when he describes the erosion of faith in the government as “a virulent social disease that creeps and cuts into the moral fiber of Philippine society. Resulting therefrom, I see the erosion of the people’s trust in our country’s leaders, the erosion of faith in our judicial system, the erosion of confidence in the capacity of our public servants to make the people’s lives better, safer and healthier.”

Aside from cognitive development, education’s capacity to cultivate positive civic values in the learner is also a measure of its quality. In that respect, Mr. Duterte’s “love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished” are the perfect norm to use.

The President left a lot of details out in his inaugural speech, but he did say that we should learn to read between the lines. As education advocates/revolutionaries, let’s do just that by asking our schools to promote the positive civic values by which he says he abides.

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

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TAGS: Commission on Higher Education, Department of Education, education, Eggie Apostol Foundation, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
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