March 27, 2010
A Note on Philippine Education
I used to live in bubble. Educated in private schools from elementary to high school, in college I became a part of the unfortunate group of students with the student number 2007-xxxxx, the first batch doomed with TOFI, on the verge of the decline of student activism, and living in a generation of privilege. To me, the concept of education lies within the limits a classroom or library, as I remain atop an ivory tower, listening to the drone of my professors’ lectures, burying my nose in books and papers, just trying to get by from one hell week to the next, oblivious to the concerns society.
What did I get from this class? It’s hard to put up one coherent paragraph about the whole concept of ‘Philippine education’ so what I have are bits and pieces of what I have experienced and the lessons I have learned this semester.
This class took me to places. It took me to the past, as one way of looking at education is through the lens of history. Education was framed and established from eon of colonialization to the next. The Philippines is indeed a unique nation: we are a mix of diverse cultures, languages, and resources – a nation full of promise and untapped possibilities. From this point, we were asked to pinpoint the root of the problem of education: our colonial past, poverty, corruption, greed, avarice, bloated bureaucracy, overpopulation, the attitude of people, brain drain, incompetence, blah, blah blah. The list could go on. We can play the blame game forever, and yet it will yield no fruit. We are still in search of a solution, the panacea that will heal the ills of our system. This class also took me to the office of the Department of Education (probably the root the all evil of the Philippine educational system. Haha.) where I have experienced the pleasure of grilling the head of the Communications Unit on the current issues and problems that plague us. It fell nothing short of my expectation as in the end, we were given a glossed excuses DepEd press release of good reports, and were handed magazines of Jesli Lapus, as I was disillusioned with the irony of it all. I flew to Cagayan de Oro to participate and volunteer in the first Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education. By day, I have listening to speakers talk about MLE, so passionate that they exceed their allotted 20 minutes. By night I experienced being a roommate to a school district supervisors and a handful of teachers, talking about MLE and the public school education. These seasoned educators tried give us dose of reality to suppress our idealism – a sad reality as somehow it reflects how some educators seem to have lost their sense of hope. Then I went back to the classroom as we discussed the different policies and laws that make the system, the hope of redemption that BESRA and other reforms might bring. Our field work brought me to Rizal High School, a school privileged with a good management and an adequate budget, but faced with a greater dilemma of dealing with the students’ negative attitude. I learned that inadequate funds aren’t always the issue, sometimes it’s the learner’s attitude we have to deal with.
I discovered that we cannot understand the Philippine educational system by reading textbooks and living in ivory towers. We have to get out of the classroom to and get down in the field to see the big picture. We can be absorbed and stuck in our past. We can wallow in despair on the current sociopolitical and economic woes of Philippine society. Or we can continue to dream up of ways to change the system, and even better, be the change that this system needs. The problem is not always tangible, sometimes it’s the very sense of resignation and stagnation that we feel. And maybe a sense of hope and optimism may just be the beginning of the solution.
D0nnalyn B. Paras