March 27, 2010
kaya natin! make it happen.
An almost barren tree, with rotten fruits. That is how the Philippine educational system is often described. On the roots of the tree are the many factors and forces that shape the Philippine Educational system including but not limited to colonization history, corrupt political system, and poverty. On the branches are the problems besetting our educational system: lack of teachers, lack of resources, lack of standards, etc. Indeed, the Philippines educational system is besieged with so many problems; however, there is hope in reforming the system. And there is a clamor for reforms within the education bureaucracy, its culture and its leadership; there is also the call to reform the curriculum and set standards; and there is the call to improve teacher education and training. There have been many reforms, there have been many programs but they seem to be inadequate in curing the ails of Philippine educational system.
The most recent reform is the Basic Education Sectoral Reform Agenda (BESRA), considered as the most comprehensive program yet and its implementation could lead to the redemption of the Philippine educational system. The programs and reforms, though, become futile and useless when the people involve in its implementation are ready to reform and to create positive changes in the educational system. Every stakeholder should be willing to work together, and not wait on each other to implement reforms or blame one another for the problems that besiege the educational system. BESRA have specified key thrusts of reforms, DepEd is slowly but at least beginning to implement BESRA, but the challenges remain. One of these challenges is equity in education. How, indeed, are we going to achieve equity in education?
Equity is providing equal learning opportunities for all learners, regardless of gender, socioeconomic status, learning and thinking styles, and personality and temperament. In the real world though, it is easier to define equity than to implement it because there is a tendency to perceive diversity as a divisive factor rather than a uniting factor. During a national education conference, I heard one teacher blaming his five students who are non-Tagalog speakers as the primary reason for his school’s low performance in the National Achievement Test (NAT). The teacher opined that because the students are from Bicol and do not speak Tagalog which is the Mother Tongue in Southern Luzon, they do not perform well in class and they are becoming a problem. He went on ranting and ranting blaming the five students for the low NAT performance of their school. There was a mixed opinion on this matter. Some teachers agreed; others did not. I belong to the latter. I think that the five students are not to blame for their school’s dismal performance in the NAT. The primary reason is the teacher’s inability to address the issue of diversity in the classroom. The teacher was not effective in considering individual differences among his students.
The above situation is one of the many situations depicting the diversity and equity and the need to address it. As propositioned by education reformists, the “one size fits all” policy is not the solution to addressing diversity in the classroom. Curriculum and instruction must be modified to meet the different needs of the learners. What works in the city, may not work in the rural areas. There are already programs in place such as the Alternative Learning System (ALS) and the MTB-MLE as well as the Mobile Teachers program; however, the problems on delivery of educational services and providing equal access to education to all learners remain. The blaming game will always be there; however, it is about time we start working together, despite of and in spite of socio-political and economic ideals and affiliations. The main thrusts should be on reforming the educational system to provide equity in education. Reforms are not done overnight, it may even take our lifetime to reform the educational system and we may not be able to see the fruits of these reforms; but what is important is we are doing something. We may fail but at least we did something. There is hope. And it is time we work together rather than blame each other. Let’s make it happen.