Revolutionize Philippine education

MY DREAM FOR CHANGE

When I received the invitation by the Department of Education to host for them the K+12 training/seminar for private schools in the Division of Malolos, Bulacan, I could not say no. It is so important for all of us to be part of reform efforts in our educational system - and DepEd cannot do it alone. Helping out in the activity means providing the venue, logistics, food and support staff to discuss with fellow educators what K+12 is and is not.

K+12 is the most radical education reform this country has seen in decades. I had first seen its essence in England as a graduate student. It was my dream for the Philippines to follow suit.

This school year, the dream starts to become a reality. Among others, K+12 starts with curricular changes in Grades 1 and 7 only. The mother tongue approach also commences in Grade 1, which will eventually cover up to Grade 3. Eventually, there will be two additional years in high school.

But adopting K+12 will not automatically solve all the problems. It will take courage, sincerity, seriousness, consistent funding, time, accountability and getting rid of corruption before it really bears fruits.

EVOLUTION OF EDUCATION IN GIST

During the time of Alexander the Great under his teacher Aristotle, education was exclusive to royalty. In the Middle Ages, universities were born and only young men from upper classes could study at Oxford and Cambridge.

The Industrial Revolution ensued, necessitating children as future workers and managers to learn reading, writing and arithmetic. With the advent of democracy, children had to be educated, via the public schools, as citizens with civic rights and duties.

Today, we are once more at a crossroad of human history. The Information Technology revolution has spurred the renaissance in various disciplines, made travel easy, and made exchange of information efficient.

21st CENTURY EDUCATION

The IT Revolution demands the inculcation of 21st century skills among our children. On top of excellent communication and computational skills, students are expected to have the following:

• Critical thinking, for analysis and synthesis

• Creative thinking, for innovation

• Multilingual skills, for cross-cultural communications

• Teamwork skills, for easy adaptation and cross-country cooperation

• Lifelong learning skills, to survive in an ever-changing world.

Educators are tasked to train children to become better citizens, nationally and internationally and the K+12 program is an avenue to transform our educational system. But we cannot do this unless we also transform schools, teachers and administrators to become 21st century educators.

TRANSFORMING MINDS

Transformation means committing our attention, hearts and efforts to the idea of change and high-standard education. We cannot educate children as if we were still in the 20th century: making them copy lessons to be memorized; or pass them from one level to another without mastery - worse, through mass promotion.

We cannot just make children become 21st century students unless educators understand the dynamics of international relations, make approaches to teaching multi- and inter-disciplinary, and guarantee that our students will really be able to enter the top schools of the land when they go to college and be very successful in their chosen professions. Schools cannot just act like mindless factories of diplomas; schools ought to be accountable for the results of their actions.

For society to be at ease with 21st century education is a continuing process of discovery. We may ask questions, give opinions, share our views, agree to disagree, and disagree with things we deem not best for students. Yet, it is not really just a question of liking or disliking K+12 but a question of asking ourselves what are we to do, considering its strengths and weaknesses, so that it will work!

REVOLUTIONIZE PHILIPPINE EDUCATION

In a meeting with Secretary Armin Luistro, I asked him: "Brother, you know the gargantuan problems of education in the country. In the minds of many, it is not only complex but also hopeless. Why did you have to exchange your quiet life as administrator of La Salle schools to become the Secretary of Education?"

His answer is simple, yet profound: "Alam mo ba na bago ko tinanggap e anim na linggo ko yang pinag-isipan? Masuwerte lang talaga kasi mga professionals ang nakuha ko na kasama. Hardworking. Andyan si Albert. Si Francis, at iba pa. Service talaga eh. And there is hope."

There is hope for as long as we continue to believe in the power of schools to affect society; in the power of administrators to make decisions to positively affect curriculum and teaching; in the power of teachers to heal the wounds of society by inspiring students to dream big and make them experience being loved, successful and happy.

Schools, administrators and teachers need to revolutionize the way we teach by ensuring that Filipino students not only acquire 21st century skills but also for the nation's educational system to be on a par with the best in the world. We need change, and change should be in the heart of every educator. We need to offer our hearts in the altar of change - for the sake of the youth, and the motherland.

An alumnus and former faculty member of UP Diliman, the author is president of the Darwin International School System. He studied in Osaka University (Japan), the University of Cambridge (England) and at the University of Leiden (the Netherlands). The article is an excerpt of the welcome remarks delivered by the author as host of the Department of Education's K+12 training/seminar for private schools in Malolos, Bulacan, last May 21.

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