Tell it to SunStar: Whose fault was it?

THE impact of the Program for International Student Assessment (Pisa) 2018 result still haunts the Filipino teachers amidst it being revealed two weeks ago. Society up until now has bashed both the quality of Philippine education and the quality of the teachers which the Philippines currently has. This lashing out comes from different people; may they be professional or non-professional; an influential person or a normal citizen and both old and neophyte in the industry. But who can blame them, since the Philippines ranks second to the last in the fields of Math and Science and the dreadful last place in reading comprehension. This is indeed one impactful issue considering that we Filipinos pride ourselves as the adopted “sons and daughters” of English in Asia. Other Asian countries such as South Korea, Mainland China and Taiwan and Japan even flock to our country just to be taught English. So what really happened? What is the main culprit behind this dreadful result? And how can it affect the quality of Filipinos in years to come?

The proliferation of this phenomenon is not caused by the implementation of the K to 12 program. The program is necessary for both the country and its people. Before the implementation of K to 12, there was no clear job distribution in the industry. People thought that the only way to defeat poverty was through attaining formal education in the tertiary level. If that didn’t work, they then tried through the next generation. However, with the implementation of K to 12, people now have other means of defeating poverty aside from schooling. In fact, the program helps in diversifying the work force.

Another issue is the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) which they claim is the root cause of the inability of the students to read, speak and understand English properly. On the contrary, according to researches such as Yhang Rowete’s “The Benefits of Mother Tongue in Teaching Learning Process” as well as a study by Alinab, Jocelyn et al. (2018) entitled “Teacher’s Perception on Using MTB-MLE in Teaching Grade 3 Mathematics,” MTB-MLE allows students to have a deeper understanding of Mathematics and other subjects. Furthermore, remember that the pioneers of the K to 12 program were from batch 2013-2014. This means the student-takers of Pisa were not students who immersed themselves and were taught in the MTB-MLE. The students who took the exam were students from the old curriculum, which many people want returned.

Thus, we arrive at what I believe is the main problem for the Pisa depression and its misconceptions.

Upon the implementation of the K to 12 in the country, many were hesitant to welcome it. In fact, many clamored it be dead as quickly as UbD (Understanding By Design) died. However, because of the need and the promise it brings with it, people tend to accept it but not embrace it fully. And because of this, there have been many misconceptions, one of which is the idea of mass promotion. This created the buzz that because of the new program, we ought to let all students pass regardless if they learn a single thing or not. Fearing that teachers will be scrutinized and lambasted by their superiors, they tend to give failing students the “green light” to proceed to the next level, which is wrong. Students can be retained in their level provided there is evidence to support the teacher’s claim. And when I say support, I mean “the teacher should exhaust every strategy, assessments and methods in teaching” for that student to learn. This can in turn create a problem provided that in a normal class of 50 students, there is only one teacher adviser. And this teacher not only deals with academics but also checks on the health of students, their cleanliness and neatness, their mental health, their safety (acting as a vanguard against bullying and watching out for materials which might endanger students), regulates the influence that social media might bring to the students and the like. This often results in furthering the negative perceptions of teachers. Also, it impedes the teacher’s job description, which is “to teach.” This notion and misconception, if continued, will not only destroy the quality of education in the Philippines, but ultimately the students as well. (By Rey Colin T. Anticamara)