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An educator’s reaction to ‘Ambisyon Natin 2040’ – a wake-up call to the troubled soul of our nation (Part 1)

A year ago in July, I wrote a column entitled Help We Are Killing Our Children with Kindness. In his best-selling book The Sibling Society, Robert Bly makes a wake-up call regarding the troubled soul of a nation today: “… a culture where adults remain children, and where children have no desire to become adults a nation of squabbling siblings. What we are left with is spiritual flatness. The talk show replaces family. Instead of art, we have internet. In the place of community, we have the mall.”

Ambisyon Natin 2040

Last August 23, I was invited to the Experts’ Forum organized by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) to validate the Values for National Development Framework together with 17 government agencies and private organizations. The AMBISYON NATIN envisions that by 2040 all Filipinos should be enjoying a stable and comfortable life, where no one is poor considering that Filipinos are “smart and innovative,” living prosperously in a predominantly “middle class and high trust society.” But NEDA states that although the Philippine government has tried to bank on implementing economic policies together with sector-specific programs to eradicate poverty, many of them have failed because the stakeholders’ behavior vary. So this time NEDA, partnering with NCCA, factored our “multi-cultural diversity” in the search of what really are true Filipino values.

According NCCA Chairman Virgilio S. Almario, our “core value” is magandang kalooban that makes one’s good life. To be maginhawa or prosperous we must be able to reach the height of well being, relieving us of headaches, illness and heartaches (sakit ng ulo, ng puso etc.). Therefore, we must learn to fly, to reach the heights. Our choice is either to fly high like the Philippine Eagle or remain a chicken just pecking the ground.

Understanding the current Filipino culture

We used to boast that the Filipino family was the “social security” of the country: that whatever went wrong, the family was always there to help each of us. We never seem to learn to stand on our own feet because we are confident that the family will always be behind us to prop us up.

Have you ever wondered why teenage kids run away, get married, and then expect to “move in” with mother and father? Or why subordinates quit after one “scolding” from the boss, even if they don’t have another job waiting for them? We approach work, responsibility, and duty on “one more chance” basis. If we’re late for work, we expect the boss to forgive us, to give us “one more chance” (isa pa nga). We have been conditioned by our family experience to expect somebody to pick us up when we fail. But the boss is not our itay or inay. We are no longer children.

In the past fifty years, as the enrollment of our five schools increase, we have been recruiting teachers annually. Of the 500 to 600 college graduate applicants, only 15% pass the battery of tests (I.Q., Teaching Aptitude and Temperament) required before we could train them as Montessori teachers. Majority already fail in the initial interview conducted in English and the rest fall short in the Temperament Test for maturity. We have concluded that owing to the family system, the maturation of a Filipino is delayed by four to six years. So many Filipinos never grow up.

The “forgotten citizen” – the child

To sum up her work and the movement connected to her name, Dr. Montessori identifies it as an “active social campaign to make the child understood.” We must learn with Montessori to look upon the child in a new and unfamiliar way. For the most part, the average adult tends to look upon the child as a miniature adult – of no economic or social value in himself. His real value all lies in the future, when he shall have become an adult. Worse than that, he is often looked as “a disturber of peace.” Relegated to the nursery or the school until such time as he is developed enough to take his place as a productive member of society.

Dottoressa Maria Montessori set up the first Montessori preschool at Via Marsi in Rome around 1906.  By 1946 she was recognized as a great social reformer and became a member of the Italian Delegation to UNESCO, just founded then.  She acquainted its members with two unfamiliar aspects of education: Early Childhood Education and Adult Literacy programs as the basis for the eradication of poverty.  She believed therefore in the need for a revolution in education.  The UN General Assembly summed them all up in the declaration of the UN Millennium Development Goal (2000-2015) assigning UNESCO to reinforce this with the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014). Now extending the UNMDG, which failed to meet all goals, is the UN AGENDA 2030 for Sustainable Development. I believe that the Philippines must first fulfill the UN AGENDA 2030 to be able to attain AMBISYON NATIN 2040. How can this be done?

During my 25-year stint with UNESCO starting as an elected member of the Executive Board in Paris, I was privileged to intervene in the Education Committee. At the time OB Montessori schools were already 20-years-old. They welcomed my comments regarding the radical new departure in education – the big shift to eradicate global poverty. 

“Becoming an eagle” through the 21st century education

In 1986 when UNESCO celebrated its 40th anniversary twelve well-known educators from among the member states formed a committee headed by the French Finance Minister Jacques Delors. Identified as “The 21st Century Education,” its four pillars matched the Stages of Child Development discovered by Dr. Montessori. Her scientific formula believed that conditioned by the environment of work (not play), children can become self-sufficient in stages from infancy to adolescence acquiring love for work, order, self-confidence and economic independence. DON’T BE A CHICKEN, BE AN EAGLE!

(Part II - After Agenda 30, Processing “Ambisyon Natin 2040”)

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