Nostalgic Marcos laments state of education, vows not to change history lessons

Camille Diola - Philstar.com
Nostalgic Marcos laments state of education, vows not to change history lessons
President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr poses for photos with his mother, former first lady Imelda, on stage following his inaugural address at the National Museum in Manila on Thursday, June 30, 2022.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — Baring details of his agenda for education, newly inaugurated President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday lamented the state of schools where materials have to be "rethought" to equip Filipino students for better jobs.

"I am talking about the basics, the sciences," Marcos said in his inaugural address. "Sharpening theoretical aptitude and imparting vocational skills such as in the German example."

German schools are known to have higher standards on average than their global counterparts.

A World Bank report released last year, on the other hand, showed that Filipino students ranked low in the multilateral lender's learning assessments in math, science and reading. The problem is accompanied by bullying and health issues such as malnutrition. Earlier this year, another report by international bodies revealed that less than 10% of Filipino children can read simple text or comprehend a simple story.

READ: DepEd urged to prioritize better literacy, numeracy in early school years

In his speech, Marcos was quick to dismiss, however, possible suggestions that his rethinking would cover the content of history instruction documenting abuses during his father's regime.

"I am not talking about history," said Marcos, exhibiting awareness of accusations against his family of attempts to rewrite history through online disinformation and of fears that his presidency would lead to a revision of history textbooks.

For Marcos, one way to address the problem is to place "equal emphasis and facility in a global language, which we had and lost," referring to English, "alongside the national language," referring to Filipino. The country, however, has both English and Filipino as national languages.

Instructors also have to be properly equipped. "Our teachers, from elementary, are heroes fighting ignorance with poor paper weapons," he said.

The future for students: A return to the past

While he vows he is not eyeing to change history materials, Marcos' first speech as president was marked by nostalgia throughout and regret for reforms lost in the three decades after the watch of his father, late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled for more than 20 years.

In giving a glimpse of his plans for education, it was no different.

"Once, we had an education system that prepared coming generations for more and better jobs. There is hope for a comeback," Marcos said.

This is the reason why, he claimed, overseas Filipino workers have "menial occupations" abroad and are exploited by traffickers.

His father, Marcos Sr., ratified a constitution in 1973 through a presidential proclamation. Part of the charter laid out three fundamental objectives of education, namely "to foster the love of country," "to teach the duties of citizenship" and "to develop moral character, self-discipline, and scientific, technological and vocational efficiency."

It was also during the dictator's time that migration and export of labor that gave rise to the OFW phenomenon were espoused as a major feature of development agenda. Education and labor were thus not necessarily benefiting economic development at home, researchers suggest.

Duterte-Carpio's mission

Marcos, in his first address, expressed confidence in the abilities of his incoming Education secretary, Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio.

Duterte "will fit that mission to a tee," he said. He did not mention criticisms of some voices in the sector that Duterte, a lawyer and local official in Davao City, has had no experience in education.

The daughter of former President Rodrigo Duterte will lead the Department of Education which historically receives the highest budget every year.

She will have to address issues concerning the safe implementation of face-to-face classes during a pandemic, calls for higher wages from educators, and international assessments which indicate that Filipino students are not adequately equipped, among others. 

Duterte will be replacing outgoing DepEd Secretary Leonor Briones  — with Angelica Y. Yang

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