The Senatoriables on education

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) - January 31, 2013 - 12:00am

I have asked the senatorial candidates to send me a description of the first bill they will sponsor if they win this May. I will give you first their answers (edited in case they are too long for this column), and then give my opinion on what they intend to do. I will take up their answers in the order in which I receive them. (Senatoriables who have not yet responded to my request can still contact me through Facebook.)

From RAMON “JUN” MAGSAYSAY comes this message:

“I will introduce incentives for schools, colleges and universities and other education institutions to make use of the E-Commerce Law and the Internet as platforms to reach out of school youth and adults, even professionals to catch up and study more in-depth subjects and courses relevant to what they want to pursue.

“This new culture of democratizing education and knowledge will address the continuing increasing escalating cost of education, especially in the cities. The model has been set in California and Massachusetts, where the great universities of Stanford, the State Universities and even MIT and Harvard continue to develop Internet, Web-based courses available for free or almost-free for those who are interested to upgrade as needed for their growth within or outside their organization. This is exciting, and even chilling, as the old brick and mortars schools will soon find out that either they embrace the Internet culture or start to have less attraction for the new generation.”

Magsaysay clearly has his eyes set firmly on the future. The future of education is online, even if most of our cement-and-adobe schools are still in denial mode. Fortunately, some Philippine schools, such as UP with its Open University, have realized the potential of the Web.

As Magsaysay points out, and as I myself have mentioned in this column, the top universities in the world now give everyone a chance to listen to the lectures of their professors. Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Stanford, MIT, Berkeley, and other top schools offer online courses for free or even for credit.

Magsaysay, however, has to contend with some antiquated rules carried over from the last century, such as requiring schools to have a large land area or a library with printed books and journals. As a member of CHED’s Quality Assurance Team, I feel like a hypocrite when I have to force schools to buy printed books and journals when they already subscribe to online aggregators.

JV EJERCITO ESTRADA intends to refile his congressional bills to increase the subsidy for state universities and colleges.

Estrada vows to “propose a measure to allocate a portion of the funds (10% of the gross income) generated by PAGCOR to the 112 State Universities and Colleges as financial educational support of the government. He intends to ensure sweeping educational reforms for the country’s SUCs. He believes that education is a way out to poverty. He really wants to have a graduate for every poor Filipino family.”

I am of two minds about this. On the one hand, I know that the government has an obligation to help citizens complete their education. College education is still necessary for certain fields, such as the professions.

On the other hand, the K to 12 reform aims to make every Grade 12 graduate employable or able to start his or her own business. The future Grade 12 graduates need not go to college to earn a decent living.

To channel scarce government funds to higher education rather than basic education may be a luxury the country can ill afford at the moment. If Estrada wants to ensure that poor families have at least one college graduate, perhaps he might want to think instead of ways for government to increase its support for private higher education. That would require legislation.

SAMSON ALCANTARA believes that “farmers till the soil, teachers till the mind.” For him, “Quality crops cannot be produced if farmers are hungry and unhappy. By the same token, quality education cannot be achieved if teachers are, like farmers, hungry and unhappy. This candidate, who is himself a teacher, will initiate the passage of a Teachers’ Code that will contain in a single enactment all the provisions on the rights and liabilities incident to the relationship of the teacher with the school, with the students, and with the parents.”

In addition, Alcantara “will push for the enactment of a law establishing a Teachers’ Bank where teachers and their families can obtain loans instead of being victimized by loan sharks, and where students can obtain educational loans under very liberal terms, instead of relying on educational plans offered by providers that may become bankrupt.”

Some years ago, Senator Manuel Villar unsuccessfully proposed the creation of a Philippine Teachers’ Bank after the Teachers Development Bank merged with Philippine Veterans Bank.

I think that Alcantara is better off sticking to his first (rather than his second) proposal. RA 4670 (The Magna Carta for Public School Teachers) needs to be revised and expanded to include private school teachers at all levels, as well as to take into account recent changes in educational theories.

Teachers today are no longer transmitters of knowledge. Many students know more than their teachers. The teacher-student relationship has to be rethought and relegislated.

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