The 6-year HS plan for an independent Phl started during Commonwealth era

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2015 - 12:00am

(Part III of Reaching Manhood in the Last Years of K to 12)

Acquiring independence is a natural effort from birth to six years old. This is Pillar I – Learning To Be of UNESCO’s 21st Century of Education. Our experience of conditioning preschoolers, rich and poor alike, to work has been successfully replicated for almost 50 years in Regions 1, 2, CAR, 3, 4A and 4B. The Montessori system recognizes the psychological capacity of mankind to acquire three levels of independence through work in a Prepared Environment. Therefore it is urgent to re-engineer our traditional education from Pillar I to Pillar II – Learning To Learn for 6 to 12 year old grade schoolers, and Pillar III – Learning To Earn for 12 to 18 year old high school students, to culminate in the employment of all Filipinos.

From the Commonwealth period to the post-war republic

The Philippines was prepared for technical education (vocational technical) for senior high school in the early part of the 20th century to foster our sustainable development in time to be granted independence. Unfortunately, World War II critically injured our progress.

High schools with skill training and the Philippine School of Arts and Trade (PSAT) were created by the American school supervisors during the Commonwealth days of 1910, when we were a colony of the United States. In other words, the schools during the American governance providing the 6-year high school was already in place as technological training with proper tools was injected into the curriculum to make Filipinos truly independent and self-sufficient.

By 1946, when independence was finally granted, the Americans turned over the Department of Education to the government that expanded it to include Culture and Sports, hence DECS. It was responsible for the governance and supervision of Basic Education from primary school (Grade I to VI) to secondary school (first year to fourth year), a total of ten years, excluding preschool. Provided as well was the alternative branch of vocational high school. DECS was so vast that it also looked after the Bureau of Tertiary Education for collegiate courses.

Just wondering…

DECS activities were usually copies of the USA trends in education. I wonder then why “work education” already injected into the DECS curriculum, even before independence was officially bestowed in the Philippines, was not pursued comprehensively as America has done. US secondary high schools incorporate farm skills, automotive and even forensic science. My grandson in La Habra, Los Angeles attended such a high school where he chose to work in its forensic laboratory. This particular science training is so crucial in making the US police force and FBI very effective. Forensic is missing in our police and NBI training. Every local government needs competent fire fighters, street and parks maintenance personnel and landscapers. We do not see any technical high school offering these courses. Thus, crimes and public accidents are always on the rise all over the country.

I suspect, DECS began deleting technical education not only due to lack of budget but because our government is so dependent on grants and donations from other countries.

Travel grants to voc-tech high schools to USA, Australia and Europe

Martial Law was declared in 1972, interrupting my two-year-old weekly TV show “Montessori for Everyone.” This allowed me to make use of travel grants like that of the US State Department travel program in 1977. A knowledgeable guide accompanied me. Our first visit was to the Philadelphia Farm High School. Courses in butchery trained the students to butcher their cows in the farm. Various cuts of fresh beef filled up their meat shop and were very saleable. The floral arrangement course and kennel care readily employed the students to work in florist shops and pet veterinary clinics. During lunch, student cooks and waiters were busy in the popular dinette.

The School of Performing Arts in 2nd Avenue in New York, where Liza Minnelli graduated had a busy ballet core, where students wore out 3 pairs of ballet toe shoes within 6 months of training for the yearly ballet concert. Students learning various instruments trained to complete a symphony orchestra. I ran into the worst snow blizzard then. In spite of this, a visit to the Lincoln Talent School was arranged so I could interview the faculty members who helped young musicians, ballet dancers, and young theater stars to graduate high school without interrupting their busy schedule of rehearsals. Each student was given a weekly assignment of work in all subjects every Monday. These had to be finished and submitted by Friday. Obviously, teachers accommodated each student individually to suit their regular performing arts activities.

In 1981, I received a cultural travel grant to all the federal states of Australia. At the Sydney Farm High School, the students were responsible for a big poultry of chickens and a large sheep herd, which they entered in farm competitions. The teachers did not just make lesson plans, but actually authored books for the subject they taught. The Melbourne Technical High School taught Window Dressing to students who practiced and dressed up mannequins in four cubicles that were exact copies of department store windows. The welding laboratories had both male and female students. In Canberra, I visited a popular small ranch owned by an Italian family, which attracted city folks. It had stables of horses and raised a flourishing vegetable and fruit farm that provided fresh ingredients to its country-style restaurant.

When I sat in the Executive Board of UNESCO and eventually became the Secretary General representing the Philippines, I took advantage of visiting several technical high schools around France, Germany, and Denmark. In the suburb of Paris was the St. Germain du Pres Farm High School, where horticulture and animal husbandry were offered. The French government was generous in giving loans to the farmers on the main condition that they had to finish first the ten-month agriculture training together with the high school students. The Ecole Culinaire in the center of old Paris was a very busy school, where well-known chefs taught French Cuisine, Patisserie, and Food Service. Student cooks wearing leather holster of culinary tools worked on 6 ovens at the school brasserie on the ground floor, where numerous customers could see them. Each of the culinary chefs authored their books. Two Filipino students, one a bartender, were helping prepare a cocktail party for a business company within the school itself.

The German system for their secondary schools, which DepEd often refers to, uses a simple dual track program allowing the average, or below average, students to receive technical training for immediate employment. They earn much more than the intellectually advanced students who follow the academic track that leads them to a degree course in the university. This system is employed in England, France, Italy, and Scandinavia.

At Saarbruchen town, which borders France, I observed a popular technical high school funded by a Christian foundation. It allows immigrants, most of whom are older, to learn and train in any employable skill.

The German government is determined that all immigrants should be fully employed instead of being a burden to the state. Students produce fine furniture products that command a high price. The landscape training course includes bricklaying and care of horticulture plants. Housekeeping is taught in a real two-storey house complete with living room, dining room, bedrooms, toilet and bath and kitchen. The canteen operation involved a lot of students.

UNESCO emphasizes secondary technical education to meet the UNMDG 2000-2015, particularly in Asia

When UNESCO trimmed its budget, the ten ASEAN countries focused its project among themselves, thus saving money on traveling. This included the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam and East Timor which were members of the Jakarta Regional Office of Science, while Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Bangladesh were under the Bangkok Regional Office of Education.

The SEAMEO Regional Center for Technical Skill Training is in Brunei Darussalam. This is where we should send our technical skill trainers to learn the principles and practice of professional welding, house construction, furniture making, industrial garment sewing, culinary training and hotel service. (When we joined the 6th ASEAN Skills Competition held there in Sept. 7-9, 2006, our Filipino contestants won in the Table Setting, Welding and IT competitions.) The center is a big complex of buildings, which houses construction skills in a huge laboratory. It was there that I saw three types of electric wires wounded for house construction. Beside this were the carpentry and plumbing sections. The Brunei government has a generous budget for technical high schools to give average students access to sustainable employment.

Jakarta, Indonesia was the site of our UNESCO Conference on Vocational Education. The government has provided sufficient budget to set-up several cottages offering practices in small hotel management. At the Beauty Culture Department, students were all busy practicing hair-perming on ladies, who I learned later on were their mothers. The Spa section is fully equipped for massage, facial treatment, manicure and pedicure. Batik dying for fabrics and painting, for which Indonesians are well known, was housed in another department.

Thailand models a country which struggled to recover from economic depression

During the Asian economic regression of 1997, Thailand was hard hit, referring it as the “Tom Yam Kung” crisis. By 1998, the O.B. Montessori Center started a student and teacher exchange program with Kasetsaart University. We partnered with their well-known horticulture professor, M.L. Charuphant Thongtham, to guide us in setting-up our 5-hectare horticulture and botanic park in Sulsugin, Alfonso in Cavite. A descendant of King Rama IV, he was appointed director of the Royal Project in Chiang Mai, where he worked closely with His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Here, training the Mongs, the mountain tribesmen to plant a vast plantation of ornamental weeds, he succeeded in developing a 30M baht dry flower arrangement business. The mountain people earned enough to buy their own motorcycles or pick-up trucks.

He also introduced me to the King’s model of “self-sufficiency farm” using half a hectare to one full hectare land complete with vegetables, ornamental plants and fruit trees, fishpond, and bamboo grove. This helped Thailand recover economically because the farmers could sustain their basic needs, while being able to sell their extra products at the market.

According to him, the government gave a four-storey building to Kasetsaart instead of doling out to the university fragmentary budgets. The one condition imposed was that they would help the common people turn their food technological training into profitable businesses.

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