Private schools

MINI CRITIQUE - Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star) - November 4, 2015 - 9:00am

A few (but not all) regional offices of the Department of Education (DepEd) have been telling private schools to follow strictly the Senior High School (SHS) curriculum guides being used by public schools.

There are two things wrong with this.

First, it is the Office of the Undersecretary for Programs and Projects in the Central Office of DepEd that evaluates and approves curriculums, not the regional offices. This is very clear in DepEd Memorandum No. 4, s. 2014 (“Guidelines on the Preparation for the National Implementation of the Senior High School Program in Non-DepEd Schools for the School Year 2016-2017 and Onwards).

DepEd has stated, again and again, that one size cannot fit all. It is against government policy for all schools (not just private schools) to have exactly the same curriculum, using exactly the same curriculum guides, taught in exactly the same way to different types of learners in communities with different needs.

In fact, it is illegal for regional offices, as well as for DepEd itself, to insist that exactly the same curriculum should be used in all schools. Republic Act 10533, the law that created the K to 12 program, says explicitly in Section 2c as a statement of policy, that “the State shall make education learner-oriented and responsive to the needs, cognitive and cultural capacity, the circumstances and diversity of learners, schools and communities.” (The example given is that of the use of the mother tongue, but the policy applies to everything in education, not just to the language of instruction.)

The second thing wrong with regional offices (or the Central Office) insisting that private schools should follow the public school curriculum is that it removes the basic reason for private education.

If private schools teach exactly the same subjects in exactly the same way as public schools, why should there be private schools at all? Parents who spend a lot of money sending their children to private schools clearly do not believe that public schools offer what their children need. Otherwise, why spend all that money? (Since a lot of private school teachers have moved to public schools, the old reason that teachers were better in private schools no longer applies.)

Private schools should, in fact, NOT offer what the public schools are offering. Private schools should have their own curriculum, their own teaching methods, their own educational objectives. Parents will get what they pay for. If a private school is just a diploma mill or an excuse for its owners to make money, then parents will not send their children there. There is a market principle here.

When he was Education Secretary, Raul Roco told owners of private schools that he would not bother with them, not only because he had no time left over after supervising the huge number of public schools, but because he believed that market forces should rule the private school industry (if we may call it an industry).

A similar anomaly in our educational system is that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) really has very little authority over state and local colleges and universities, except for chairing their boards, since these schools have their own charters. As a result, CHED is really only looking over private schools, which is also wrong, when you think of what higher education is, according to our Constitution. (Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., has written quite a bit about this.)

DepEd should not fall into the trap that CHED has fallen into. DepEd should tell its regional offices that private schools can offer whatever they want to offer. When a private school graduates learners who cannot be employed, who cannot put up their own businesses, or who cannot meet the College Readiness Standards, parents – not government officials – will make sure that the school will close down.

REMEMBERING LOVED ONES: I remember the departed members of the Manila Critics Circle (Leonidas Benesa, Miguel A. Bernad SJ, Ophelia Alcantara Dimalanta, Doreen G. Fernandez, and Alfrredo Navarro Salanga),

my bridge-playing friends (Enrique Belo, Linda Campos, Phyllis Harvey, Syed Zeyaul Hoda, Paquito Javier, Puring Javier, Polly Nestle, Dioscoro Papa, Helen Saad, Rudi Santiago, Vic Santiago, Helen Tubangui, Teresa Yuchengco, Efren Zaide, and Sachiko Zobel),

my fellow Fulbrighters (Corazon Agrava, Rolando Dizon FSC, Rafael Donato FSC, Marcelo Fernan, and Andrew Gonzalez FSC),

my fellow UPSCANs (Francisco Abao Jr., Ramon Casas, Jimmy Cruz, Violeta Calvo-Drilon, Mervyn Encanto, Generoso Gil, Jesus Javelona, Louie Lagdameo, Bienvenido M. Lim Jr., Raul Nery, Jaime Nierras, Jaime Ong, Emmeline Quinio, Johnny Ramos, Ruben Rivera, Wilfrido Santiano, Angelica Soriano, Raquel Zaraspe-Ordoñez, and Tercy Villaruz),

my colleagues in FUSE (Froilan Bacungan, Josefina Cortes, Salvador Escudero III, Alberto Muyot, and Marsh Thompson),

my fellow Former Senior Government Officials (Emy Boncodin, Sostenes Campillo Jr., Ed del Fonso, Quentin Doromal, Evangeline Escobillo, Nixon Kua, Josefina Lichauco, Rizalino Navarro, Vicente Paterno, Mario Taguiwalo, and Victor Ordoñez),

my favorite teachers (Nieves Epistola, Joseph Galdon SJ, and Gil Raval),

and my literary sister Lina Santos Cortes Raquion (daughter of my literary father Bienvenido N. Santos).

Please say a special prayer for my mother Pacita Ronquillo Cruz, in her youth a short story writer, and my father Ricardo Castillo Cruz, a scientist who loved to read.

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