In search of the ‘new teacher’ (Part I)
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - October 11, 2018 - 12:00am

The World Bank and Japan funded the EDCOM Task Force to resolve the weaknesses of Basic Education as surveyed by the Congress-Senate Commission (1990-1995). In response, the Educator’s Congress met in Baguio in 1994 and presented a document that described the status of Teacher Education Institutions (TEI) authored by Dr. Susan Refuerzo of the University of Northern Philippines. She detailed this the following week in Subic before the Basic Education Task Force members. The 12 TEIs described the “ideal teacher” as very high in moral, intellectual, and social qualities. Yet, their “actual teacher” graduates fell short of these expectations. What was more the social relationship between teacher and children was not factored at all, when this has been the fundamental problem of education.

Four barriers in professionalizing teachers identified

It was observed that there were four obstacles, which prevented the professionalizing of teachers. Foremost was the low standard of admission. State-supported training institutions must accept any applicant due to the “open access policy.” Very large non-government teacher institutions allow easy enrollment of teacher trainees, regardless of their poor communication skills and low IQ. The second cause was “curriculum imbalance.” Both Bachelor in Elementary Education and Bachelor of Science in Education curricula (required for grade school and high school teachers, respectively) were made up of more general education subjects than professional education subjects, such as English, Science, and Math.  The third cause, not enough time was being given to actual classroom experience. Practice teaching supervisors were insufficient. Lastly, the TEI faculty members were generally traditional, employing only the lecture method. Innovating and using other refreshing strategies were beyond them. It was especially noted then that half of the Education graduates in provinces were failing the Licensure Exam for Teachers (LET). As a result CHED had to declare a moratorium on opening more education colleges.

On philosophy and curriculum

The pedagogical basis of Philippine education recognizes that the baby is born ‘tabula rasa’ (clean slate) – individuals are born without a built-in mental content and therefore, the teacher must fill in this emptiness. In contrast the Montessori philosophy believes that the child has a “secret teacher,” who can be conditioned to work and not play in the “prepared environment.” While DepED expects the child to acquire minimum learning competencies, the Montessori schooling challenges the children with maximum learning competencies.

Dr. Maria Montessori believed that “the child is in the process of ‘becoming,’ so any attempt in educating should help the child to become.” To accomplish this she discovered that the preschool child must first engage in Practical Life and Sensorial Education using hands-on materials. This will help him acquire an enormous reasoning power in grade school. Eventually, he will develop moral judgment. By adolescence, he would be ready to achieve economic independence by cultivating occupational skills that secures his financial sustainability as a young adult.

Factors that can professionalize teachers

First, teacher training should be a lengthy period of study with internship, as well as continuous attendance in refresher courses, which doctors and lawyers seek. Second, a professional vocabulary for teachers must exist just as there are medical and legal terms. Third, there should be a long socialization period to master the art of teaching to understand children of different ages. Fourth, teachers should pass the board examination. Fifth, those who pass must belong to the teachers’ professional society where a specific rank must be achieved. With high qualifications, the professional teacher deserves commensurate compensation. Sixth, professionals dedicate themselves to their task for a lifetime.

Training the ‘new teachers’

In 1997 DECS Order 65 was signed by then DECS Sec. Ricardo Gloria and SEC Chairman Perfecto Yasay acknowledging the establishment of the Philippine Federation of Montessori Schools and considering the Montessori system as an alternative program of education. Its goal was to endorse the establishment and incorporation of any school applying to operate using the term ‘Montessori’ as part of its corporate or school name, if it has complied with the standard of the Federation of Philippine Montessori Inc. and approved by DECS. I was appointed the federation president then.

The Montessori teacher training is only given to teachers who are college graduates and have passed a battery of tests including IQ test, aptitude in teaching, and the temperament test. About 200 applicants would apply but only 70 pass the tests since many fail in the temperament test that gauges one’s maturity. The theoretical training requires writing 15 essays, referring to the book Maria Montessori her Life and Work and The Absorbent Mind. This includes completing anecdotal records of thirty three- to five-year old children per class. At the same time practice is done with the Montessori apparata: Practical Life, Sensorial (visual, tactile, auditory and gustatory materials), Language and Math, Geography and History, Botany and Zoology. All of these provide the “smorgasbord” of apparata known as the “Prepared Environment” of work. This is followed by internship with a senior class teacher, who enables the trainee to guide each child to work independently. The principles and practice are based on the “cycle of work,” the five classification of materials, “gradation of difficulties,”  “control of error,” and “point of awareness.”

The conventional teacher addresses directly the mind of the child by lecturing. The students are made to behave by sitting down quietly while the teacher uses the blackboard to dictate the lessons. The system is textbook dependent so that students have to memorize. Teachers do not repeat lessons unless 45 percent of the class cannot understand. The child’s competence is gauged with regular quizzes, long tests or quarterly exams.

Prophecy at the Mt. Pinatubo Hidden Temple Shrine – May 1992

Through the mystic Elizabeth Huffer of Sta. Barbara, California, the Praying Blessed Mother of Mt. Pinatubo spoke these words to Philippine STAR columnist Preciosa Soliven: “You see dear one, you are setting the stage for future civilizations. It’s a mighty task to where your conscious mind cannot really conceive of what you’ve done. But it will flower. Many, many thousands of flowers will grow from there before this earth. The world is done.”

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