Recognizing the true  nature of preschoolers  to prevent dropouts
Recognizing the true nature of preschoolers to prevent dropouts
A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven (The Philippine Star) - March 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Foreseeing the increasing problem of 1st grade dropouts, then DECS Secretary Lourdes Quisumbing organized CONCEP (Coordinating Council of Early Childhood in the Philippines) in 1987. I just then concluded my stint in the UNESCO Executive Board, Paris when Dr. Quisumbing named nine CONCEP founding members including me as the advisory body to the Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) to help institutionalize preschool into our then ten-year Basic Education program. With the late Dr. Juanita Guerrero as CONCEP consultant, we met monthly with all BEE directors, between 1987 to 2012, when ECE was finally institutionalized. Eventually, as Secretary General of the UNESCO funded Pagsasarili preschools in 7 Ifugao World Heritage sites and 12 MIMAROPA sites.  UNESCO Commissioner, the late Dr. Vilma Labrador, secured DepEd funds to set up Pagsasarili preschools for 24 public schools all over Luzon. 

How Vilma Santos-Recto set up 133 Pagsasarili Preschools

In 2005, the CSWDO head Tess Pesa sought to have their day-care centers in Lipa City, Batangas converted to Pagsasarili Preschools. She was fully supported by then Mayor Vilma Santos-Recto who spent for the training and materials of 15 day care Pagsasarili Preschool teachers. In a period of 5 years, 104 Pagsasarili Preschools were set-up in 72 barangays of Lipa City, the mayor’s priority was to upgrade the quality of education offered to preschool children. Then as provincial governor, 31 Pagsasarili Preschools were established in 29 municipalities of Batangas. During the Pagsasarili Convention in 2007, Congresswoman Vilma Santo-Recto stated “We have realized that Day Care Centers can be converted to effective preschools for three- to five-year-old children. They have even acquired the competence of Grade I to III students.” All Pagsasarili Preschools sponsored by Governor Recto had new day care centers constructed for them. These were spacious buildings that could accommodate 25 to 30 children, with its own comfort room and parents waiting area. They were provided with complete sets of classroom furniture fit for the size of preschool children and Pagsasarili materials for 100 exercises in Practical Life, Sensorial Arts, Language, Math and Cultural Arts.

The Pagsasarili Preschools together with the Mothercraft Functional Literacy program (for rural mothers) is the twin project of the OB Montessori Child and Community Foundation. The project is based on the century-old Montessori method developed by Dr. Maria Montessori. Pagsasarili preschools have been spreading around the country since 1983. To date there are more than 150 sites.  Local government units have continued to set up such preschools in their communities because of the system’s high quality standards. 

Monitoring Pagsasarili sites

To maintain the quality standards of the  Montessori Pagsasarili Preschools (which include teacher training, and the Montessori equipped classroom), regular monitoring is vital.  

Pagsasarili students moving up to Grade 1 in the public schools have proven to be more than eligible for the said grade level. Their academic, social and emotional preparations make them succeed in higher levels; thus, preventing them from dropping out. 

The Batangas Pagsasarili Preschool teachers have reported that over the past 10 years of using the system, their students have been doing very well in the public schools. Most of them are top of their class and often represent their schools in Math Quiz Bees and the like. Parents have been drawn to enroll their children in the Pagsasarili Preschools because their children learn to read and independently work on Language, Math. Geography, History, etc materials. Each lesson is considered a “recipe” complete with ingredients and a step-by-step procedure.

Lanie Siscar, Pagsasarili teacher in Cuenca Batangas, relates how she used to have over 100 students enrolling in her site inside the Cuenca Central School. Even after the institutionalization of Kinder as part of Basic Education, parents preferred to enroll in the Pagsasarili Preschool. However, by 2012 all five-year-old children had to be enrolled in the DepEd Kindergartens while the three- to four-year-old children remain in the DSWD Day Care Centers where the Pagsasarili Preschool program is used.

Championing the mixed age group of 3-5 years old

The ideal setup is that of a Pagsasarili class of mixed-age group of 3 to 5, psychologically conditioning them to complete their cycle of work and to wait for their turn in using each apparatus. 

All DSWD day-care workers and centers have to be accredited by the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Council. This national government agency uses a different framework of activities that mostly focuses on “socialization and play” built on the pre-CONCEP principle that preschoolers are capable of only minimum competencies. Pagsasarili teachers who have been used to the Montessori-based system are now caught in a dilemma. They have to comply with the current national standard but they are used to the Pagsasarili curriculum by which children acquire maximum competencies. 

Lipa City in Batangas has initiated the accreditation of their day care centers by the ECCD Council. This necessitated the shift from the work-oriented Pagsasarili Program to the ECCD play-oriented program. This meant that  the Pagsasarili materials were replaced with those prescribed by the ECCD Council. Out of the 104 Pagsasarili Preschools set up by then Governor Vilma Santos - Recto, 23 are now using purely ECCD playmaterials. Eighty-one have adapted the ECCD setup sparingly using the Pagsasarili materials.  The teachers have also gone back to the traditional method of teaching which proved difficult for them.         

A crusade to prevent dropouts

The ECCD program has digressed the once Montessori -based Pagsasarili preschool program to a traditional play program where plastic toys, building blocks are used instead of the scientific-based Montessori materials for preschoolers.  This is frustrating and quite alarming! The 30-year-old tried and tested Pagsasarili program that has prevented drop-outs is in limbo.  How I wish we can resolve this serious predicament so as not to waste time in eradicating illiteracy in the country – the major cause of poverty.

DROPOUTS LOURDES QUISUMBING NATURE OF PRESCHOOLERS
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