Education and Home

Reviewing senators on the real GMRC for UN Agenda 30

A POINT OF AWARENESS - Preciosa S. Soliven - The Philippine Star

These past weeks many voices cry out from both the Senate and Congress regarding the Basic K-12 Education curriculum, particularly the subject of Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) and other character building activities. Basic education committee chairman Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian wants to institutionalize GMRC as a subject in the elementary and high school while Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri filed Senate Bill 310, the proposed GMRC Act. Sen. Joel Villanueva filed Senate Bill 860 the Comprehensive Values Education Act.

The transformation of GMRC to Values Education  

It was former secretary of Education Isidro Cariño who insisted that we go back to the old subject of Good Manners and Right Conduct for elementary school in the ‘50s, right after we gained independence. He was referring to the importance of refinement of the child’s external behavior. But when Lourdes Quisumbing, vice president of Maryknoll College, was appointed secretary of Education by the new president Corazon Aquino at the conclusion of Martial Law, the catch word for moral education became “Values Education.” This is also identified as Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (ESP). It’s supposed to cover a wider range of ideals, moral code, customs, rules, religious beliefs and practices. These are generally taught in lectures and book assignments committed to memory – the traditional way. Although Sen. Gatchalian objected to the 30-minute allocation of ESP (or Values Education) he must understand that behavior is not taught but learned through practice. It’s a full day learning from the moment the child enters the classroom dressed neatly from head to toes, greets the teacher respectfully while working well with his seatmate and organizing his work materials per subject.

Unfortunately conventional education fixes the child to his seat the whole time while the teacher demands silence and immobility. Opportunity to work is limited to mere memorizing required textbook, occasional recitation and a bombardment of quizzes and exams. Institutionalizing either GMRC or Values Education will continue to shackle, handcuff and restrict him away from real work.

Conditioning the child to work independentlyin education

AGENDA 30 FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT is the United Nations call extending the UN Millennium Development Goal 2000-2015. It summons all nations to be economically independent with a new education that envisions the “new children” and the “new teacher” who prefer work to play. Given a “prepared environment” this conditions the child to work independently throughout the whole range of Basic Education from Kindergarten, Elementary School to High School.

Children prefer work

We usually get exasperated with the restlessness of children below six years old. Dr. Maria Montessori considers kalikutan (agitated movement) their natural energy in acquiring independence. Dr. Montessori discovered that the synthesis of this mind and energy could only happen when the child is working, not playing. The Montessori way provides a rich array of work activities as early as Kindergarten from Practical Living exercises (Care of Person, Care of the Environment), Sensorial Arts, Language, Math, Botany and Zoology, History and Geography that transform character deviations like timidity, laziness, disorderliness into self- confidence, love for work and order. 

Is K to 12 effective?

The PhilSTAR front-page banner headlined “House to Review K to 12” referred to Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano spearheading the review of the effectiveness of the 12-year Basic Education program. Various arguments were put forth. One observation noted the declining performance of high school students. This is to be expected because the high school is academically overloaded with no provisions for occupational skills training. Majority of them are poor and are bored so they drop out from school, a big loss to the country. Teenagers long to enter the “world of work” but the preparation for it is not provided in secondary schools. To avail of effective short apprenticeships Senate, Congress and TESDA should link with the SEAMEO VocTech Regional Center in Brunei Darussalam with its model laboratories in construction, care giving, food service, and automotive. Many of their technical directors believe it or not, are Filipinos. 

Meantime, Senior High School graduates wonder why they don’t get hired. It is due to the mismatch between unskilled graduates and labor market needs. Unlike the few corporate companies who prefer college graduates, there are more technological firms looking to employ skilled technicians who are more humble to learn and are “hungry” for work. Parents ultimately will begin to see the ease in employing these young professionals.

Character building is the child’s own achievement

At birth, the child has no character. The small child has no sense of right and wrong. He lives outside our notions of morality. In fact, we do not call him bad or wicked, but naughty. It is the second period from 6 to 12 years that the child begins to become conscious of right and wrong. The scouting movement must be part of the grade school curriculum. Moral consciousness is being formed matching the child’s enormous reasoning power in elementary school.  This leads later to the social sense. Within the third period from 12 to 18 years, the love of country is born, the feeling of belonging to a national group, and of concern for the honor of that group. Adolescence is the end of childhood and therefore the young adult must be prepared to enter the world of work. And so emerges the “new man” who will no longer be the victim of events but will be able to mold the future of mankind.

In year 2000 Senator Letty Shahani invited me to sit in the Senate discussion of institutionalizing Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) into the Philippine educational ladder which covered only ten years of Basic Education. I showed a videotape of how a Montessori preschool class works. Everyone was amazed to see a mixed age group of three- to five-year-old children independently working with the puzzle maps of the world and Asia, Golden Decimal numeration beads, reading and writing easily. A gentleman from the Senate office was astonished. He approached me and said, “Your students are amazing doing the advanced work of primary school children with so much ease. If this preschool system is carried out our elementary school up to high school will increase its achievement in leaps and bounds. I am truly awed.”

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