Students of the Araullo High School in Ermita, Manila attend their first class during the opening of the new school year on June 3, 2019
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman
Commentary: Big push for patriotism in education
Edwin Santiago (Philstar.com) - June 8, 2019 - 11:14am

When it comes to education, the task of the state per the Constitution is two-fold—provide quality education and guarantee access to it.

Every year, much like Labor Day and the onset of El Niño, the day of the opening of classes is easily predictable in terms of the issues that media will report on and analysts will discuss. Year in and out, generally, there are two major concerns—classroom shortage and teacher shortage. A third issue that normally crops up is the salary of the teachers, but this can be subsumed under reasons for the teacher shortage.

Albert Einstein said it is insanity if we do the same thing over and over again and expect different results. Have we fallen—or are we still in—that trap of trying to address our problems with the same age-old solutions?

No intellectual discourse on accessibility of education would be meaningful if we skirt the issue of classroom shortage. Its causes may have been analyzed ad nauseam that the only logical thing left is to identify new sources of space for put multi-story school buildings. 

For those who were out on a hunting trip, it is not as if the government has been remiss in its obligation to solve this problem—it has not. The problem is that demand outpaces the supply of classroom. 

Every year, the Department of Education takes a bite out of the shortage, only to be inundated with a new wave of enrollees that will make the shortage even more pronounced. 

A year or two back, there was a change in terminology used—referring to the classroom shortage as “challenges” rather than as an actual deficit. This was, perhaps, an attempt to explain the reason for the shortage and, as a way to defend DepEd that it has not been taking this problem sitting down. 

The bottom line is that there is a lack of buildable spaces for the classrooms to be built. That may be true, but if we do not change something drastically, then the government will forever be playing catch-up in the classroom situation. This may not necessarily be bad. As has been said earlier, new enrollees account for a big chunk of the classroom shortage problem. 

Effectively, more enrollees mean that we are successful in providing access to education to our people, in keeping with Section 1, Article XIV of the 1987 Constitution. But how many more are outside the schools?

Teacher shortage, on the other hand, is an issue that is tied to the economics of the individual. It stands to reason that our teachers will, generally, stay given competitive salaries, good working conditions and security of tenure. Absent these, our teachers—whether private or public—are attracted to the allure of earning foreign currencies in more favorable working conditions. This is not to say, however, that teachers are attracted only by these things. 

Time and again, there are stories of teachers who have gone way beyond the call of duty, simply because they believe in a future for this country, or perhaps, out of sheer love for the profession.

We have had major successes in the past. The K-12 program was not perfect from the get-go, but it indeed is the “most comprehensive basic-education reform initiative ever done in the country since the establishment of the public education system,” as former DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro said.

A recent DepED statement stated, “The implementation of the K to 12 Program has seen numerous gains for the basic education system, which include the initial results of the Senior High School (SHS) Program surpassing expectations in enrollment and transition rates and in providing free or highly subsidized SHS education to more than 2.7 million learners in public and private schools two years after the SHS Program implementation”.

The DepED’s priority directions for FY 2020 to 2022 aims to address remaining access gaps, pivot from access to quality, and modernize education management and governance.

“DepEd is looking to pivot from focusing on access to education to quality of education. Like other countries in the region, we are now looking to entrench quality learning through three important steps: by aligning competencies and curriculum standards, instruction, and assessment; by developing outstanding teachers and school leaders; and by ensuring that students come to school ready to learn,” said DepED Undersecretary Nepomuceno Malaluan.

And there are more things that look promising from the perspective of education. Enrolment rates for tertiary students are expected to balloon to an all-time high with President Rodrigo Duterte’s free education move.

But I would like to complicate things by adding what the Constitution dictates in Article XIV. 

Educational institutions are tasked to inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciations of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency. The list reads like a litany of everything good in society.

In the list, let’s check patriotism. Deliberately, I chose patriotism over the more aggressive nationalism. 

Has Philippine education really made a dent in advancing patriotism in our country? Do we see—or can we see—ourselves doing the right thing for the sake of the country even if it means sacrificing what is beneficial for us? Can we imagine this as a growing breed? I suppose it is not unthinkable. Though it would need the big push of education for it to happen at an accelerated pace.

But education must be ready for a revolution of sorts. Canned interventions in the past may not work their charms anymore. We need to find something more alive, more inspiring and more relevant. 

English novelist Gilbert Keith Chesterson said that “education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another." Using this assertion, given our unique historical twists and turns, the Filipino soul contained in our education can be described as battered and bruised, but not defeated; disorientated and wobbly, but determined to stand up and move on.

Edwin Santiago is the executive director of think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, a partner of Philstar.com.

PHILIPPINES AND THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
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