Thursday, June 17, 2004

The ignorance of the people

Professor Felipe Miranda in his Philippine Star column today is highly despondent with regard to reforming the country's educational system. He laments that:

Half a century of historical evidence should be sufficient in demonstrating the improbability of this educational system changing for the better and assisting the larger community, the nation, toward that change. The same evidence also should help in understanding that whoever seriously thinks of effecting mandatory changes in the education of Filipinos must work to change the political character of their society first.

Our educational system is disturbing. Consider this: 99.5 percent of 1.4 million elementary school graduates tested for high school readiness fail to score at least 75 percent; 700, 000 of them also had scores lower than 30 %.
Could this be really true? Our children are a bunch of ignoramuses? I have a suspicion that the real figures are worse than the above, considering the possible leakage that usually happens in achievement tests. Some public school teachers are known to leak exams. ( I know one particular instance of this leakage.) Achievement test results therefore can be rosier than the truth.

So how did these kids able to advance to sixth grade with such little knowledge? Because public school teachers just kept on giving them passing grades. The student-teacher ratio is so lopsided that a single pupil with back subjects is a huge burden for the teacher. Rather than further draining the public resources--not to mention their own patience-- teachers simply opt to pass their underperforming pupils.

Secretary De Jesus's bridge program, while commendable for its attempt at reviving the moribund pulic school system, is ultimately an exercise in futility. It is hard to imagine how one year of remedial classes can turn around six yearsof miseducation, especially since the teachers who will teach those remedial classes are from the same pool of teachers responsible for the miseducation in the first place. I think the more pragmatic solution to the problem is pointed by Raul Roco's Makabayan curriculum: create a super-lean curriculum where all extraneous subjects are excised. All repetitions in the curriculum must be removed. A shrinking ship, so to speak, must jettison all unnecessary baggage.

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