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Experts push for seamless educational system

March 28, 2010 19:23:00
Perla Aragon-Choudhury
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE country’s educational system should be a cohesive, coherent learning web.

The present segmentation between elementary and secondary education, and between basic and higher education, is doing the country harm.

This was the premise of a recent forum on Besra (Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda) at the University of the Philippines National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education (NISMED).

Experts sought to demonstrate that reform in basic education would help improve higher education.

The panel that called itself “The Promise of Redemption” expressed the view that two years should be added to basic education (Grade 7 and 5th year high school).

Forum convenor Dr. Maria Serena Diokno of the UP Department of History (who also lectures at the College of Education) said the country needed those extra two years because a “strong and solid basic foundation will reduce the pressure on higher education to fill in the learning gaps.”

As a result of segmentation, she said, “General education becomes remedial rather than liberal; we dumb down foundation courses because college students have not learned the basics.”

Five thrusts

Besra was conceived by DepEd in 2005 and launched in 2007 as part of the implementation of the Governance of Basic Education Act of 2001 (Republic Act No. 9155).

As the panel saw it, reforming basic education involved five key thrusts (KRTs), a package of interrelated policy actions to bring about a fundamental change in the delivery of basic education.

The KRTs are: strengthened school-based management (SBM); improved teaching effectiveness and teacher development; enhanced quality assurance through standards and assessment; improved access and learning outcomes through alternative learning, etc.; and institutional culture change in the DepEd.

Dr. Cynthia Rose Banzon Bautista of the UP Department of Sociology, said, “DepEd has effectively taken over policy formulation in an area it had heretofore left to politicians.” The agency also signaled its resolve to formulate policies affecting the development of functionally literate and critical thinking Filipinos.

Bautista described as “remarkable” the adoption of the National Competency- based Teacher Standards (NCBTS) that reflected a paradigm shift from teaching to learning, from the centrality of teachers to their role as facilitators of learning.

She noted the change effected by the foreign-assisted project on school-based management (SBM), one of the key reform thrusts of Besra. “The empowering effect on school heads of mature SBM practice has begun to (change the) culture of obeisance ... principals have begun to answer authorities back ... now expressing their positions on specific issues.”

Nuts and bolts

UP College of Education dean Dina Ocampo suggested several ways to make the initiative’s promise a reality.

Among others, she said, more and more principals should lead school-based reforms. Normal schools should include in their curriculum SBM, as well as the system for School Improvement Plans (SIPs).

Colleges should explain assessment tools, like the NCBTS, to education students, while keeping the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) abreast of this tool.

She said DepEd should support officials who sought to adopt the controversial mother-tongue-based Multilingual Education (MLE) policy, as well as train teachers on teaching in the original and other tongues.

Ocampo said there should be quality strategies for varied learning experiences to help students attain the highest level of learning.

“We need accreditation systems for slow and fast learners,” Ocampo said. “Schools need standards, not just a table of skills.”

Ocampo stressed the need to include teachers in planning and to give them the big picture so they could support the implementation of Besra, which she called “the perfect hope for redemption.”

Higher education reform

In her paper “A Framework for Reform amidst the Landscape of Higher Education,” Diokno proposed a new type of higher education institutes (HEIs) reflecting diverse educational missions.

This would include junior or community (two-year) colleges; vocational, technical or trade schools or institutes (trade, marine); undergraduate (primarily teaching) universities (comprehensive and specialized), graduate institutions (likely specialized), and research universities (doctoral degrees, with emphasis on research).

She noted that, at present, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) lumped HEIs into a single category.

“Under this system, standards are set by category (for faculty recruitment, academic programs, student performance, faculty performance) so that HEIs are compared within and across categories. A heteronomous system ... is nuanced and open to modification according to our need and direction,” she said.

She asked higher education, business and the Civil Service Commission (CSC) to make work-ready standards, especially for community colleges or two-year programs. She also suggested academic equivalents for work experiences when graduates of these programs decided to pursue four-year courses.

Diokno also called attention to the internationalization of education.

She said, in 2003 and 2008, CHED detailed entry requirements for foreign service providers, stressed the need for due diligence on the part of local partners in selecting foreign providers, and specified sanctions, including the revocation of authority, for violation of CHED regulations. Diokno expressed doubts if the guidelines were enough, saying she feared the country could be importing the same problems that already existed here.

She asked for more purposive selection of foreign universities allowed into the country.

Diokno wanted HEIs, or even UP as an institution, to tell DepEd the competencies expected of graduates.

“I, for one, expect freshman students to be able to write essays—fairly lucid essays—in the language of their choice,” she said. But Diokno added that today’s students could not do so because the objective type of tests in high school did not teach them this skill.

Higher education’s strongest link with basic education was teacher development, particularly in subject matter, Diokno stressed, as she endorsed tighter collaboration between disciplines and schools of education.

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