Lamenting commercialized education

IS IT BELIEVABLE that, in a recently-released result of a survey conducted by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) among 600,000 15-year-old school children in 79 countries, some 7,233 Filipino respondents averaged “last” in reading comprehension and second to the last in mathematics and science?  

Overall, the Chinese students scored the highest, followed by Singapore.

As far as our last position in reading is concerned, it seems ironic because the world recognizes the Philippines as the third-largest English-speaking country in the world – next only to the United States and the United Kingdom, respectively.

In fact, we like to believe that our overseas Filipino workers are in demand abroad because of the perception that 72 percent of us are fluent in English. There is no doubt that we learned to speak English under American colonial rule between 1898 and 1946. It is the language of official transactions, higher education and the print media. Thanks to American movies and popular music, urban Filipinos are attuned to American culture, fashion and mores in a way that smacks of slavish imitation.

But reading English and absorbing the message behind are two different things.

I guess it’s primarily because our education system lacks proficient teachers. This fact is subliminally imparted by the fact that when children finish high school with low grades, parents tend to tell them, “You are not bright enough to take higher courses. Be a teacher na lang.”

Moreover, education is not a lucrative profession. This prompts ambitious teachers to work abroad.

Alas, however, Filipino teachers are not recognized as teachers in other countries unless they finish college or special courses thereat; and so they usually end up as domestic helpers.

When I was in Singapore, my niece Leny Jane who is a post-graduate student there, was complaining that college education there requires mastery of major courses.  Thus, Education graduates may only teach after passing 240 hours of observed internship, and most don’t pass.

Our Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) have failed in upgrading our education system in the right way. For example, by constantly changing text books, they favor more the “instant” authors and private publishers than the confused students who end up with conflicting ideas.

The worst “upgrade” has come in the form of Republic Act 10533, signed by then President Benigno Aquino III on May 15, 2013. Better known as the “K to 12” program, it covers compulsory kindergarten and 12 years of basic education (six years of primary education, four years of junior high school, and two years of senior high school) – allegedly aimed at preparing high school graduates for either immediate employment or for further skills development through tertiary education.

While the K-12 bill was being debated on in Congress, thousands of parents and students staged rallies condemning then DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro (the brain behind the innovation) for a “deception” that would cost them more time and hard-earned money on the pretext of “rising at par with the rest of the world.”

Oh no! In fact, pre-K to 12 Filipino workers – notably engineers, architects and nurses – have long been in demand in the global market.

Indeed, today’s freshmen and sophomore college students swear that they “wasted” two years in senior high school, since most of the subjects thereat are the same ones they retake today, such as “Purposive Communication” for English, “Understanding the Self” for Philosophy, “Entrepreneurial Mind” for Economics, “Contemporary World” for World History and “Mathematics in the Modern World,” among others, plus two years of Physical Education. ([email protected]/PN)

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