Manila, June 27, 2002 (STAR) A POINT OF AWARENESS by Preciosa S. Soliven - In anticipation of the nationwide implementation of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum, the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines-Social and Human Sciences Committee (UNESCO-SHSC) and the Philippine Social Science Council (PSSC) spearheaded a roundtable discussion to elicit the views of nationally recognized model educators on the restructured curriculum.

UNESCO-SHSC Chairperson Felice P. Sta. Maria, together with SHSC committee members Dr. Florentino H. Hornedo and Dr. Virginia A. Miralao, has been conferring with me as UNESCO Secretary-General, about their two-year old project of analyzing and helping refine the controversial Makabayan curriculum. Their third book "Using Important Concepts in Social and Human Sciences to Improve Learning Content and Processes in SOCIAL STUDIES" has just been released and given to nine Metrobank and Avon teacher awardees to help react to DepEd Secretary Roco’s Makabayan curriculum for Basic Education.

Held on June 8, the activity was participated in by Metrobank Outstanding Teacher awardees: Dr. Evelyn M. Vicencio of UP Integrated School (UPIS), Leodivico C. Lacsamana of La Salle Greenhills (LSGH), Lilia F. Vergara of Philippine Science High School (PSHS), Raquel L. Pasigpasigan of Justo Lukban Elementary School (JLES), Maria P. Magana of Bagong Barangay E.S., Patricia C. Jocson of Ramon Magsaysay H.S. (RMHS), Lilia T. Santos of Aurora A. Quezon E.S (AAQES). Also present were Avon Gintong Ilawan Teodora Alonso Educator awardees - Nerissa D. David, principal of Dr. Alejandro Albert E.S. and Perla B. Moraño, principal of Gen. M. Hizon E.S.

Here I put together, with the help of Joanne Agbisit, head of the technical support and information section of PSSC, comments of these educator-awardees on the Makabayan curriculum.

Dr. Felice Sta. Maria clarified at the onset that the activity is not politically motivated. She said, "The aim of the roundtable discussion is to draw candid ideas and invite suggestions from model teachers so that the restructured curriculum could be further refined."

Is it an overcrowded curriculum?

\Majority of the participants support the rationale for restructuring the curriculum. They admit that the old curriculum is overcrowded, which fosters mechanical learning and compartmentalization of ideas. These, they note, largely account for the poor performance of students in school.

Leodivico Lacsamana, a former LSGH faculty and now professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific, countered, "I don’t think that the old curriculum is ‘overcrowded’ while the new Makabayan curriculum is supposed to be more compact since the components or subjects are the same in both programs."

I agree with him. Makabayan is just a new label intended to lift up the hearts of the Filipinos but actually merely binds together Social Studies, Music, Arts, Physical Education, Home Economics and Work Education spicing it up. This cuts down to five the number of learning areas: Makabayan, Filipino, English, Math and Science.

Prof. Lacsamana continued, "...integration has been happening, even prior to the framing of the 1989 Basic Education Curriculum (NESC and NSEC). The Conceptual Approach which became the by-word in the 1980s is actually a form of horizontal integration."

More time for the mastery of subjects?

With the streamlining of the curriculum, the time allotment for each of the learning areas is increased, giving students more time to "reflect, explore and ask probing questions", "absorb and process the lessons" and "gain mastery over the subjects," the teachers said.

In addition , extended time provides teachers more opportunities to conduct activities that will enhance the learners’ critical thinking skills. Patricia Jocson, a master teacher at RMHS, noted, "...teachers often do not go beyond what is in the textbook and fail to elaborate on important concepts in their desire to finish lessons, creating students who are finishers, not learners."

Dr. Evelina M. Vicencio, formerly with UPIS and now director of UP-CHED Zonal Research Center, cited numerous definitions of integration, " many terms in education, integration has as many definitions as there are curricularists... Integration has been called interweaving; connectedness of subjects; holistic approach; interdisciplinary curriculum." She also said that there are many modes of integrative teaching. Fogarty alone proposed 10 models of integrative teaching and to distinguish them from other curricular models and make them easier to remember, likened them to various glasses - fragmented like the periscope, connected like the opera glass, nested like the 3-D glass, sequenced like the eyeglasses or shared like the binoculars.

Benefits of integration

Dr. Vicencio added, "...Many teachers, specially of subjects that have been rendered ‘weak’ because of integration, like Values Education, fear that they would lose their jobs since their teaching load would be greatly reduced. This should not be so. DepEd has not instituted a standard formula for scheduling but has only stated the number of hours for each subject."

The integration of subjects under the new curriculum is also deemed beneficial as it will provide a holistic context for learning. Raquel Pasigpasigan, former faculty member of JLES and now with San Juan de Dios Educational Foundation, believes that it will allow learners to "recognize and articulate relationships among subject matters," and "apply learning from one context to another."

I accede to the effectiveness of integrated teaching as exemplified by the OB Montessori Elementary School Cosmic Curriculum that puts together Geography, History, Natural and Social Sciences to make Economics and Government more comprehensible in high school. This is the reason for the enthusiasm and the high level achievements of the Montessori students.

Challenges of operationalization

While many are optimistic about the restructured curriculum, the educators are concerned about its operationalization. The teaching of Makabayan is particularly complicated, according to a number of participants. "Makabayan presents many logistical and administrative problems... many teachers are facing the Herculean task of coordinating many but varied concerns," Prof. Lacsamana stressed.

They welcome the DepEd’s strategy of allowing schools some liberty to design and contextualize the implementation of Makabayan. However, the participants agree that the DepEd should develop a set of criteria for integration to guide schools in their efforts. Dr. Vicencio emphasized that the integration criteria should be natural, practical and cost-effective.

Another way to address the problem of integration is for DepEd to develop a "table of specifications." Dr. Vicencio added that the table of specifications could contain the points of integration, including all concepts, skills and values that society would like to promote.

The participants all agree that the DepEd should also clarify the grading system for Makabayan. Since each component will be graded separately, there is a need to clarify whether a student who fails on one of the components but gets an overall passing grade will be made to repeat the subject.

Other concerns

Other concerns raised by the participants on the new curriculum center on the medium of instruction and time allocation.

The teachers want the DepEd to rethink its policy of using English as a medium of instruction for the teaching of science and math subjects. Schools, they note, should have the option to choose between English or Filipino, whichever they think would be more effective.

The teachers are also concerned about the reduction of the time allotted to science. "If the aim of the DepEd is to strengthen the learning areas, why did it take out 80 minutes from science?" asked Lilia Vergara, retired teacher of PSHS and presently a consultant at Mapua High School.

Teacher preparedness

The successful implementation of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum will depend on the schoolteachers and administrators themselves, the participants unanimously said.

Lilia Santos, master teacher at AAQES, fears that "...Since the implementation was abrupt several possibilities may likely happen. Some trainors are not fully prepared to disseminate the correct information to the school level. The materials needed may not reach the frontline stakeholders - the teachers. The teacher training institutions are not yet ready to equip would-be teachers for the new curriculum."

Monitoring and evaluation

The participants agree that the DepEd should institute a mechanism for monitoring and evaluating the implementation of the restructured curriculum.

The DepEd, they said, should have a system for reporting problems and generating suggestions from stakeholders. At the same time, it should be able to document successes, which can be emulated by other schools.

Information campaign

UNESCO-SHSC Vice Chairman Florentino Hornedo suggests that the DepEd conduct an information campaign on the nature of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum. He added, "There is a kind of feeling that the ongoing training is just one of those chains of trainings that ultimately have to be changed." He recalls how the DepEd would often call supervisors from the 14 regions to train in Manila for a week or so then expect them to give a few days "echo session" to thousands of teachers in their respective regions.

In closing, Dr. Hornedo underscored that the implementation of the restructured curriculum is bound to have flaws. "the roundtable discussion is an important step towards identifying and minimizing the risks and difficulties of the implementation," he stressed.

Dr. Hornedo added that the refinement and enrichment of the new curriculum would depend on the partnership of the stakeholders including teachers, schools and the DepEd.

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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