By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
While drug prevention education is already included in the basic education curriculum, Education Secretary Leonor Briones acknowledged that “new methods” have to be introduced to make it more effective and relevant with the times.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones, in a recent press conference, said that drug prevention education starting from the age of nine or Grade 9. “It is ladderized which means the level of intensity and detail is increasing up until the child finishes school or the K to 12,” she added.
Earlier, Vice President Leni Robredo – as the newly-appointed Inter-Agency Committee on Anti-Illegal Drugs (ICAD) co-chair – noted in her weekly program over radio station dzXL that there is a need to pay more attention to the drug prevention programs for the youth – including the teaching of drug prevention education in schools.
“Iyong nakita pa natin na pagkukulang, iyong preventive education, kulang pa iyong programa sa mga paaralan [at] iyon iyong tututukan natin (“What we found lacking is in the area of preventive education in schools [and] this is where we will focus),” Robredo said.
As cited in the Executive Order No. 15 issued in 2017, DepEd is among the members of the ICAD along with other government agencies.
Finding new methods
Briones assured that DepEd continues to cooperate with various agencies in an effort to further strengthen drug prevention education in schools.
“It’s already in the curriculum but there have to be new methods that should be also introduced,” Briones said. She added that DepEd also works with Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) “if they have certain findings that might members of teh DepEd family.”
Meanwhile, Briones pointed out that one of the things that should also be “looked into” as the country combats illegal drug use is “other sources or drug substitutes” that young people – specifically learners use.
“I’ve learned that high school kids tuning into wild mushrooms as hallucinogenic material,” Briones said – noting that she personally know of three cases involving students who were hospitalized after ingesting it. “I am very much familiar with the case of the so-called ‘magic mushrooms’ as a new source or illegal drug substitute being used by high-schoolers,” she said.
Briones underscored the need to look into this because it could be more dangerous. “We have to look into this because for me, this is more dangerous because it is legal and is easy to find – maybe not in urban places – but in the countryside, it’s very accessible,” she added.
Since “magic mushrooms” are not prohibited by law, Briones expressed concern that many types of mushrooms with hallucinogenic effects become more accessible to young people. “We should be looking into this because young kids are looking for drug substitutes and other alternative which are legal yet lethal,” she added.
Drug prevention in schools
Following the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte, Briones said that DepEd has been enhancing the curriculum on preventive drug education.
DepEd has been integrating preventive drug education in curriculum and instruction, which includes the adverse effects of the abuse of dangerous drugs on the person, the family, the school and the community; preventive measures against drug abuse; and health, socio-cultural, psychological, legal and economic dimensions and implications of the drug problem.
Steps to take when intervention on behalf of a drug dependent is needed, as well as the services available for the treatment and rehabilitation of drug dependents; and, misconceptions about the use of dangerous drugs such as, but not limited to, the importance and safety of dangerous drugs for medical and therapeutic use as well as the differentiation between medical patients and drug dependents in order to avoid confusion and accidental stigmatization in the consciousness of the students are also being integrated in the curriculum.
DepEd noted that the integration of preventive drug education in curriculum and instruction is found in the subjects of health, and in Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (EsP) with respect to life skills to avoid involvement in dangerous drugs.
In 2018, Briones ordered the review of the “sufficiency and responsiveness” of the current curriculum and directed a team to validate lesson plans for EsP contextualized for preventive drug education from Kindergarten to Grade 12 – both for use in homeroom instruction.