SONA and education: Ending the ‘horror stories’

Published July 30, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. dedicated a considerable portion to education. Specifically, he mentioned the need to “end” the “horror stories” in educational materials.

The President was quick to add that this does not refer to history but to the availability of instructional materials per se. It is, in a way, refreshing because the focus is no longer on the debate of whether or not face-to-face classes must resume. They will resume and this would mean addressing the other issues hounding the country’s education sector, specifically the primary and secondary levels. Chief among these concerns is the availability of classrooms, which Marcos, Jr. mentions in his SONA.

The logistical needs of a resumption of face-to-face classes aside, there is an urgency implied in the President’s call to equip the education sector with the tools necessary in order to improve the country’s standing in academics. In particular, attention should be given to the medium of instruction, which is the English language, and in the disciplines that fall under what is called STEM or Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

With the dust of the pandemic more or less beginning to settle down, it is perhaps time to pay attention to the quality of education. There is an unspoken formula to this. Improving the quality of basic education requires (1) the continuous training and development of teachers, (2) providing tools — textbooks, school facilities, and teaching materials — that aid in better instruction, and (3) acknowledging that education is a dialogue between stakeholders: parents, teachers, and learners. As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. But it takes a nation with a sincere intention to educate generations of learners.

What is, perhaps, considered the “horror stories” in education is as much a matter of content and the manner by which said content is delivered. An undue focus on content without fixing the method of delivery risks education as lost in translation. On the other hand, too much emphasis on method without carefully considering content could be seen as mere rhetoric.

This brings into perspective the current basic education model followed by the Department of Education, which is a K-12 system. While the President did not make any definitive statement on the matter, save for mentioning that it is being carefully “reviewed,” it is perhaps reasonable to consider that in order for the country’s education system to be at par with the best in the world, a K-12 system is needed. After all, most countries have been following a similar setup. What seems to have been forgotten is the original reason for adopting and implementing such a system: To allow basic education graduates to pursue a livelihood without college degree.

We should remember that education is a basic right that every Filipino should have. And government should address the factors that limit one’s chances to get ahead.