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Monday, May 27, 2024

The Education We Need

"This is a real, honest-to-goodness wake up call."

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Those who are criticizing the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) undertaken by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) showing that Filipinos fare the worst in reading literacy and second lowest in both mathematical and scientific literacy as fudged or even baseless should calm down. They should take note of the results, analyze the data properly and come around to understanding what really ills Philippine education. For truth be told, we are really lagging behind not only the OECD countries but, in more ways than one, even our neighbors in ASEAN as far as the quality of our education is concerned. This is a real, honest-to-goodness wake up call and we should be humble enough to face up to this reality and move on to conquer our prejudices and, yes, our encrusted theories about educational reform.

In this regard, we are not alone. No less than a host of known American educators have themselves come out with solid criticisms about the manner by which the so-called American educational system has failed to improve the quality of US education and even worsened societal inequality. For the purpose, I am excerpting part of the introduction of the book “The Schools We Need” written by E. F. Hirsch, Jr., author of the much applauded book, Cultural Literacy, who has been studying the “rocky road” upon which America has been traveling for long in the educational field which has not measured up to the public’s expectations. Here goes:

“…When business people, philanthropists and parents turn to experts for guidance, they continue to hear the high sounding, anti knowledge advise that has been offered for more than sixty years—the very prescription (now to be facilitated by ‘technology) that have produced the system’s failures. These continually reformulate slogans have led to the usual absence of a coherent knowledge based curriculum but are nonetheless presented as novel theories based on the latest research and as remedies for the diseases they themselves have caused. The rhetorical success but educational failure of these slogans bespeaks an intellectual Gresham’s law where under bad ideas drive out good. In the midst of much expenditure of money and energy, this intellectual stasis largely explains the failure of educational reform efforts to date…”

“…The failure is easily documented. Despite much activity, American school reform has not improved the nation’s K-12 education during the decade and more since publication of A Nation At Risk: the Imperatives for Educational reform (1983). Among those of developed nations, our public schools still rank near the bottom and in absolute terms, our children’s academic competencies have not risen significantly. One reason for this continued stasis: the difficulty of spreading reform out into the vast system of fifteen thousand independent school districts. But it is doubtful that educational reform movements have succeeded even within the confines of their own model projects.”

And so on and on. Hirsch proceeds with a wicked slicing of the very roots of this systemic failure which, for all intents and purposes, needs to be done as well in our own.

“…While the ideological terms ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ are maybe two of the most effective labels by which the old educational ideas continue to sustain themselves, the educational community exhibits a further tendency toward terminological polarization and intellectual caricature. Premature polarization of viewpoints is the chief device by which the educational community maintains the intellectual status quo. ‘Modern’ and humane ‘reforms’ are pitted against a ‘traditional’ evil empire. The following rhetorical pairings are typical: Traditional vs Modern; Merely Verbal vs Hands-On; Premature vs Developmentally Appropriate; Fragmented vs Integrated; Boring vs Interesting and Lockstep vs Individualized…”

“…Parents presented with such choices for the education of their children would be unlikely to choose traditional, merely verbal, premature, fragmented, boring and lockstep instruction over modern, hands-on, developmentally appropriate, integrated, interesting and individualized instruction…This technique of oversimple contrast is so effective, and at the same time so misleading,… overshadowing the complexities hidden beneath the polarization…”

Indeed, we should take time to go over the results of this OECD document not label it baseless and proceed with utmost sincerity and transparency in dissecting the failures pointed therein. Only by admitting our lapses and the gaps in our ongoing educational reform efforts can we succeed in coming out with the real and responsible solutions to our current state.


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