Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Criticism on the Philippine Educational System and Filipino Teachers

In writing, I don’t care much of proofreading (that’s why there are many grammatical errors and typos in my essays and short stories). We got editors to correct the mistakes of writers, anyway. At least, I get most of my facts and ideas to be delivered right.

But this fault of mine should not be applied to books of importance like textbooks. Recently, there was this news about an elementary textbook that had been found out that it had many flaws and mistakes… another case! Yes, again and again, DepEd purchases inferior and mistake-filled books. Now, the makers of the books are either idiots or irresponsible pigs who only cared for profit, and what do you call the panel of DepEd who screen these books? How can such books pass the screening?

Are Filipinos, as a whole, getting dumber? Definitely (but not all). It is because of Filipino romance novels, many Filipino TV shows, and the now flawed educational system. This kind of textbooks is one reason why the Philippine educational system is a mess.

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Another reason is the teachers. It seemed the teachers are getting dumber, too. How can the teachers correct or tell if the textbooks are wrong if they themselves are inferior and incompetent? I am not judging and branding all Filipino teachers, there are still many very good educators around and with true hearts of a teacher. But just recent or present students would agree with me that the trend shows that more and more teachers are being part of the inferior and incompetent.

Just look at the LET standards and results. Some said it became harder. But I had heard that the passing score was dropped to 55% at one time (I still hadn’t checked if that was true). But I can see that more and more are passing it even if they are not really deserving of the license to teach (a more critical and special license than 007’s license to kill). Now why was that? So there would be more teachers? More but incompetent does not sound logical to me.

Another thing, in our university, most who take the BS Education course takes it because there are so many slots and they have no choice since they did not meet the requirements of other colleges. It is not unlikely to hear that if “you are not smart enough, take education as your course.” Again, no logic in it. Though not all BS Education students are dumb, most are. Some courses in the university require the students to have a 2.4 grade to pass the semester. I think this retention policy should be imposed to the BS Education course. It would assure that only the worthy students (the best of the best) will graduate and have the pride of being a potential teacher. In the university, the “elites” (the smartest) are those in business courses, particularly BS Accountancy, in engineering courses, and nursing; but, I think, education students should be among the ranks, thus only the best of the best should take education courses.

I had been an elementary pupil and a high school student of this university, thus I had experienced to be handled by these education students. They are called student teachers and practice teach on the primary and secondary schools integrated under the College of Education. Most of them, I found, to be not in the level of intelligence the university is known (it’s a state university, where the ‘best of the best’ are the only ones who qualify). Most do not deserve to be teachers someday. I often asked myself, “How in blue hell these student teachers reached fourth year, or even graduated high school?” In high school, many of us harass or insult them. Articles are written attacking their incompetence. Saying comments like, “You are not in our league” or “You don’t have what it takes to take us on.” Often, the students ask many difficult questions and trick questions – which they already know the answers – but ask for the sake of embarrassing the student teachers because they do not know the answers. Some of them even cried because of the students’ harassment. Sounds arrogant and disrespectful? Maybe. But it’s just frustrating to be handled by these non-deserving future teachers. Besides, it’s the school of hard knocks, brilliant minds, thus respect for teachers is earned. The students should be impressed, intimidated, and inspired by them (kind of like requirements of falling in love?). Of course, as I had said, not all of them are dumb. There were also many who are smart, impressive, and know how to be a teacher – but a minority.

Incompetent teachers and flawed books – a bad mix. Doom and stupid students will sure to follow. If this rate continues, our educational system, along with our Filipino minds, will rot faster than the public schools’ classrooms.

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There are also teachers who are smart and know their subjects but arrogant and close-minded. They boast, not teach. There is also a tendency with this kind of teachers to have one-sided lectures, would not admit when they are wrong, and feel envy if students become smarter than them. This kind of teachers is as worse as the kind which is incompetent; students will not learn anything. Another factor of decay.

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Another wrong thing about the system is the philosophy of it. Here are some of the bad philosophies: One, there are so many irrelevant facts to be memorized which are not basically needed and this serve as a measure of a student’s intelligence. Two, the environment tend to breed an unhealthy mentality of competition. Three, defeat and failure is a great disgrace. Four, grades are a student’s future.

Memorizing is an important thing. But I think the system should not dwell too much in it. The emphasis, rather, should be put on training students to think and apply things they learned.

Competition is often getting out of hand in early schooling. I know of parents who scold or verbally abuse
(and sometimes physically abuse) their children when they do not get the top honors. Thus, the mentality “win, no matter what the cost” or “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” Kids are bred to get on top, no matter what, even if they step on other people. Isn’t that disturbing? I was glad that the elementary school of the university adopted a different way of honoring pupils – a specific grade would earn an honor (like how college students are honored). In this case, all those students who got to a specific grade bracket would be honored and not only an exclusive top ten. Thus, there fierce unhealthy mentality of competition is avoided, but a different kind of mentality is taught, a healthy one, “Together, let’s all go on top. Together, let’s all succeed.” Beautiful.

In the system, the students who are defeated or fail feel that they have no future or are disgraced. Thus, if the system “tells” them that they are failures, they would tend to be failures and act to be failures. The educational system should encourage that defeat or failure is not the end; they should rise and allow this experience to make them stronger. I know of some students who are not really very good in school, and had failures, but became very successful persons.

Though, of course, good grades and striving for the best should be encouraged, the system should teach it in a unmalicious way but a gentle tone. And it should be taught that grades are not all and not a true measure of intelligence and success. Grades do not define one’s future. School should be not all about grades. There are important lessons not learned inside the classroom.

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How could our educational system be improved? I think it should start with the basics: the teachers. Not the textbooks, not the educational environment, not the philosophy, but the teachers. Teachers write the textbooks. Teachers practice the environment and philosophy. Revival in the teachers would bring revival in the system.

Give students who want to be teachers competent and effective training and screening, so only the deserving would graduate. Raise the LET passing grade to 80% or 85%, so only the deserving would obtain license.
They should find a way to screen, not only the skill and intelligence, but the heart also. The heart of a teacher is a noble one. Teachers with these noble hearts love what they do. They love to feed the young minds. They love the students. They give importance to character as much as intelligence. They serve as secondary parents. They do not break but make. When students fail, they help them back on their feet. They share all they know and don’t mind if the students became smarter or more successful than them. They rejoice in a student’s success. They would admit when they are wrong. All these they are willing to do, even if they are underpaid.

I admire such teachers with a true teacher’s heart. The true teachers. And the only ones who have the right to feel pride in claiming they are teachers. I am lucky that even though I had bad teachers, I also had good teachers. And to these true teachers, the elite few, the true teachers with noble hearts, I salute all of you – true Filipino heroes.

And if all succeeding teachers would be like them, these breed of teachers would not be an elite anymore, but widespread and there will be indeed a revival in the educational system. Filipino minds would prosper!

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