By Ed Aurelio C. Reyes
Kamalaysayan Writers and Speakers
(June 7, 1997)
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ILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of our children and teenaged youth have recently trooped back to their classrooms as Schoolyear 97-98 officially opened. The leadership of the government's Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS) claimed shortly before the actual opening of classes that the department was ready for the increasing number of enrollees in the public and private school systems.
It has turned out that part of the claim is in readiness with excuses about lack of classrooms and schoolteachers, which bring on indignant commentaries from parents and politicians how the DECS budget has become inversely proportional to the actual importance of education service as a basic function of governance.
Well, the problem actually goes beyond the lack of infrastructure and personnel. It rests more squarely on the problem of quality, namely, quality of content and methodology of what we have for an educational system. Of course, these perennial shortages constitute a factor affecting quality, but the latter is defined more by framework than by logistical considerations.
In short, if there were more history teachers, for example, more of them would be forcing students to memorize tons of unrelated data to be coughed out during periodic examinations for grading purposes. The bad shape of history education in this country is not attributable mainly to lack of teachers.
What we actually have is a schooling system and not an educational system in the real sense. A good educational system would develop thinking and analyzing, not merely memorizing, students. Without the drawing out (in Latin, "e" meaning out, and "ducare" meaning to lead), education is not real.
How many of our students taking up history subjects, for example, are being helped to develop their investigative and analytical skills needed to have a real grasp of circumstances, analyses and decisions of the past, to draw from them a maximum dosage of inspiration and practical lessons, and to apply such heritage to opinion leadership and decision challenges of the present, all for the sake of the betterment in the future of ourselves and of our children and descendants? Are students being effectively told why the study of history is important at all?
There are many young Filipinos who cannot afford not to work for a living or cannot afford the costs of attending public school. They are aptly called out-of-school youth. Those who coined this term decided not to simplistically call them uneducated youth.
This is the reason why a growing number of Filipinos have come to realize just how wrong are allegations that Andres Bonifacio, for example, was uneducated, just because he attended formal schooling only up to the elementary level. I dare say most of our youth now enrolled in the schools and most of us who have graduated from them cannot validly claim to have been really educated, at least not by those schools.
In history subjects, most of the students do get to memorize a lot of data and develop hatred for the subject because of this horrible mental burden, but only a handful, relatively, can make any sense of what they have memorized. And they see no need to understand these at all. After all, schools are all about memorizations, exams and grades and, eventually, diplomas. Education is quite another thing altogether.
(Kamalaysayan Media Service)
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