From: http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2006/sept/17/yehey/top_stories/20060917top1.html (Link no longer working)
Sunday, September 17, 2006
By Jonathan M. Hicap, Reporter
IN THE 1990s, the Philippine government had to retailor most of its policies in order to adapt to the concept of globalization.
The overhaul was not limited to the economic field. Education authorities, noticing the steady decline in the level of competencies of Filipino students and extrapolating their prospects, concluded that the root of the problem lay in the curriculum—from the elementary to the high-school level. Retool the curriculum they did.
A casualty of these efforts was the subject of history.
So, what if a student can rattle off the dates of the rediscovery of the islands and give a background on what happened during the revolution against Spain? If he can’t do algebraic exercises and write in grammatically correct English, his chances of future employment in the face of stiff competition against his peers were practically zilch.
The education authorities concluded that algebra, chemistry and English were more relevant to the country’s global competitiveness.
Up until 2002, the subject Araling Panlipunan (Social Studies), which included history, used to enjoy top priority in the Philippine education curriculum. The subject was allotted equal time along with math, science and English subjects.
But with the worsening level of competencies of Filipino students, the Department of Education made a drastic move by overhauling the curriculum for elementary and high-school levels.
A product of 16 years of studies and seven years of consultations, the Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) was carried out in all public elementary and high schools starting school year 2002.
"We were concerned about the low performance of students in subjects that were needed for us to compete globally," explains Dr. Eugenia Moraleda, chief of the Curriculum Development Division of the department’s Bureau of Secondary Education.
The 2002 BEC, implemented during the time of Education Secretary Raul Roco, aimed to improve the quality of education in public schools. A report by the Presidential Commission on Educational Reform said the elementary curriculum was overcrowded with too many subjects. This was also said of the high-school curriculum. "It should be streamlined to provide for greater concept understanding, mastery of skills, i.e. critical thinking and other scientific skills, and appreciation of science and technology as applied to daily life."
"An overcrowded curriculum can hinder or delay the development of lifelong learning skills as coverage of the subject matter tends to take priority over in-depth learning," said Education Undersecretary Fe Hidalgo in a paper presented in 2002 during a training of teachers for the new curriculum.
In the 1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the Philippines ranked 36th out of 38 countries in math and science, an indication that the quality of education in the country was on a steady downward spiral.
Hidalgo said studies recommended the revision of the curriculum by reclustering components into fewer subjects and giving more time to essential learning competencies.
"In short, a restructured, upgraded and more integrated curriculum," she said in her paper.
Moraleda explains that the 2002 curriculum was created under an order issued by Education Secretary Roco.
Eight to five subjects
The 2002 revised curriculum drastically reduced the number of subjects from eight to five—English, Math, Science, Filipino and the controversial Makabayan.
According to the department’s Order 43, issued in 2002, the elementary curriculum "focuses on the tool learning areas for an adequate development of competencies for learning how-to-learn."
"The 2002 curriculum for formal basic education aims at raising the quality of the Filipino learners and graduates and empowering them for lifelong learning, which requires the attainment of functional literacy," the department said in an executive summary in 2002.
In the elementary and high-school levels, Araling Panlipunan was lumped together with other subjects under Makabayan.
In the elementary grades, Makabayan, which the department called the "laboratory of life," consists of Sibika at Kultura/Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika; Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan; Musika, Sining at Edukasyon sa Pagpapalakas ng Katawan.
(Loosely translated, the subjects are civics, culture/geography, history and civics; home economics; music, the arts and physical education.)
"The Makabayan learning area provides the balance as it addresses primarily societal needs. Thus, it emphasizes the development of self-reliant and patriotic citizens as well as the development of critical and creative thinking," the department’s memo said.
The department said this needs understanding of Philippine history, culture, arts, music and games.
"Makabayan entails the use of integrated units of learning tasks which will enable the learner to personally process, assimilate and systematically practice a wide range of values and life skills including work skills and a work ethic," the department said.
From Grades 1 to 3, only Sibika at Kultura is taught and from Grades 4 to 6, Kultura/Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika is taught 40 minutes daily.
In high school, Makabayan, which "serves as a practice environment for holistic learning to develop a healthy personal and national self-identity," has four component subjects: Araling Panlipunan; Teknolohiya at Edukasyong Pantahanan at Pangkabuhayan; Musika, Sining, Edukasyong Pangkatawan at Pangkalusugan; and Edukasyon sa Pagpapahalaga.
Araling Panlipunan covers Philippine History and Government in the first year, Asian Studies in the second year, World History in the third year, and Economics in the fourth year. Araling Panlipunan is taught in the classroom for 240 minutes a week or 48 minutes a day.
One criticism about the 2002 curriculum concerned the grading method for Makabayan. According to the department’s guidelines, there shall be only one grade for the Makabayan subject. This is done by adding all the grades of a student in the component subjects and dividing them by the number of subjects.
"If the average grade in Makabayan is passing, the student shall be considered "passed" in the learning area, regardless of whether the student has a failing grade in any of the component subjects," the 2002 department memo said on computing the Makabayan grade in high school."
This means that even if a student fails in Araling Panlipunan, he can still pass the Makabayan subject if he gets grades in the other component subjects high enough to pull his average.
In May 2003, however, then-Secretary Edilberto de Jesus changed the guidelines to say that "if the student incurs any failure, the grade for Makabayan shall be "incomplete." Failure in any of the component subjects shall mean repeating the subject which the student failed."
In the 2002 curriculum, clearly the government wanted to upgrade students’ knowledge in English, Math and Science, considered marketable skills. But did the government do it at the expense of other subjects?
Another criticism hurled against the new curriculum is the reduction of time allotted for Araling Panlipunan from one hour in the old curriculum to 40 to 48 minutes under the new setup.
In Grades 4 to 6, for example, English is allotted 80 minutes a day; Filipino, 60 minutes; Math, 60 minutes; Science and Health, 60 minutes; and HKS, 40 minutes.
In high school, Filipino is allotted 240 minutes a week, or 48 minutes a day; English and Math, 300 minutes a week, or an hour daily; Science, 400 minutes a week, or 80 minutes a day; and Araling Panlipunan, 200 minutes a week, or 40 minutes a day, which was later increased to 240 minutes a week.
Dr. Ronaldo Mactal, chairman of the History Department of the De La Salle University, said the 2002 curriculum had an adverse effect on how students and teachers perceived Araling Panlipunan as a subject.