Students of Philippine public schools are being given a rotten deal. They are not allowed to be all that they can be.
How can parents stand for it, knowing that their child will not be given the education needed to be successful in a competitive global economy? That the child will never be all that he can be?
Public school students are handicapped by a style of education that emphasizes the passive skill of memorization instead of active, productive skills of creative thinking, problem solving and ambition. Furthermore, there are too many kids, the facilities are poor and teachers are too often unskilled and overworked
Yes, Philippine universities produce many fine professional minds. They filter up with the strong support of their families, many through private schools. I am referring to a different group. I am referring to the millions of kids who are forced to achieve well below their potential. Whose home life may not be the best. The millions of kids who are denied an opportunity to be all that they can be by a school system that is so over-whelmed and under-funded that it can barely cope.
How can the Philippines get from behind to the front in the global competition for capable minds? How can a struggling school system become a worldwide leader in how it opens young minds to the excitement of knowledge, good values and ambition?
In my earlier article, I proposed an "out of the box" agenda that encourages kids to think for themselves and to aspire to compete in the global playing field for brainpower. It is centered on five essential disciplines:
- English and Chinese (Mandarin)
Refer to my prior blog ("The Philippine's Reach is Too Short to Grasp") for a description of the subjects covered within each area.
The First Objection
"Oh, yeah, Joe. How are we going to do that? It is totally impractical. We don't have enough money or teachers or people who would back such a wild, far-out program."
Well, the first thing you do is swap out your "can't do" attitude for one that says: "We must do this and we must not let any barriers stop us from finding a way".
As US President Kennedy made a commitment to put a man on the moon, the Philippines can make a commitment to radically improve and modernize its public education. To innovate and lead rather than lag behind forever.
The moon walk was accomplished by a commitment to problem-solving anchored by application of technology. (1) Commitment; the nation was enthusiastic about it. (2) A problem-solving attitude, one that does not accept the premise "it can't be done". (3) Technology.
Achieving a striking advancement in education in the Philippines would require the same three elements: (1) National commitment, (2) Problem solving and will to succeed, and (3) Technology.
I'll leave gaining the commitment up to the nation's Educator in Chief, the President, and his "gate-keepers of children's minds", his education staff. I would remind them, the gates are weather beaten and worn, hanging from one rusty hinge, and very hard to push open. To put it in blunt terms, Filipino kids aren't getting a world-class education and the gatekeepers are responsible.
The Vision: to end the suppression of opportunity that exists now and give millions of intelligent young Filipinos the knowledge and confidence to strive for the moon. The figurative moon. Or literal moon, that is fine, too.
Overcoming the First Objection: "It's impractical."
It seems impractical to make dramatic change given the breadth of the problems and the increasing flood of kids going to school. But it is entirely feasible if educators are willing to let go of the way they were taught and embrace technology as the way to do so much more, and teach so much better.
I therefore propose the Moon Model.
Step 1, build a Mission Control center that is equipped with aggressive, sharp, computer literate people, technology pros, "out of the box thinking" Curriculum Masters, and central computer hardware and software (the latter including a secure internet platform). Have the Curriculum Masters begin building the full curriculum and Grade 6 lessons that will be pushed out to a handful of schools. Develop a teacher certification program.
Second, select the seven pilot schools for conversion of one classroom of Grade 6 students to a new curriculum and a new teaching method than is anchored to the internet. This program is for students showing the aptitude and desire to attend college. Issue a bold challenge to each of the seven responsible local schools to aspire to be the best at making the conversion. That is, they must supply a proper facility, certify the best open-minded teacher to oversee class, provide the technology (with Mission Control assistance), and align teaching methods with directives from Mission Control. Classroom size, 20 students, plus or minus 3. No fees are to be assessed for exams, equipment or any other reason, and, no uniforms are required (this shall be deemed the "Bill Gates" rule, for he brought casual dress to Microsoft and corporate America.)
Third, give each student a tablet computer that can receive transmitted lessons and exams from Mission Control and upload exam answers and assignment papers to Mission Control. No paper text books or exam materials will be issued. Each classroom will also have 5 shared desktop computers and the teacher will have a laptop computer. All tablets and computers will have an internet modem (Smart or Globe broadband wireless).
Fourth, start pushing out the lessons from the internet site to students' computers. Provide teaching guides to teachers the same way.
Fifth, looking ahead, select the next group of 70 classrooms that will be converted and assign a conversion lead from each school who will work at the 7 initial schools to understand and help fine-tune the process. They have a year to get their own schools ready. Concurrently, have the Curriculum Masters build the Grade 7 lessons for those who advance from the original seven classrooms.
Concurrently, the Educator in Chief will have to get Philippine schools converted to the 12-year international standard, realign necessary laws and regulations to recognize the dual teaching method that will exist for a time, and begin funding technology roll-out.
The basic point of this article is to suggest how to overcome the obstacle that "the job is too overwhelming". It is not if you take steps one at a time, where each step is along a well-defined path, and you walk forward with your head up. You also have to accept that some students will have a huge advantage over others for a time, and the clamor to be added to the new curriculum will be loud. Criteria for selecting schools for expansion will need to be clear.
The math computes like this:
Year 1: Build Mission Control; create master curriculum and Grade 6 lessons; certify 7 teachers.
Year 2: 7 classrooms Grade 6 converted (140 students)
Year 3: 77 classrooms Grade 6; 7 classrooms Grade 7 (1,680 students)
Year 4: 777 classrooms Grade 6; 77 classrooms Grade 7; 7 classrooms Grade 8 (17,220 students)
Year 5: 7,777 classrooms, etc. (172,760 students)
In Year 5, you have 172,760 Filipino kids on the move toward excellence. Toward opportunity.
By year 10, they are all on the move.
In a future article, I'll deal with the Second Objection "My God, the cost of all those computers and internet access!! No way, Dude!".
I'll also deal with the Third Objection. "Our teachers are overwhelmed already; no way they can train up to a new curriculum, too." Ah, let me give you a hint about this: Grading will be done by computer or outsourced to a call center under the auspices of Mission Control. Local teachers will have more important things to do.
Finally, I will provide the BIG SECRET key to success.
Once I finish with the BIG SECRET, a light bulb will go off inside your brain. The pieces will fit: The curriculum. The rollout. The computers. The teachers. The secret.
You will become a believer.
The Philippines CAN go from the back of the pack to global leader. From millions of kids denied opportunity to millions of kids thriving on opportunity.