DepEd’s Technical Working Group on Curriculum

G.W.F. Hegel, the German Philosopher (1770-1830) and responsible for what might be called Dialectic Idealism, has delightful passages on how difficult it is to begin philosophizing, because beginning presupposes knowing how all is supposed to really end. Unless you see the end, how do you begin rationally? Yet, how do you arrive at the end, which is not merely ideal but real, unless you really begin?

There was something of that quandary which emerged in the discussion of the Technical Working Group on Curriculum, (TWG-Curriculum), ably chaired by Dr. Paraluman Giron, last Wednesday, Jan. 26th, at the BALS Conference Room of DepEd. As part of the current national effort to reform basic education through the “K+12” reforms, the TWG-Curriculum had been planning curricular enhancement from Grades 1 to 12.

But Grades 11 and 12 had suddenly become a little problem. Why? The Hegelian quandary. Or, turf. Or, an administrative mess up. While the TWG on Curriculm originally considered Grades 11 & 12 part of its responsibility, and a committee headed by Dr. Lolita Andrada had already been working on this, the recent joint decision of DepED Secretary Armin Luisto, CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan, and TESDA Director Joel Villanueva, to allow CHED to take care of the content of the Pre-College stream, and to allow TESDA to take care of content for the work-after-graduation stream, and to direct DepEd to focus on decongesting Grades 1 – 10, had come as a mild shock to some members of the TWG, especially since communication of the joint decision had not been made formally but through private email.

However meritorious the decision of the three education heads may have been, the TWG-Curriculum discussion seemed to insist – in a manner that would have warmed Hegel’s heart! – that in order for members of the TWG-Curriculum to effectively plan curriculum, they must see and appreciate the real end. The suggestion was, therefore, that they should not only be adjusting K+10 content, but taking responsibility for all of K+12.

If the joint decision of the three heads is not to be reversed, this at least means that, the 11 & 12 Committee needs to sit with this larger TWG-Curriculum. At least in the beginning, until all agree on a shared framework.

As things have unfolded from the side of CHED, the task to take care of the Pre-College content of Grades 11 & 12 is its Technical Panel on General Education (TPGE), which is chaired by Dr. Isagani Cruz and include Dr. Tina Padolina and myself, both on the TWG-Curriculum.

Perhaps there is indeed need for a meeting of the TWG-Curriculm, the CHED TPGE, and the TESDA Group to meet soonest with the education Troika jointly. On the one hand, there is need to be more difinitive about the outcomes expected from the basic education K+12 reforms, part of which is to allow a good number of our students in 1 – 10 to enter the country’s work force after graduating from 12. It may not be sufficient here to talk about “Functional Literacy” as equipping persons “to be and to do.”

In a conversation this morning with Fr. Bienvenido Nebres, he suggested that it may be necessary to specify the functions we want the pupil ready-for-work to have; these functions will be different in a manufacturing economy and in a knowledge economy; these will necessarily be different from the functions required of the graduates of a pre-college stream. For this stream, Fr. Nebres says that in the international discussion on functional literacy, it is no longer appropriate to use “functional literacy,” even though college and graduate students also need to be at least functionally literate. The literacy of the college graduate needs to transcend functionally literacy.

The very general definition of functional literacy as empowering persons “to be and to do” may, of course, allow a different opinion, seeing something more profound than mere functionality in enabling “a person to do and to be.” But for purposes of curriculum definition, and of determining which subjects are included and which excluded, it may not be helpful.

Meanwhile, there is more than enough challenge for the TWG-Curriculum to focus on 1 – 10. The Revised Basic Education Curriculum did not fail because of lack of vision and framework and curriculum development. According to Fr. Nebres, it failed because it did not focus on the details which translated the vision and framework into actual implementation in the classroom. It did not focus on the teaching task enough, and making sure that each teacher had all the teaching tools necessary to tackle classes that are often overcrowded, in schools which handle two or even three shifts daily.

Fr. Nebres also insists that curriculum reform needs to listen to the experienced master teacher, rather than the philosopher.

Fr. Nebres is normally right.

But Hegel might also point out that the real end of the K+12 reform is not just the improvement of basic education, but strengtheningf the entire educational whole in the Philippines. The truth of the part is in the whole.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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