[Address: 3rd COCOPEA-Mindanao Congress, GenSan, Nov. 28-28, 2012]
Educational reform in the Philippines, if we may call it that, is being primarily driven by an effort to meet standards of education in the global world – where our graduates with only ten years of elementary education, no matter the quality of their knowledge through their engineering and nursing degrees, were disadvantaged. That is why both public and private schools in the Philippines, the latter through the leadership of the COCOPEA – already embarked on the K-12 reform, even though this is still in the process of being legislated. The global world with its unforgiving agenda won’t let us wait. That is also why there has been much discussion, sometimes passionate debate, about quality assurance. The outcomes of our schools and HEIs must be quality outcomes. And so our Commission on Higher Education has proposed its Outcomes and Typology Based Quality Assurance (OTBQA) Proposal. Implementing urgent reforms in collaboration with national government, however, should not allow us to forget fundamental mission-commitments we have to transformative education.
K-12 as Primary Educational Reform for Implementation
I don’t know if anyone had any inkling about how difficult adding two years to our formerly tranquil system would be. The idea was to decongest grades 1-10, to have more time to teach elementary level subjects well. This was a laudable idea. So to the 10 years we already had, we added Kindergarten in the front (to better insure that grade schoolers don’t drop out!), and two grades 11 and 12 in the end. Somewhere in the process the idea was added that there are many subjects in college that don’t belong there. So the years, 11 and 12, that were there to de-congest 1-10 were now congested by subjects that were pushed down from college. Add to this now the idea that one who finishes grade 12 should either be able to work or to go to college. That meant, instruction of a more technical nature needed to be introduced to prepare students to work, even as instruction of a more academic nature needed to be planned to prepare students now for the really real college. For the standards of technical instruction, TESDA was involved; for the standards of college preparedness, CHED was involved. It published college readiness standards. DepEd focused on preparing the lugubrious system of the public schools for the transition, and welcomed the suggestion that private schools take care of themselves. CHED focused on OTBQA.
Meanwhile not everyone understands which college subjects are going to senior high school, and what the effect of these shifts on the CHED Policies, Standards and Guidelines (PSGs) of particular disciplines shall be. Not everyone understands how subjects in senior high schools shall be taught and with what teachers. There is news of aggressive DepEd recruitment of teachers, which make our administrators of schools very nervous. Meanwhile, there is a new proposal for 36-unit multi-disciplinary general education program for the new scheme of things, for which teachers must be special trained. But the effect of the general education program on the PSGs of the individual disciplines and on the mission-based core curricula of the schools is still uncertain.
In the midst of this – or on top of it – instead of CHED focusing on this key administration reform, CHED is talking about a reorganization of the HEI types and horizontal standards of evaluation that must be sensitive to type and evidenced on outcomes. Now three horizontal types are being proposed: the professional institute, the college and the university. Fr. Antonio Samson, S.J., President of the Federation of Associations of Accreditors of the Philippines (FAAP), however, has written CHED to point out there that is really not that much difference between the professional institute and the college, so why not stick with the college? Meanwhile, the emphasis is on outcomes based quality assurance. I have written to point out that you can really not assure outcomes unless you have appropriate inputs. Not long ago it was pointed out that for outcomes-based quality assurance in the international discussion a well-defined and well-understood National Qualifications Framework is necessary; last October 2012, an Executive Order (E.O.) – and not a law as is practice in other countries – was suddenly signed by the President promulgating a National Qualifications Framework that only very few have seen. I understand it is more of a skeleton rather than a substantial guide on the basis of which outcomes at our various academic levels can be articulated. Furthermore, the PSGs of the individual disciplines necessary for any quality assurance evaluation are still a “work in progress” – needing the confusing implementation of K-12 to first settle before they are finally determined. The pressure however in CHED seems to be intense to approve the CMO on OTBQA – even though it is not ready to implement it.
My suggestion is: focus on K-12. This is the substantial educational reform that must be implemented. The law has not yet been passed. But the House has passed it; soon enough, the Senate will pass it as well. Focus on K-12 which will shake all of us up, but which we will survive, if we focus on this reform. Not all the public schools will be offering 11 and 12; for that matter, neither will all the private schools. But where 11 and 12 are required by law, there will be a demand for these two new years, especially for 11 and 12 that can competently prepare students for college. Focus on a dialogue with CHED that will clearly spell out the PSGs for colleges after 2018. Focus then on understanding how K-12 will affect you in the concrete, and how you will survive it, even though for two years there will be no freshmen. Insist through your networks that this is the reform to focus on. And here, let us help one another.
My second suggestion is: join me in reiterating to CHED that the CMO on OTBQA should not be approved – at least at this time. If it must be approved, it should wait until K-12 has been properly implemented. There are too many elements in the OTBQA proposal that are amorphous and indefinite “works in progress,” including the issue of the level playing field between private and state universities. In the recent General Assembly of the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) a unanimous resolution was passed requesting the CHED to defer the approval of the CMO on OTBQA. You may wish to consider the same.
Beyond meeting the current concerns of K-12 and Quality Assurance, there is yet a third area for educational reform: the abiding challenge to education itself. That is: the, humanization of humanity, or, for the Christian school, the divinization of human culture and society through the work of educated individuals committed to the Kingdom of God. This is the abiding imperative given all schools for transformative education.
First, it must be appreciated that transformative education does not vitiate the role education must play in conserving the gains of human civilization. Our “conserving” schools must still teach students how to build strong bridges and sturdy skyscrapers, how to prevent mass disease, and mass produce medicine that saves life, and not destroys it. Our students must learn reliably the defining doctrines of their faiths; they must understand the key ideas on which our civilization is developed. Similarly, they must understand the foundational insights and methods of science and technology, even as a condition for progress in the same. They must learn about our planet, our galaxy among galaxies, our universe, their wonders and their vulnerabilities. They must learn of human societies and how societies function. They must learn how to care for and heal the sick. And let’s face it: they must all learn arithmetic, and know that one plus one is not equal to ten, as some usurers may insist; they all must learn language, not in a “transformative” manner with one’s own grammar, syntax, spelling, but they must use language properly, authentically, and with integrity – that is, without sottesque plagiarizing. For all this we need the knowledgeable not arrogant teacher, the authoritative not authoritarian instructor, the encouraging not intimidating mentor to help preserve what civilization has achieved. We need wise teachers and administrators and superintendents of school systems who are able to discern what it is among myriad possibilities in a confusing world that must be conserved. For education preserves.
Education preserves normally according to the insights and values of those who have been educated well, even when education fails. That is a fact that we must also appreciate today. Education falls short of its mark. Where good education seeks to lead out of (ex ducere) its human students the insights and energies which own the human vocation to humanize humanity or the divine vocation to live in the dignity of the children of God, sometimes education – in preserving the many things it must preserve – fails in this crucial imperative: to motivate the student to be human. It fails to help him or her to rise to its moral demands, or tires at its tediousness, and sets it aside. Thus, in the face of horrendous evil brought onto humanity most often by the educated, it becomes complicit in the evil. And because education is supported by the economic activities that benefit from or result in this evil, and is so concerned about the many important things that would make students successful in this world, it becomes part of “wisdom” not for education to be too noisy, it becomes part of “prudence” not for education to speak out, part of “outreach” not really to reach out. With the intimidated silence of women raped, with the sullen silence of gays outcaste, with the silence of exploited laborers within the systems of the most successful of agro-industries and the most profitable of our malls, with the silence of indigenous tribes deprived of their lands and livelihood, with the environmentalists and journalists silenced by bullets, education chooses “wisely” to remain silent. That is not a silence in solidarity with the silent; it is not a silence of compassion; it is a silence in complicity with evil that screams in silence. It is the silence, which gives education its black eye, and where the vaunted passion for truth is extinguished. Where social justice demands change, where divine love demands things cannot remain as they are, education chooses to be silent. And so it conserves the evil. It preserves it. It does not transform. Excusing its lack of courage, it looks at the squalor in squatters’ areas and says, “God’s will;” it looks at the suffering of the farmers, and declares, “Ganun talaga!” it looks at the disenfranchisements of the Lumads from effective participation in decisions which affect them, and says “such is the march of history;” it regards the pained bitterness of the small scale miner, and pronounces, “His fault.”
Is education therefore transformative? I sincerely think it can be. It must be.
Transformation must be “educated.” It must be consciously “led out of” a perceived disjoint between what is and what ought to be. The perception may be mediated by knowledge, but must not remain with knowledge. The action must be educated. It must be “led out of” knowledge that includes moral insight, science and technology. Clearly, we are not talking about absolutely transforming everything in reality and society; many of the things we discussed above need to be preserved, not transformed. We are not in a state of total revolution where in the name of transformative education we must invent a square wheel or renounce the law of supply and demand. Clearly, we are also not talking about a transformation that yields a state worse than when transformation began. Here, I think five points are valid: (1) What must be transformed must be chosen, discerned. (2) Transformation must be brought about not just by new knowledge, but by activated freedom. (3) Transforming action is applied not only to what must be transformed but to the agent of transformation. (4) Transforming action must benefit from education. (5) Transforming action must be not only individual but institutional, not isolated but networked.
1) What must be transformed must be discerned. It must be educated, led out of the perceived disjoint between the imperative to be humanize humanity or to divinize human culture. It must proceed from the disjoint between what is and what ought to be.
I believe this perception of “disjoint” can emerge in many different situations. One can oneself be a victim of injustice, and so feel the disjoint in the rumblings in one’s belly or in the water leaking from one’s roof. One can be intimately related with the class of oppressed urban poor, where the weight of their suffering becomes one’s own suffering vicariously. One can be exposed to the squalor of the squatter community living under a bridge, and so gain insight into the disjoint between their condition and the living standards of the wealthy. One can be taught well, and so encounter this disjoint between statistics that describe the power of the few vs. the victimization of the many. One can even be introduced to the disjoint through prayer on the Lord’s statement, “Whatever you do to one least of my brothers and sisters, that you do or not do to me” (Mt. 25:40). In the CEAP, six areas of concern reflect the institution’s shared discernment of disjoint between reality and how reality ought to be.
Justice and peace. Justice is necessary. It is not yet achieved. There is a miscarriage of justice in the judiciary. Executive action is often bereft of justice (e.g. EO 79). Legislative action is too often based on private interests and not the demand of social justice. Peace has yet to be achieved. The achievement of justice serves the establishment of peace. The challenge of justice is not only in commutative and distributive justice. Especially for colleges and universities, it is social justice – the justice called forth by the common good – that needs an ongoing multi-disciplinary articulation. Through our schools, peace is served in fostering inter-cultural and inter-religious communication and dialogue.
Environmental stewardship. For this generation, the difference between the past and the future is the environment; it is the realization in the present that if we do not attend to the environment we will have no future, the realization that if we allow individuals or private-interest groups to destroy our mountains and rivers as they destroyed the forests of the past, we will have no future. Hence, the imperative to train our students in environmental responsibility through such as the greening of our campuses is urgent. The imperative for our educational communities to stand up and denounce powerful private interests that continue to destroy the environment and its rightful human users, no matter the cost, is real.
Engaged citizenship. We must use the democratic system for the ongoing humanization of our society. Power resides in the citizens. There is a need then to motivate citizens to engage themselves in social transformation according to the demands of the common good. This is in using their power to vote wisely, and protecting the prerogative of citizens to vote freely. This is also in monitoring politicians on the trust of citizens to insure they exercise their office effectively and in contributing to civil society actively. Schools and universities lend themselves easily to engaged citizenship.
Poverty reduction. The levels of poverty still existing in our God-fearing country are scandalous, especially when we hear, “Whatever you have done for one of these the least of my sisters and brothers, that you have done to me” (ibid.). While the alleviation of poverty through such as soup kitchens and handouts is sometimes necessary, alleviation does not reduce poverty. Outreach activities of our schools must aim at poverty reduction, not only alleviation. It must not only hand out fish, but teach to fish, and make sure that our waters abound in fish. Poverty reduction is an urgent area of necessary research. Our social science faculties and institutes must focus on understanding the challenges of how to more effectively reduce poverty. Our business faculties must form businesspersons dedicated not to the maximization of profit but to the creation of wealth and its equitable distribution.
Gender equality. This is not just a matter of safe sex and an anti-RH position. It is a matter of discrimination and violence against women in the home, in the workplace and in worship. It is also a matter of recognition of “other” genders, of the increasing assertion of gay and lesbian rights, including the right of gays to marry civilly. If our schools are to deal with our youth and many of our own teachers who are gay or lesbian, this may need more discernment than believed.
Youth empowerment. This is the challenge to involve our students in democratic change and to spot and form leaders for the future. This is not as easy as it may seem. If leadership is to be educated, then it cannot be based on whim or vainglorious ambition. It must be led out of an ongoing commitment leadership based on the demands of the common good. It must help young leaders to think out of the box, so that through their lifelong leadership the backwardness and corruption in society is not preserved but transformed.
So much for CEAP’s discerned areas of concern. Of course there are other areas of possible reform – health reform, church reform, military reform, educational reform, inter-religious dialogue, and the like. The discernment of engagement must always be decided not on the basis of private interest, or the advantages such engagement would bring to the school, or the political advantage this position might bring a political ally, but always and exclusively on the demands of the common good, as in our discernment we believe God wills.
(2) Transformation must be brought about not just by new knowledge, but by activated freedom. I always distinguish between communicating knowledge, which goes to the head and is generally measurable, and formation, which goes to the heart, which is immeasurable but in praxis crucial. Transformational education involves both: the communication of relevant knowledge and the formation of freedom. In the formation of freedom, which is totally different from arbitrariness, one awakens the human being to him- or herself. One convinces the human being of his or her responsibility for the fuller humanization of human society, and awakens him or her personal creativity in making this response. Similarly, one convinces the Christian believer of his of her responsibility for the Kingdom of God, and for his or her personal contribution to the transformation of society according to its demands. The school forms the student in responsibility to, i.e., in obedience to the imperative of the common good. Of course, there is the possibility of ignoring this call, as one can ignore any moral call. But the result of our formation must be a freedom to engage, and say yes. Freedom is in obedience to the common good.
This is not something, which is easily activated in schools by complex concepts. It is activated rather by witness and convincing example.
(3) Transforming action is applied not only to what must be transformed but to the agent of transformation. If our school organizes action against large-scale miners, the motivation is ultimately to coerce them to obey the demands of the common good, no matter the cost. The transforming action affects not only the miners, but the members of the school community making the demand. It combats their erstwhile ignorance of the issues; it demands they do not ignore them. It breaks their invulnerability from the scenes of injustice. It sensitizes them to their own liabilities vis-a-vis the common good, inviting them to a deeper level of humanity. It deepens their commitment to the transformation as the miners react against them, teaching them despite criticism, opposition, vilification or violent persecution, to be persistent in their obedience to the common good.
(4) Transforming action must benefit from education. Knowledge is not irrelevant. Good intentions are not sufficient. The process of change must benefit from the accumulated knowledge and the new research that the school may bring to guide the transforming action. One will work at the uplifitment of a squatters’ community using inputs from sociology, anthropology, architecture, civil engineering, architecture, and even theology.
(5) Finally, transforming action must be not only individual but institutional, not isolated but networked. In a school, the wider the participation in the transforming action the better; when the transforming action is not only individual but institutional, enjoying the inspiration of the school leadership and the resources of the school, it is much stronger. When schools bond with other schools, and school associations bond with other school associations in the same advocacy, the transforming action becomes powerful – truly effective in its ability to bring about change.
In the end, educated transformation of society and of ourselves is “lead out” of love – our love for our God, our love for our selves, our love for people we know in our society whom we know are victims of unjust deeds and unjust structures, our love for creation.
In this context, may we find our role as private educational institutions in Mindanao that supports valid and urgent educational reform such as K-12. But may that reform serve not only the unforgiving and sometimes alienating demands of global society. May it serve rather the imperatives of our faith-inspired vocation as educators towards the further humanization – or divinization – of human society not only in the Philippines but throughout the world.