Friday, June 16, 2017

Challenges of Education in an Integrated School (San Vicente IS Integrated School)

Education must take us back to our heritage ... whatever education is today characterized by new curriculum, distance education (e-learning), accredited to the nth level (e.g. Center of Excellence), hightech, and the like - education must be integrated by all means into the holistic attributes of man - Homo sapiens (the Thinking Man), Homo faber (Man the Maker), Homo ludens (the Playing Man) and Homo spiritus (the Praying Man). - AVR
 Dr Abe V Rotor 
Living with Nature School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 evening class, Monday to Friday

 A  memorable visit to the school where I finished elementary education in 1953. Receiving the books I authored for the school library are Miss Retoria Riotoc (center), principal and Miss Seferina T Reclusado, master teacher. Right: With a sense of gratitude I presented the award I received - the 2015 prestigious 2015 Fr Jose Burgos Achievement Award, an honor I share with my alma mater.  

An Interview with Miss Beatriz R Riotoc
Principal, San Vicente (Ilocos Sur) Integrated School 

In defining a principal in our time, some sixty years ago, he was strict, in fact very strict, the mere mention of his name, made an erring pupil virtually sweat out of fear. For the word itself was associated with strict discipline. He was the like of Mr Sebastian Ruelos, our principal then, who believed that the school is but a step away from home, and the teachers are the alter ego of parents.  It was not unusual to see him carry a symbolic stick as he did his daily routine on the campus. 
San Vicente Integrated School today as it was during my time some sixty years ago - same building, same playground. Where has education changed and gone? One can only surmise what lies ahead of these school children. It is the duty of us, we who have spent the formative years of our lives in this school, to guide our younger brothers and sisters, our children, and grand children.   

The picture of a principal has changed in many ways since then.  She is the like of Miss Beatriz R Riotoc today.  She represents the women dominated field of education, earning her way to the top with a deep commitment to the teaching profession as a vocation to the point of considering teaching as a ministry. It is on this level that one like her is committed to a particular educational philosophy. 

But to understand ones philosophy in life and career, you must draw out the threads from a ball of years-long experience, so to speak, about the person. It is not an easy diagnostic research, since many teachers, particularly the younger ones have yet to develop a particular philosophy clearly their own. Educators call this eclectic, a transitional kind of philosophy, characterized by the adoption of various methodologies, personal and adaptive, in order to attain a particular objective or goal. 
An integrated school has the elementary and secondary levels combined into a continuous system, whereas, in the conventional system, elementary and high school are separate entities.  Under the new curriculum (K to 12), San Vicente Integrated School presently has 548 pupils in the elementary (Kinder to Grade 6) and 247 in the secondary (Grade 7 to 14), assigned to 35 teachers, 24 in the elementary and 11 in the secondary.   
On the other hand, there are teachers identified as perrenialists or authoritarian in their field of expertise and methodologies. With the fast growing fields of education more and more teachers are pursuing other philosophies such as realism, idealism, and existentialism. 

Miss Riotoc for one, is a realist, but  and a idealist as well. This can be traced to her background having been raised in a rural community, by a close-knit family where work, education and discipline are primordial values. As homegrown model in lineage, culture. language and education it is not difficult teachers and pupils under her care find adjusting to real situation conducive and amiable. 

But times have changed and change is accelerating. Miss Riotoc may be traditional, if you call it that way, if you are living in the city where conditions are not only changing fast but transient in many ways, what with students flocking in from various regions and classrooms are not getting bigger, and students' diminishing attention to lessons and incidence of breakdown in discipline. Such scenario may not not be apparent on the countryside.  The ambiance of learning is still healthier in the province.  So in San Vicente Integrated School. Indeed it poses a great challenge to the school principal as disciplinarian, catalyst to learning, vanguard, guardian, friend - roles perhaps no other profession can claim to be as many, as urgent and as vital. 

Education and History

Things have changed. "Spare the rod and spoil the child," has taken a more lenient course. "Dali mas palo, SeƱor," no longer holds since the end of the Spanish era which lasted for nearly four centuries. This adage faded out with the Thomasites - American teachers whose aim was to gain allegiance of young Filipinos to a new master, which dominated us for fifty long years as a Commonwealth of the US.  Then the Second World War broke, and left the world in ruins.   

The colonial masters had nothing left to exploit, the era of colonization came to an end, only to give way to a New World order, even as new nations proudly raised their own flag of Nationalism, the Philippines among them. The neophyte free nations found themselves in internal disorder.  Others became prey to two superpowers. The Cold War began, polarizing virtually all nations into two warring ideologies - democracy led by the US on one side,and socialism led by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or USSR, on the other, mortal enemies that almost led to a three world war.  

Then in 1989, after 45 years of Cold war, the world entered into a Neo-Renaissance. The Cold War ended with the dissolution of USSR, the divided Germany was reunited, so with North and South Vietnam. Modern communication and transportation shrunk the world, so to speak, into a Global Village. Homogenization became the name of the game as borders of culture, politics, religion, races, education, and other institutions of society, began to dissolve - and progressively continue to do so. 

We have embarked into Postmodernism, which our world never before experienced, or dreamed of, which sociologists aptly define as "living tomorrow today." We are living in a fast changing world, swift and chartless.  Humanity will never be the same again. 
So, where does education come in?  The task is enormous that no field or level of education can afford to be passive.  It is addressed to all, to all walks of life, for we are all teachers in our own right,     

A school principal, like a conductor of an orchestra, must be an efficient teacher himself or herself. As master teacher and administrator she must be able to develop teachers to become efficient and effective as well. Only then can a baton master succeed in leading his orchestra play beautifully and harmoniously the music of learning. Miss Riotoc places top importance to faculty development in these fields: 
  • Subject Matter Expertise, mastery of the subject 
  • Instructional Expertise, efficiency in methodology and delivery 
  • Communications Expertise, two-way process between teacher and students 
  • Classroom Management expertise, orderliness and discipline  
  • Diagnostic Expertise, sensitive to signs and symptoms attendant to learning
  • Relational Expertise, good relationship, cordial and friendly.  
But there are things that can’t be learned – and even if we do, the more we are led to wonder. Education serves to guide; it leads the young to a road of life he will travel on. It is the “binhi” principle, and the teacher is the biblical Sower. She holds high the torch of knowledge, she passes onto the torches of others to lend light to the world, that man and humanity become enlightened, borrowing Rizal's concept of education as the source of enlightenment and freedom.

Current Issue that Challenge a Teacher 

However good a teacher is, or a leader for that matter, she is aware that these general statements of truth and wisdom and undebatable, and yet these provide disturbing thoughts that come into the middle of the night of a teacher, much more to a school principal.   
  • How can social media enhance education? Can e-learning suffice and not require one to go to school?
  • There is an explosion of knowledge, but how much can we absorb?  How can we separate the grain from the chaff?  Which leads us to a new term, "infolluition."
  • Infollution” or Information Pollution – how can we clean up the garbage in cyberspace, sanitize learning before it contaminates and spreads into epidemic?
  • Whatever happened to the family where the principle of trinity is put to practice, tyhe family where society begins, where it very foundation lies?   
  • If “a little learning is a dangerous thing,” so with too much learning. While Darwinism has gained acceptance in the biological world, how can it apply in politics and commerce without disturbing society?  If science is good why does it spawn a Frankenstein.
  • And values? Socrates is too far to remember, Plato is "too pure", the Church is divided. Transience of domicile and purpose in life has changed values radically. 
  • Who is aware of the phenomenon of autotoxicity or self destruction. Not so many accept - and adamantly do -  that nature's law when violated results in global warming, species extinction, "tragedy of the commons," poverty and disease. How can these be taught early in school, and "save the world." 
  • Return to basic does not mean fundamentalism, today's root of conflict and the rise of organized terrorism that threatens world peace. Good education itself is laying down the basics of life and living, 
  • Strengthening the interconnectedness of home, school, church and community as the four pillars of a true and lasting education.  
The New Curriculum   Miss Riotoc as a bonafide Ilocano, true to the culture and tradition of the place, shares with me   certain predicaments I raised attendant to her position as teacher and school principal. I must say these are not comfortable issues.

Take the case of revising the curriculum by adding two years to the existing one. It's a paradox, it came when social media has overtaken education itself, when communication is at fingertip, from direct dialing to e-mailing, and texting has long replaced the telephone, in fact it developed into a pastime. Palm size gadgets in many trade names have virtually placed the holder at the center of information from all corners of the world. Whole volumes of encyclopedia, in fact whole libraries. open up in seconds. GPS tells direction, Google earth maps the world in any given place.  Directories, games, whereabouts, entertainment, etc., are virtually unlimited. 

Increasing the years of schooling may have inadvertently jibed with economic downtrend affecting the country and globally, when unemployment, and widespread poverty are up, (Fifty percent of the population are living below the poverty line), per capita income is among the lowest in the world, a far cry from that of Japan, US, Europe, and progressive Asia countries whose educational system is the basis in revising our curriculum. 

Extended schooling takes a heavy toll on the part of the family. Two years of lost opportunity in not being able to contribute to the family's income, exacerbated by increasing longevity, have placed a heavy burden on the narrowing working group. 

Teachers are already overworked, now the whole educational system is undermanned, ill-equipped, and apparently unprepared. I can only imagine how teachers grab the helm of the ship and take the children to safety, and to where their bright future awaits them. And yet teachers are romantically glorified in the like of the "Unknown Soldier" of their, obedience. compassion, diligence, sacrifice to the point of martyrdom.    

Integration and Functional Literacy  

Here's an example of cross-disciplinary integration with an English teacher and mathematics teacher using an example for subject integration. The English teacher wrote on the board. :
             The class says, the teacher is good.
             The class says, "the teacher is good."
             The class, says the teacher, is good.  
Placement of the comma changes the meaning of each sentence. On the part of the Math teacher, she adapted the above example into a mathematical expression.
              2 + 3 x 5
One student answered 25, while another answered 17.  She let the class exp[lore the correct answer. Then the teacher organized the figures 
             (2 + 3) x 5 
Integrating language with mathematics is not new.  It is used in coding and decoding 
secret communication.  General equations can be derived from integration such as fermentation and oxidation, two important biological processes. Demographic studies adopt integrated formulas, so with dialectics and philosophical inferences. 
Education and Formative Conscience

How does education of young children mold not only their mind, heart and spirit, but their conscience, the seat of ethico-morals of everyday living, which former UST Rector, Fr Tamerlane Lana calls formative conscience

Does it ring the conscience when we destroy the environment, waste food. pollute the air, unkind to the old, indifferent to general welfare, commit dishonesty, abandon our children, and the like?  

Grassroots Literacy  A tribesman living in the of Kalahari Desert in The Gods Must Be Crazy, unexpectedly  turned out to be the teacher of a lady teacher, a PhD holder at that. "To where the wind blows a predator can sense you," he warns in his native tongue, then wet his finger with saliva and raised it up like a barometer. "It is not safe to be here." He immediately led his special guest to safety. To which we ask, what is literacy?

What is literacy when a culinary expert fails to produce a precise boiled egg using modern gadget. When producing rice is more theory than practice, succeeding to produce half of the targeted crop yield?  How many children fail to reach functional literacy level that enable them to understand the world around them, interact with people, understand events, take good care of themselves, raise families of their own properly. 

Education must take us back to our heritage, the valued wisdom of our old folks. Whatever education is today characterized by new curriculum, distance education (e-learning), accredited to the nth level (e.g. Center of  Excvellence), hightech, and the like.  Education must be integrated by all means into the holistic attributes of man - Homo sapiens (the Thinking Man), Homo faber (Man the Maker), Homo ludens (the Playing Man) and Homo spiritus (the Praying Man). 

In parting, Miss Riotoc cited the great Mahatma Gandhi, Man of the Last Millennium. "You must be the change you want to see in the world." 

And to the Greatest Teacher of all who walked the Earth, education is alive, very much alive, in all of us, it is the way of life. ~  

World Teachers' Day

In celebration of 2016 United Nations and World Teachers’ Day and month  5 October 2016 

The Celebration aims to: 
  1. honor those who are in the teaching profession;
  2. acknowledge and give emphasis on the crucial role, loyal service and dedicated commitment of teachers in developing globally minded citizens, nurturing families, strengthening communities, and building the nation;
  3. revitalize the image of and respect for teaching as a vocation by increasing public awareness on the value of teachers in the Philippine society;
  4. take the occasion as an opportunity in building the image of teaching as an attractive and fulfilling profession;
  5. generate widespread support and assistance for teachers; and
  6. express gratitude for the positive influences of teachers on Filipino learners.
All public and private elementary and secondary schools, including schools division offices (SDOs) and regional offices (ROs), are enjoined to follow the Synchronized Programs, Projects and Activities.

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