Friday, June 30, 2017

Functional Literacy

Greater Lagro Gazette, July-Sept 2017
Special Report by Abercio V Rotor, Ph.D.

First Part: A Camilo Osias Story
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Education has greatly changed the way our children learn today.  With the new curriculum K-12 now implemented nationwide,   social media at fingertip,  on-line learning likened to university without walls, the Internet and proliferation of educational tools, it is important to look back and review the so-called “old school,” in the context of practical and functional nature of education, as well as its historical and cultural perspectives. This article presents three stages of education from early 19th century to our postmodern times.  – Editor Feliciano U Galimba
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Dr Abe V Rotor
This article is dedicated to CAMILO OSIAS, author of THE PHILIPPINE READERS
(1924), adopted as textbook in the elementary up to post-war era. It was used in San Vicente Central Elementary School (Ilocos Sur) where the author had his early schooling in the fifties.

Here is a story about Pedro and Jose I read in the elementary.

One day Pedro approached his boss and complained why his partner Jose is receiving a higher pay when both of them have the same nature of work.

“Ah, Pedro,” sighed the boss with a sheepish smile. “You will come to know the reason.”

Just then the doorbell rang. “Pedro, please find out who is at the gate.”

After some time, Pedro returned, “Someone is looking for you, sir.”

“Ask who he is.” Pedro went to the gate again, and reported back.

“He is a certain Mr. Carlos, sir.”

“Ask him what he wants.” Pedro went to the gate for the third time, and then returned.

“I did not get it well, sir. But he said he sells home appliances…promotion, something like that. He would like to meet the manager.”

“Tell him we do not need appliances.”

The next day the doorbell rang again. This time, both Pedro and Jose were in the office of their boss. Jose promptly rose from his seat to attend to the visitor at the gate. After a while he returned and reported back.

“Our visitor is an insurance agent, sir. He was offering insurance for our building, and knowing that it is already covered, I told him we do not need his offer for the moment. He gave me his business card.” Jose handed the card and excused himself for another call.

“Now you understand,” said the boss to Pedro with a sheepish smile.
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Camilo O Osias (1889 - 976) was born in Balaoan, La Union. He was noted as one of the senate presidents of the Philippines, a nationalist leader who worked for Philippine independence and sovereignty, and is remembered as an educator, politician and writer who produced works such as The Filipino Way of Life, the Philippine Readers, and Jose Rizal, His Life and Times – a biographical work on Rizal. (Internet)

.Dr. Osias’ suggestions to Philippine schools:

1.    Preserve the solidarity of Filipino;
2.    Maintain the unity of the Philippines;
3.    Work out a proper equilibrium in economic order;
4.    Develop social justice;
5.    Observe the merit system in government service;
6.    Promote peace and national defense;
7.    Uphold the inalienable rights of life, property, liberty, and happiness;
8.    Keep in their prestige majesty the fundamental freedom, especially freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of peace and assembly, and freedom of worship;
9.    Conserve the principle of equality;
10. Hold high the ideals of religion;
11. Keep over aloft the torch of education, and
12. Make democracy a living and functional reality.

Dr. Osias believed that education should secure for every person the fullest measure of freedom, efficiency, and happiness. Efficiency, he demands that one must be able to cooperate with the other members of the society to promote common good. He also advocated that the educational system must contribute towards the achievement of the goals of education by inculcating their minds and hearts of the youth the value of preserving the patrimony of the country promoting the general welfare of the people. ~

Second Part 
Literacy Beyond the 3Rs
Literacy is a measure of capability rather than just meeting the fundamentals of writing, reading and arithmetic or the so-called 3Rs. For many years this triad dominated the concept and application of literacy.
Hands-on and on-site study enhances practical learning. UST Graduate Students 
under the author (background)  on a field trip in Amadeo, Cavite.

I grew up with this rule of thumb with my dad as my first teacher. It was a convenient gauge among citizens at large. It was the aim of compulsory basic education, that is six years of elementary, and later four years high school?

But the level of literacy is based on the low end of a longer and wider test for literacy. Ours in more ways is still basically the three “Rs” virtually unchanged. Thus, when a person, irrespective of age, is able to read the newspapers, write legibly the names of candidates of his choice in an election, and can make simple computations, he is considered literate.

But how literate is literate today?

It is viewing literacy in my own time comparing it with literacy in the present generation; literacy on the farm and literacy in the city. How varied is literacy - qualitatively and quantitatively?

Or we may also put it this way, “How different is literacy in theory and literacy in practice?”

Here is a scenario in the movie, The God’s Must be Crazy. Imagine a lady teacher assigned for the first time in a remote village in the Kalahari Desert in Botswana, Africa. How could she escape a thorny bush which virtually engulfed her? Can she climb a tree to escape a wild beast? Can she find enough water from dewdrops clinging on grass and leaves? Naturally she cannot. She had never experienced any of these in the city where she grew up.

The Bushman, on the other hand, accustomed to desert life, wonders how illiterate the lady is. In like manner, the Bushman is illiterate to the ways of the civilized world. In fact to him a bird and plane are one and same, it’s only the sound they make that makes a difference. He had never seen a bottle. To him he wondered how water can become so hard. Would he know the concept of ownership? What value is money to him? But would the lady know which path to take and evade ambush by a lion? Does a rhino charge at a fire at night and stump on it until it is extinguished? Or is this only a myth? Ask Andrew, the clumsy researcher conducting a doctoral research in the desert.

In today’s standard this conventional parameter is no longer adequate to enable one to perform efficiently and comfortably the many tasks required of modern living, considering the advances of science and technology, the expansion of the realms of human endeavor, and interdisciplinary concerns.

On the other hand, can a city bred live comfortably on the countryside? Suppose there is force majeure that deprives one the amenities of living? Take the case of the movie Castaway, a story of a survivor who lived all by himself in an island for four years, until he was rescued. Earlier fiction novels tell us of man's resiliency to adapt to sudden change in environment, orphaned from society by circumstance, such as Swiss Family Robinson and Robinson Crusoe. Success in survival in these stories depended on functional or applied literacy, coupled by extreme determination that tests the mind, psyche and spirit.
Third Part
Literacy in the Cyber Age


Laptop computer, and its versions, is a must in college, office and in the home.

Today, to have a credit card or an ATM card is no easy task; much more if you have both. One must acquire mastery in their uses, and basic knowledge in accounting. But these are only tools used in countless transactions that include electronic marketing, now a booming industry. It is “armchair marketing” whereby all you need is watch the merchandise on TV and dial the number for your order.

• If there is e-marketing, there is also e-learning, that is on-line or distance education using the computer and other media. Here is a chance of increasing the level of literacy for those who failed to complete basic education, and those who aspire to learn more or even earn a degree. But first, one should have basic communication skills before he is admitted into the program.

* In transportation likewise  the conventional ticket has evolved into electronic card.  Transport or hotel reservation? Just e-mail or text.  You need a quick and comfortable ride? Uber or Grab will pick you up, just call, instead of flagging a taxi on the road.  Lost or new to a place? Consult GPS or Ways. How about a view of the place you are going? Google Earth will show you an aerial photo map, and as you wish, the exact location of your destination. 

*Have you heard of teleconference?  Rochelle Valencia candidate for MS Biology successfully defended her thesis through remote examination.  Since she could not leave her work in Darwin, Northern Australia, DLSU DasmariƱas arranged a question-answer-video system called teleconferencing. Her thesis? “Comparative Ethnobotany of the Philippines and Australia.” Many universities abroad adopt this system, and in fact thousands of students earn their degrees from Open Universities. STOU in Bangkok for one has 250,000 enrolees who earn their degrees without going to school.

• In medicine, the routine medical examination has become a complex process which requires blood test of a dozen items, x-ray, ECG, CY Scan, MRI, etc. Medicines are no longer as simple as they were a generation ago, even if we have a law to label  them generically, that is, to print the active principle in universal language. Prescriptions alone are difficult to follow, much more in understanding the mode of action and effects of the medicine.

• Appliances for the home and office are no longer as simple as switching on and  off. How do we set the controls for temperature, timing, carbon dioxide level, fire alarm, light intensity? How about operating a camera monitor, microwave oven, automatic dish-washing machine? And we have not yet mentioned attending to their regular maintenance.

• A chauffeur or driver, one hired by a family or an executive is required to know basic mechanics as a requirement in proper car maintenance. For his part too, he must learn the cardinal rules of human relations - courteous, respectful, diplomatic in many ways, yet on the other hand, secures the family or his boss from danger, a security guard, and an intelligence agent of sort.

• I have a friend who, like me, belongs to the so-called “old school. This is his confession. “I will e-mail you,” his insurance agent said, “as soon as I get to office.” My friend didn’t understand a thing about e-mail, he is computer illiterate. “May I get your e-mail address?” continued his agent. Still my friend said nothing. “Well, if you don’t remember it now, just text me. Okay?” “How stupid I felt,” my friend confessed to the point of embarrassment. “I guess you need to enroll in a crash program.” I said. He did.

• Opening a Blog on the Internet, is not that easy. But my daughter who was then taking up graduate studies in Information Technology, assured me. “You can do it, Papa.”
Bloggys 2015 Best Nature and Environment Blog
I almost gave up. Rather Anna nearly gave up hope teaching a sixty-sixer. Today my Blog is without any added item or two a day. Lately, I realized I haven’t tapped the newer features of the computer. For example, it says, “You can make money in your Blog.” I didn’t know I can compose music and play it on the Blog.” How about if I sing?"

My Blog says, “Certainly.” The next time I knew it, I already had a host of followers. Today I have more than 3,500 posted topics in my School on Blog - in just five years. I requested Anna, “Please unclog my blog.”

Unexpectedly Living with Nature was listed finalist among the best blogs in the country. I received the Best Blog on Nature and Environment 2016.

“Papa, you are already famous worldwide!” ~

A Naturalist World Dr Abe V Rotor

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