Outside in and inside out! A place to store ideas about education.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Learning vs. Passing

I am a teacher trainor for teachers in the basic education system. Our class met two days ago and my students told me a story of the DepEd's Drop Out Reduction Program (DORP). The DORP instructs teachers to use all means necessary for the students to pass their classes. Let me underscore the objective: for students to pass and move on to the next grade level, not necessarily for students to learn the desired competencies for each level. If the teachers fail more than two students in their class, they are required to go to the principals, or sometimes, the District supervisor's office to justify themselves. So teachers end up using any and all means (i.e., using attendance scores to beef up the grade, etc) so that the students can reach the passing mark. Teachers report that maybe as little as 20% in any given batch of public high school students truly deserve to pass their science classes, but the teachers allow them to pass all the same because of pressure from the different levels of bureacracy in the DepEd. After a few years of this, what do we have? High school students with Grade 4 competencies! Students whom by the very nature of how they entered the grade level are not expected to do well in that grade level, but are expected to exit with passing marks all the same.

If we automatically assume that two more years of schooling will relate to graduates of High School that have the competencies of a High School graduate then we will be disappointed. Even by the end of grade school the average score of students in the National Elementary Achievement Test is below par, and this is with extensive review classes at the last months of class, how can we expect them to enter High School with the full complement of skills? How can we expect them to exit High School "equipped with all the necessary skills and aptitude that makes him readily employable"?

This strange preoccupation of DepEd to thresh out positive-seeming statistics (i.e., Zero Drop Out rates) and adopt "international standards" (i.e., in standardized test questions) in expense of the more important objectives of schooling will make any DepEd initiative suspect. This is not to say that the fault lies in government, no, but in the whole mindset we have of education. It is high time that we focus not on schooling but in learning. Maybe through this re-orientation we will be able to find creative means of effecting learning, whether we be within the school system (with 10 years or 12 years of schooling) or within families, communities, mainstream and alternative media, and other social institutions.

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