Let us vote for an education president who believes in the ability of education to change people’s livesIn just two months we will elect the leaders of our country for the next six years.
As a citizen, our vote on May 9 will be one of the most critical citizen’s duties we will be performing in our lifetime. I ask you to vote for an education president—a leader who believes in the power of education to transform lives and who will put our money to the best possible use, which is in education.
The Philippines is a laggard in all the international benchmarking tests taken in the few years pre-COVID-19, be it in reading, math or science, and whether the test takers were the nine-year-olds who took the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study or TIMSS, or the 15-year-olds who took the Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA.
After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, gaps have widened between the rich and the poor, the haves and the have-nots, and I talk not just about individuals but about countries as well. In the Philippines, after two years of no face-to-face classes and ineffective remote learning, our children—especially those from the public schools and the smaller, less resourced private schools—are now much more at a disadvantage than children from other schools and other countries that had more success with their remote learning and who opened their schools earlier. It is a complicated and difficult problem but not an impossible one to solve and to act upon.
Starting them young
Science tells us that brains are built and not born. And so, I say that to truly effect the change in Philippine education, we need to start from when children are very young. For children to learn early language literacy, numeracy, values, executive function and self-regulation, we need to support them with the materials with which to learn from and to support their teachers and caregivers with the knowledge, skills and the values with which to teach and help them to navigate this world. Equipping, preparing and guiding their caregivers and teachers to encourage their curiosity, support their explorations and experimentations.
Today Knowledge Channel Foundation is prioritizing two key stages: primary grade learning (kinder to Grade 3 or the 5–8-year-olds) and early childhood development or ECD (0–4-year-olds).
Since 2018, we embarked on a five-year program called “Basa Bilang,” which is the development of hundreds of video lessons in early language literacy and numeracy from Grades 1 to 3. These, I believe, are the foundations to learn science and other subjects.
We launched “Wikaharian,” our Filipino language literacy series for Grade 1 piloting in 18 public elementary schools in Santa Rosa, Laguna. We have also recently launched “Ready, Set, Read,” our English series for Grade 1 piloting in Marikina public schools. We have coupled these videos with teacher training and mentoring.
The pilot study results have been promising. It showed that the “Wikaharian” videos, when coupled with effective teacher training and mentoring, significantly improved the learning not only of average students, but also of at-risk readers or those who have high chances of failing academically.
We patted ourselves on the back thinking that we were addressing the problem at the lowest level and most foundational of skills, only to be brought face-to-face with facts that proved there was still a lower level.
Early childhood is when the most massive and unimaginable development happens in the brain and when it is most sensitive to the environment. Neuroscience has told us that 90% of brain development happens before the age of five and the enriching or adverse experiences of a child during this time affects his or her foundations in lifelong health, learning and behavior, with long-term consequences on schooling, diseases, productivity and earnings.
One out of every three Filipino children under five years old is stunted. Our country ranks ninth out of 80 countries with the largest number of stunted children. More than 50% of three- to four-year-olds do not attend preschool and for those in preschool, only one out of four is served by accredited day care workers. And yet various studies have shown that even just one year of quality preschool makes a big difference in the trajectory of their life.
Poor nutrition, lack of early learning stimulation and adverse conditions greatly affect children’s learning. About 3.8 million children are forced to leave school due to serious learning gaps in the early years. And so, as it takes a village to raise a child, the capacities of parents, caregivers, teachers, family members who share in the responsibility and care for young children are essential.
This is the reason we are now putting a lot of effort in ECD in video content and in training the people who are involved in the care of children in their early years. These, I believe, affect the learning of science and technology.
We’ve developed 10 video lessons featuring early childhood care and development concepts for children (three to four years old), parents and other care providers of children ages 0 to four years old. And we are developing 16 more for the first 1,000 days of a child. Video lessons are important tools in ECD as they allow children and adults to continue learning anywhere and anytime.
Since last year, we have trained close to 1,000 barangay child development workers and teachers, parents and barangay health workers and nutrition scholars in various parts of the country. This training builds the capacity of caregivers and teachers to give proper care to young children. The training is only three days but after the training is over, we continue to monitor the progress of the caregivers and teachers and provide guidance through various media and technologies, including the Facebook groups we’ve created with them.
Better developed children
Those who’ve participated in our ECD trainings have found it extremely helpful and have been inspired to embrace their roles and excel in what they do so they can deliver the best early childhood care to the children in their day care centers. We hope this will translate into better developed children ready for life in this VUCA world.
We have a third priority. Together with various groups within the Lopez Group and other partners like PAASE, CISTEM and FilSciHub, we developed a program called “Agham Para sa Pagbabago.” It focuses on science education and communication skills with initial emphasis on Grade 3 when science learning formally begins and on Grade 7 when students begin exploring career pathways. We are piloting in Lobo, Batangas. Through this project, we are doing the following:
1. Revisiting the science curriculum guide and lesson plans with 21st century skills and competencies with a strong focus on climate change adaptation, marine and terrestrial biodiversity and protection, agriculture, technology, health and communication.
2. Providing learning materials in the form of video lessons.
3. Training science educators on content knowledge, teaching approaches and communication skills to make learning science meaningful and engaging for the children.
Vote for our future
The goal is for the kids to love science and develop a science mind of critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities and the communication skills to solve their own problems, fostering innovation. We will encourage those that have the interest and aptitude to go into the STEM track.
There is really so much to do. For our part, we believe that starting children young is key. And we will continue to do our part to help children learn better.
But we will not succeed if the next president of the Philippines is not an education president. Our vote is critical. I ask you to please vote with your children and grandchildren in mind. Their future depends on you. As an electorate, we have let them down many times. Let us not let them down this May. Let us vote for our future. Mabuhay tayong lahat!
, call or text 0915-980-3474 or visit www.knowledgechannel.org. (Story/Photos by: Rina Lopez)