POSTSCRIPT / July 20, 2006 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Lapus equates English to quality of education

MEDIUM: Rep. Jesli A. Lapus, incoming education secretary (barring unforeseen circumstances, he takes his oath July 31 at the latest), said he would fully restore English as the medium of instruction to upgrade the quality of education and make it “market driven,” whatever he meant by that.

Citing Japan as an example where a law has been passed requiring that English be taught at the grade school level, Lapus said, “We have to put English back on the frontline.”

I hope Lapus was not misquoted. This is sad, coming as it does from the chief of the basic education department. He seems to equate restoring English as the medium of instruction to quality of education.

As if, there is any educational philosophy that equates mastery of English with quality education.

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JAPAN MODEL: Lapus may want to find out why Japan required the teaching of English in its grade school curriculum, but not imposing it as the medium of instruction. Japan still uses Nippongo, or katakana, as its official medium of instruction.

English is the language of trade. It is the dominant language in the argot of the mercantilist world. The DepEd chief may want to leave things as they are right now in so far as imposing a medium of instruction is concerned.

English is one subject that should by necessity be taught to the Filipino student, if this is what Lapus may have meant by “market-driven” as the computer has made competency in English a must.

But as the medium of instruction, Pilipino, or the national language, as it has evolved and continues to evolve, is still the easiest to understand, utilize and assimilate by students and the populace, as found out by the late Filipino linguistics scholar and expert, former DECS secretary, Dr. Andrew Gonzales.

Moreover, how do we liberate the students from their colonial past if we continue to make them agents of a colonial culture?

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MANAGING DEPED: Lapus’ heart is for the educators, to be sure.

Being a trained manager, and an MBA professor at the Asian Institute of Management, he wants principals and head teachers to learn the methods and techniques of quality management and apply the same to school management.

This is well and good, knowing that many principals, even those with PhDs, may not be that conversant with, say, Paretan charts, or focus groups or FOCUS-PDCA, and benchmarking.

Quality management in education may not be too different in concept with quality management of non-profit corporations.

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HUMAN FACTOR: The human factor is at the heart of quality management. Customer satisfaction, in this case for the stakeholders such as teachers, the students and the parents of students, is a paramount goal of quality education.

Training and retraining of school administrators on the techniques of quality educational management has become necessary due to the competition of various functions for meager government resources.

Lapus has hit the mark on this aspect of the educational delivery system. With untrained educators managing the school system, the latter will continue to become a bad investment.

In fact, it will become no more than a sinecure for the mediocre, as the excellent educators would rather work abroad where they can be appreciated and be better compensated, than staying behind and waddle in the filth of the national educational system.

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TESDA PLAN: There is nothing new in the proposal of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to make dropouts take short-term courses.

The point is how to get them interested to go back to school given all the constraints such as the high cost of education, the psychological preparedness to return to school, the physical and mental ability to learn a skill, and the motivation to train.

In this connection it may help TESDA leaders to review the experience of India, especially Bangalore on how out-of-school youths got introduced to the computer, learned how to operate it, and more, became experts at it, that today India stands out as an IT center of excellence in the world.

Perhaps by implementing the law requiring barangay reading centers all over the country and setting up barangay internet education networks, as proposed by a good friend, Joe Cortez, the educational system may be able to bring back to school the dropouts, the busy workers, the retirees, and those who really want to learn and improve the quality of their lives.

This will help bridge the huge technological divide that still divides the country.

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SMOOTH SAILING: Listen to what Sen. Ralph Recto, a member of the Commission on Appointments, is saying about Lapus. He says without batting an eyelash that the former chairman of the House ways and means committee would have smooth sailing for CA confirmation.

He said: “I’m not jumping the gun on my colleagues, but I think Jesli’s confirmation hearing will not be a heroic struggle on his part.”

He said that the fact that Lapus is not an organic member of the education sector would have no import on the CA’s treatment of his nomination.

“If you want to manage a class of 50, get a good teacher,” Recto added. “But, if you want to manage a bureaucracy of 500,000, get a good manager. And, Jesli is it.”

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TRACK RECORD: Saying more or less what Postscript and other observers had said, Recto recalled that “Lapus ran the country’s biggest bank (Land Bank) and in the age when PhDs have a hard time balancing the checkbook, that is no mean feat.”

“He liberated teachers from loan sharks,” the senator said. “As a congressman, it is assumed that Jesli immersed himself in the public school system in his district and probably visited more public schools than a desk-bound DepEd bureaucrat.”

“The education sector is in crisis and the one who can fix it isn’t probably a good lecturer or a pedigreed academician, but a problem-solver with good track record,” Recto said.

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IN SHORT: This column, which I am processing at the airport, will have to be short. I have just 30 minutes left to compose and email it to my editor Mon Lim. The last call for boarding has been announced and I am still tapping on my laptop near the gate.

My timing got fouled up after I discovered to my horror that my briefcase with my travel papers and other important documents was missing.

It was my fault. I allowed myself to be unnerved by the fact that the check-in counter’s weighing platform was not functioning again and we passengers had to queue up with our luggage in one long slow-moving line.

It took me, with the help of airport personnel, 20 frantic minutes to locate it. All the while, the briefcase was sitting forlornly on a table where security people, bless their souls, waited for the owner to spot and claim it.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 20, 2006)

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