Think that today’s students are clueless about national and social issues? They are far more active and inquisitive about them. But how do our schools communicate that to them? Rick Olivares visits several institutions and talked to administrators, teachers, and students about how corruption and other issues are discussed in our classrooms.
“Bakit pa nila kailangan mangurakot?”
It is a question asked by many students to their teachers (and parents) across the country. It isn’t as simple a question during class. Today’s students feel the impact of social issues on their lives.
Ruth Katalbas, a teacher at the Community of Learners, a private elementary and secondary school located in New Manila, Quezon City, says that she and her fellow faculty members are asked that all the time from students.
“These are topics that are treated with absolute sensitivity,” she disclosed. “We just can’t say how we personally feel about what is going on. We let them sift through the reports and let them form their own opinions. It’s not that easy because we also have students who are children or grandchildren of government officials or public figures.”
Jonny Salvador, Assistant Headmaster for Student Affairs at the Ateneo Grade School, says that they’ve started to provide students with supplementary material about the accomplishments of heroic figures who championed various causes.
“That at the same time inculcates a love for country,” he underscored. “We cannot keep bombarding the young with negative stories because it’s already all out there. We want our students to be productive members of society and not contribute to the brain drain. On the other hand, we have to strike a balance where they are not sheltered and inured to what goes on.”
With information technology having a greater impact on people’s lives, access to news and other materials is at everyone’s fingertips. According to Rudy Solomon, moderator of Mindanao State University’s social entrepreneurship program in Sultan Kudarat,
“Today’s students are smarter than you give them credit for. Kailangan well-read kami sa mga topics of national concern tulad ng corruption kasi kapag hindi mo alam, it will affect your credibility sa students. You see them more involved in cause-oriented groups. Making their learnings more practical and hands-on pero dapat i-monitor din yan kasi baka hindi rin naman tama yung mga orientation.”
Kathleen Garcia, a current student at the University of the East, said that since much of the issues that plague our country are not in school books, they were required to bring newspapers to school as well as to report on them while asking them to form their own opinions.
Kathleen’s mother Liza, who works at a call center, would tell her to read not just one newspaper but several and to read the opinion columns that dissect them further. “We are aware that some reports might not contain the whole truth so it’s always good to see all the sides,” said the daughter. “Tulad ng ZTE Scandal – paano nangyari ito at bakit? Ano yung implications sa ating bansa?”
Kathleen, who came from a small high school in Caloocan, was suddenly face to face with even bigger concerns once she stepped in UE’s Recto campus. She paused as if to measure her words then dropped the question on everybody’s lips but many are afraid to ask,
“Bakit walang nakukulong?”
Her professors could only mumble that the system was corrupted and those with money and power can get away literally with murder.
“Kailangan meron din na-offer na solutions and ways on how they (the students) can help,” underscored Solomon who admitted to the difficulty of classroom discussions on corruption and social ills.
National and social issues when entered into textbooks have to receive the approval of the Department of Education Culture and Sports. It is a tedious and meticulous process that goes through several screenings before it is allowed to see print.
One has to be very deliberate with this because it recalls to mind how the world reacted to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s revisionist history of Japan’s participation in World War II.
In 2002, the Ministry approved for publication how Japan was depicted as a benign country that helped its neighbors liberate themselves from the Western colonial powers. “The annexation of Korea was undertaken legally following the fundamental rules of international relations. The Great East Asia War encouraged Asian Peoples to liberate themselves from the colonial rule of western countries.”
North and South Korea, China and other Asian nations, which was under the colonial rule of Imperialist Japan during that war, strongly objected and said that it is a sign of resurgence of ultra-nationalism and militarism in Japan. The uproar forced the Japanese Ministry to ask its textbook publisher to rewrite more than 100 passages that took liberties in romanticizing their country’s imperialist past.
While the Philippines is far from being an imperialist nation, the problems and image that surround the country are all too real and cannot be ignored.
“What is said in the classroom has a lot of impact in the thinking of students,” said Katalbas who aid that teachers periodically attend seminars on the subjects they teach as well as new methodologies.
“All I can say is it’s an ongoing process to communicate the right things,” agreed Salvador. “I believe that teachers everywhere are cognizant of that fact and like any parent, we want to guide our children properly.”
“So as educators, we try to keep abreast of what’s going on and try to give our students the best possible formation. The rest is up to them. As a teacher of mine once said, ‘asking questions is a sign of intelligence.'”