09 August 2007

The institutional requirements of CEP

I ORIGINALLY envisioned to cover this topic only in three parts ending with this one, which is supposed to outline a more realistic iteration of the CEP (Cyber Education Project). Apparently, I wrote too soon and will have to beg your indulgence. Anyways....

IN 2003 or thereabouts, the Naga City School Board invested about P4 million to provide at least 10 computer PCs in each of the 23 elementary schools at the time. It did so in response to the parents' clamor to introduce IT as early as Grade IV, as well as school heads who want access to equipment their high school counterparts already had.

Last year, in one of the Board meetings, when a request for the repair of more than 20 monitors came its way, it was found out that one of the reasons behind the spate of malfunctioning monitors is the PCs' underutilization.

When we asked the local DepEd why, fingers were pointed to the curriculum, which provides only 20 hours of IT instruction per year. There was also the issue about electric bills: school heads are better off with the PCs gathering dust than being saddled with increased payables to Casureco II.

And when we inquired why school heads do not have the incentive to maximize the Board's investment, we found out it is not a performance measure within DepEd; insofar as they are concerned, having graduates who are already well-versed with IT will make no difference to their superiors.

I mentioned this -- that the Field of Dreams philosophy of "build-it-and-they-well-come" does not apply in public education -- because I am afraid the CEP will suffer the same fate as our initiative, unless matched with corresponding changes in its institutional policies, culture and values.

Are its school heads ready? I have no access to the profile of the average school head in the DepEd, but I believe that having moved up the ladder, it is fair to assume that majority of them joined the department before the advent of the PC in the early '90s. Therefore, most of them are not really comfortable with IT, especially an ICT-based distance education in the classroom which is what the CEP essentially is.

If a successful school is usually anchored on a good school head and a supportive community, according to an Ateneo de Manila study, and if efficient use of an IT resource depends on the school head's readiness to embrace it notwithstanding the constraints (as our experience showed), I am afraid the strategy of striking everywhere to cover the archipelago will not work. Some sort of demand-driven criterion will have to be built into site selection.

Are its teachers ready? Three things about the teachers must be mentioned: One, similar to school heads, concerns their readiness to embrace IT. Again, in the absence of an average DepEd teacher's profile, we can only hazard some educated guesses. Like, if the Arroyo administration managed to create 50,000 teaching positions over the last six years, and assume that her post-Marcos predecessors came up with another 50,000, the total is only one-fifth of the 500,000-strong teaching workforce of the DepEd. Consequently, you are talking about 4 of every 5 teachers used to the traditional ways and in all probability not comfortable with ICT technology.

The second concerns the role they will play inside the classroom with CEP. The DepEd will certainly argue that they have long been promoting the teacher-as-facilitator instead of the teacher-as-fountainsource-of-learning model in countless seminars year in and year out.

Unfortunately, that is hardly the case on the ground. I have three kids in a public elementary school: they way they are being taught is still the same way my teachers taught me at Anayan-Sagrada Elementary School three decades ago. Will they be comfortable in a reduced role, fielding questions when the national resource persons are no longer online?

Thirdly, can they competently clarify questions that are bound to arise, considering that the current DepEd hiring policies have lowered the bar insofar as quality is concerned?

Are its policies ready? The CEP will work perfectly if the DepEd adopts the Bernidos' DLP approach: "the heavy emphasis on 'learning by doing,' the radical trust in the youth's capacity to learn, the learning as pseudo-play, and the unparalleled transparency through simultaneous instruction."

But sadly, the current system is anathema to it. Why do I know? My wife, a high school geometry teacher, tried DLP under existing rules: she prepared and reproduced all the required activities, minimized lecture as designed, and allowed her students to learn lessons by doing the activities themselves, including the mistakes they made in the process. And the response was overwhelmingly positive, where reactions like "I enjoyed Math for the first time!" becoming commonplace.

But in the end, she had to abandon it -- not because it was not working, but the rules are stacked against her. Her supervisors are evaluating her performance under the same rules, which require lesson plans day in and day out. They do not like it when she lectures less, and merely lets her students to the activities for the most part. And there are certain requirements, like simultaneous instruction, that are beyond her authority to implement.

Another critical policy support concerns accountability. If CEP is intended to improve the students' learning proficiency, these should be reflected in clear targets for every school, every district, every division and every region within the public school system. These targets should be widely disseminated to allow monitoring and evaluation, so that in the end accountability can be exacted from those who fail to deliver. But is DepEd ready for this long overdue idea?

Are the local communities ready? Finally, local communities, especially local governments, must also own CEP if it were to be sustainable for the long haul. To my mind, local resources will help guarantee its continued operation when ODA funding runs out.

But shared ownership can only be possible if they feel they have a stake in the undertaking, ideally from the very start. The worst thing that can happen is for the CEP to be dropped on their lap like a hot potato starting on the 6th year.

4 comments:

Dominique said...

Hi, Willy: very provocative questions you ask -- I hope the bureaucracy is listening.

I don't know if this will help, but it should be good to know nonetheless: DOST's ASTI has put together a computer-based training program for Grades 1 to 3 (with more on the way.) It covers topics in Math, Science, Social Studies, etc. Very attractively packaged, I might add. I'll email you the contact info of the program officer.

On the whole, though, what needs to change is the entire methodology of "teaching computers." Too often, it's oriented to "how to use the computer" and you end up with people who only know how to use Word and Excel instead of people who know how to write and perform calculations.

rhodora said...

yes, very provocative indeed and should be helpful somehow despite the odds. i am forwarding this to the Education Network and the Action for Economic Reforms.

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Dom: Got your email already. Thanks for the lead. As usual, you got it right in regard to teaching IT. The irony is, we're not the ones managing the schools; DepEd is.

But thank you for pointing out the DOST's effort. A relevant question: why does DOST seem to be doing a better job than DepEd--its Phil Science High School system is doing much better than DepEd's regional science high schools, if I'm not mistaken.

There must be a way of mainstreaming DOST's working in Math and Science within DepEd.

Rhodora: Thank you for the kind words.

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