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My Turn | A DepEd Summit needed: Part 2

For 375 years (1521-1896), Spain did not create a free public school system. Filling up the vacuum, the church opened parochial schools in parishes. The church and parochial school were in the poblacion and only children whose parents live in the town poblacions like the hacienderos, businessmen/public officials could afford to pay for their schooling.

The children of the laborers, tenants, workers had no money for education. For 375 years, the massa in Asian colonies (U.K, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Burma, Borneo, Ceylon, Bangladesh, French-Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Holland, Indonesia) were also in the same situation.

America defeated Spain in 1986. As consolation, America, instead of grabbing the Philippines as spoil of war paid Spain 20 million dollars at one dollar per Pilipino. America was a British colony until it fought and won its independence in 1776.

Until it bought the Philippines, it never had a colony. It did three things in 1900 that made the other European colonizers in Asia uneasy. 1. Allowed elections of public officials from mayor, governor to representative; 2. Opened public schools with America teachers who were later called Thomasites (most teachers arrived in a ship named S.S. Thomas so the name struck), and; 3. Build public hospitals. This is why 80% of the 100 million Pilipino can read and write English. Except for us and Singapore, the percentage of English-speaking people in Asia range from 2% to 30% because English is not part of their schooling.

Under America, a Pilipino enters high school after finishing grade 7 although America’s elementary schooling was up to grade 8. In 1946 we became a Republic. DepEd’s biggest problem was whether one can enter high school after grade 6 because some wanted to add grade seven in the elementary system. In 1946, the government adopted the grade 6 rule.

PNoy added grade 7/8 starting school year 2016 because his DepEd Secretary, advisers, consultants wanted it. The grade 7/8 rule would not have been made if one or some of PNoy’s USECs/Consultants belonged to the massa, middle class and started their DepEd career as public school teachers in Manila’s squatters areas, in provincial, mountainous places with old about the fall school houses with flood prone grounds leading roofs, dirty smelly open air toilets, badly lighted/unlighted, unventilated classrooms, very few erasers, no chalk, no teaching visual aids.

These Massa-exposed oriented teachers saw, know, felt the calvaries of the poor massa parents who scrimp, save, salvage, struggle, endure everyday so that their children can finish grade 6 and after four high school years of continuous toil of blood sweat and tears, with a sigh of relief and big smile, think “at least with his high school diploma, my child can get a job and help us.”

It is in this light I ask the DepEd to reconsider the grade 7/8 rule. There should public hearings not only in the fully air conditioned, sweet smelling, clean, spacious, brightly lighted urban halls but also outside Manila.
The consultations could be in the dirty, very old, humid, foul, smelling basketball gyms not in the regional offices which have the same comfort as the Manila DepEd.

Do it in the town, barangays and squatter areas. For once, let’s listen to the 90 million Pilipinos, the middle class, upper middle, lower middle, the squatters, the poor, the very poor and the Kamang Kamang, not to the burgis, the elites, the ilustrados and middle class. We are playing with their children, not with the children of the burgis and elite who have all the time, money and comfort while waiting to enter High School.

By Jesus Quitain

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