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MONDAY’S WITH PATMEI | Let’s level up while Moving Up

It’s Moving Up season because I see a lot of young people from primary and secondary schools wearing their medals and ribbons while celebrating with their families at the malls.

Moving Up in the context of our educational system refers to a special event wherein students officially move up to their next level of education. Moving Up is different from graduating. Under the K-12 system, Grade 10 students will observe Moving Up while Grade 12 will have a graduation ceremony.

I graduated from high school in 1986 at the age of 15 (senior high school then is Grade 10 now). I did not feel unprepared for college then even if our high school years were the height of the turbulent changes in our country’s social and political life.

When illustrating what it’s like during that time, I would tell this story. Our Algebra teacher in sophomore year was the head of the teacher’s union and led the sit-down strike and mass walk-out to protest the dictatorship. So we hardly had classes. And that is my rationalization why I am poor in math but brilliant in social studies. I did not know how to do algebra but I grew up to be a socially aware and politically engaged concerned citizen.

We entered high school having known only one Philippine President our entire life. The cabinet ministers we memorized since grade school were the same ones until high school. They were ingrained in our minds so well that we can still recite all the minister’s names from memory now in our golden years. The cabinet members of succeeding presidents, even the current one, are all a blur. They keep changing, anyway, so we no longer bother knowing their names.

We’re the first high school graduates in our country’s history to ever experience a coup d’etat packaged as “people power.” Our country’s first woman president declared a revolutionary government and changed all the government officials we memorized, including those in the local governments (that’s how Rodrigo R. Duterte, our 16th President, got started in politics). It was very exciting. New names and new faces. New color scheme. Even a new constitution. But it was the same old system and practices.

There were other coups after that, of course, but they failed. A sequel happened much later that installed another woman president that made us think the only way women in this country can occupy the top post is through a “people power” kind of intervention sparked by a withdrawal of support by the armed forces. Is history going to repeat itself one more time? Are we having a trilogy? Because I hear the same tune and see the same moves being played now.

But do these young learners today even know our history? Can they detect that there’s a pattern? Can they see through the propaganda and cut through the noise? Can they think critically and come up with creative solutions to the problems we are facing?

Revising bits of our history in our official textbooks to build a better image of some politicians is not the only problem. It is our entire educational system that is designed to make learners conform to the status quo and train them just to pass standardized tests and board exams. Our students are molded into workers to serve the global market. Little cogs in the capitalist machine.

Do our youth still have noble dreams to change the world and a desire to invent or build new things to make life better? They seem to just want to be social media influencers and instant celebrities. Even a career in public service is an option reserved only for those who belong to families who are already in politics. Government service is now a family business, sadly. The creative types go into show business and then later make that as a stepping stone to a political career. Because politics is the most lucrative career path if we are to base it on the news.

I keep hearing the older generation criticizing the new generation for feeling entitled, lazy, addicted to social media and gaming, indifferent, distracted and depressed. But I don’t think it is their fault. We are not giving them much choice. Our lessons are boring and unrelatable. We are killing their creative spirit. It is hard to be passionate about something when our education system is like a factory mass producing cheap knockoffs.

Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources in education and business, said: “Education doesn’t need to be reformed — it needs to be transformed. The key is not to standardize education, but to personalize it; to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child; to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.”

Human beings are naturally different and diverse. But we educate to make them conform. How can we expect the youth to change the world and create new solutions to our social problems if we teach them the same old, same old things?

As the genius Albert Einstein said: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

In the age of Artificial Intelligence (AI), we need to level up what we teach in schools and how we teach them.

Leveling up means to set strategic goals that allows you to enhance your life and other’s lives around you. Inspired by the video game universe, level up means to upgrade to something more impressive, complex, and challenging. It means being prepared for new adventures that await you after slaying the dragon.

We need an education that develops the following skills in our 21st century learners: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, and character. Or what education experts call the five (5) Cs. And I would like to add a sixth C — citizenship.

A country with high levels of human capital has caring and engaged citizens who work together and live nonviolently; who live their deepest values; who are healthy, productive, creative, and free.

It is not enough that we are Moving Up our learners. We need our education system to also level up.


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