Advocacy for Early Childhood Education

Manila Bulletin, August 7, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Advocacy for Early Childhood Education


LETS continue to have more dialogues on the merits and implications of the proposed Bridge Program of the Department of Education which would add an extra year to the present six years of elementary schooling. A very good argument of course is the alarming state of drop-outs and the deteriorating quality of our high school and college graduates. Recently, however, the President announced in her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) her expressed preference in having an extra year taught at the barangay day care centers and had asked Congress to legislate the standardization of early childhood education.

In fact, as early as 1986, the Constitutional Commission already recognized the critical need for establishing pre-schools and community learning centers. My proposed provision then was for the State to promote (or establish) voluntary community learning centers including pre-schools. Commissioner Rene Sarmiento reinforced the need for pre-schools by citing studies which have shown that the first five years of childhood experiences are crucial in shaping the emotional and intellectual foundation of an individual and that pre-school increases chances of success later in life by improving a persons ability to learn new skills. We envisioned focus on innovative learning approaches that would develop creative and critical thinking, and a comprehensive strategy which would train not only teachers but other members of the adult population. Arguments in favor of the provision were given by Commissioners Nolledo, Monsod, Ople, and Davide. But after considerable debate, the provision was amended by deleting States responsibility either in the establishment or promotion of the learning centers because of budgetary constraints. If we have difficulty providing adequate support for the established formal systems, can we afford to have an additional year before Grade One, was the main concern. The decision was to include the concept as one of the proposed programs for the already approved provision on nonformal education.

As we know, priority is given to education in our national budget. But we also realize that to date, we still have a dearth of teachers, classrooms and instructional materials, not to mention the perceived inadequacy of our teachers and learning methodologies to respond to the need for a competitive workforce. With an added year for compulsory kindergarten, DepEd estimates an additional amount of R12 billion a year. To date, DepEd had already established kindergarten classes in fifth and sixth class municipalities.

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