The Health Curriculum in Our Basic Education

Manila Bulletin, September 16, 2007 | Go to article overview

The Health Curriculum in Our Basic Education


Byline: JAIME Z. GALVEZ TAN, M.D., M.P.H. President, Health Futures Foundation Inc.

"POOR health is the number one reason why children drop out of school" - this is according to a World Bank study conducted a few years ago. Children get sick, miss school for a few weeks, and then refuse to return. This was one of the considerations foremost in the minds of a team that was commissioned by the Social and Human Sciences Committee of UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines (UNACOM) to review the health content in public school textbooks and their accompanying teachers' manuals. This was brought about by the need to bring Filipino students, teachers, textbook writers, and curriculum planners up-to-date with a holistic understanding of wellness.

Positive attitudes and basic habits of good health must be introduced early in the minds and hearts of our children. Without health orientation that is preventive, considerate, self-empowering, mutually responsible, and rational, a community's progress is hampered. Emerging challenges for primitive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health require students to become better informed about a total approach to positive development and well-being.

Instructional materials, especially textbooks, serve as the foundation of classroom instruction; hence, the inclusion of accurate, factual, and timely health content in public school textbooks is essential. For this purpose, we conducted a review to assess the textbooks and assist DepEd, and even private schools, to make informed decisions and choices about significant textbook selection.

Review design and methodology. The present review is descriptive in design, using qualitative and quantitative approaches in analyzing health messages and concepts in elementary school textbooks. Data were gathered from a conceptual analysis of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) of DepEd and the Health component of the English textbooks in Grades 1 and 2 where Health is integrated, and the Science and Health textbooks from Grades 3 to 6, as well as their accompanying Teachers' Manuals.

Individual and group reviews were done by the team and these were consolidated and discussed for clarification and confirmation. The review was followed by a roundtable discussion that sought comments on general and specific aspects of the review for validation. The roundtable brought together experts in medical anthropology and indigenous medicine, for adequate coverage of local and cultural aspects of health; cognitive psychologists, for suitability of content to the cognitive development of elementary school children; social science and science experts, for the integrative aspects and a more holistic view of health; school health educators, for the pedagogical approaches to health education; and officials of DepEd, particularly in the elementary education and instructional materials sections.

Ethics and human relations. Ethics was an important consideration in planning the review. At the outset, the team agreed that the review would be a comprehensive study to improve the health textbooks and to be a reference for future textbook writers, and not an error-finding project. Questions that the Team grappled with were: "Will the results of the Review reflect unfavorably upon DepEd who approved the textbooks?" and "How would the authors and the publishers take it if the results were negative?" The Team thought that DepEd would take actions to correct its shortcomings rather than hide them, since the best interests of the learners would transcend other considerations. The Team also thought that it was DepEd's responsibility to deal with the authors and the publishers.

Human relations were likewise a factor considered in the planning stage. The Team followed appropriate channels of authority in communicating and meeting with DepEd officials - the Undersecretary of Education for Programs and Projects and the Directors of Elementary Education and Secondary Education, the Textbook Board, and the Instructional Materials Center. …

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