Education Triumvirate

Manila Bulletin, June 5, 2011 | Go to article overview

Education Triumvirate


MANILA, Philippines - This week, 22 million Filipino children will return for another school year. Approximately 1.9 million of them are pre-school pupils, 14.3 million primary and secondary students, and 5.8 million post-secondary students.However, except for student numbers, it will be a school year like any other - marked by declining achievement levels and survival rates - unless we overhaul our system of education promptly.The Philippines is the only remaining country in Southeast Asia with only 10 years of pre-university education. Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam each has a total of 12 years of basic education. Myanmar has 11 years. Even Spain, the United States, and Japan - our colonizers and strongest sociopolitical influences - use a 12-year model of combined elementary and secondary education.Enhancing our basic education system by making kindergarten compulsory and adding two more years is a long overdue remedial solution to poor student indicators. It will decongest a curriculum which tries to cram 12-years worth of learning into 10 - ultimately a more reasonable load for our students. Furthermore, it will bring our standards on par with international norms, such as the Washington Accord for engineering professionals and Bologna Accord for European industries.The most successful education programs in the world are comprehensive and fully integrated. Take Singapore's case. It provides pre-school learning for children as young as three until they are age six. Their primary school consists of six years, after which secondary education takes four to five years. Then, the full cohort of graduating high school students are required to take a qualifying exam to determine which of three types of post-secondary - and pre-university - institutions they would be eligible for.First are junior colleges which take two years to complete. Then, there are industry-oriented polytechnics that provide three-year diploma courses which could be used toward university education. Finally, there is the Institute of Technical Education that offers two-year courses leading to certificates, which could be used to advanced to polytechnics.The system seems to bode well for Singapore which was at the top of the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) 2003 rankings of math and science scores among eighth-grade students (typically 13-14 years). …

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