This is the title of a book written by an American minister, Robert Fulghum, which was first published in 1988. It is a well-loved book worldwide because of the simple teachings in the essays written. It is a credo that is, ironically too simple, that such principles will remain forever cherished but difficult to practice past the age of five.
Kaya Natin had the privilege of working closely with the Department of Education in propagating the implementation of the “K to 12” program. Sea-Oil has sponsored our Champions for Education workshops that have just concluded its second round in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Over 90 Local Government Officials around the country got the opportunity to dialogue directly with Undersecretary Lino Rivera and Mr. Elvin Uy who are directly involved with the planned rollout.
Last week, an estimated 1.73 million kindergarten students in public schools (all 5 year olds included) and 400 thousand in private schools trooped to their classrooms to start of their basic education. The kindergarten law had gone into full blast implementation. The TV newscasts were filled with children bawling and anxious mothers waiting outside the walls of the school for their kids to come home. This was met with much resistance from various groups complaining about the lack of classrooms, facilities, materials and a shortage of qualified teachers to carry out the plan. The objections went as far as some sectors calling for a halt to the implementation. This made me ask the question if there was, indeed, sufficient ground to pushback implementation once again.
I found out during our workshops that the proposal to expand basic education first cropped up during the Monroe Survey in 1925. To say that we are running late with carrying out the plans is an understatement. I don’t think this even qualifies for something that falls under “manana habit” since it’s been push backed for two generations. Furthermore, the Philippines is one of the 4 remaining countries in the world that are still on the K plus 10 years for basic education. Doesn’t that send a strong message to all of us?
The recent survey on President Aquino’s popularity ratings showed a decline to the lowest level since he assumed office. I can attribute part of that to the implementation of the Kindergarten law. Tough decisions need to be made if we are to move forward. Developmental plans that have been shelved for over 85 years need to be taken out of hibernation and addressed head on. Popularity will have to be shelved so that development can transpire for the growth of the nation.
I learned much while observing the dynamics and interaction among the Local Government Officials during our workshops. The Local Government Units play a vital role in ensuring success of the program. Unless local chief executives step up to the plate and take the lead in improving the basic education of the children in their communities, then much of the plans will result in shambles. The lack of facilities and teachers is a perennial problem. Whether or not the law came into full implementation, the complaints would have been the same.
We have constantly been hearing of a lack in political will among local leaders in order to make things happen. We all know that this is the necessary ingredient to improve the basic education of Filipino children. If we want a better nation, then we should be more critical of the local officials in our area. Those elected into office have an obligation to encourage community involvement in line with practicing good governance. How much value do these officials give to education? If this does not sit in the community’s list of priorities, then maybe you should re-assess the criteria that you have for choosing public officials.
Lastly, let us be more active as a citizenry in shaping a better future for our youth. Perhaps it is time that we shift the focus to the community’s will to participate especially because we have seen the political will to implement.
The most important take-away that I picked from the workshops; it truly takes a community to educate a child.
Marisa Lerias is originally from Southern Leyte and currently works with the Philippine office of British Airways. She is also part of the core group of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.
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