MANILA (UPDATE) – A recent episode of “Pinoy Big Brother” (PBB) raised concerns on how students are taught Philippine history after teen contestants failed to answer what one educator described as “basic” questions, reviving calls to bring the subject back in the high school curriculum.
In the April 9 episode of the popular reality show, housemates participated on a Philippine history quiz game, where Gabb Skribikin and Kai Espenido were asked about the collective name of the 3 Filipino priests – Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora – who were executed in 1872 after being accused of sedition and treason by Spanish colonial authorities.
The correct answer was “Gomburza”. Espenido was unable to answer this, while Skribikin said, “Majoha.” A clip of the exchange has since gone viral on social media.
Both girls were also asked to name the longest bridge in the Philippines that connects the islands of Leyte and Samar, which is the San Juanico Bridge. To this, Skribikin incorrectly answered “SLEX,” referring to the South Luzon Expressway connecting provinces in southern Luzon.
The teen housemates also failed to give the nicknames of Jose Rizal, Melchora Aquino and Gregorio del Pilar.
Teachers’ Dignity Coalition Chairperson Benjo Basas said he was both surprised and saddened that the teen contestants were unable to answer “very basic” and “elementary-level” questions.
“Ang nakakagulat na nga lang, hindi nila kaagad nasasagot. Kailangan pa nilang mag-isip and then kailangan pang mag-steal… para makasagot sila and yet mali pa rin ‘yong mga sagot,” Basas, a history teacher, told ABS-CBN News on Wednesday.
(What’s surprising is they weren’t able to immediately answer. They had to think and get an opportunity to steal for an answer, and yet they still gave incorrect answers.)
Kabataan Party-list first nominee Raoul Manuel, in a statement on Tuesday, blamed the removal of Philippine history from the high school curriculum for the “disappointing” performance of the teen housemates.
In 2014, following the implementation of the K-12 program, the Department of Education (DepEd) issued Order No. 20, removing Philippine history as a dedicated subject in high school.
In January, the DepEd explained that Philippine history continues to be taught as a separate subject in Grades 5 and 6. In high school, the social studies curriculum “covers various Philippine history topics” which are integrated into other subjects such as world history and Asian studies.
The High School Philippine History Movement said the public should not make fun of the teen housemates.
“Dapat sila'y tinutulungan matuto. Hindi nila kasalanan at ang lala ng sistema ng edukasyon natin,” it said in a Facebook post.
(We should help them learn. They’re not at fault for our terrible education system.)
In a Twitter post, “PBB” host Robi Domingo said he hoped the episode would expose the gaps in the education system.
A LARGER PROBLEM
For Basas, the failure of the “PBB” housemates to answer history questions was only part of a larger problem in the country’s education system.
“Ito ay part ng malaking problema sa education system natin,” Basas said.
(This is part of a larger problem in our education system.)
“Ano ba 'yong naging performance ng ating educations system as a whole? Hindi lang naman ito sa Philippine history. In fact, wala naman sa PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) ang Philippine history,” he said, referring to an international learning assessment where the country performed poorly in 2018.
(How has our education system performed as a whole? This is not just Philippine history. In fact, there’s no Philippine history in the PISA.)
Filipino students fared worst among 79 countries in reading comprehension, and second lowest in math and science in PISA last 2018, also the first time that the country participated in the assessment.
The High School Philippine History Movement, Kabataan and TDC renewed calls for the restoration of Philippine history as a dedicated subject in high school.
Basas said Philippine history should be taught both in junior and senior high school.
“And then may integration. Whenever possible, dapat may integration sa iba pang subjects 'yong Philippine history concerns,” he said.
(And then there should be integration. Whenever possible, Philippine history concerns should be integrated in other subjects.)
Kabataan’s Manuel also called for a review and overhaul of the K-12 curriculum.
‘UNFAIR TO CRUCIFY DEPED’
Diosdado San Antonio, DepEd’s undersecretary for curriculum and instruction, said it was “unfair” to crucify his agency for the housemates’ answers.
“Ang pagpapatuto ay hindi lamang gawain ng DepEd… puwede naman kasing itinuro siya pero nakalimutan na,” San Antonio said in an interview.
(DepEd is not the only one responsible for teaching… it’s also possible that those lessons were taught but the housemates had forgotten them already.)
San Antonio agreed there was a need to improve the teaching of history, noting that the DepEd is undertaking a review to update and “decongest” the K-12 curriculum.
But he also defended how the subject became a dedicated course in Grades 5 and 6.
“Mas maganda nga mas bata pa, mas napapalalim na ito,” he said.
(It’s better to teach them while they’re young, they have a deeper appreciation.)
— With a report from Arra Perez, ABS-CBN News