Mong Palatino

blogging about the philippine left and southeast asian politics since 2004

About

@mongster is a manila-based activist, former philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of asia-pacific affairs.

Political solutions are needed to fix education problems because the organization and distribution of knowledge in a society has always been a political question. Those who want education reforms but reject politics are guilty of espousing an ignorant view of history and society. Schools are not autonomous sites that operate in an uncorrupted social universe. They mirror the imperfections of the community. They reproduce the values, habits, and know-how that are required for the survival of our social institutions. We cannot sincerely advocate a better education system without yearning and fighting for a better social set-up. If we really desire good schools, we should build a more progressive society. Therefore, the democratization movement inside schools should not be divorced from the struggles of various social forces. If we refuse to recognize the political character of education issues or the relationship of the struggle for meaningful schooling with the broader socio-political process, all conflicts inside schools would remain parochial concerns with no power to alter the educational landscape. De-politicized school conflicts pit teachers, students, and administrators against one another while the real enemies of the people are unscathed. Political school struggles should involve everybody in the campus against the unequal social order and those who defend and control it.

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Curriculum design is the most politically important aspect of public education but the people are not democratically consulted on this matter. Technocrats and bureaucrats decide which subjects should be taught inside schools. Without the participation of the public, the school curriculum would always reflect the imprimatur of big business and the political party in power. Would the ruling elite endorse the teaching of concepts or the distribution of texts that undermine their hegemony? Their power is multiplied by making their narrow worldview the official knowledge in society. Through the schooling process, their self-serving notions of everything bear the stamp of universality which even their supposedly class enemies imbibe and embrace as their very own.

That is why the sex education issue provides an opportunity for those who wish to inject politics into the debate. The Catholic Church is right to challenge the inclusion of sex in schools if the hierarchy thinks it would violate the innocence of children. The Bishops are entitled to their own ignorance but we should support the idea that the public should have a definitive voice in designing the curriculum. Democratization does not only mean expanding access to education; it should also refer to the challenge posed by the working classes to influence the content of schooling. Otherwise, if we abandon the curriculum wars, our children will continue to believe in meaningless bourgeois mantras like “sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan” and “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.”

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The Noynoy Aquino government seems serious in its plan to lengthen the school cycle. I am reminded by what the education adviser of U.S. President Richard Nixon said decades ago: “We are in danger of producing an educated proletariat. That’s dynamite! We have to be selective about who we allow to through higher education. If not, we will have a large number of highly trained and unemployed people.”

Reactionary educators in the Philippines are also afraid of the ‘educated proletariat.’ They want to reverse the mass struggle victories of the poor – free and compulsory elementary and high school education and the establishment of state universities in many provinces. We must remember that the proliferation of state universities in the 1970s-1990s became possible only after the student sector raised the issue of higher education access and equity as a national political question. Since then, building state universities has been synonymous with good politics. This is what reactionary educators are protesting today. Maintaining public higher education institutions is incompatible with the spectre of neoliberalism, the ideological vogue today.

The K12 proposal is perhaps one ingenious method to prevent the mass production of ‘educated proletariats’. PNoy’s education apologists are already announcing that K12 graduates need not proceed to college to receive more education. They want this new breed of graduates to immediately find work after K12 or if unsuccessful, leave the country.

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The K12 is the latest manifestation of the state-sponsored design to impose a neoliberal type of education in the country. Or the pathetic attempt to restructure the education system under a neoliberal framework. If in the past the goal of education was to produce responsible citizens, it has been replaced with the imperative to produce obedient workers and consumers. Education has been reduced into a simplified sorting machine churning out employable subjects. The neoliberal dogma is worshipped in school altars which means more standardized examinations, focus on subjects demanded by industry, less time for the arts and history, reinforcing individualism and competition, reduced subsidies from the state, partnerships with companies which want more profit but are hesitant to admit it so they prefer to call it corporate social responsibility, and emphasis on the inevitability of globalization and all its accompanying evils. What about critical pedagogy? Progressive education? What happened to the idea of molding holistic individuals?

It is not wrong to revise the school system. But do not invoke the crisis of Philippine education to introduce more neoliberal reforms. Pagbabago, yes! Pero para kanino?

3 Responses to “Politics of education reforms”

  1. Maganda yoong punto mo hinggil sa educated proletariat.Noong panahon na papaunlad pa lamang ang kapitalismo inengganyo nya ang pagtatatag ng mga paaralan para magpalaganap ng kanyang mga kaisipan.Nasa balangkas pa sya noon na ieduka ang mga mamamayan na magiging kaagapay nya sa pagpapaunlad ng kaayusan. Pero iba na ngayon, hindi na papaunlad ang kapitalismo, nasa nabubulok na itong yugto. Pagpapanatili na lamang ang obhetibo nya. Kung gayon, hindi na nya kailangan ng mga edukadong mamamayan na may kapasidad mangarap at magpanawagan ng matayog, na hindi naman na kayang ibigay ng kapitalismo.

    faith

  2. Please visit
    http://philbasiceducation.blogspot.com
    for a collection of commentaries on DepEd’s K+12.

    Most of the discussion/debate on DepEd’s K+12 have been narrowly focused on the two additional years, which will not happen until 2016. There are dramatic changes, however, that will occur starting this school year and the above blog analyzes each of these elements.

    Angel C. de Dios

  3. […] Part 1: Politics of education reforms […]

    Mong Palatino » Blog Archive » K-12: Education reform for whom?

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