Dismal, I think. And I say this only because I’ve taught in a public school for my practicum last semester, and have given workshops held in public schools in a few provinces. It’s one thing to feel bad when one reads about the lack of classrooms and the dearth of capable and inspiring teachers; but to really witness the state of our public schools in the Philippines for oneself is disheartening.
60% of our youth are in school, 7 out of 10 of those in public schools.
The most important socialization agent next to family, a positive school experience can compensate for the antisocial influence of family and community.
Lest you think I’m being too harsh, let me recount my experience.
I was tasked to teach music to a fourth year class at a public High School which I will leave nameless. I held my classes at a new building where the honor students are placed yet my students used dilapidated chairs. I had 63 students, most of them girls. I was told that English was the school’s medium of instruction yet I noticed that most of my students spaced out when I talked in English. They also hesitated in reciting because they lacked confidence in speaking it.
Fact: Literacy and Education
Females have higher educational attainment than males: Males 65.2%; Females 71.7% (2002).
Females are more likely to attend college (possibly because males from poor families are encouraged to work to contribute to family income).
More boys are being suspended than girls.
Their classroom was cramped and stifling, and a lone electric fan had the burden to cool 64 sweaty bodies. On my first day, I came unprepared. Having taught in private schools, I have gotten used to finding chalk waiting for me in the classrooms. Of course, if chalk wasn’t provided for, other teacher-essentials weren’t either. I also learned to hold my bladder until their dismissal time at noon because there were only two bathrooms, one for males and one for females, in the three-storey building. Truancy is common because teachers often find it hard to monitor the many students in class. Often I would find students littering the corridors during class and meeting up with their friends from other classes.
Peers increasingly constitute an important element in social environment of adolescents (with an average of 5 close friends). Boys keep a wider circle of friends than girls.
“Barkada”* life during adolescence is associated with trial and error learning and experimentation.
Influences: attitude speech, interest, appearance, and behavior.
A mix-up in my schedule during my first day gave me the opportunity to substitute in two non-honors classes. These were held at a decrepit building (which I nicknamed “The Cave”) tucked in the corner of the school’s compound. It was dark and dank. To illustrate its discouraging state, let me share this anecdote: I was well into my introduction to music when I noticed 2 of my students standing. Another was sitting on his classmate’s desk. When I insisted they sit down, they explained that they had no chairs. Incredulous, I thought they were kidding; alas, they were not. Three people had to be absent so that everyone can sit on chairs. Naturally, the students’ demeanor in the cave was totally different than their “honored” counterparts. They were unruly, and I must admit, quite scary. They lacked interest in studying, and who can blame them? Their learning environment was hardly conducive to it.
Since we were required to come up with a musical performance, I helped my honors class come up with their own composition. When the need for extra rehearsals came, I encountered a problem. Most of my students couldn’t stay to practice because they had to work to help their families. I had a couple of students who worked in factories in the afternoon. Food was a most welcome incentive for them to stay. In fact, a few of them joked that we should extend practices to include dinner.
Fact: Labor Force Participation
Youth comprised 1/3 of the 45.3 million working-age population. The working youth comprises 20% of the total number of employed persons.
Young women (38%) registered a lower labor force participation rate than young men (58.7%).
Youth comprises 12% of overseas workers.
Despite the challenges faced by these students everyday, they were a beacon of hope. They admitted they hated music (the subject, at least), and were not particularly thrilled when they first met me. Their experiences with their past MAPEH teachers, who possibly were capable Physical Education teachers, lacked training in music and the arts, two essential components of the program. But if shown enough passion and belief in a subject, they were not difficult to inspire to give more than what is required. Needless to say, my class did very well and gave an outstanding performance.
My last day hinted the return to their old empty music class schedule. Without the practicum students, my students’ MAPEH teachers, who had admitted they couldn’t teach the subject, will again take over their music class. With MAPEH teachers incapable of teaching all the components of the program, it’s no wonder there’s been talk about DepEd getting rid of the arts subjects. But that’s a whole other story.
*a clique or group of friends.