A paradoxical scene: President Duterte signing Republic Act 11476 or the Good Manners and Right Conduct (GMRC) and Values Education Law. Here was the country’s head of state, notorious for his rogue ways and offensive language, formalizing the mandatory teaching of decency and etiquette in elementary and high school.
GMRC was already a subject taught in primary school until it was scrapped in 2013 upon the implementation of the K-12 curriculum.
But are today’s kids really more bratty? Is technology a factor in today’s youth’s lack of decorum and proper behavior? Is bullying more rampant now than in previous generations?
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, the principal author of the bill in the Senate, believes that students who will be taught GMRC will learn to be analytical when confronted with a situation that challenges their sense of right and wrong.
For instance, Zubiri points out, if a child’s parents are prone to cursing, the child can decide that it’s not good to have a foul mouth. Children with a strong foundation in GMRC may even call out their parents, says Zubiri.
In an email interview with Lifestyle, Zubiri says he saw the need to bring back GMRC as a school subject because of “rising criminality and moral values degradation in the streets and inside our homes committed by youngsters,” and what he observed was a “downgrading of values education (in terms of focus and time allotment) in the curriculum when we implemented K-12 program in 2013.”
Among the law’s salient points: “GMRC shall inculcate among the students the concept of human dignity, respect for oneself, and giving oneself to others in the spirit of community for the effective and holistic development of the decision-making of the child. The curriculum shall also focus on the basic tenets of GMRC, such as caring for oneself, upholding discipline and order, cultivating sincerity, honesty, obedience and love for country.”
Marivic Limcaoco, a mother of two daughters aged 17 and 19, says she’s glad GMRC is back: “At least there’s an attempt to stop the ‘normalization’ of bad behavior we see all around us.”
Lawyer Hilario Caraan, former director in the discipline office of De La Salle University (DLSU), believes GMRC starts with character formation.
“I strongly believe that the character of every individual is significantly molded during the fragile formative years, particularly in school, because most of the interactions of the young happen in an outside home environment.
“No matter what we do, as a nation, in making our criminal laws (on rising criminality and moral or values degradation) more stringent or strict, we might not be successful in achieving our national goals if we neglect the core of the problem: character formation initiatives for every individual from their tender years.”
While character formation starts at home, Caraan says: “School teachers and administrators, in the exercise of their ‘special parental authority and responsibility,’ as mandated by the Family Code, must perform their complementary role.”
Zubiri says that when the bill’s version in the Senate was being drafted, the prevalence of kids spending a lot of time online was a major factor. But he didn’t anticipate that new coronavirus disease (COVID-19)would force schools to adopt online classes.
“Kids are going to be home all day, learning in isolation from their peers. They’re not going to have the natural avenues for empathetic learning that spring from face-to-face interaction with their peers and with their teachers. Hopefully, a strengthened GMRC and Values Education program will make up for that.”
Limcaoco says, “Today’s children have opinions and are more vocal and expressive. Because of technology and social media, they are exposed to different cultures, trending news and aberrant behavior. During our time, we were exposed only to our school, a limited community and TV. As martial law kids, we were not even encouraged to have opinions.”
Bullying in school was another compelling factor, says Zubiri: “The number of bullying cases is still quite alarming. A 2018 United Nations data reveals that around 130 million, or one in three children worldwide, experience bullying. According to a Department of Education report, there had been a total of 19,672 cases of bullying in public and private elementary and high schools during the school year 2016-2017. This does not include the bullying committed by students against their teachers.”
GMRC, Zubiri adds, will teach “the values of tolerance and acceptance of our differences, whether based on religion, race, sexual preference and physical attributes, among others.”
Caraan, chair of the student discipline formation board whose task is to investigate major discipline cases at DLSU, says: “A person who has experienced a climate of fear and harassment somewhere will probably learn how to utilize aggression and retaliation as his/her first lines of defense . . . to be offensive so as not to experience the same fate. This could be a genesis of how a bully’s behavior is developed.”
An individual with bully behavior, says Caraan, derives satisfaction from using power to control a situation all the time without due regard to the sensitivities of other people.
He adds, “If not addressed in a timely manner, the behavior could be carried over by that person as an adult, as a parent, as a workplace manager, and even as a government leader.”
To Caraan, the “power bully” can nurture a new generation of individuals with bully behavior.
Limcaoco says, “Unfortunately not all leaders are role models. They probably realize that future generations can do better than them in that department.”
But with GMRC back in school, Limcaoco says, “At least there will be no lack of talking points in the classroom with the type of leaders we have in the world today.” INQ