If ongoing pilot classes succeed, the Department of Education may soon be sending home kids with no homework and plenty of time for parental bonding.
I was raised by parents who were trained to be public-school teachers by the American Thomasites, those pioneering educators who volunteered to toil in the Philippines to educate the Filipinos to fulfill America’s “Manifest Destiny,” a doctrine crafted by President William McKinley.
A favorite nursery rhyme I learned growing up with American-educated parents is this nifty little ditty:
“Have a peach, have a plum, have a stick of bubble gum
Teacher, teacher, don’t be dumb, give me back my bubble gum
If she takes it don’t you cry, pack your books and say goodbye.
No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks.”
I was reminded of this rhyme as we transitioned last month to the Department of Education’s contoversial K to 12 program, designed to boldly thrust us into the modern world of educated nations which have adopted the 12-year basic curriculum in contrast to our 10-year cycle.
The nursery rhyme was ignited from recollections of early childhood by an innovation being tested by a husband-and-wife team of educators, which has already won the prestigious Magsaysay Award.
Proponents say the teaching innovation, called Dynamic Learning Program (DLP), is not only an answer to endemic problems like lack of public-school teachers and textbooks. It is a 21st-century teaching method that ironically does not rely on high technology.
Its surprising basic methodology: More seatwork, short lectures and, best of all, no homework. The new teaching technique has actually produced savvy students.
At least 157 public high schools in the provinces of Basilan, Negros Oriental, and Negros Occidental have adopted DLP, an innovative teaching methodology developed by Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido, both physicists who earned the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2010 for a dramatic career change.
Local government units and education officials joined hands with the Bernidos and Smart Communications to pilot-test DLP in Cagayan de Oro last year and earlier in the Bernidos’ Central Visayan Institute Foundation (CVIF) in Jagna, Bohol province.
After a successful test run in Bohol, Gov. Edgar Chatto has received DepEd’s permission to adopt the Bernido DLP in all public high schools in the province this year.
This partnership between DepEd and a local government unit could serve as template for similar ventures. The additional resource requirement is shouldered by the province itself. If the learning outcomes are achieved, a nationwide rollout may yet save the day for the resource-starved K to 12 program.
“It’s not a curriculum, it’s a way of teaching,” says Stephanie Orlino, a community partnerships officer at Smart. “The traditional way is that the teacher will lecture for most of the time and then students participate in recitation, quizzes and homework.”
“This time around, students learn on their own 80 percent of the time, (and) the teacher only needs to be in class 20 percent of the time,” Orlino says.
Using DLP, students spend much time answering questions on worksheets based on the lesson their teachers discussed for only 15-20 minutes.
‘Plain hard work’
No textbooks, notebooks or computers are needed—just pen and paper. Students may even write on the back of old notebooks. “It’s plain hard work,” says Smart public affairs chief Mon Isberto.
“And these self-driven students are the kind of students we need in the 21st century, students who can acquire new skills on their own,” Isberto says. DLP is “a no-tech but 21st-century method” that can work even “without textbooks or classrooms.” It may be the cost-saving innovation that K to 12 needs.
At the heart of DLP is a technique called parallel learning: Teachers spend only a fifth of class hours lecturing to students. The rest of the time is for interactive learning, answering questions.
By the end of a school year, DLP students would have answered up to 6,000 questions in science, math, economics, history and other subjects.
Because so much work is done in class, the students have less assignments to do at home. The program also gives students a “strategic break” every Wednesday to focus on physical education, music and arts classes.
An additional DLP feature suited to the K to 12 progrm is that teachers can plan and prepare the activity sheets for the whole year before classes start in June, using DLP modules. Even those who teach multiple classes may find it easy to follow the program.
Smart community officer Orlino says the 9,000 Cagayan de Oro high-school students who tried the DLP showed a “highly significant” improvement in their English, math and science tests in March 2012 compared to their test scores in June 2011.
These results replicated the CVIF experience in Bohol, where the Bernidos first introduced the method. Since adopting the program in 2002, the school has consistently produced successful examinees in the University of the Philippines College Admission Test (Upcat), considered one of the toughest college entrance exams in the country.
“It’s very encouraging,” Orlino says.
Learning to fly
Smart is supporting the Bernidos by reproducing DLP materials and training more school heads and teachers via teleconferencing and other high-tech methods.
Isberto says spreading DLP is Smart’s first step in developing a generation of students best suited for e-learning. “Once you have these self-learning students gradually introduced to e-learning tools on top of the [DLP] system, these students will fly,” he said. That is why Smart is investing in their future.
Accompanied by other officials on opening of classes last month, Education Secretary Armin Luistro observed in classrooms, checked the toilets, and gave short lectures DLP-style as he made the rounds at Ilugin Elementary School, Pinagbuhatan High School and Rizal National High School in Pasig City.
Rizalino Rosales, DepEd officer in charge in Metro Manila, gave the good news that the number of congested schools which were forced to go on triple shifts had declined from 20 to 9 this year.
“By the time the construction of classrooms in these schools is complete, they no longer need to resort to having triple shifts,” he said, resulting in teachers and students having more “contact time.”
A veteran preschool teacher, Baby Dimapawi, 62, expressed fears that the integrated curriculum and the additional hour of school may be too much for the students, 5 years old on the average, to be able to grasp the concepts well.
In the past years, students in her kindergarten class came at 7:30 a.m. and left two hours later. Classes now start at 6 a.m. and end three hours later.
“When I learned that [authorities] were placing another hour into the kinder class, I asked myself ‘what am I going to do with another hour?’” she said, smiling.
“From my experience, a child usually is attentive in class for one-and-a-half hours,” she said. “After recess, they usually ask if it’s time to go home.”
Under the DLP system, that is exactly what it’s all about: More time at home with no homework.
The author is president of a management think tank that specializes in transforming socioeconomic and technological trends into public policy and business strategy; e-mail email@example.com.