Interview: Armin Luistro
How can the education system nurture English proficiency while embracing cultural sensitivities and promoting learning in the mother tongue?
ARMIN LUISTRO: The DepEd is currently implementing mother-tongue based multilingual education (MTB-MLE) as part of our K-12 reform. This is not a purely pedagogical strategy for language but a learner-centred approach. By using the language students are comfortable with, the MTB-MLE in the enhanced curriculum helps them develop the language skills they need to learn the fundamentals of various subjects from kindergarten to third grade, and to move seamlessly from home to school. Children clearly learn best when we use the language they understand, especially in elementary education. Additionally, prior to the launch of MTBMLE, studies had shown that language skills mastered with the mother tongue can enable students to learn a second and subsequent languages faster.
What can be done to address the backlog of infrastructure, basic materials and financing that are needed for the K-12 programme?
LUISTRO: Over the last three and a half years the DepEd has been addressing gaps in basic inputs – namely, classrooms, teachers, textbooks, seats, and water and sanitation facilities. We have fully accounted for backlogs of these in all 47,000 schools from 2010, and will continue to build more infrastructure, hire more teachers and buy more learning materials and tools for the K-12 programme. Senior high school (SHS) will be introduced nationwide starting with grade 11 in 2016 followed by grade 12 in 2017. We expect 1.4m students per cohort to enter grade 11, more than 1m of them from public junior high schools. The department will fulfil these requirements both by building capacity at public high schools and by tapping available capacities at private schools and other state-funded institutions. Starting in 2016, an SHS voucher programme will provide financial subsidies to public junior high graduates wishing to attend private SHS or schools managed by public institutions. The programme will also expand the financial assistance programme, which benefits over half of the nation’s private junior high students.
What measures would enable basic education to produce graduates that meet locale-based needs?
LUISTRO: The Enhanced Basic Curriculum is designed to prepare graduates for both higher education and the world of work. The goal is mastery of both core competencies and specific tracks prior to tertiary education or employment. The SHS curriculum will include four tracks of specialisation that address individual interests as well as community needs and opportunities: academic, technical-vocational-livelihood, sports, and arts and design. The tracks are designed to prepare students for specific industries in their localities – for example, the Coffee Academy, the SHS in the city of Lipa, supports the province’s coffee industry and provides industry-relevant education and training. Academic subjects are equally rigorous, to equip students with adequate preparation should they choose to proceed to higher education after finishing grade 12.
How can ICT adoption complement learning-teaching capabilities and enhance access to education?
LUISTRO: Providing ICT tools to public schools nationwide has been one of the department’s priorities, to complement the new curriculum and revolutionise education using the limitless possibilities of technology. We have incorporated interactive learning tools to build fundamental ICT skills, and tried to democratise information by posting the entire curriculum and other learning materials online for use by teachers, students and other interested stakeholders. ICT is also used as a tool to broaden access to basic education, especially for non-mainstream learners who find it hard to attend school on the traditional calendar or schedule. Programmes like the Open High School and Alternative Learning System employ suitable on- and off-line technologies to reach marginalised learners and develop their skills.
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