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Mentoring beyond borders: Preparing educators and learners for the ASEAN classroom
Nixon C. Elahe

EDUCATION CONGRESS -- Department of Education USec. for Legal Affairs Alberto T. Muyot, Regional Director Beatriz G. Torno, and DepEd-CAR ARD  Soraya T. Faculo lead the opening of Indigenous Peoples Education booths during the education congress at Wangal, La Trinidad, Benguet in 2016.
-- Georaloy Palao-ay


“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”– Nelson Mandela.

This eloquent statement has sophisticated the stance of every individual since the time man was able to rationalize things around him. Considering the fact that the Philippines is one of the first countries in Asia that supported the foundation of the ASEAN community in 1967, our country indeed realized the importance of education in the future of every citizen most especially that we are now on the verge of totally integrating every component of our society to be at par with other countries in the region during the full ASEAN integration in 2020 which, as of the moment is a real challenge to everyone affected by the integration.

ASEAN and the Philippine curriculum

One of the thrusts of the ASEAN integration is modifying the curriculum so this conforms to the curriculum being implemented by other nations in Southeast Asia. From the 10-year basic education system, the Philippines is now implementing the K to 12 – a program that makes it mandatory to take up kindergarten as part of the primary education system. A two-year “pre-college”course or senior high school is also made part of the strengthened education system.

Tracks under the senior high school program are academic, technical-vocational-livelihood, sports, and arts and design.

Senior high school is a two-year specialized upper secondary education where students may choose a specialization based on aptitude, interest, and school capacity. The specialized education is meant to allow students to learn concepts and skills, develop lifelong learners, and prepare graduates for tertiary education, middle-level skills development, employment, and entrepreneurship.

To guide senior high school students,the DepEd produced a career guidance manual where junior high school students are taught about possible career paths they could take should they decide to enroll in college or when choosing from the tracks in senior high. Parents have likewise been involved in the career guidance-counseling program.

K to 12 and the mother tongue

But despite the global trend, K to 12 does not diminish the fact that early learning should begin with culture. It maintains that learning should be culture-based and the applicability of the skills to be learned must be based on the community where these learners have been nurtured, hence along with a “global curriculum” is the implementation of the mother tongue as primary medium of instruction in the early years of a child’s education.

The use of the same language spoken at home, in the early grades, helps improve the pupils’ language and cognitive development in addition to strengthening their socio-cultural awareness” then Education Sec. Armin Luistro said. He said studies have shown that use of mother tongue produce better and faster learners and makes them adept at learning a second and third language as well.

Along this line, indigenous peoples’ education (IPED) is also one facet that the DepEd is strengthening. Last year, the DepEd-Cordillera rolled out its IPED roadmap.

The roadmap aims to accomplish the goals of the K to 12 and the strengthening of the Cordillera heritage as embodied in Executive Order 220, or the prelude to the creation of an autonomous region.

DepEd Assistant Regional Director Soraya Faculo said IPED cultivates the minds of learners to be more patriotic.

Earlier reports from DepEd-CAR stated that the new roadmap which covers 2016 to 2021 involves activities and initiatives like the continuous effort to draft and validate contextualized lesson plans and learning resource materials; validation of tools for monitoring and evaluation of such materials; formulation of standards for learning spaces in the region; participation of the community of elders in monitoring and evaluation; development of working orthographies for major languages; institutionalization of a National Educators Academy of the Philippines-accredited Higher Education institution to offer graduate courses on IPED for the benefit of educators; and establishment of fully functional IPED Learning Resource Centers in all divisions among others.

“For a couple of years, we have been aspiring for the realization of a Cordillera IPED curriculum that captures all the knowledge systems of the old and appropriate for our Cordillera learners – an education that is culturally sensitive taking into account the numerous languages we have and an education that is respectful of Cordillera learners’ culture and worldview,” Faculo said.

ASEAN integration and the DepEd-Cordillera

As the Philippines is preparing for the full ASEAN integration, we zero in on the DepEd-Cordillera. Is it ready to face other entities from neighboring countries applying for jobs in its boundary? Are Cordilleran learners confident in grasping opportunities to work overseas? How capable are Cordillerans to assent this endeavor?

Faculo says the Cordillera is primed to face this venture of the country but admits more time is needed for learners and mentors to fully appreciate the anticipated results of integrating with countries in Southeast Asia.

She said that DepEd is facing two crucial modifications at the moment: These are change in curriculum and the rationalization program wherein all individuals in the agency are trying to absorb the impacts these changes have brought and will bring.

“DepEd-Cordillera is making sure that graduates of the K to 12 are well-equipped and holistically developed with 21st century macro skills; information, media and technology skills, learning and innovation skills, effective communication skills, and life and career skills, knowledge and expertise that they need to master to succeed in work and life in the 21st century,” Faculo said.

At large, the 21st century skills concept is inspired by the credence that educating students the most relevant, suitable, in-demand, and generally appropriate skills should be highlighted in today’s schools and by the related belief that many schools may not satisfactorily highlight such skills or efficiently instill them to learners. Learners of the 21st century need to be taught different skills than those acquired by students in the 20th century, and that the skills they acquire should mirror the specific demands that will engage upon them in a multifaceted, competitive, knowledge-based, information-age, technology-driven society.

In the Cordillera, Faculo said that DepEd is making sure that the skills in the curriculum needed by the learners are delivered. The curriculum focuses on making every Filipino an empowered individual – someone armed with the requirements to face the realities of the modern world.

Aside from monitoring the implementation of the new curriculum, the agency is also further strengthening the competencies of its employees by empowering teachers, school heads and learners to be competitive at their own level. The DepEd-CAR’s Human Resource Development Division is continuously taking measures to improve the performance and quality of service of the entire system to make ways and means to produce quality products that the learners of the region will be equipped with, thus making them ready to meet the standards of the ASEAN integration.

(The writer is the head teacher of Baguio Central School. He was once tapped as regional speaker on transformational leadership and is also an advocate-leader of indigenous peoples education.)
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