I often hear the word curriculum as much as I read about it especially when I enrolled for my Master’s Degree here in DLSU-D. Whenever the professor would ask what that means, I definitely whisper “subjects” at the back of my mind. And true enough, probably the easiest definition for curriculum is an organized body of subjects for learning.
However, I think the class derived a deeper meaning of the curriculum from our Saturday-morning sharings. I realized that curriculum is much more important than a simple educational requirement. It is conceptualized so the educational system would move forward – from the word “currere” which means to run.
I can compare curriculum to life itself and this is one of the best truths I learned. We are made to function. We are made to work. Everyday is a challenge – a constant reminder that it is through experiences that we learn. The curriculum is like our experiences. Experiences mold us into learning more about life. How we should act, how we should speak, and how we should respond to a certain stimulus is dictated by what we learned from our personal encounters with similar situations. Through these learning experiences, we survive.
In the school setting, the curriculum lets the students fulfill their most important educational needs which are the experiences. Subjects, I realized, are just the “fronts” of a much more important hidden curriculum. English, for example, teaches literature inside the classroom, but through literature, values are empowered and imagination is nurtured. In Math, operations are taught inside the classroom, but the learning behind it is a clear way to survive in this world – in simple situations as to when you buy the things that you need, when you need to know the time or when you ride a jeepney going places. Curriculum, therefore, is a preparation to the big life after school.
Philosophical Foundation of the K+12 Curriculum
I remember the first question that popped from Dr. Ayuk Ayuk’s mouth in our Trends and Issues in Education class more than a year ago was “What is the philosophical basis of our current curriculum today?” Everybody froze, including me. We’ve been studying philosophies of education since the first time I stepped into the LDH rooms – what are the foci of these philosophies? What is the importance of each in the educational system? What is their curriculum focus? What is their instructional objective? But I don’t remember anybody asking what our professor just asked.
So, what is the philosophical basis of our current curriculum today? I researched both from books and from the internet about K-to-12’s philosophical basis, and just like us more than a year ago, articles focused much on the technicalities and the foreseen benefits of the program. It did not originally interest me in any way, but now, through sharings from my classmates and with guiding questions from Dr. Albert Lupisan that funnily leads us to answering our own questions; I began to be curious about it.
The K to 12 program’s goal according to DepEd is “Functional Literacy for all Filipinos”. This curriculum is designed to develop learners of solid moral and spiritual grounds, of skills for lifelong learning, of critical thinking and of creative problem solving so they can be progressive, just and humane. With this goal and curriculum description, I believe that the K to 12 program is founded on the Constructivist foundation, with mixed concepts of the progressivism and reconstructionism. However, let me dwell on constructivism a little deeper.
Below are some of the highlights on DepEd Order No. 31, s. 2012 and why I think that this curriculum is under the Educational Philosophy of Constructivism:
- The overall design of Grade 1 to 10 curriculum follows the spiral approach across subjects.
In K+12, subjects are taught in spiral progression to enhance integrated and maximum learning. In this spiral progression, learners continuously reflect on their experiences while developing the needed abilities and skills to achieve this kind learning. This approach is clearly a constructivist’s approach. Constructivism encourages different activities where students can reflect, discuss with their teacher or with their peers their outcomes, understand it, then learn it. It is about learning which depends on the basic skills and accomplishing or acting on more complicated skills in the future. Spiral progression is a concept of Constructivism.
- The content standards define what students are expected to know (knowledge: facts and information), what they should be able to do (process or skills) with what they know, and the meanings or understandings that they construct or make as they process the facts and information.
Constructivism provides enough time for the child to have an in-depth investigation of his/her new learning to boost the curiosity and make ways to better understand things he/she does not know. A constructivist teacher, DeVries (2002) says that a child cannot construct complex relations with just 15 minutes of exploration a day. K to 12 allots 40 t0 50 minutes for every subject in any given day for class interaction. The learning time can be extended to include off-school learning experiences which will reflect on the transfer tasks and products and performances, activities which are also slanted to constructivism.
- Teachers should differentiate how students will manifest their understanding, and the students, on the other hand, can have the option to express their understanding in their own way.
In the constructivist philosophy, assessment is part of the learning process of the student. According to DeVries (2002), assessment should link documents like tests, anecdotal reports or written observations to the curriculum itself and to the child’s level of understanding. K to12 implements the Standard-Based Assessment as an assessment tool. If a test is done following the SBA, the student is graded when he/she fully understood the lesson. Formative tests will be given prior to a quiz, but will not be graded to give chance for the students to practice their knowledge first until they get the topic’s point.
Psychology and the Curriculum
Psychology, I believe, does not just take effect when it comes to the curriculum’s delivery, but is a very important consideration in curriculum planning. While the philosophical foundation explains more on why we need the curriculum, I think the psychological foundation would stress more on “how will this curriculum be used?” In simple terms, the curriculum itself, just like what Dewey said, should be “psychologized”. There should be complete understanding between the aim of the curriculum and the needs of the students.
The study of psychology is not just about cognition but it is more manifested in the student’s behavior. It is therefore important to stress that the curriculum implemented would display a deep understanding of the needs, the drives, the wants, and the urges of the learner because this would eventually show their behavior.
As a teacher, it is important for me to first reflect on how my past year went through. I often ask myself: What topics did my students find hard? What made these topics hard? Have I moved on with the next topics without them understanding the previous topics? What day did I discuss my most important lessons? Was it after a holiday? Was it before intramurals? What activities did I give in the most difficult topics? Were these activities effective in making them understand important points? Did these activities reach them?
After silently reflecting on these questions, I organized my topics based on the needs of my students, which should come first? Which should be emphasized more? I believe that simply following the book in its sequence will not make the instruction effective, but understanding how the students will take lesson per lesson is much more worth the try.
It also helps me when I think of my experiences as a student. As you know, I hate memorizing data which will not be of use to me, so I do not give test types similar to how I believe education should be. Education is all about correct functioning. It is about understanding concepts and how to make use of it in real life, and not just focus on the subjective and memorized data which will not last. As a teacher, we should find ways on how our students can give the effort to attain a goal.
I always have high belief in education and the educational system no matter what surveys say and other people say. As an educator, trust in the value of education itself regardless of the working conditions, or the lacking problem is enough to continue our sworn thrust. Even teachers need psychologizing.
Sociology and the Curriculum
The curriculum which the Philippine school today use is the K to 12 curriculum. When the K to 12 was conceptualized years before its actual implementation this school year, there was apparently intense study on what bases will it be created. And if we are to look at it closely, we can say that a big part of the K to12 curriculum is based on Filipino culture and society. Several studies made since the Monroe study says the educational system of the Philippines is lapsing, and this is reflected through the society, therefore, a change in the society may also mean a change in the curriculum.
To get a clearer view, let me take some of the K to 12 curriculum concepts from the DepEd Primer as an example to prove the existence of its sociological foundation:
- Our high school graduates are not adequately prepared for the world of work. Considering the high unemployment rate today, high school graduates from the old curriculum should still wait for 2 more years for them to be employable since employers do not hire under-aged workforce. They are also forced to rethink of going to college even though their families cannot afford the unreasonable fees of several colleges today. No college = no work. This is a societal issue that can be solved, and is taken into consideration in the present curriculum.
- Our high school graduates are not adequately prepared to pursue higher education. They still have to undergo remedial and high school level classes in colleges and universities. In the former curriculum, a college degree is a must if a student would want to change his/her future. However, it was observed that minor subjects taken at colleges for the first two years are high school level subjects and it is simply a waste of time. K to 12 considers time and the needs of the students today, contrary to some reactions from those against it. The society influences the school to act. On the other hand, the school influences the society into the development of the learners.
- The Philippines is the only country in Asia and among the three remaining countries in the world that has a 10-year basic education cycle. On sociological grounds, it is clear that the Philippines is deeply affected by the released Comparative Data on Duration of Basic and Pre-University Education in Asia status in 2010. Part of the reason therefore why K to 12 was conceptualized is to eradicate the idea that Filipinos cannot be professionals in their fields because we lack the standard years of schooling. This is still sociological in nature.
The HIstorical Foundation of the Philippine Curriculum
According researches published on the historical foundation of the Philippine curriculum, it is said that the development of the curriculum in the history of the Philippines depend on five motives: Religion, Political, Utilitarian, Mass Education and Excellence in Education.
Pre-Spanish Era. Filipinos, although lacking of formal education, has acted civil in their contacts with foreign people from Arabia, India, China and Borneo. They do not have a system of education other than their belief of a Bathala, the solidarity of families, the modesty of women and the children’s respect for their elders. Their education was oral, practical and hands-on. They only learn from experiences and gives reasoning from their observations.
Spanish Era. The curriculum created focused on their version of 3R’s: reading, writing and religion. Schools were managed by the convents and religious organizations – the Church in general. The main reading materials were all religion-based.
The main method of learning is individual memorization. Spanish is taught as the medium of instruction.
American Era. The curriculum was based on American traditions and hierarchy. English now became the medium of instruction. The primary curriculum prescribed by the Americans to the Filipinos were the body training and the mental training. Body training includes singing, drawing and physical education. Mental training on the other hand, includes English, Nature Study and Arithmetic. Elementary subjects have civics and geography as subjects while the Intermediate curriculum has arithmetic, geography, science, plant life, physiology and sanitation. Many college schools then opened for teacher-training appropriate for elementary. Its aim was to replace the Thomasites when the Philippines can stand on their own. Also, during the American Period, religion became a non-compulsory subject for the Filipinos in public schools.
Commonwealth Period. The educational leaders expanded the curriculum by adding faming, trade and business science. The training for elementary teachers too expended to secondary level and the tertiary level. The Educational Act of 1940 also eliminated Grade 7.
Japanese Period. The Japanese included Niponggo as the medium of Instruction and abolished English. All textbook were censored and revised according to how the Japanese wanted it. The educational system was impeded because of these big changes.
Liberation Period. The vernacular were used as the medium of instruction for grades 1 and 2. The school’s concept is toward the improvement of the pupil and the community life through the curriculum. Preservation of the cultural heritage was given focus.
The curriculum of the Philippine education involves drastic changes, from one invader to another; each invader defined its own educational motive. Each has its own curricular focus. This may be the reason why Philippine education may be based on mixed philosophical foundations through the years.