An Open Letter to the New Education Secretary
I STILL look forward to a new President’s announcement of Cabinet choices. Being an educator for nearly 40 years, I am particularly interested in who will lead the Department of Education (DepEd). So when I heard that President-Elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had chosen Vice President-Elect Sara Duterte-Carpio as the next Secretary of Education, I thought I’d write to him to share a wish list at His attention.
I was inspired by DepEd’s vision set out on its website, which says, among other things, “We dream of Filipinos who passionately love their country and whose values and skills empower them to reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to nation-building.” My wishlist is based on this vision.
Dear Secretary Sara: Congratulations on your selection as the new Secretary of Education. I believe we are at a critical moment in our history to strengthen our basic education system. I hope that my suggestions will be useful for your ministry policy and program projects for the next six years.
I have five suggestions.
Suggestion #1: Build the capacity of our youth to critically seek truth. The main objective of basic education is to produce productive citizens who will participate in democratic nation-building. Without the basic ability to differentiate right from wrong, productive citizenship becomes impossible. People depend on facts and data in virtually every aspect of Filipino life – from deciding which necessities to buy to taking a stand on important public issues. However, social media has become the main source of information for many young people. Therefore, they must be critical users of this information to avoid being misled or manipulated.
Suggestion #2: Prioritize basic skills in reading, math and science. Our repeated cellar results in the International Standards and Trends in International Studies in Mathematics and Science Assessment Program exams for reading, math and science clearly show that we are going through a major crisis in education and of literacy. We are already in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution. Without strong foundational skills, our youth will not be ready to engage in the new workplace and the sweeping changes that various technologies will bring.
Suggestion #3: Vigorously implement education on morality and good conduct. Now that Republic Act 11476 or the “Character Education/Manners and Good Conduct Act of 2020” has been signed into law, let’s waste no time in strengthening the social fabric of our country based on the best Filipino values. In recent decades we have witnessed a terrible decline in behavioral norms, particularly in family life, respect for elders, everyday civility and sexual mores. A cohesive society is built on social ethics and positive social norms that most people will uphold. This is basic pakikipagkapwa-tao (relating to others as human beings).
Suggestion #4: Prepare young people to be engaged citizens. The first principle of the Constitution is that “The Philippines is a democratic and republican state. Sovereignty belongs to the people and all governmental authority emanates from them”. Unfortunately, many young citizens prefer to voice their complaints to friends via social media rather than communicating them directly to elected officials and government agencies. Young people need to understand that civic engagement brings democracy to life. It is not enough to be active only during elections.
Suggestion 5: Prepare young people to exploit modern technologies. Although we are known as heavy users of information technology platforms, such as social media and mobile data, our young people need to learn what makes these platforms possible. Additionally, they must learn the basics of machine learning, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. These advances are transforming the world as we speak and will dominate the world in which today’s youth will live and work.
You can count on my support to prepare our young people for the difficult world they will face in the near future.
Dr. Benito Teehankee is the Jose E. Cuisia Professor of Business Ethics and Head of the Business for Human Development Network at De La Salle University. E-mail: [email protected]