Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Time to Walk the Talk

As I operate professionally within the education sector, I find it extremely tempting and difficult to avoid making comments on developments in said sector.  The education sector has been my stage in all of my professional life – which is more than four decades. 

In a news story written by Jocelyn Uy, published in the PDI (June 6, 2011, p. A4), a couple of bishops were quoted as having said that the DepEd’s program, K-12, is “no answer to education woes.”  The K-12 concept, which is Kindergarten plus 12 years of basic education, as practiced in the USA, doesn’t seem to be a bad idea.  This has been explained sufficiently well by Dr. Isagani Cruz in his columns.

Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez of Marbel, Cotabato was quoted as having said that “instead of adding two years to basic education, the government should work to provide for more schools, competent teachers and high-quality textbooks to boost the quality of education in the public schools” (Uy, 2011).  The bishop was also quoted as having said “the two-year addition to basic education will not help improve the quality of education in the Philippines but more schools and skilled teachers.”

Historically, the Philippines has adopted the 10-year education cycle (6 years of elementary and 4 years of high school), which, today, is two years less than the education cycles in all but one other country in the world.  All our neighbors have adopted the 12 year cycle.

The issue of good teachers is a valid issue and has been for a long time now, of course, and I shall not argue with the bishops about it.  When I was in elementary and high school (both public schools), I experienced, first hand, excellent public instruction.  Teachers then had unquestionable commitment to public education and public service even at the expense of their own well-being. They were highly skilled teachers.  At the same time, we, students then, had our own commitment to get educated and practice good manners and right conduct.  We learned by heart and practiced what good Filipino values were.  That experience is with me until today.  Well, that’s digressing a little bit.

Now back to the issue at hand.  The bishops might well be correct, but I still believe that we should let those people responsible for specific aspects of national life do their job.  Never mind if they haven’t done well in the past.  I happen to believe that if you have a responsibility to perform, you’ll always strive to do it right, even if it may not end the way you want it all the time.  In other words, one can’t be consistently bad performer in all one’s undertakings.  So let’s give everybody the benefit of the doubt. 

In our society, there are three institutions that have important functions in training good citizens.  This was what I learned from public schools when they were still considered worthy of their name.  These institutions are the home, school, and the church.  Why include the church?  In those days, people believed in all that the church said.  For the most part, the church was giving people good examples of morality by deed.

Do you have a clear idea of what’s going on now?  Well, the church has practically given up its job and responsibility to insure that people grow with appropriate morals, and the homes have ceased being the fountainhead of good values.  Not only that, both the church and the home, which have both given up on their respective responsibilities, are now ganging up on the schools, trying to tell the schools what to do. Don’t we have a saying in Philippine society that says, “clean your backyard before telling others what to do”?  Still, I believe that the church and the home can still redeem themselves and begin doing right what they’re supposed to be doing right.

In the last few months, however, the bishops have been medical experts (so they’re against the RH Bill), and now they are education experts (they’re against what education experts in the DepEd think ought to be done to improve the quality of our education system).  They’ve always been political experts, and very soon they’ll probably be military experts, too (given the row with China in the Spratleys).  The bishops seem to be experts in everything except in the areas they’re supposed to be experts, in promoting moral values for Filipinos today. 

Some of my friends have pointed out to me that I seem to be openly against pronouncements of bishops.  Well, I don’t disagree with the bishops simply because I want to. I do have an axe to grind.  When I was a little boy, I was a “muchacho” of a priest in our town.  I was also an altar boy (manacillo or sacristan).  In fact, due to that experience, I wanted to be a priest then.  But then again, when the priest I was serving, and who had become my idol then, impregnated a married woman in our town (he had twins with this woman, completely against the teachings of the Church) I began questioning my trust in the priest.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end.  Today, we have numerous priests who have children outside of wedlock (of course).  Many of these women have been abandoned by the priest-gigolos.  So, what about these priests who’ve conveniently abandoned the women they’ve gotten pregnant?  They’ve lost the authority and credibility to be moral sentinels.  As they say, one rotten apple damages the entire basket of apples. 

Now, having lost the moral high ground to preach on social morality, the bishops and priests have found it much more convenient to interfere endlessly with the education sector, health sector, etc. in the name of “god’s” teachings.  Oh, please.  That’s a disservice to God. 

I know the bishops would tell me, “well, that’s only one of many.  Learn to separate an individual person’s acts from the institution’s teachings.”  For heaven’s sake, if you, bishops, can’t control the actuations of your priests who have the same training as you do, why should you expect the greater majority of ordinary people who do not have your training to believe, much less, obey you?  C’mon, get real! 

Another point that the good bishop, Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, raised was the issue of more schools and more skilled teachers.  I agree with the Bishop completely.  We need more schools to accommodate a very large population of students and more skilled teachers to teach them.  There’s just one hitch here, though.  There’s a limit to how many schools the government can build and maintain.  And there’s a limit to how many teachers it can pay.  Why?  Because there’s a limit to the government’s financial resources.  Seems that the good bishop forgot the fact that school maintenance and salaries of teachers are recurring financial obligations.  You need to have the money assured every year and not just for one year.

Even if assuming that government is able to construct enough schools for this year, one must consider the fact that by next year there’ll be more children of school age, who’ll need additional schools, too.  Every year, the government will have to construct new schools to accommodate an ever increasing children of school age.  Can’t the good bishops see the simple arithmetic here?  There is a limit to everything. 


I will change my opinion about the bishops, priests, and the church if they change their ways.  This can be easily done.  I have two suggestions.

First.  Each parish must put up and manage an elementary school and a high school and teach the students the highest quality education the Philippines can aspire for.  They should not depend on government funding.  After all, the church is probably the richest institution in the Philippines, and even perhaps the world.   The bishops should stop denying the fact that the church is rich.  C’mon, my friend, the Church doesn’t pay any tax.  So it has a lot of tax-free money.  This brings me to my second suggestion.

Second.  The church should pay taxes, like everybody else.  What?  They’re afraid the tax they pay will only go to corruption?  Well, paying taxes will give you enough reason to help run after the corrupt officials and institutions, if you’re not one of them.

To the Bishops and the Church:  why don’t you begin doing what you’re telling your parishioners to do from your pulpits?  Time to walk the talk, I believe.


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