Saturday, August 27, 2011

Functional Literacy and Nation Building amidst the Challenges of Globalization

(I would like to share an emailed article a year ago from TEDPloop egroup which is very interesting for all of us. It is earlier entitled PRESIDENT CORY AND THE NEW FUNCTIONAL LITERACY originally written by Napoleon B. Imperial but slightly edited and revised here for emphasis.)
     In the age of globalization and in the era of “internationally- shared human resources,” nationalism or love of country might have become passé or been relegated to the background. Some might even have unwittingly looked at it as a liability or a “bad word” in the drive for higher foreign investments and accelerated economic development.
     This is how adults have looked at it during the past twenty five years of obsession with global competitiveness. What about the children and its implications on basic education? 
      About 27 years ago, the late Dr. Malu Doronila of the UP College of Education, shocked the education community with the revelation of her doctoral dissertation: that the average Filipino kid would rather be a citizen of another country, rather than be a Filipino. Among the citizenships or nationalities they would rather have included being an American, a Japanese, a Saudi and I think five others.
     It said it all. This child-like aspiration or real wishes of children on their national identity will speak much about the values and attitudes they would live out in adult life. Perhaps, these are even reflective of the values of their families and larger communities.
     Is the average Pinoy not at peace with himself, his country and his identity?  Consider the following manifestations: 
  1. Getting a “green card” or gaining American citizenship has become a high measure of success in life that is well admired and worthy of emulation.
  2. Penchant for anything “stateside” even if some local products are highly comparable, price competitive and contextually appropriate.
  3. Obeisance to or greater cooperation with a foreigner boss; many local managers may not be able to exact the same amount and level of work discipline. Or most Pinoys excel in whatever they do when working in other countries but may not be as productive or effective in local workplace.
  4. Obsession with the white skin and the whitening of skin.  Just see how many advertisements and products openly cater to this physical delight. Take note also of the preference to have a Caucasian-looking espouse to marry and having mestizo children.
  5. Sometimes “suicidal” attempts to “try one’s luck” in other countries even if they are already making good in their profession or livelihood in their country. Oh, such true stories of Pinoy professionals and non-poor who were chased by guard dogs while crossing state borders, who hid for days in windowless container vans in freezing weather to get inside European countries, etc.  
     With the above examples, the writer would be happy to be corrected or proven wrong by empirical studies. I also don’t intend to generalize and I recognize the economic rationality of the average Filipinos’ desire to land abroad, no matter what difficulties, negative social consequences not to mention the great expense such decision involves. But I tend to think that these predisposition may not be that prevalent if Pinoys have more of the drive and motivations that made average Vietnamese, Koreans, Japanese and Malaysians highly value their identification with their countries and thus give more to nation-building.
     What should we teach and how effective can we do in fostering a sense of “shared identity” and national pride that strengthen national unity. What should underpin such basic education that we may also equate with good or quality teaching? 
    Following the education for all (EFA’s) expanded vision of education and Delors Commission Report on Learning: The Treasures Within, the Literacy Coordinating Council (LCC) officially adopted in April 2008 the new definition of Functional Literacy whose revisit began in 1997. The LCC-convened10- man study grooup recommended the new definition as follows:
     A range of skills and competencies – cognitive, affective, and behavioral – which enables individuals to: live and work as human persons.
  • develop their potentials
  • make critical and informed decision
  • function effectively in society within the context of their 
  • environment and that of the wider community (local, regional, national and global)
  • in order to improve the quality of their lives and that of society
     Operationally and in simpler terms, FL is the ability to communicate effectively, to solve problems scientifically, to think critically and creatively, to use resources sustainably and be productive, to develop one’s sense of community and to expand one’s world view.  Along with the new definition officially adopted are five strands of indicators which were heavily influenced by the four global learning goals, e.g. learning to do, learning to be, learning to learn and learning to live together recommended by the Delors Report.
     EFA, hence,  equates being “educated” with being functionally literate.  This is why the Philippine EFA Plan is aptly titled:  Functionally Literate Filipinos, an Educated Nation. By this concept, therefore, quality education is not to be seen and judged solely on the basis of how many classrooms, teachers, textbooks, etc.  Nor should it be indicated alone by the traditional notion of "academic excellence" indicated by examination scores.  Rather, by this yardstick, what should matter more to us as a society, should be how functional individuals and citizens Filipinos have become.
      One important strand added and emphasized in the operational definition of the new FL is the “development of one’s sense of community.” To stress its importance in the holistic education of the Filipinos, this strand was assigned numerous and elaborate indicators such as: a sense of personal and national identity, makatao, makabayan, makakalikasan, maka-Diyos, knowledge of one’s history, pride in one’s culture and respect for those of others, self-awareness, self-discipline, sense of responsibility, self-worth, self-realization, pagbabagong- loob, pakikipag-kapwa (pakikilahok, pakikiisa kapatiran). These indicators of functionality practically point to both our schools and other sources and venues of learning what and how we teach and what and how should Filipinos learn values and attitudes, the most fundamental competencies.
       It bears repeating that schools need not be solely responsible for bringing about this kind of  functional literacy. Sources of informal learning, especially the individuals' media exposure also have much to do in one's becoming functionally literate. With the patterns of Filipinos' media exposure as revealed by the FL Surveys, one can surmise why some who had little or no schooling became functionally literate while some who have higher levels of schooling are still functionally illiterates.
     The new definition, indeed, has staggering implications on both the content of and manner of learning and who is delilvering it.  By adopting this definition, a policy signal is thus declared to government and society: education is not a monopoly of DepEd but a societal responsibility; learning in schools and out of schools and the ways of delivering education should be consciously be harmonized and coordinated towards a highly functional Filipino.
     The late President Corazon C. Aquino so loved her country for all its weaknesses and pitfalls that made many Pinoys to leave and even seek other countries' citizenship. As long as Filipinos can remember President Cory, so will they also remember her prayer-statement which was well demonstrated by her life and deeds.  That we can continually be challenged how to be more functionally literate is a great legacy in education and learning that she has left. 
      May we not be a nation of short memory. By not being so, we can always re-kindle and strengthen our love for the country of our birth.  Maybe, that is where real and full national development will begin.
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