Let’s get real and stop dishing out platitudes

Preciosa S. Soliven

In her column, A Point of Awareness, Ms. Preciosa S. Soliven surprises us with a blanket generalization that “uneducated poor parents have no idea what… a balanced, integrated development” for their children means. In fact, most Filipino parents who, traditionally, are intent on living their lives through their children, already have, in varying levels of intensity, sophistication and/or commitment, some “integrated” plans of development which sometimes surpass their ability to carry them out. Oh, some succeed, however, most come out a bit disenchanted, albeit, feeling a certain degree of accomplishment for even trying.

“As early as the age of three,” Ms. Soliven writes, “given a choice of playing with a toy tea set or setting the family table, the child will prefer the latter.” Well, a large number of Filipino children don’t even have what would normally be considered three decent square meals a day, so the option of playing with a toy tea set is far-fetched, if not an altogether foreign concept, and arguably a poor option. Besides, the average Filipino child is typically beset with varying levels of malnutrition so you can’t blame the child if he/she opts for setting the family table as that is, realistically, a prelude to a much-needed meal! Please read on…

Humanizing the educational system of K to 12
for the sustainable dev’t of children

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Ideally, what parents wish for their children is a balanced, integrated development. Sad to say the uneducated poor parents have no idea what this means. Thus, for all parents it is necessary for the government to have an educational system which produces real ‘persons’. It is not a question of making children absorb the greatest possible amount of information – but of teaching human beings to think, to make sound judgments and acquire a strong sense of self-sufficiency.

What we should campaign for is a more “humanized” educational system that requires the participation of the students in their own self-transformation as they confront the daily realities of personal care and hygiene, care of home and garden, cooking and nutrition as well as understanding their human development during the 18 years of childhood.

Will a high-rise tenement building provide sustainable living for the poor?

In the sixties, architect Oscar Arellano, the founder of the international civic organization Operation Brotherhood International, was invited by Ernesto Maceda, who headed the Tondo “Urban Poor” Planning Program (when First Lady Imelda Marcos was the Metro Manila Authority Governor) to help squatters relocate to high-rise residential buildings.

Mr. Arellano, who has helped relocate 3,000 families from the ghettoes of Intramuros to Sapang Palay, felt that relocating the poor to four-story buildings was more complicated. Being used to squalor, disorder and lack of sanitation, these poor residents usually do not even know how to live properly in a one-story house.

Oscar foresaw that Maceda’s idea will merely become a multi-story squatter problem. Mr. Arellano was convinced that the basic principle of transforming the poor is to provide him first “functional literacy.” Instead of merely teaching them the three R’s, it is more useful for them to acquire good habits in grooming and hygiene, good housekeeping, basic cooking and nutrition and proper child care.

There is much more to acquire than good manners and right conduct

The school subject “Good Manners and Right Conduct” allows children to express politeness and proper behavior to others. Good Manners and Right Conduct touches up the child’s outward appearance to look as if one is well put together. This can fool most people. Dr. Jose Rizal reminded his young nephew in a letter he wrote from Dapitan, “True education should not address the intelligence of a person alone. It should touch one’s heart.” Such is Character Education that sinks into the depths of our being developing a person of conviction leaving no place for pretense in relationship with others.

To have a strong character, one must have the spontaneous power to overcome daily obstacles all by oneself without getting help from others. The baby’s instinct to suck milk from the mother’s breast or to grab the milk bottle made ready and placed beside him, expresses the human instinct to help oneself. Unfortunately, we adults have a tendency to suppress this early manifestation of character.

Yearly, our O.B. Montessori Proficiency Teacher Training course starts with a lecture on the “Four Periods of Human Construction.” It is combined with essay writing that incorporates the observation tour of child development in our OBMC Toddler Class, to the Preschool, Primary and Intermediate Gradeschool, visiting the culinary laboratory and bistro of the Professional Highschool, then concluded with the college department.

The “new” teachers and ‘the prepared environment’

The new teachers’ perspective of education began to be transformed from the traditional school system of directing lessons to the mind of the students to acknowledging that there is the scientific system of synthesizing their mental and physical energy into active work.

What is the missing factor in the conventional school, which normally employs the traditional blackboard, notebooks and pens, the complete dependence on textbooks or computer – the “Prepared Environment” that conditions a person to work.

This formula of “education for sustainable development” requires the re-training of adults (parents, teachers, guardians), the comprehension of the different behavioral developments of infants and preschooler, gradeschool and highschool students and how to prepare the environment of work.

The familycraft model house

Quality work is like a recipe. Whether it is personal grooming or laundering, the “ingredients” must be complete, the step by step procedure must be employed properly. Consequently, the work gets done and the materials are cleaned up and stored in place.

The “bahay kubo” house in the provinces or among the urban poor districts is usually a one room affair, where the main room is a combined living-dining room, converted into a bedroom at night. The kitchen, laundry room, toilet and bath are nowhere identified. Such an environment has conditioned the poor families to malnourishment, various physical ailments, child abuse and criminality.

In 1988 I re-designed a model “bahay kubo” that would dignify the lifestyle of the disadvantaged communities. This giant bahay kubo with interior anahaw palm ceiling, sawali walls, an slatted bamboo floor is located in the interior quadrangle of our O.B. Montessori headquarters in Greenhills. Originally labeled Mothercraft Literacy house, we now refer to it as the Familycraft laboratory house. It has a living-dining room surrounded with cabinets where the Personal Grooming, Housekeeping, Cooking and Childcare materials are properly stored. Adjacent to this are two bedrooms to provide privacy for parents and the children. Behind the house is sufficient space for a toilet and bathroom with the tiled deep sink, to wash the dining and cooking equipment or be used for laundering. The opposite side has three wood fire stoves. Gas fueled stoves are provided as an alternative cooking technique. Its is regularly a training area for our Pagsasarili preschool teachers sent by mayors and governors to train every summer. We also use it for the yearly literacy course for the nursemaids (yayas) of newly enrolled preschoolers.

Developing the child’s full potential from preschool to adolescence

Many think that children really prefer play to work. No, that’s a myth.

As early as the age of three, given a choice of playing with a toy tea set or setting the family table, the child will prefer the latter. Both mental and physical energies harmonize as a child lays down the placemats, even uses thick breakable plates, sets fork, spoon and knife at the proper side of the plate and adds a drinking glass. This analysis of movement will first have to be demonstrated by a trained adult.

When the UNMDG 2000-2015 was declared, UNESCO referred to the 21st Century Education and its four Pillars. It was based on the work of 12 education experts who wrote the book “Treasures Within.” I realized that they may have tried to define WHAT is the New Millennium Education but failed to cite WHY and HOW, just as Dottoressa Maria Montessori did in the previous century. Her discovering of the scientific education for Early Childhood (and even adult literacy) was officially acknowledged by UNESCO which declared “The Century of the Child.”

When the child turns six, Pillar II – Learning to Learn evolves from Pillar I – Learning to Be of the action-oriented preschooler. At 6 to 12, the older child has a natural enormous reasoning power and moral plenty. This can only be satisfied with a Cosmic curriculum. He can also do advanced work like follow basic recipes for Pilipino dishes or learn plant propagation and ornamental gardening. But by highschool, the age of economic independence, Pillar III – Learning to Work, students then eagerly learn Asian dishes for school meals. We have managed to put up bistro-style eateries with fully equipped kitchens in our four professional highschools. The teenage students learn the business of food service offering excellent meals at very affordable price while comprehending the reality of loss and gain in commerce. Finally, Pillar IV – Learning to Harmonize with Others, refers to the 18-24 year old students in technical school or college.

Equalizing opportunities for all

By 2015, the UN Millennium Development Goal regarding universal access to quality primary education as well as child and maternal health are not likely to be met in the Philippines, according to the UN Country Report in spite of constant reminders from the UN country team, media, businessmen and public opinion.

Former DECS Secretary Gloria referred to the Montessori system as the alternative system to the existing conventional education in the Philippines. In the four and a half decade of the existence of Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center, being a non-stock, non-profit school, OBMC has successfully shared an affordable version of Montessori schooling labeled the Pagsasarili System, with the goal of “helping people help themselves” in the 156 preschools all over Luzon, including the public school pilot of Pulung Bulu Elementary School in Angeles Pampanga. With the support of UNESCO, the system has been introduced to the teacher training program of the Normal Universities of Leyte and Cadiz (Negros Oriental) as well as Mati State College of Davao Oriental.

The phenomenal transformation of the Pagsasarili preschoolers from timidity, laziness, dependence, to lovers of work and order, self-confidence and independence has been constantly replicated, equalizing opportunities for all, regardless of race, religion or social status. Thus we see the emergence of the New Man, who will no longer be the victim of events but will be able to shape and mold the future of mankind.

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