Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Basic Education Through Multi-grade Teaching

The Philippine Star

In the past
In the mid-1990s, a brother and sister tandem went to school together in Benguet. They would wake up early in the morning to go to school.

For more than forty minutes, they would row their small boat across the Ambuklao Dam to attend classes in a one-room school building on the other side. They would arrive just in time for the flag ceremony attended by primary school pupils.

After the raising of the flag and singing of the Philippine National Anthem, all the schoolchildren would troop to a single classroom to learn their lessons from one teacher. While first graders practiced writing their ABCs, second graders drew pictures, third graders solved mathematical equations, and fourth graders took quizzes.

During this time, the Multi-grade Program in Philippine Education (MPPE) had just begun. The geographic condition in several areas, such as the Cordilleras, made the establishment of regular and complete public elementary schools not cost-effective. The mandate
The Bureau of Elementary Education (BEE) provides access, progress and quality in elementary education. It formulates and implements key programs and projects to enable schoolchildren to acquire basic preparation that will make them enlightened, disciplined, nationalistic, self-reliant, God-loving, creative, versatile and productive members of the national community.

Key programs and projects of the BEE include the MPPE under the Third Elementary Education Project (TEEP), which improves access to quality elementary education through the opening of complete multi-grade classes and the completion of incomplete schools in far-flung barangays. This involves providing all six levels for an elementary school instead of just four for a primary school. It also provides instructional materials, training, school buildings and introduces community support schemes.

Other projects are Pupil Learning Enhancement Program, Little Red School House Project, Integrated Curriculum for Multi-grade Classes, and the Early Childhood Development Project (ECDP).

The ECDP is implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Health, and Department of Education, Culture and Sports (now Department of Education or DepEd) - these are services delivered with an integrated approach: DOH handles the health and nutrition concerns of children ages 0 to 6; DSWD handles their early education. Elementary education

Official government data show that school facilities in the country are insufficient to cover the entire school-age population, a factor that contributes to low enrollment, particularly in areas with high child labor rates. Since 1990, however, the DepEd has been implementing the MPPE to increase the number of elementary schools in barangays where there is a need.

Under the program, the DepEd organizes "incomplete elementary schools" or multi-grade classes of 30 to 40 students under one teacher in areas where mono-grade classes are not feasible, owing to limited enrollment in certain grades or to classroom and teacher shortages.

In 1995-96, the DepEd established an additional 900 elementary schools, finished 1,880 incomplete elementary schools, and established 52 public high schools in municipalities where there had been none. According to the DepEd, five years earlier, about one-quarter of all barangays (12,000) were without primary schools; afterwards, only one-eighth (6,000) was still without one. Multigrade schools

Like the one in Benguet, multi-grade (MG) and combination classes are undertaken mainly in selected mountain and island divisions as a probable solution to the problem of incomplete schools. Such schools, besides restricting access and participation by their lack of capacity to accommodate more grade levels, are often characterized by inadequate school facilities and materials, especially textbooks.

As of 1996-97, for instance, approximately one-third of public elementary schools were still incomplete. This program has been well received by the field units of the DepEd, which have given the MG scheme high marks for greatly increasing enrolment and keeping children in school.

Regional feedback is that more MG classes should be put up while the problem of incomplete schools has not been resolved. Local government units could be tapped to contribute materials and labor for the construction of buildings to house MG classes. Furthermore, MG multi-level materials should always be on hand, and the DepEd should make sure that the supply is always available.

Through DECS Order no. 38, s. 1993, MG was adopted as a national strategy to improve access and progress in elementary education. Consequently, the number of MG classes dramatically increased.

In 1993-94, 1,653 MG classes were organized with a total enrolment of 93,170. Minimum learning competencies for multi-grade classes and a handbook on MG teaching were developed. These materials were designed to enable a teacher to handle MG classes without formal training. In addition, a budget of work was prepared to facilitate the teacher's tasks in planning daily lessons. This was supported by sample lessons for all learning areas, MG tests and multi-level materials.

For 1994-95, the number of MG classes organized was 5,201. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) provided funding in the reprinting of 171 titles of multi-level materials and the development of 123 other titles.

The UNDP-assisted Pupil Learning Enhancement Program undertakes direct support to MG classes through the provision of supplementary pupil learning materials and encourages community support to the program. The project is focused on four selected provinces: Surigao del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur, North Cotabato, and Negros Oriental.

In 1995-96, around 17,000 MG classes were held, most of them in the regions of Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Northern Mindanao and Western Mindanao. The program was strengthened by the training of 9,454 teachers and administrators on MG instruction (constituting 43 percent of the total targeted trainees of 21,678) and the production and distribution to all regions of MG instructional packages. For 1996-97, a total of 12,980 out of a targeted 20,479 teachers were trained on MG instruction.

Likewise, an MG demonstration school project was established to improve the overall performance of MG schools through the training of teachers and school officials, as well as the provision of textbooks and instructional materials. In particular, 12 MG demo schools were established. A series of training programs was also conducted to strengthen MG teachers' and para-teachers' capability in managing the MG system of the country. Some 1,863 teachers from nine divisions were involved in the trainings from May to December 1997. Word from TEEP

In the last stretch of project implementation, the TEEP is where it wants to be. Thousands of schools in the 23 TEEP provinces now have the management capabilities and opportunities to improve and move toward academic excellence.

Of the 6,374 schools targeted for school based management implementation, 5,665 or 89 percent have approved five-year School Improvement Plans and Annual Implementation Plans. A total of 5,138, or 81percent of targeted pilots, have been allocated School Based Management Fund (SBMF) grants and 4,556 or 72 percent have received a total of P57 million in SBMF. The remaining P16 million in SBMF will be drilled down by March 2006.

Services that are being sponsored and advocated by TEEP to uplift disadvantaged schools are now organized and are being strengthened and refined at the division level. Nine divisions - Agusan del Sur, Leyte, Capiz, Eastern Samar, Apayao, Antique, Eastern Samar, Surigao del Sur, Kalinga, Benguet and Batanes - have organized programs to improve the teaching, instructional materials and facilities in multi-grade schools. Fourteen TEEP divisions have adopted the standard school building design for MG.

Six divisions are supporting projects to develop instructional materials and tools for the Culture-Responsive Curriculum for Indigenous Peoples. These are Ifugao, Mountain Province, Benguet, Agusan del Sur, Zamboanga del Sur and Eastern Samar. For its part, TEEP sponsored a series of trainings for hundreds of teachers in developing learning packages for indigenous peoples from April to May 2005.

Nine TEEP divisions have organized 27 new Special Education classes in a total of 23 elementary schools. Workloads for Special Education teachers have been adjusted and the corresponding work plans have been developed with regular teachers.

When it comes to the hardware, the Civil Works has found its way out of the administrative problems it has faced in recent years. It has brought its cumulative accomplishment to 4,951 new classrooms and 13,796 repairs - 91percent and 81percent respectively of the targets in new construction and repair.

The School-Based Procurement of Furniture (SBPF) sped up the procurement, production and delivery of school furniture. The enthusiastic response and participation of communities in SBPF is a major factor to its success. Through SBPF, TEEP divisions have brought the cumulative accomplishment in school furniture delivery to 451,741 pieces or 83 percent of the global target. The last contract of TEEP for the production and delivery of 321,030 copies of Math 3 textbooks and 42,802 copies of Math lesson guides has been awarded.

In the end, only budgetary problems would limit the accomplishments of TEEP. The TEEP has drawn down 90 percent of its $83.4 million loan allocation from the World Bank and 72 percent of its Y11.1 billion allocation from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation since the 1990s. Back to the past

Meanwhile, just as the brother and sister tandem were attending classes together in Benguet, schoolchildren at the Dominorog Elementary School in Kapudtara, Talakag, Bukidnon were crowding together in one room. There were 54 pupils in the MG class: 15 in Grade 4; 26 in Grade 5; and 13 in Grade 6.

Dorothy Polison, who taught the three grade levels simultaneously, admitted not having had proper training for MG teaching. Instead of giving up or complaining, she followed techniques that she taught herself.

"As the different grade levels have the same subjects, I teach them the same lessons. You see, I still do not have the multi-grade teaching manual. I find it difficult to prepare lesson plans without the necessary books and materials," she said.

More than a decade has passed since the introduction of MPPE, yet the conditions prevailing in MG classes nationwide remain. The huge number of pupils they have to teach often overwhelms teachers like Polison. However, as long as there are pupils who row boats or walk long distances, they will continue to serve.

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