Thursday, July 13, 2006

The goal of education for sustainable development is employment for all

The Philippine Star

(Part 2 of a series on How UNESCO is reviewing ESD Programs)
As an official member of the thirty-man Guidelines Review Team for the UNESCO-IUCN (World Conservation Union) CEC (Commission on Education and Communication) DESD (Decade of Education for Sustainable Development) Indicators Project of UNESCO Bangkok Regional Office, I hope that the regular correspondences I send to my colleagues will be persuasive enough to clarify the true definition of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).

Is man capable of educating himself for sustainable development?

"Is man capable of educating himself for sustainable development?" My answer is YES.

Let us trace the human capacity to heed the "call to independence" from birth. It is not true that the child is born tabularasa (empty slate). This is a myth. Upon birth, Mother Nature makes sure that each child is programmed to acquire a unique personality. Thus, during the first six months, the baby’s Absorbent Mind through his eyes, mouth, hands and feet teaches him to babble, sit up and crawl. The baby keeps exploring, touching everything within his reach. Between 10 months to one year, the syllables become clear and the first word is spoken with meaning. At this point, the toddler walks about supporting himself from chair to table until he makes his first independent step.

A one-year old baby born in Paris will be able to say "Oui, Mama" or "No, Papa" and identify in French, all objects (nouns) around him. Soon, he fuses some words like "mupper" for "mother, supper". During the next six months until the age of two, his French communication will be filled with verbs and prepositions. When he turns one, not only will he speak French in sentences, but he will be running around and can be helped to eat, bathe and dress up by himself. This is the core principle of the Montessori system of education for life — "the child is in the process of becoming whereas the adult has reached the norm of the species."

"Man Makes Himself". With the proper guidance of a trained adult, a Prepared Environment, the child who is still in the process of becoming will become the adult who will eventually contribute to his society. The Montessori philosophy carries the very basic goals of ESD which is to make man self-sufficient and independent.

Maria Montessori observed that in each child is a "secret teacher". She further studied how the "Absorbent Mind" of the child (of 0-6 years old) is transformed into an "Enormous Reasoning Mind" with moral sensitivity when the child reaches childhood (6 - 12 years old). She used the Cosmic Curriculum for the grade school children and understood that just as preschoolers need the Prepared Environment of sensorial and practical materials, the grade school students require hands-on materials for Language, Mathematics, Geometry, Geography, History, Botany, Zoology, etc.

Upon reaching adolescence, the intelligence wanes, giving way to creative activities for economic independence, as well as patriotic ideals for citizenship. European, Americans and Australian schools have proven that given additional two years in high school for technical training, the young adults generally can be employed. An example is Ecole Culinaire de Paris where students take two-year courses in Continental cooking, baking, butchery or bartending. After two years, they are readily employed. If observed to be specially competent, they are sent back to school for managerial courses by their employers. DESD priorities in the Philippines

The United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) 2005-2015 has provided an opportunity for the Philippines to integrate ESD in Basic Education from preschool to adolescence in either formal or non-formal education.

The Philippine strategy should be based on accessing the Four Pillars of the 21st Century Education that UNESCO put together for the New Millennium. Written by Jacques Delors and 12 educational experts, its reference book, The Treasures Within, explains WHAT education for sustainable development (ESD) is about, while Dr. Maria Montessori explained HOW Man "constructs himself": Pillar I, Learning to Be (birth to six years old); Pillar II, Learning to Learn (childhood 6-12); Pillar III, Learning to Work (adolescence 12-18); Pillar IV, Learning to Live together harmoniously (adulthood 18-24). It is also good to note that Montessori had written the first Rights of the Child for UNESCO as early as its establishment in 1946.

Through Executive Order 483, the Philippine government has issued a national policy on DESD "Establishing the UNESCO Lifelong Learning Center for Sustainable Development of the Philippines (UNESCO-LLCSD)". This is part of the Philippine UNESCO proposal to UNESCO Paris to be the Asian Center for Lifelong Education for Sustainable Development stated by UNESCO National Commission Chairman DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo.

Its purpose is to defend and popularize the mission of Education For All (EFA) for Sustainable Development; to protect and promote the rights of all citizens to quality education at all levels with a corresponding teacher training programs; to produce scientific hands-on apparata which are universally tested as effective tools for Education For All (instead of using traditional books); and, to share these effective quality educational programs as the launching pad for human development with the rest of the Asian countries. DESD laboratory in the Philippines designated by E.O. 483

The Executive Order 483 "designates the Operation Brotherhood Montessori Center, Inc. as the national laboratory of the Department of Education (DepEd), Commission on Higher Education (CHED), as well as the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA)" to address the life skills educational requirements toward building a knowledge society. In addition, the Center shall open its doors to the Asia Pacific region for sharing of facilities, experiences and technical assistance.

Initially funded by Operation Brotherhood International in 1966, the 40-year old OBMCI became financially self-sufficient by 1973. It has been advocating activities to make Filipinos economically independent.

The OB Montessori Child and Community Foundation is the implementing arm of OBMCI that reaches out to "help people help themselves", setting up alternative non-formal education referred to as the OB Montessori Pagsasarili Mothercraft Literacy Twin program. The Foundation office with full time directors and staff provides yearly teacher training and regular monitoring for the seven OB Montessori Pagsasarili preschools in Metro Manila, five in the Ifugao World Heritage Site, and 30 in Lipa City, Batangas. The Pagsasarili system is also currently being used in the EFA-DAKAR Pilot Project in Angeles Elementary School to initiate UNESCO’s framework of action for quality education in the public schools. The above are all self-sustained with the partnership of local government and parents.

The OB Montessori Mothercraft Literacy training course for village mothers, was developed to fulfill UNESCO’s vision of "Teach a Mother, Teach the Nation". From 1986 to 1990, it established 14 Mothercraft literacy houses in Cadiz and Sagay, Negros Occidental which aimed to elevate the status of village mothers by developing their potentials to the fullest, thus, making them economically self-sufficient.

This Literacy Twin Project won the 1993 UNESCO International Literacy Award in New Delhi, India. The Lifelong Learning Programs: A Directory and Resource Guide
In its bid to be the UNESCO Lifelong Learning Center for Sustainable Development, the UNESCO Education Committee for the past two years did a survey of old and new ESD projects in the Philippines. These ESD programs will be presented in the book, The Lifelong Learning Programs: A Directory and Resource Guide authored by Dr. Ethel Agnes Valenzuela. Here are sample cases of ESD livelihood training and distance learning for community rehab projects I picked out from the book.

Saint Louis University trains the people in the community and provides them with technical assistance in order to cultivate backyard business. An example is honey production for commercial purposes. Certificate programs are given to develop small business and to handle entrepreneurship, management, technical training, consultancy, research and information. They also provide Mobile Nursing Clinic, as well as Health Education for parents and adults to address and arrest the dismal health situation such as lack of health manpower, poor facilities and services in the underserved as well as far-flung areas of the Benguet province. Faculty and students visit barangays and provide lectures and classes on health education.

La Consolacion College Bacolod, through its programs of building capacity, especially of the indigents and those who have less opportunities, seeks to respond to the challenges of the Third Millennium. This program has helped hundreds of poor but deserving students to be given opportunity to improve their lives through education. Most of the indigent beneficiaries of the program are working during daytime as household helpers and then go to school after working hours.

University of St. La Salle Bacolod has a program that aims to provide continuing formation to the street children and their parents, equips them with basic numeracy and literacy skills to become functional and productive members of the community, as well as develop livelihood skills to help them generate additional and alternative sources of livelihood. Through the Fisherfolk Project, USL also provides coastal-marine environmental education, capability building seminars, environmental issues advocacy, economic self-sufficiency and environmental monitoring and enhancement for fishermen in Balayan, Negros Oriental. RESEARCH ON ITS EFFECTIVENESS IS NEEDED IF IT IS TO BECOME A FLAGSHIP MODEL.

University of Negros Occidental, Recoletos started the "Handumanan" (A Place to Remember) project, adopting the poor community — Purok Katilingban of Barangay 39 in Bacolod City. It offers the poor families with instructions on health care fully equipped with medical facilities, as well as automotive, electrical and computer aided courses, technical and vocational courses, early childhood day care facilities for out of school kids and housing projects. MONITORING AND EVALUATION IS ESSENTIAL.

The University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) provides quality higher and continuing education to Filipinos through distance education. Its mission is to give its students formal qualification, as well as to develop in them the discipline and capability to become lifelong learners who are at home in today’s knowledge society. Certificate programs are also offered for barangay officials and local government officials. STUDENTS MUST BE MET ON A QUARTERLY BASIS TO ACQUIRE TERTIARY QUALIFICATIONS AS IS DONE IN AUSTRALIA.

Miriam College promotes Public Education and Awareness Campaign for the Environment (PEACE) to support environmental concern for the 21st century in the school community as well as in communities around the school. Miriam College is home to the Environmental Education Center, which gives seminars and workshops on environmental themes and studies. THIS SHOULD BE MATCHED WITH HORTICULTURE PROJECTS.

Philippine Women’s University, through the youth organization, Children and Peace Philippines, has been working to spread a culture of peace in their schools and their communities. They have been involved in peace education and advocacy for more than ten years now, conducting workshops with children and other young people, in efforts to replace prevailing culture of violence with a culture of peace and hope. IT MUST INPUT SPECIFIC ACTION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OVER AND ABOVE ADVOCACY WORKSHOPS.

Marikina Institute of Science and Technology conducts Non-Formal Skills for Life Education for skills development, which includes training adults on basket weaving, meat processing and other income generating training programs. THIS IS DEPENDENT ON SUSTAINED WORK LABORATORY.

Concrete Hollow Blocks Making in North Luzon trains CHB makers in values formation program, leadership program, entrepreneurial development, health management and cooperative development training in partnership with various organizations. THE MONITORING MECHANISM IS IMPORTANT.

Zambales Dairy Development in Zambales City includes lectures and training on milk production utilizing the rural technology level to develop marginal land for grass/legume production, as well as to improve the economic conditions of the farmers. THIS REQUIRES MONITORING SINCE DAIRY INDUSTRY DEPENDS ON RICH GRASSLAND.

Part of the objectives of the UNESCO Lifelong Learning Center for Sustainable Development is to standardize, update and enhance the basic principles of training and educational approaches to strengthen the ESD programs in the country. How can we have ESD when Filipinos are dependent?
The Philippines has acquired its independence over half a century ago. Unfortunately, more than two generations have passed and many Filipinos have not been made capable of educating themselves to achieve self- sufficiency. Both child rearing practices and schooling, even government policies, have weakened the goal of making Filipinos independent.

Education begins at home, continues in the schools and in the workplace. The goal of ESD is to transform men into self-developing individuals through establishing the right relationship between the child and the adult by providing him with sustainable environment for learning, as well as the skills necessary for him to become independent. ESD aims to achieve gainful employment in the urban and rural areas so that each citizen can be a productive member of his society.

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