Curriculum policies are usually set forth by the Department of Education through various orders, circulars, memoranda and bulletins. They are aligned with national priorities and contribute to the achievement of development goals. However, several laws passed by the national legislature specifically relate to the school curriculum. The Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) aims to produce more functionally literate students by empowering them with life skills and promote more ideal teachers that will perform collaborative teaching and transcending knowledge in a non-authoritative way of instructing. It has reduced the number of subjects from an average of eight to five, focusing on Filipino, English, Science and Math, which is seen to prepare students for global competitiveness. A fifth subject, Makabayan, also called as the “laboratory of life,” instructs complete learning to students. Makabayan intends to develop personal and national identity through adequate knowledge of Philippine history and its politico-economic system, local cultures, crafts, arts, music and games. It covers a wide range of values system that stresses the development of social awareness, understanding and commitment to the common good.
The subjects in the new curriculum respond to the individual needs of the students, and are contextualized in their present conditions. Reciprocal interaction between student-teacher, among students, students-instructional materials, students-multi-media sources, students-teachers of different disciplines is also reinforced. The approach to the subjects is “integrated,”. Thus, Filipino and English would, in addition to reading, writing and grammar, include literature and current affairs. The school principal is authorized to make adjustments, but not modification, to the content of the subjects (Guzman and Sevilleno 2003).
Development of the basic education curriculum (SEAMEO INNOTECH 2002)
- is the responsibility of the Central Office Bureau of Elementary and Secondary Education, Curriculum Development Divisions. This bureau defines the learning competencies for the different subject areas; conceptualizes the structure of the curriculum; and formulates national curricular policies. These functions are exercised in consultation with other agencies and sectors of society (e.g. industry, social and civic groups, teacher-training institutions, professional organizations, school administrators, parents, students, etc.).
- the subject offerings, credit points and time allotments for the different subject areas are also determined at the national level. In this sense, a national curriculum exists in the Philippines. However, while curriculum implementation guidelines are issued at the national level, the actual implementation is left to school-teachers. They determine the resources to be used; teaching and assessment strategies and other processes. Furthermore, schools have the option to modify the national curriculum (e.g. content, sequence and teaching strategies) in order to ensure that the curriculum responds to local concerns.
The approach to curriculum design in the country is based on content topic and competency. The Department of Education prescribes competencies for the subject areas in all the grade/year levels. The Bureau of Elementary and Secondary Education develops, publishes and disseminates these learning competencies to the field. Most of the subject/learning areas have a list of learning competencies expected to be mastered by the children at the end of each grade/year level and also at the end of elementary/secondary schooling. Some subject/learning areas have a combination of both (i.e. learning competencies under each content/topic). The curriculum is designed to be interpreted by teachers and implemented with variations. Schools are encouraged to innovate and enrich or adapt, as along as they have met the basic requirements of the curriculum.The curriculum plan (learning competencies) does not present teaching methods and learning activities that teachers must follow in implementing the curriculum. The guiding philosophy is that the creativity of teachers is stimulated by the option to plan and use the appropriate teaching/learning activities independently. However, teacher’s manuals or guides do incorporate higher-level content areas and suggestions for teaching and assessing” (Mariñas and Ditapat, 2000). Features of the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum for Elementary and Secondary Education (Department of Education, 2002):
- restructuring of the learning areas, reducing them to five (Filipino, English, science, mathematics and Makabayan);
- stronger integration of competencies and values within and across learning areas;
- greater emphasis on the learning process and integrative modes of teaching; and
- increased time for tasks to gain mastery of competencies of the basic tool subjects.
- The objectives are expressed in terms of competencies, which are knowledge, skills and attitudes that the learner is expected to acquire at the end of the program.
- A significant feature of the competencies is the inclusion of the use of ICTs, articulated in terms of skills in accessing, processing, and applying information, and using educational software in solving mathematical problems and conducting experiments.
- Content is delivered using a variety of media and resources.
- The teaching-learning process considers the learner an active partner rather than an object of pedagogy.
- The learner takes on the role of the constructor of meaning, while the teacher serves as facilitator, enabler and manager of learning.
Review of the Old Curriculum (Guzman and Sevilleno 2003)
The main objectives of Secondary Education Development Program (SEDP) are to strengthen the Ministry of Science, Technology, Education and Culture (MOSTEC), develop the quality and coverage of basic, non-formal and secondary education, create a market-driven Technical Education and Vocational Training (TEVT) program and fortify the Science and Technology (S & T) capacity at the tertiary level. SEDP will also direct the Government’s poverty alleviation strategy in the education sector.
The SEDP contains the New Secondary Education Curriculum (NSEC) implemented in 1989, which changed the 1973 Revised Education Program (RSEP). The program was applied in response to the following needs: continuation of the Program for Decentralized Education (PRODED) giving emphasis on science and technology, mathematics, reading, and writing; improve the value of high school graduates; and develop access to quality secondary education.
BEC vs. SEDP
SEDP is said to be overcrowded, putting together too many competencies and topics. This results to the loss of mastery of basic skills, narrow opportunity to process and contextualize major concepts and weak interconnections of competencies.
On the other hand, BEC had encountered various criticisms.
Tessie Aquino Oreta, the main author of Republic Act No. 9155 or the Governance of Basic Education Act, said the “outcome of learning” among students in public schools nationwide will be sacrificed and eventually suffer because a number of teachers in the country are not prepared to teach the new curriculum.
The research agency, IBON Foundation, also criticized the design of the BEC, claiming it caters to the needs of multinational corporations for highly skilled and technically proficient workers at the expense of nationalism.
Antonio Tinio, national coordinator of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), said the new curriculum will have a strategically adverse impact on the promotion of a scientific and nationalist education program which are critical components in the holistic development and progress of a nation. He said the BEC is a scheme crafted to produce lowly paid labor force that will support the niche marketing schemes of the government and corporations in the era of globalization. He added that the DepEd rushed the implementation of the program to catch up with the full implementation of World Trade Organization agreements in 2004. According to ACT, BEC will be producing cheap skilled laborers for the world market instead of Filipinos with a strong sense of history, culture, arts and life skills.
In spite of the negative impressions, the restructured curriculum allows teachers to address important issues promoting social awareness to the students. It develops wider views of each subject matter while reducing redundancy of content. It also helps to keep pace with the changes in the global context of our educational system and to attain functional literacy. It aims to provide more attention on the means of learning and at the same time promote values development to all the students. It features greater importance on helping every learner particularly in Grades 1-3 to become successful reader. Mathematics on the other hand is the focus in the secondary level. It emphasizes interactive teaching approaches and values formation in all subject areas.