Is the Philippine's model of mandatory Values Education in schools the solution?
Last month we had the honor of meeting Francis Jim Tuscano, nominated as one of the top 50 teachers for the Global Teacher Prize. He stood out immediately and sparked our curiousity when he announced that he was a values teachers. The following is our interview with him about values education in the Philippines.
How long ago was the values curriculum designed and how often is it updated, if at all, to deal with the challenges facing youth today?
The values education was added as a separate subject in the Philippine education curriculum under the Values Education Framework program of Dr. Lourdes Quisumbing, the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports Secretary in 1988-1990. The Values Education Framework was conceptualized in 1987, right after the 1986 EDSA Revolution and aimed to help in the development of a “just and humane society.” The 1987 Philippine Constitution also mandates all educational institutions to inculcate several national, cultural, ethical, and spiritual values for developing moral character.
In 2002, the Basic Education Curriculum (then, Grade 1-6, and First-Fourth Year High School) required learning of values as integral to the key core subjects. Values Education focused on values-processing, analysis, and broader application in real-life situations and for self-actualization.
For the public school sector, Values Education took a more general approach to national, cultural, ethical, and spiritual values while those in the sectarian group (ie. religious schools: Catholic, Christian, and Muslim among others) added inculcation and learning of a specific religion, usually that which the school belongs to. In higher levels, learning about other religions in the world is introduced. For some Values Education is separate from Religious Education.
In 2012, the shift to K-12 began and thus, led to the updating and revision of the Values Education program, along with other learning areas. Values Education is renamed Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao (pagpapakatao means how to be humane) and reinforced as a major learning area for Grades 1-10. In the Senior High Curriculum (Grades 11-12), Values Educations is followed up with core courses such as Introduction to Philosophy of the Human Person and Personal Development, which are required to be taken regardless of the track the student is pursuing. This major update seeks to help the youth face the changing dynamics of the local and international scenes, and still holds the primary function of guiding students to develop and clarify values that would help them become a just and humane member of the society.
How is blended learning and technology integrated into values learning?
Blending learning and technology have been major breakthroughs in approach to content delivery and learning. Values learning does not depend on the use of technology to be able to achieve its primary goals. However, as educators, technology tools have become important tools to make learning more interactive and engaging. Blended learning has enabled students to continue discussing and reflecting on their values vis-a-vis personal, local and global issues. Blending learning tools enabled students to take their discussion on a wider perspective and to be able to share the values that they consider essential part of their lives.
Is values learning taught as a regular class ? Can someone fail values class?
Yes, Values Education is taught as a separate regular subject. There are also written assessments which are graded. The Department of Education has a prescribed number of classroom hours and a grading system which varies depending on the grade level. A student will only fail Values Education class if they perform badly in the assessments. However, there has been this idea that Values Class is easy and it’s rare for students to fail. However, since the class is about values system, the grade does not necessarily reflect the person’s character. This, I think, is something worth noting.
Share a typical lesson plan and how it is taught, so we can visualize what a class entails.
I teach in a Catholic School so our Values Education includes Religious Education with values integrated in the discussion about the Christian faith. I teach Grade 6 students and we focus on morality which involves moral-decision making, Christian values, and the Ten Commandments. We meet four times every seven days. Each session lasts 50 minutes.
A typical lesson would start with an opening activity which aims to introduce the class to the topic. It can be in the form of a game, story or situation analysis. The more concrete it is, the better. Then, we read some Bible stories that connect to the topic. Videos that present the Bible stories are often used because of their appeal to students, especially to younger ones. An essential aspect of Religious Education in Xavier School is the focus on critical thinking and application of skills. So, the lesson is deepened and becomes more meaningful if we focus the discussion on real life situations that are essential to them. Critical-thinking drives the exchange of ideas, and aims to develop believers who are comfortable to ask questions to deepen their Faith and not just to blindly follow what they are told. The curriculum allows students to explore and make sense of their faith, turning every stone they encounter as they find answers to their questions.
For example, we talk about the commandment “Thou shall not kill.” We highlight the values of respect of life, compassion, and kindness in relation to the Christian teachings. The values are also universal values, so I can easily stretch these ideas, and the learning activities to accommodate a wider discussion.
To make this more concrete, I give them the opportunity to read and discuss local and national issues that questions the importance of the values being learned. We continue to discuss the issues and relate them to the topic, allowing each student to voice their thoughts. This becomes an opportunity for them to clarify their misconceptions, explore the thoughts of their classmates, and create new learnings that hopefully will deepen their Faith and make them better members of society. At the end of the lesson, the students are given the opportunity to journal their reflections on the lesson and their learning process. We train them to understand how the lesson affects their relationship with others or God, and how it helps them understand themselves.
In most of the learning activities, we use technology tools to further engage the students. We often use Kahoot! an online game quiz that can check the basic understanding of the students. When drawing out ideas, we use visible thinking routines and tech tools as support. We use Padlet or SeeSaw for sharing of ideas or creating mind maps. SeeSaw is also great for journaling since it accommodates drawing, audio or video recording and text. We also use simple video-editing apps such as Adobe Spark Video when students create projects. We have a website (amplifiedvoices.weeebly.com) where we share the best work of the students.
Do students come to you when they encounter values conflicts in their personal life? If yes, does your role change to that of a guidance counselor or coach?
Students see their religious and values education teachers as someone they can talk to when they have personal, family, or schools troubles. Often, they seek advice and would see the teacher as a “counselor” although not all values education teachers are trained as guidance counselors. However, most of the time, they would come and confide personal stories, struggles, and would often seek understanding. When these things happen, the teacher becomes a counselor or a life coach even, helping the student to understand the situation, clarify their thoughts, and guide them in making decisions. Students trust their religious and values education teachers as someone who can help them make decisions, because they see them as experts on that matter. I believe that teachers should also be good counselors or life coaches because learning is not just about training the mind but also forming the character and the heart.
Are values teaches compensated the same as math or science teachers? How much on average do values teachers get paid?
Regardless of subject taught all teachers receive the same compensation. The compensation, though, varies depending on the year of service rendered to the school or merit ratings. Teacher compensation also varies among schools, often depending on the financial capacity and enrollment of the school.
How will you use being nominated as a top 50 teacher to impact education in your country?
As a Global Teacher Prize Top 50 Finalist, I continue my passion and dream of providing high-quality and wholistic professional development for teachers in the Philippines. The country is going through the K-12 shift and there has been a great need for teachers to update and refine their teaching skills. I hope to continue with my goal of helping teachers recieve high-quality professional development training. I have been working with schools and the Department of Education in Abra, my home province, on bringing new classroom learning and teaching strategies. More specifically, my expertise on integrating technology tools in teaching and learning. As an advocate, I hope to be able to engage teachers and school leaders on a discussion of better practice in integrating tech tools. I believe that tech tools can bridge gaps in learning and provide students with a better means of demonstrating their learning. One of my future plans is actually to connect educators in the Philippines and to create an online PD portal for teachers. The project is still in progress and I hope to collaborate with other educator experts on building this.
Can the Philippines export its values education model to other countries? If so how flexible is the values curriculum to accommodate the context of different countries? Is values important to a 21 st century education agenda? Why?
The Values Education curriculum is a unique aspect of the Philippine Education curriculum. I remember when I was in grade school, I would learn more about Filipino values of respect, the family, and of love for God and others through this dedicated subject. Just like in education, I believe that other countries can learn from the way we treasure national, cultural, or spiritual values. It does not need to become a different subject. What I advocate is to integrate values in the teaching of other learning areas. For example, in Math, we teach kids how to divide, add, subtract, or multiply properly. But do we ask them why we need do that in real life? What would happen if they do not do these operations properly in real life? What would happen if I do not divide the cake properly between my sisters and I? What would happen if the leaders do not appropriate funds properly? What values are we forgetting when we do these things? These are just some ways to drill in our students the importance of learning how to do the operations properly. They are not just Math skills. When coupled with the values of fairness, equality, and justice, we are making the learning more meaningful.
Most curricula right now are geared towards a focus on STEM or STEAM. I do not have something against this. I believe that we are in an era where we have to continue developing better tools for making human lives better. However, a better life does not mean being able to enjoy advance technological products. We have great scientists or engineers but they end up creating tools that end up destroying or harming humanity. We can have smart students but they may be not well equipped or exposed to skills that would make them ethical or moral citizens. 21st century education is not just about skills that enable better learning. I believe that we should not forget the skills that would make us humane. After all, despite the advance technology that we have right now and continue to invent, the world today still needs more compassionate and kind people who know how to love and respect their fellow human beings despite differences.