Changes in curriculum and textbooks needed to develop sense of history among pupils PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 10 June 2011 13:36

“Filipino history teachers are good, in fact, they have pedagogical knowhow,” said Dr. Maria Serena Diokno. “But they are constrained by curriculum and textbooks.” She was responding to questions on how to develop love of country among school children.

Diokno is the Chair of the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the lead agency tasked with coordinating activities for the commemoration of the country’s 113th Independence Day and 150th birth anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine’s National Hero.
She was guest at the Communication and News Exchange Forum, sponsored by the Philippine Information Agency, to brief the media about government plans for the celebrations.

A major part of the agency’s mandate is “to inculcate awareness and appreciation of the noble deeds and ideals of our heroes and other illustrious Filipinos, to instill pride in the Filipino race and to rekindle the Filipino spirit through the lessons of history.”

Diokno is no stranger to the world of history. She is history professor at the University of the Philippines and earned her doctorate at the University of London. Equally important, she had conducted training and interacted with teachers all over the country.

She said two things may be done to improve the teaching of history among children, to develop in them a sense of country and history. There is a need to 1) review the curriculum structure and two, 2)revise the textbooks in history used in elementary grades, many of which contain factual errors.
At present, Philippine history subject is taught only in Grade 5 and in first year high school.

“One weakness of our history curriculum is that the tendency is to teach only national history,” she said. “We miss out on important stories like the history of the Filipino Muslims, of our ethno-liguistic groups, of women, peasants and workers and other sectors.”
She argued that the concept of a nation is too abstract for children, and is difficult to teach.

The curriculum only covers the history of heroes, famous people, and colonizers. She said these are important, but because of this approach, “you miss out on history that really talk about the lives of people, of Filipinos.”
Thus, she would like to history be taught?

Teaching local history to grade 1 to grade 3 pupils will be much easier because all your sources of information will come from that locality, including the dress, the local papers, and buildings or structures. “These will be the basis of the content of your local history class,” she said. “This will also promote the production (or writing) of local history.”

“While I recognize the value of a national history, we also should understand the value of history from below, the local communities,” she explained.
She said Filipino teachers know “the psychology of kids.” But they cannot veer away from the curriculum and the contents of textbooks, however erroneous and boring. “This is because the basis of national aptitude tests—exam administered to measure the students performance—is would still be based on the textbook. “The teacher will have to stick to the textbook answer,” she said. “What if the textbook has factual errors?”

She also believes that would be better to for students to use history workbooks rather than textbooks. “History is analytical,” she explains. “Workbooks are not only for math.”    She argued that there is a need to find a way to teach history that will be interesting to students.
“If you want to fall asleep, read a history textbook,” she quipped. “But that is true not only for local history books.”

There should be a common guide for teaching the subject. For instance, she says, there should be a guideline on what is local history, and how to develop them.
“But you can give autonomy to teachers (to define the content of their lesson plan) based on local information sources; (that is,) based on the place’s local history,” she clarified.

Then by Grade 4, students will be more ready to understand the concept of a nation, she said.
These are small steps towards NHCP’s grand vision of “a Filipino society with citizens informed of their history, who love their country and proud of their cultural heritage.” --RD ABELLA