With the improvements and modifications recently introduced in the education system, especially in the elementary and high school levels, lessons are no longer limited to reading, writing and crunching numbers.
Along with these basic instructions, schoolchildren are being taught extra lessons aimed at preventing them from landing in trouble or making a mess out of their lives.
These “innovations” introduced in basic education include lessons on the evils of using illegal drugs, the consequences of teen pregnancy and how to deal with disasters or calamities.
A decade ago, no educator would have believed that illegal drugs, sex education and disaster preparedness would be included in the curriculum. Not many would have thought that 10-year-olds would be given lessons on the menace posed by dangerous drugs, even if everybody knew that the problem on drug addiction had grown to a national scale.
Before super typhoon Yolanda brought towns in the Visayas to their knees, not many Filipinos, even those living in disaster prone areas, would have thought that lessons on disaster preparedness would find their way in schools. Neither would teachers have considered discussing the birds and the bees with their young wards.
But reality bites. Changes in the way we live mandates the need to modify the curriculum by including lessons that would otherwise be deemed “unconventional” because these subjects have not been taught in schools before.
With the mushrooming of computers, smartphones and other gadgets, very young children have easy access to materials that may lure them into trying drugs and indulging in early sex. Naturally, these kids will not admit to their parents or guardians that they are using illegal drugs or are sexually active.
This makes school instruction crucial.
The inclusion of sex education in the curriculum for Grades 4 to 6 provides schoolchildren knowledge about a person’s reproductive system. This may have raised not too few eyebrows, but a survey by the United Nations Population Fund showing the Philippines as the only country in the Asia Pacific region where teen pregnancy rates increased in the past two decades justifies the need for sex education in schools. A National Demographic and Health Survey in 2013 also showed that one in 10 Filipino women aged 15 to 19 is a mother.
Including lessons on illegal drugs in the curriculum is the Education department’s way of addressing the problem on the widespread use of dangerous drugs.
As Education Secretary Leonor Briones pointed out, education should be relevant and responsive “to the needs and aspirations of a country.”
“Specifically, we are strengthening the drug education component in Science and Health by providing real-life lessons via alternative learning methods, starting in Grade 4,” Briones said during the recent education summit.
“We are strengthening gender and development component of school curricula especially in relation to sex education and teenage pregnancy. We are giving emphasis on environmental awareness, disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation and mitigation,” she added.
The progress of a nation can also be measured by the quality of education its citizens receive. The Department of Education deserves commendation for overhauling the education system by going beyond the traditional and embracing changes in keeping with the times.
Giving all children access to education and keeping them in school is important. But helping them keep away from illegal drugs, providing them instructions on how to avoid early pregnancy and preparing them for disasters and calamities are also vital. For after all, life is not just about knowing how to read and write and count. It is also about making the right decisions on those crucial moments when a person gets tested.
(The author is Principal II of Illuru High School in Rizal, Cagayan)