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January 17, 2005

JOJO SILVESTRE

Two thousand three (2003) marks the start of the implementation of the Philippine Cultural Education Plan (PCEP), which extends all the way to 2007. The Plan is a comprehensive medium term plan that outlines goals, policies, programs, and projects on cultural education through the formal, non-formal and informal systems. It is designed to make cultural education accessible to all sectors of Philippine society particularly the youth, teachers, artists and cultural workers, officials and employees of the government, the media, and the civil society. 


Formulated by a Task Force constituted by the National Commission for Culture and the Arts, the Plan took one year to complete involving a series of meetings, workshops, forums and dialogues attended by over 100 experts in Philippine arts, culture, education, media and local government who represented about 40 government and non-government organizations.

Jojo G. Silvestre of NCCA Features recently interviewed CCP President Nes Jardin, chairperson of the PCEP Task Force, to discuss the Plan. Excerpts from the interview:
 

Why did the NCCA prepare the Philippine Cultural Education Plan?

It was in  September of 2001 when the NCCA Board of Commissioners decided that, with  the  bill of Sen. Tessie Aquino Oreta lapsing into law, eventually known as the Dep-Ed law or Republic Act No. 9155, which renamed DECS and  detached from it the supervision of cultural agencies , it became the responsibility of the NCCA to  undertake programs in cultural education. Although cultural education as stipulated in the law is still integral to the basic curriculum of the Dep-Ed, the NCCA felt that it should play a more active role in cultural education.

Which cultural agencies were detached from the former DECS? Which higher agency supervises them now?

As the Republic Act mandated, the Komisyon ng Wikang Pilipino, National Historical Institute, Records Management and Archives Office and the National Library became administratively attached to the NCCA. But the program for school arts and culture still remains part of the school curriculum. Consequently, as I was saying, the NCCA Board of Commissioners declared that programs for cultural education would de facto be under the purview of the NCCA.

How did the ball start rolling for the PCEP?

It was also in that board meeting  that we agreed to prepare a comprehensive plan for cultural education. Since I was already the president of the CCP, I also sat in the NCCA Board. It so happened that I was the first to voice out the need for the plan, so I was asked to head the Task Force which the Board constituted in October 2001.

Who else made up the Task Force?

It’s a group of knowledgeable people in the arts, culture, education and related fields. Although we share the love for and commitment to the propagation of Philippine culture and the arts, we have diverse backgrounds in terms of experiences, expertise and, of course, points of view. You can say that our discussions were lively and interesting, to say the least. Our vice chair is Jeannie Javelosa who then headed the ICAM. The members are CCP Vice President Nanding Josef who used to be the principal of the Philippine High School for the Arts, Dr. Brenda Fajardo of the UP Department of Arts Studies and the Dalubhasaan sa Edukasyon para sa Sining at Kultura , Ms. Alice Pañares of the Dep-Ed National Educators Academy of the Philippines, Dr. Amalia Rosales who is Dean of the College of Arts of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, Dr. Fely Castillo of the Komisyon ng Wikang Pilipino, Ms. Felice Sta. Maria of the UNESCO, Prof. Prospero Covar of the University of the Philippines, Dr. Florentino Hornedo of the Filipino Departments of Ateneo and UST, Prof. Felipe de Leon who is NCCA consultant and is also with UP and the UNESCO, Prof. Mauricia Borromeo who heads the UP College of Music and Dr. Gloria Santos who is the executive director of the Philippine Historical Association. Needless to say, the NCCA also considered our willingness to  share our ample time for the completion of the Plan.     

What exactly is the vision of the Plan?

Our vision is after five years, which is the coverage of the plan, a substantial number of Filipinos, meaning our beneficiaries and our stakeholders, as identified in the plan, would be culturally-literate already. By culturally literate, we mean that specific segments of society, whether they be youth, media, government officials, teachers or others, would already have a greater understanding of what we are as Filipinos, what our cultural identity is, and what we stand for in terms of culture.

How do you intend to achieve this?

We all realize that it’s a difficult job because we don’t have the basics. Right now the text books and the things that are taught in school about arts and culture are practically non-existent, if not misinformed or misguided.

Would you cite an example?

One good example that Felice Sta.Maria mentioned in one of our consultation meetings is that since formal education started during the American colonial period, the description of the Filipino is a Malay who is  brown-skinned,   pug-nosed, and with medium height.  Right there and then you know that something is wrong. And there are many other socio-cultural concepts that are taught wrong. So our kids are misinformed about many things concerning our culture, and I am talking here of kids of  the past decades as well as kids of this generation.

That’s a little bit overwhelming. Won’t you attack the problem step by step?

We thought about that too. So, what should one do first? On top of the list, we should put together what should be taught. And what needs to be taught?  We   therefore need to have an index of knowledge of Philippine culture. What is the index of knowledge? It will identify items, icons, practices, tangible and intangible objects, values, morals, rituals, practices, and everything and anything that is related to arts and culture.

Would you please give an example?

An example is the Filipino flag. It should be part of the index of knowledge because it is a national symbol. Another would be Lupang Hinirang or the Philippine National Anthem. Another would be the Manunggul jar, or tinikling, or utang na loob. The list is of course endless, including pagmamano, pamamanhikan and the Maranaos’ maratabat. But it is not just a listing, not even just like an encyclopedia, but one that would really flesh out the concept or the icon or whatever it may be. And this index of knowledge will be basically in several categories. What things, practices, values, symbols, objects, people, places, rituals, and whatever else should the whole country know about?  Definitely the Philippine flag, sampaguita…All of these, every Filipino from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi should know.

I suppose there are also things that should be known by the people within the community, which the rest of the country may need not be aware of. I mean certain things that a community should be proud of.

There are items, objects, people and symbols that are particular only to a region.  So, there are several classifications. We cannot impose everything. Communities should be proud of their heritage and culture. And how can they be proud of their own culture? One way is for them to identify things that are  unique in their culture. And they should  know about these things.

What is the use of the index of knowledge? Is this part of a bigger picture or purpose?

That’s a good question. As a matter of fact, the index of knowledge would be the basis for determining the minimum learning competencies. So if an item in the index of knowledge is Lupang Hinirang, what should  elementary school students learn and know about it?  They should know the lyrics and the melody. They should be able to recite it, and sing it. At the very least, they should know the composer and the lyricist.  That would be the minimum learning competency for the elementary school pupil.

High school students, on the other hand, are expected to know more. Why was it composed? Under what milieu or circumstances was it composed? The students should know some biographical   facts about the composer. 

Those in college should already know the cultural, political and social context of Lupang Hinirang. As one reaches a higher level of education, one’s knowledge becomes more in-depth.

But what about those who cannot afford formal education? 

The problem today is we do not identify the minimum learning competencies of those who undergo either formal or non-formal education.  When we hold seminars and trainings, basically non-formal approaches, we just conduct them without articulating what a participant should know by graduation day. For example, we should make clear that a participant should be able to learn, understand, and appreciate this particular concept. In other words, expectations in non-formal education should be made clear as much as those in formal education.

Now, a lot of informal education is a reinforcement of what the participants learn from formal education situations. Which can be unfortunate for those who, for various reasons, are not exposed to formal education. If only one can assume that all our children finish at least Grade six. Just the same the scope of the Plan includes informal education which, according to our definition, is the lifelong process of learning by which every person acquires and accumulates knowledge, skills, attitudes and insights from experiental activities. So, we have also looked into the needs of those who wold learn this way, and many NGOs, who will help implement the plan, focus on this sector.

What happens after the minimum learning competencies are identified?

These will then be translated  into cultural education programs in the formal, informal and non-formal categories. So, you have the index of knowledge, then you identify the minimum learning competencies based on the items in the index of knowledge, and these then must be translated into programs and projects under the formal and non-formal categories.

Would the textbooks be one of the projects?

The text books should be one. The teachers’ guide book should be another. Seminars, workshops, curriculum development, all these programs and their corresponding projects will be the link to the stakeholders. And the stakeholders that we have identified are children, students and youth. And of course government officials, the media, and other sectors should be targeted.

What can you say about the current Department of Education curriculum?

Now we realize that even  if the the Dep-Ed   curriculum is not perfect, it has definitely improved because of the Makabayan learning area. At the same time, it could stand a lot of improvement. We are hopeful that with the establishment of the index of knowledge and the minimum learning competencies, and the eventual publication of textbooks and teachers’ guidebooks, in conjunction with teachers’ training, the Dep-Ed would be able to establish more comprehensive and more appropriate subjects for culture.

Wouldn’t that be a long-term process?

This is of course a step-by-step process in the sense that you cannot proceed to any other step unless you finish the index of knowledge first because that is the basic framework. We’ll need two years to finish the index of knowledge.

But aren’t there existing materials already about Philippine arts and culture? For example, the CCP has an encyclopedia of arts and culture.

We have an encyclopedia published by the CCP and a cultural dictionary published by the University of the Philippines, but these need to be validated. In other words, we’re also saying that even before we attempt to produce the index of knowledge, we should have several data bases, and one of which is a cultural literacy data base, so that is the first survey that we would like to undertake. In other words, we should first have data on the cultural literacy of Filipinos. So as part of the plan, we should like to undertake that national survey which will determine how culturally literate are Filipinos. Secondly, there should also be some sort of cultural mapping, so ethno-linguistic researches should be undertaken and funded.

Because how would we validate the items that we will include in the index of knowledge? We will also have a project that will hire people to do a comprehensive data gathering on existing materials on Philippine arts and culture. These materials will include magazines, books, teachers’ guides, videos, cd’s, and others that could all be used as instructional materials or reference materials for the research on the index of knowledge. It’s like establishing a Union Catalogue for existing instructional and information materials on Philippine arts and culture.

Would that mean the Filipino people will have to wait? Isn’t there something else to do while waiting for the index of knowledge?

We’re saying in our plan that while we’re waiting for the completion of the index of knowledge and the identification of minimum learning competencies, we can take a look at the Makabayan curriculum and see how this can be improved. A lot of Makabayan teachers need to be given additional training  and updated on their knowledge of Philippine arts and culture. So, we can already have teachers’ trainings. We’re focusing on teachers now.

Where will the funds come from?

The medium-term development plan for culture and the arts has been approved by the president and has gone through the National Economic Development Authority. And there is a major segment there called ‘culture and education’ with a total budget of 170 million for culture and education. The medium-term plan is for 2001 to 2005. All I am saying is the medium-term plan exists and they contain general provisions that would allow certain leeway as to its implementation. Malacanang has approved 170 million pesos for culture and education, although we do not know yet where we’re using it, and where the money is coming from. But the provision exists.

Would the amount suffice for five years?

We broke down the 170 million into five years. Anyway, that’s only a third of  what the implementation  of our plan will cost totally. To print books for example, 170 million pesos will not be enough. What we are spending it for is the writing, the teachers’ guides, the lay-out and the content. When all that is ready, the private sector will come in. There are , after all, accredited printers to take care of that.

Who else will be involved in cultural education?

There are a lot of cultural organizations involved in cultural education. CCP has cultural education projects. NCCA has its own. National Library has its own. PETA  has its own, and even small cultural organizations have their education programs and projects.  And all of them conduct their projects in line with their respective mandates. So each will continue doing what it does best, given its expertise, resources and concerns. There is no national framework or plan that provides  coordination for all these efforts.  In short, there is not one single agency that will direct all these efforts towards a common goal for this country. So if the NCCA is doing something, and so is the Integrated Performing Arts Group of Iligan , or the arts council of this or that province , what the plan will do is to look at the gaps vis-à-vis the vision and mission. What has not been done yet , what still needs to be done? So, that’s where we come in.

Will you help those who need assistance to fulfill their mandates regarding education?

Among those who are doing something already, a lot would need help. For example, Dalubhasaan para sa Edukasyon or DESK is really a cultural education organization, but its organizational work right now is very limited because it has limited funds. So, PCEP  can augment its resources.

How will you ensure that the index of knowledge will have takers, so to speak?

Of course, we will implement a social marketing plan for PCEP  so that once the index of knowledge is established, it must be marketed to all the cultural agencies. It will probably be printed, or it will be in  diskette or a data-based system that will be available to all.

What if there are ideological differences, as well as in methodological approaches?  

That is why the process is very important. The process that we designed takes that into consideration. Your concern has actually come up in several meetings.

To go back to formal education, what about the existing  educational institutions like universities and colleges? These are under the Commission on Higher Education, of course. 

Right from the very start, we’ve always been working on the premise that the Plan will not be implemented only by the NCCA, because this really cannot be implemented alone by the NCCA. Its success will require the cooperation of all agencies, both private and government, that have to do with cultural education.

How effective will the NCCA be in implementing the Plan? I mean, how strong can it really get?

Aware of the need for cooperation from all these agencies, NCCA realized it must put muscle into the plan. And this comes in by way of the budget because if the NCCA , given the 170 million pesos, could provide support to all these agencies that would like to undertake all these educational projects,  there is greater chance for the NCCA to get their cooperation.

If we told Dep-Ed to adapt the minimum learning competencies, and all we have is blah-blah, I don’t think we can go far. But if we backed that up with teachers’ guides and training program, given to them for free, that would be a more effective approach.

The other muscle that we’re thinking of is once we have presented this to Dep-Ed, CHED, TESDA, DILG and other agencies,  and gathered their inputs, we would seek the President’s help by asking her to issue an executive order enjoining the cooperation and support of all the agencies essential to the implementation of the plan. That is for the short-term. On the long term, we will work for the passage of a law on PCEP.

One of your goals is to institutionalize culture in good governance. How do you intend to reach out to the local government units?

A point of entry is the fact that the DILG has mandated all local government units to establish arts and culture councils. Although I think many of them will be political, that will still be a point of entry.

Besides, who would not want their cultural officers and other officials as well to receive free training? Because the program will offer them free training as well as cultural orientation courses on Philippine arts and culture. 

Another point of entry would be offering them services. Many LGUs have performing arts groups, and a lot of these need further training. So what we will do is to send them the Madrigal Singers or the Bayanihan , for example. So the repertoire can be improved, their singing or acting can be enhanced, and the like. The idea is to have someone who’s good at it to share his knowledge or expertise with those who need to learn.

What about the artists and cultural workers? Will they also be beneficiaries of the plan? Did you also look into their educational needs?

Yes, there is an artists’ training program. But I must admit that originally, we did not include artists and cultural workers in the target stakeholders and beneficiaries. At first our stand was there was no need to teach ourselves since we know these things already.  But then, on second thought, our stand changed into that of recognizing  we do not know everything.  So, we included the artistic and cultural sector, because the artists and cultural workers themselves are the ones training teachers in schools. And if the artist or cultural worker does not know the index of knowledge, he may be imparting the wrong knowledge.  And we’re largely depending on the members of the arts and culture sector to teach the teachers.  So the teachers’ training is all about teaching these artists and cultural workers how to teach.

This is my last question. What about the NCCA? Will you clarify its role, beyond merely serving as a secretariat?

There will be things that the NCCA should undertake by itself. For example, the development, the production and the publication of the index of knowledge is something that only the NCCA could do. No one has done it yet, so that project will be undertaken by the NCCA.

But there are also projects, like teacher’s training, which organizations like DESK can do. They do it in Baguio, they do it in Negros. So, all NCCA should do is to invite applications for grants to undertake such projects.  The arts councils can also implement projects in culture and education. What I am saying here is a certain portion of the funds will go to open grants. By open grants, I mean that there will be cultural education grants that will be given to cultural organizations that may wish to undertake cultural education projects. Now they will have to apply for it and they must justify why they should be given a grant. And how  the NCCA will assess whether an organization will be given a grant or not, will depend on the plan because the plan clearly states the objectives and strategies. So if the Samar Arts Council submits a proposal that falls perfectly well within the strategies, goals and objectives that have been laid out in the plan ,and it is competent to do it, then it will get the grant.