Raising kids in the Philippines: Indoctrination or Inspiration?
One of the greatest cultural clashes I have had to deal with in the Philippines is the style of education and parenting here. As I have a young son in elementary school, the style is sometimes troubling.
I wonder if the Philippines is getting what it’s Department of Education pays for. Are students graduating with healthy values and the personal knowledge and skills needed to thrive?
Define values. Define “thrive”.
Can they tell good sex jokes? Sneak around rules with the common man’s form of impunity?
It seems to me that education and parenting go together because the themes are the same, and, to a large extent, it is impossible to separate the two. Schoolroom behavior is a reflection of what parents teach at home, and the home life is a reflection of what is going on in school.
As there is a class divide in the Philippines . . . entitled versus downtrodden, at its most basic level . . . there are also differences between how kids are raised. Kids of the entitled generally get good schools, good teachers, good course content and more opportunity upon graduation. Kids of the downtrodden get overcrowded schools, a wide range of teachers both good and bad, rudimentary (basic) course content leveled down to slower learners, and limited opportunity upon graduation.
The public school system is bogged down in logistics: getting enough classrooms, teachers, and textbooks. Recovering from storms. Getting clean water hooked up. The idealized vision of technology-proficient students carrying tablet computers instead of heavy backpacks of tattered paper texts is only a dream, impossible for the scope of the challenge. This is, after all, a poor nation struggling mightily to keep every kid in school so that they can read and do math and compete for jobs in a demanding world.
Private schools do better. The graduates are better set to compete.
Occasionally, we find exceptions, public school students who work diligently all the way through primary school, reach college and launch themselves to success. Somewhere along the line, they usually have someone special helping. A parent, a teacher, a friend or relative.
How can we get more kids launched onto a path of personal growth and fulfillment?
That is the fundamental question that drives the thinking behind this article.
There are two ways to look at kids. One is the Philippine way, which I will call “Indoctrination”. The other a way I will call “Inspiration”.
Indoctrination is what you receive when you are the 6th of 10 kids and your parents see you as a functional obligation and a resource when you are old enough to provide some labor or income. You are ordered around, disciplined, yelled at, teased, and loved in a severe way. School is like home, a place of demands and routines and labor.
Inspiration is what you receive when you are the 2nd of 3 kids and your parents see you as a joyful obligation and cherished little person to nurture and help to independence and success. You are loved in a giving way, ordered around and taught why, disciplined and told why, yelled at followed by a hug, and laughed with. School is pretty much the same, a place of enlightenment and fun and challenges.
One of the more endearing expressions of love and respect in the Philippines is the “blessing” that is given from a child to an older person. Often the child is admonished to give the blessing, if he or she should fail in her respectful duty.
This form of love is indoctrinated, but genuine. That special respect for older people is often missing from American homes, particularly as the child approaches adulthood. In the Philippines, it lasts a lifetime.
In the American household, the expression of affection is more often from adult to child. Not always. But more often. Respect of elders is expected from children, but it is looser and seldom expressed through a formal rite. It is either earned by the parent or older relative, or it is not.
There are important bonding elements in both expressions, and I am not qualified to judge which is more wholesome.
What I do hear and see in the Philippines is a style of teaching that I have previously cited as “rote”, in which the task is set before the child without explaining why or being concerned about the child’s internal response.
Here’s an example between learning by indoctrination and by inspiration:
Case 1. The student is given a workbook with 5 pages of addition and subtraction exercise, 20 to the page. The student works them with few mistakes, and does that on other subjects as well, and wins “2nd honor” at the end of term. If the child is smart and easily bored, or not so smart and easily tired, he turns to mischief. There is tragedy in either of those two cases.
Case 2. The student is given a workbook with 1 page of addition and subtraction exercises, 20 to the page. If he completes the page with few mistakes, he is given a high five by his teacher and moves on to algebra. At the end of term, he graduates and wins vacation. If he can’t work the first page, he is given a second page to do with his parent’s help. If he does too much of that, he is made to attend summer school rather than vacation at end of term.
In case 1, the emphasis is on dedication to the task. In case 2, the emphasis is on knowing how to do the arithmetic.
In case 1, the reward is public accolade. Or shame if one’s kid is not one of the top 3 honors, or gets a secondary award (one of my wife’s young nieces got an award for “Most Speechless”, because she was totally quiet in the classroom). In case 2, the reward is personal fulfillment.
In case 1, the student learns to do what he is told and ridicule is a part of the social web. In case 2, the student learns to learn and comparison with other kids is minimized. There is less ridicule.
The home environment is not much different. Indoctrination and labor for the downtrodden class, inspiration and learning for the entitled.
“Joe, we aren’t all that way!”
Yes, I know. But I’m feeding back what I see, and what I hear from others, as to general themes for child-raising in the Philippines with special interest in the downtrodden class.
It is hard to change the case 1 methods. The Philippine way is culturally deep. This would not be a problem if the Philippines were excelling in its various institutions and acts, in government, in problem solving, in stability, in productivity, in wealth. But that is far from he case.
Discuss any of the failings of the Philippines and the conversation invariably leads to shortcomings in education. Two common points of criticism or discussion regarding Philippine education are:
- Erroneous textbooks
- Religion in the classroom
Those are worth debating, for sure. Error police rage [Crusader finds 1,300 errors in Grade 10 book] and congressmen rant [Punish publishers of error-filled textbooks – congressman]. Atheists rage [Philippine education: A sector under the grip of religion] and educators complain there is not enough study ABOUT religions (different than study of a religion) [PH education: Allergic to religion?].
These are worthy topics, for sure, but I would argue if the THINKING INFRASTRUCTURE is broken, all these efforts are missing the point. They just don’t matter so very much.
What matters most is:
- Does the child find joy in learning?
- Is he curious?
- Does he enjoy figuring things out?
Or have these essential elements of thinking been pounded out of the child by relentless indoctrination?
I remember as a child doing “paint by numbers” projects. One was red, two was green, fill in enough numbered spaces on the canvas and I’d be looking at a duck.
But it was not really a duck.
Okay, Joe. HOW exactly does one teach inspiration?
Good question. Haha. I can tell you are a critical thinker.
There are education experts who can answer the question better than me. I do know how we did it at the laboratory school my kids in the US attended, attached to a local liberal arts college of considerable reputation.
For grades 1 through 3, the teachers did not concern themselves so much with WHAT the kids were learning, but only that they enjoyed discovery. ALL feed back was positive, no matter the speed of the child at picking up an idea. Aways. No two children were doing the same thing at the same time, and the child only competed with himself. Not other kids.
Once the child smiled at his discovery, he was pointed to the next challenge.
At home, I practice pretty much the same method, always praising my kid’s discoveries . . . so much so that he is always interrupting my blog writing to show off a new piece of knowledge he has picked up from “Big Fish Man Jakob Wagner” or some survivalist show. Or what he discovered at school (a rarity, because his school practices the mundane five pages of arithmetic method, and his big problem is boredom). At home, he is not bored. He is a regular pest for searches on Google to learn something new. He knows most of the dinosaurs and can pronounce them (I cannot), most flags of UN states, the complete NBA roster of teams and standings, and every vicious animal that populates the face of the earth. Yesterday we were working on how bees make honey. His initiative.
We play games all the time. When driving, “Show me something you have never seen before!” Around the house, “Which is stronger, a duck or 1,000 worms?” That is one of HIS concoctions. Rhyming. Self-created tongue twisters. Different meanings of words that are pronounced the same. Testing, stretching, laughing.
A lot of laughing.
Because at our house, learning is a joyful thing.
That’s the point of this blog.