Sunday, August 26, 2007


John L. Silva

It’s been over six years now since the late Secretary of Education Raul Roco issued a school wide directive (DEP ED Order No. 56, s. 2001) acknowledging school field trips “can supplement classroom instruction” when students are brought to the “National Museum, Museo Pambata, provincial and local museums, Science Centrums, botanical gardens, historical sites and scientific sites.”

The next Secretary, Edilberto de Jesus, underscored the directive by issuing another (DEP ED Order No. 52, s.2003) ordering field trips “to educational places, such as cultural and historical sites or science exhibits in museums.” Secretary de Jesus would add emphatically “Trips to malls and attendance at noontime tv shows especially during class hours are discouraged.”

Most of the school field trips today seems never to have heard of nor comply with these directives. Polled public school teachers throughout the country in the course of my museum appreciation program confess that they still bring their students to malls to wander the shops, play violent video games, and hang out in fast food restaurants. Worse, students are brought to these noontime tv shows to watch vulgar shows that insult women, gays, and the physically challenged as well as featuring skimpily clad women gyrating on stage hawking products. In other school systems throughout the world, this would be considered officially sanctioned truancy.

Schools need to address this appalling situation. Parents, who complain about the costs of field trips with no education value should demand conformity with DEP ED directives. However, schools and parents are easy targets. Let’s focus on the companies that contribute as well to this sorry state.

To give teeth to the DEP ED directives, mall establishments, large and small throughout this country should take proactive steps in hindering if not eliminating school field trips to their malls during official school time. Many of these establishments have corporate foundations that fund education programs in public schools. They can transmit their directives to their sponsored schools and education programs. On a larger scale, they can band together and publicly declare a no-tolerance policy to field trips to their malls.

There is however, a growing trend of establishing science museums and holding educational exhibitions in the larger malls. Fine and good. School field trips should be encouraged to those specific places. It is not the mall that is anathema; it is their deficient educational value that is in question.

Television stations should ban students to noontime tv shows on school days. What values do students learn seeing poor people humiliating themselves so they can get a prize? What is so exemplary for students about a tv host who’s been warned repeatedly for lewdness? What lessons do they bring home seeing young people dolled up and applauded for looking and dancing lasciviously? Sexual trafficking is not always a one-way transaction.

We are in an educational calamity. Only five out of ten words can be read and understood by our students. 94 out of 100 students not qualified for high school. One third of all students will drop out and not finish grade school. Every supplementary educational activity like school field trips should be used to stave off the learning morass our children are in.

Calling field trips supplementary does not mean lesser educational value. Students learn past the four classroom walls. They learn arts and culture in museums which, in turn, have been proven to boost math and science scores, increase literacy, and decrease absenteeism. They develop environmental consciousness by visiting parks. They learn to love their country visiting historical sites. They learn to value our past when ethics, morals and decent men and women prevailed in our society.

The corporate sector has recognized the correlation between educated well-rounded students and economic growth and have given resources accordingly. Now it is time for this sector to look into their core businesses and identify what may actually hinder the educational leapfrogging our country needs to catch up with the rest of the globe. Like banning students from internet cafes during school hours, banning smoking and liquor advertising near school grounds, and imposing the age limit for cigarette purchases, the corporate sector must establish very stringent rules when their business intersects with student learning and wellbeing. The quality of school field trips needs to be addressed as well.

If I were to ask businessmen and businesswomen if they approve seeing their own children go to malls and tv stations on official school time, there would be a resounding NO. They know fully well that every opportunity for learning will only improve their children’s future.

Why then are we not exacting the same rigor with our public school children?. School field trips should be educational for all.

(Public school teachers interested in a free whole-day museum and arts appreciation workshop sponsored by Synergeia Foundation can e-mail John Silva is the Senior Consultant of the National Museum of the Philippines.)