Preparation and pragmatism

Image Source: 9gag.com

Image Source: 9gag.com

Why do schools and teachers opt for externally-developed curricula and materials? It’s mainly a preference of ease. Much is demanded of teachers in the Philippines both public and private. Aside from the actual handling of their classes (which have to cycle through preparation-implementation-follow-through day in and day out), there are also the administrative functions and other extra-academic duties they might have.

This desire to be deloaded of certain duties is pretty much a key driver as to why academic publishers have overcome the not-invented-here syndrome schools and teachers used to have. One just can’t beat the possible output of one who does the things needed for course preparation full time. That’s one of the appeals to outsourced curricula. Teachers would be able to focus more on implementation and follow-through rather than the very tedious task of preparation.

However, this can be a dangerous premise to teachers who are tempted to forego preparation work in hopes that the program they adopted is a turnkey solution for their teaching situation. While there may be an abundance of resources available from these programs, there still lies the need of customizing these activities and materials given their specific teaching situation.

Whenever I go around talking to educators and facilitating teacher training sessions, I always advice them to be pragmatic – to always assess their situation and adapt accordingly. No matter how well thought of materials might be developed, there will always be nuances in the situation inside classroom.

Say for example, there’s a lesson about family. In order to hit the common denominator of students, materials might dwell on stereotypes – that a family should consist of the father, mother and possible siblings.  But how about the Filipino family, where students may be orphans, adopted, living with guardians (as parents are OFWs), children of single parents, etc… Some materials might be able to accommodate those but if they don’t, isn’t it the teachers’ responsibility to know the specific situation of their students prior to discussion?

Just recently, I encountered a situation where teachers are asking their textbook provider answer keys to open-ended discussion questions. Top of mind, one may have a hostile reaction as to why these teachers think that open-ended questions have black and white answers or at least even parameters. This, I believe, is a symptom of teachers’ over-reliance to what publishers should be able to provide.

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