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Makabayan in the Philippine Basic Education

Curriculum: Problems and Prospect for

Reforming Student Learning in the Philippines1

Allan B.I. Bernardo and Rizalyn J. Mendoza

Abstract The Philippines’ Department of Education undertook a curriculum

reform for basic education with the goal of improving student learning to meet the
more complex demands of Philippine society amidst globalization. The 2002 Basic
Education Curriculum has three key reform themes: (a) the articulation of more
complex and higher-level learning goals, (b) the streamlining and integration of
learning areas in the curriculum, and (c) the use of creative and innovative teaching
approaches to improve student learning. These themes are discussed in the case of
Makabayan – a new learning area that integrates several subjects with the goal of
helping each Filipino student to develop a healthy personal and national identity.
The problems in realizing the curriculum aims are discussed, focusing on the dif-
ficulties in fully articulating the ideal curricular elements, constraints in the imple-
mentation, and the weak conceptualization of the learning reform in the context of
Philippine education.

1 Introduction

It is generally acknowledged that a curriculum needs to be updated regularly, not

only to incorporate new knowledge but also to adapt to changing environmental,
social, technological and global contexts. The Philippines follows the same pattern
of curriculum development and reform practices like most other countries. In 2002,
the Philippines’ Department of Education (DepEd) undertook a grand curricular
reform effort, which resulted in the 2002 Basic Education Curriculum (or BEC).
But unlike curriculum reforms in other countries which involve a slow process,
the BEC was implemented rather fast. The DepEd Order No. 25 (s. 2002) on the

Preparation of this paper was supported by the Bro. Arthur Peter Graves Distinguished Professorial
Chair in Education awarded to the first author by De La Salle University-Manila. Email correspond-
ence may be addressed to either author: or

A.B.I. Bernardo, R.J. Mendoza

College of Education, De La Salle University-Manila, Manila, The Philippines

C.-H. Ng, P.D. Renshaw (eds.), Reforming Learning, 181

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2009
182 A.B.I. Bernardo and R.T. Mendoza

implementation of the BEC states that studies on the previous curriculum began
within the DepEd in 1986, and more explicit consultations with other stakeholders
began in 1995. However, the formal curriculum reform process was initiated around
March 2001. The BEC was implemented nationwide in June 2002 in all public pri-
mary and secondary schools in the country, 15 months after the curriculum reform
process began. The BEC is still being implemented up to the present.
This chapter explores the BEC reform as a case of an official educational reform that
aims to improve student learning by focusing on the emergent learning area in the cur-
riculum that is referred to as Makabayan. In the first section of the chapter, the founda-
tions and features of the BEC are discussed. The second section proceeds to detail the
reforms embedded within the new learning area of Makabayan and describes how this
new curricular feature was explicated and implemented in various levels of the educa-
tional bureaucracy. The concluding sections summarize some of the issues that arise in
this particular attempt to reform learning in the Philippine basic education sector.

2 The 2002 Basic Education Curriculum Reform

2.1 The Foundations for the Curriculum Reform

Not much is documented about the curriculum development process for the BEC.2
However, the documents published by the DepEd (2002a, b) on the BEC clearly
indicate that the most central theme in the curriculum reform process is the need to
improve the quality of learning by being creative and innovative in how the educational
processes are designed and delivered. The main push for the desire to improve the
quality of learning is the need to be relevant and responsive to the changing global
and local environments, particularly to the explosion of knowledge in these contexts.
The BEC document articulated this aim as follows:
We have to educate our Filipino learners to filter information critically, seek credible
sources of knowledge, and use data and facts creatively so that they can survive, overcome
poverty, raise their personal and national self-esteem, and realize a gracious life in our risky
new world. (p. 4)

The BEC document further articulates the need to empower Filipino learners for
lifelong learning as this would allow them to best confront the challenges posed by
the changing social forces: ‘Filipino learners need … to be competent in learning
how to learn anywhere even when they are left to themselves’ (p. 4).

We can infer from documents published by the DepEd (2002a, b) that the process was largely an
internal one involving Committee on Curriculum Reform (ComCurr), which was chaired by the
DepEd’s Undersecretary for Programs with various DepEd Bureau Directors, Division Chiefs, and
other in-house curriculum experts as members. The ComCurr had one overall consultant, several
subject area consultants, and an (external) advisory council composed of educators, researchers,
curriculum experts from the private education sector.