Page last updated at 04:52 CST6CDT, Wednesday, 23 June 2021 PH
Almost all sectors of society are veering towards contactless transactions: Banks, malls, restaurants, sports, utilities, public services, telemedicine, and public entertainment. Even after the pandemic is put under reasonable control, it is expected that many features of the contactless culture will remain. In my own field of education, blended learning is here to stay. Even when face to face classroom instruction will be allowed, both teachers and students will still want to continue to have recourse to online methods of instruction. The saving in transport time and the comfort of staying at home while attending or giving classes will convince most school communities to still depend on online learning for part of the delivery of the curriculum.
There is the worry, however, that the downside of a contactless world is the erosion or deterioration of human relations. Face to face contact is necessary for the cultivation of the soft skills for which Filipinos are well known all over the world. When I was residing in Europe, wherever I went, I always heard the greatest compliments given to Filipino workers (especially in the health, hospitality, and home services sectors) for their sociability, amiableness, an always smiling countenance and the ability to give tender and loving care. There must be some way we can make sure that as we enter a more digitalized world, we do not lose this distinct advantage of Filipinos, not only for its value to the employability of our workforce here and abroad but also primarily to retain the social virtues for us to be on top of any measure of Gross National Happiness.
The nurturing of the right values and virtues, of course, is first and foremost the responsibility of the parents heading a family. Values and virtues education in the schools, Church community, youth organizations and other social units will have very limited effectiveness if the parents are not doing their job of bringing up their children as morally upright, law abiding and sociable persons. It is important, therefore, that school authorities exert every effort to involve the parents of their pupils in the challenging task of values and virtues formation. Values are positive traits or characteristics every society wants to imbue in its members, such as respect for the dignity of every individual, caring attitude towards nature, respect for life and the institution of marriage, willingness to contribute to the common good, the promotion of the welfare of children, the aged and the handicapped, etc. Virtues are habits of the individual which make it easy for him or her to do what is good and right according to absolute moral principles that one can arrive at through the natural light of reason and further reinforced by religious beliefs. Values can be fostered by constant exhortation, reminder, and illustration in the curriculum and content of teaching materials. Virtues, on the other hand, are mainly “caught” rather than taught. Virtues will flourish among children and the youth only if they see the personal examples of virtues incarnated in the lives of their parents and teachers. The second point requires, therefore, extreme care in the choice of teachers in the public school system so that they not only have the professional competence to teach but also good moral character or virtuous living to inspire their pupils. It is the responsibility of the principals to ensure the proper selection of teachers. As regards values, principals must see to it that the entire curricula of schools from Grade 1 to 12 are permeated through and through with constant reference to the needed values in every citizen to contribute to building a “just and humane society” (from the Preamble of the Philippine Constitution).
The fastest and most effective way educators can arrive at a list of values that they can foster through the school system, without encountering any opposition, is to consider all the values that are enshrined in the Philippine Constitution. First, let us remind ourselves of what is clearly stated in the Preamble of the Philippine Constitution of 1987, which was approved in 1987 by more than 80 percent of the population in a referendum: “We, the sovereign Filipino people, imploring the aid of Almighty God, in order to build a just and humane society and establish a Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations, promote the common good, conserve and develop our patrimony, and secure to ourselves and our posterity the blessings of independence and democracy under the rule of law and a regime of truth, justice, freedom, love, equality, and peace, do ordain and promulgate this Constitution.” Already in this short Preamble, we obtain a list of values that without any controversy can be fostered through the schooling system, e.g. building a just and humane society, promoting the common good, conserving and developing our patrimony (sustainable development), etc. etc.
A more comprehensive list of values that the schooling system of the country should cooperate in inculcating in every Filipino can be found in Article II of the Constitution entitled “Declaration of Principles and State Policies.” We shall focus especially on the principles from which the values can be derived. Section 2 of this Article refers to fostering a culture of peace with all nations: “The Philippines renounces war as an instrument of national policy, adopts the generally accepted principles of international law as part of the law of the land and adheres to the policy of peace, equality, justice, freedom, cooperation and amity with all nations.” Section 10 refers to the value of social justice in all phases of national development (which includes economic development). Most important is the value enshrined in Section 11: “The State values the dignity of every human person and guarantees full respect for human rights.” Next in important is the value that has to be given to the sanctity of the family. As Section 12 states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception. The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” Public school principals and teachers, as instruments of the Government, are especially obliged to promote these values: respect for the family, respect for human life and the recognition of the primary right and duty of parents to educate their children.
Section 12 stresses the importance of a pro-children and pro-youth culture: “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.” Section 20 stresses the principle of subsidiarity, i.e. what can be accomplished by individuals and families should not be taken over by higher bodies, least of all by an all-powerful State. It states that the State recognizes the indispensable role of the private sector, encourages private enterprise, and provides incentive to needed investments. The next Section 21 stresses the importance of rural development and the reform of the agricultural sector. Section 22 makes reference to the value of respecting indigenous cultural communities. Section 27 makes a case for integrity and good governance in the public sector. (To be continued)