Education for All Goals

Six internationally agreed education goals aim to meet the learning needs of all children, youth and adults by 2015.

Goal 1
Expanding and improving comprehensive early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.

Goal 2
Ensuring that by 2015 all children, particularly girls, children in difficult circumstances and those belonging to ethnic minorities, have access to, and complete, free and compulsory primary education of good quality.

Goal 3
Ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life-skills programmes.

Goal 4
Achieving a 50 per cent improvement in levels of adult literacy by 2015, especially for women, and equitable access to basic and continuing education for all adults.

Goal 5
Eliminating gender disparities in primary and secondary education by 2005, and achieving gender equality in education by 2015, with a focus on ensuring girls’ full and equal access to and achievement in basic education of good quality.

Goal 6
Improving all aspects of the quality of education and ensuring excellence of all so that recognized and measurable learning outcomes are achieved by all, especially in literacy, numeracy and essential life skills.


Regional overview: East Asia and the Pacific

The past decade has seen mixed progress towards Education for All (EFA) in East Asia and the Pacific.1 More children are participating in pre-school education, many countries have achieved universal primary education (UPE) and more are moving from primary school to secondary education. Gender parity has been achieved at the primary level in a majority of countries and adult literacy rates are improving. However, challenges remain. The Pacific subregion has seen a 7% decline in primary enrolment rates, and 7.9 million children are not enrolled in school in the region as a whole. Some 105 million adults are still illiterate and levels of learning achievement are low in many countries. East Asia and the Pacific spends a lower share of national income on education than the world average. On the other hand, external aid to basic education has increased in recent years, despite stagnation in overall levels.

UNESCO Regional overview: East Asia and the Pacific

Goal 2: Universal primary education Over the past decade, progress towards UPE has been uneven across East Asia and the Pacific. While many countries in the region have relatively high primary enrolment rates, some are registering increasing numbers of children not enrolled in schooling. Progress towards UPE is limited. From 1999 to 2008, nearly 30 million fewer children enrolled in primary education in the region, partly due to declining fertility rates in some large countries. The regional primary adjusted net enrolment ratio (ANER)2 remained about the same over the decade and stood at 95% in 2008. However, the Pacific subregion is moving away from the UPE goal, as its primary ANER declined from 90% to 84% between 1999 and 2008. Progress towards UPE was particularly marked in Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Tonga, where the primary ANERs increased by five to eleven percentage points between 1999 and 2008. In Tonga, the indicator increased from 88% to 99%. The situation remains critical in several countries, including the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste, all with ANERs below 80% (Figure 2). Numbers of children out of school are declining, but at varying speeds. Some 7.9 million children of primary school age in East Asia and the Pacific – 61% of them boys – were not enrolled in school in 2008, down by nearly 3 million since 1999.

Progress in recent years has been particularly remarkable. The number of out-of-school children increased by an annual average of 203,000 between 1999 and 2004, but then declined substantially, with reductions of nearly 1 million per year between 2004 and 2008. Some countries with large out-of-school populations, including the Philippines, saw their rate of progress slip over time. The out-of-school number in the Philippines fell by nearly 23,000 per year on average from 1999 to 2004, but by only 16,000 annually from 2004 to 2008. By contrast, progress has accelerated in some countries, including the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, in recent years. Many children in the region will remain out of school in 2015. Trend analysis can provide plausible scenarios for the numbers of children out of school in 2015. In the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, a continuation to 2015 of the trend from 1999 to 2008 would see the country’s out-of-school number fall by 4.4% to some 135,000 by 2015. The out-of-school number in the Philippines would be roughly unchanged at 961,000 in 2015 based on the 1999–2008 trend, but the country’s recent slowing in progress towards UPE means a continuation of the more recent 2004–2008 trend would lead to an increase to just over 1 million.



Starting school at the right age is a challenge in some countries. Getting children into primary school at the right age, ensuring that they progress smoothly and facilitating completion are key elements to advance towards UPE. Many countries in the region are struggling to get children into primary school at the official starting age. In eight of the ten countries in the region with data, less than 70% of children starting school were of official primary school age in 2008, and the figure went as low as 38% in Vanuatu in 2007. However, rapid change is possible. In Cambodia, the share of children starting school at the official age increased from 61% in 1999 to 79% in 2008. Progress in survival to the last grade of primary school is mixed. Once children are enrolled at the right age, the challenge is to get them through school. While more than 92% of children starting primary school reached the last grade in East Asia in 2007, school survival remained an important issue in some countries, including Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic with survival rates below 70%. Nevertheless, several countries made significant progress in improving survival rates. In particular, the rates in Fiji and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic have risen by twelve percentage points each since 1999. Prospects for entry, progression and completion of primary school are closely linked to household circumstances. Children who are poor, rural or from ethnic or linguistic minorities face higher risks of dropping out. In Cambodia, completion rates for the richest 20% of the population are more than three times as high as those of the poorest quintile. Tackling school dropout requires action on several fronts. Dropout profiles vary enormously by country. In Myanmar, with a first-grade dropout rate of 12%, and the Philippines at nearly 13%, children have trouble negotiating their way through the early grades. High dropout rates in the last grade in other countries, such as Indonesia and Vanuatu, are associated with late entry to school. Evidence from many countries shows that the risk of primary school dropout increases with age, thought the strength of the association varies. Lowering the risk of dropout requires a broad set of policies aimed at reducing underlying vulnerabilities, including poverty-related factors and problems linked to the quality of education.

The educational system of the Asian region

The Philippines is the last country of Asia to complete the last two years (or senior high school) of the world standard 12-year Basic Education Program. In year 2016, all Philippine secondary schools should officially have Grade 11 and Grade 12 courses. My article last week focused on the well-established school systems of Europe, whose stable economies are due to the provision of both academic and technological high schools. Majority of European adolescent students prefer to attend the latter to enter readily into the job market. In 1986 when I was a member of the UNESCO Paris Executive Board, my colleague, former Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam, repeatedly reminded me to let our then Minister of Foreign Affairs Salvador “Doy” Laurel work out the mutual exchanges of college students with Australia. This was not possible since our high school graduates were short of the senior high school requirements. Let’s see how our Asian neighbors worked out the full basic education for their youth.

Indonesia’s struggle to achieve quality education with 249.9M population

The Ministry of Education and Culture (Kemdikbud) and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (Kemenag) manage the educational system of Indonesia. The nine years of compulsory education consists of six years in the elementary level and three in the secondary level. Islamic schools are under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. During the Dutch colonization era, Sekolah Rakjat folk schools encouraged by Theodore van Deventer in 1870 were provided for native Indonesians instead of limiting it to Dutch nationals. This led to the establishment of the elementary school today. In 1973, nearly 20% of youth were illiterate. Then President Suharto used oil revenues for the construction of new primary schools and the repair of old ones. During the financial crisis of 1997-98, education expenditures were cut back affecting the poorest families. But by 2002 World Bank noted that only 2% of young people between ages of 15 and 24 could not read, and by 2009 the literacy rate was 90.4%.

Indonesians are required to attend 12 years of school. Preschool is not obligatory, but it is needed for preparation to primary schools. Most kindergartens however are privately operated. After 1998 the campaign to decentralize the national government, provincial and district-level administrators obtained increasing autonomy to determine the content of schooling.

Rote Learning prevails inside public-school classrooms. Although the youngest children are sometimes allowed to use their local language, by the third year of primary school, nearly all instruction is conducted in Indonesian.

Children aged 6 to 11 attend primary school called Sekolah Dasar (SD), which are mostly government-operated. This accounts for nearly 93% of all elementary schools in Indonesia followed by three years of junior secondary school (Sekolah Menengah Pertama, or SMP). Then students may attend senior secondary school (Sekolah Menengah Atas or SMA), where they may choose any of 47 programs of vocational and pre-professional senior secondary schools (Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan of SMK), covering the areas of technology and engineering, health, arts, craft and tourism, information and communication and technologies, agro-business and agro-technology, business management.

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Teacher training programs are gradually being upgraded. A student of the Teacher-training program at the junior high-school level could obtain a teacher’s certificate. Since the 1970s however, primary school teachers have been required to graduate from a senior high school for teachers, and teachers for higher grades have been required to complete a university-level education course. Teacher remuneration, although low, compares favorably with that of other Asian countries.

Thai education not influenced by colonial power

Through the Ministry of Education, Thailand provides free basic education of 12 years from preschool to high school as guaranteed by the Constitution, and a minimum of nine years school attendance is mandatory.

The school structure is divided into four stages: Prathom Gr. 1-3 is for age groups 6 to 8; Prathom Gr. 4-6 is for age group 9 to 11; Matthayom H.S.1-3, is for age groups 12 to 14. Matthayom H.S. 4-6 for age groups 15 to 17 is divided into academic and vocational streams. Admission to an upper secondary school is through an entrance exam called the NET (National Educational Test).

There are three types of schools: public schools, private sectors and fee paying non-profit schools, which are often run by Catholic diocesan and religious orders that operate over 300 large elementary/secondary schools. Due to budgetary limitations, rural schools are generally less equipped than the schools in the cities. The standard of instruction, particularly for the English language, is much lower, and many high school students will commute 60-80 kilometers to schools in the nearest city.

HISTORY – Formal education has its early origins in the temple schools, when it was available to boys only. Unlike Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, the Malay Peninsula, Indonesia and the Philippines, which had all benefited from the influence of America and European countries with centuries of educational tradition, Thailand has never been colonized by a Western power. As a result, structured education was slow to evolve.

During the Sukhothai period (1238-1378), education was dispensed by the Royal Institution of Instruction (Rajabundit) to members of the royal family and the nobility, while commoners were taught by Buddhist monks. Through his reforms of the Buddhist Sangha, King Rama IV (1851-1865) or King Mongkut, the legendary king who hired Dutch governess Anna Leonowens that inspired the film “The King and I” accelerated the development of public education; during the reign of King Rama IV (1851-1865), the printing press arrived in Thailand making books available in the Thai language for the first time. English had the lingua franca of the Far East.

UNDER KING MONGKUT’S SON, KING RAMA V (1868-1910) – In 1871, with the proclamation of the “Command Declaration on Schooling,” English was being taught in the palace for royalty and nobles. Schools were set up outside the palace for the education of commoners’ children. In 1898, a two-part education plan for Bangkok and for the provinces was launched with programs for preschool, elementary and secondary, technical and higher education. The bloodless revolution in 1932 that transferred absolute power from the king to democratic government encouraged further development and expansion of schools and tertiary institutions. The first National Education Scheme was introduced formally granting access to education regardless of ability, gender and social background.

In 1977, the 6-3-3 year system that is in use today for basic education started. Following the recent military takeover of May 2014, Thai junta leader and Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha “bestowed” to the nation the “Twelve Values”: loyalty, gratitude, diligence and the preservation of Thai customs. Uppermost is respect towards the King as Head of State, and is expressed by morality, democratic values, obedience to the older citizens and self-sufficient economy.

Almost all villages have an elementary school, most sub-districts (tambon) have a school providing education from age 6 to 14, and all districts (amphoe) have secondary schools of age 12 to 17. Many have vocational colleges for students from age 15. In rural schools, absenteeism of both students and teachers is high due to family and farming commitments.

VOCATIONAL EDUCATION – Currently, 412 colleges are governed by the Vocational Education Commission (VEC). More than a million students are following the programs. In 2014, approximately 380,000 students were studying in 401 private vocational schools and colleges. Technical and vocational education (TVE) begins at the senior high school grade, where students are divided into either general or vocational education. In 1995, based primarily on the German model, Dual Vocational Training the Department of Vocational Education launched the initiative to introduce dual vocational training programs, which involve the students in hands-on training with suitability-selected organizations in the private sector. Unlike regular internships, where students may be assigned to work on unpaid irrelevant jobs, the cooperative education program enables the students of the vocational schools to do field work while benefiting from an allowance to cover living expenses.

Classic Japanese education developed military class, Shogunate bureaucrats, and Samurai elite

Formal education in Japan began with the adoption of Chinese culture in the 6th century but never fully took hold.

When the Kamakura period ended the Buddhist monasteries remained influential centers of learning. During the Tokugawa Shogunate, the daimyo vied for the power in the largely pacified country. Since their influence could not be raised through war, they competed on the economic field. Their warrior-turned-bureaucrat Samurai elite had to be educated not only in military strategy and martial arts, but also in agriculture and accounting. At the end of the Edo period, 50% of the male and 20% of the female population possessed some degree of literacy. After the Meiji Restoration of 1868, Western learning was adopted as a means to make Japan a strong, modern nation. Students and even high-ranking government officials were sent abroad to study.

POST WORLD WAR II – After the defeat in World War II, the Allied occupation government set an education reform as one of its primary goals, to eradicate militarist teachings and “democratize” Japan. The education system was rebuilt after the American model.

SECONDARY EDUCATION IN JAPAN – The lower secondary school covers grades seven, eight and nine, and children between the ages of roughly 12 and 15, with increased focus on academic studies. Most junior high schools in the 1980s were public. Private schools were costly, averaging 558,592 yen ($3,989) per student in 1988, about four times more than the budget 130,828 yen ($934) per public school student.

Teachers often majored in the subjects they taught and more than 80% graduated from a four-year college. Classes were large, with 38 students per class on average, and each was assigned a homeroom teacher, who doubled as counselor. Instruction in junior high schools tended to rely on the lecture method. All courses contents were specified in the Course of Study for Lower-Secondary Schools.

From April 2011, English became a compulsory part of the elementary school curriculum. The junior school curriculum covers academic subjects and all are exposed to industrial arts and homemaking. Most students also participate in one of a range of school clubs that occupy them until around 6 p.m. most weekdays as part of an effort to address juvenile delinquency.

The Korean, Chinese, Indian and Singaporean systems of education

The various educational systems in Asia are all traditional, completely dependent on lectures of teachers and prescribed textbooks. However, the colonial influences of the British, Spanish, American, French and Dutch are still felt. Buddhist and Hindu, Muslim and Christian beliefs have permeated their culture as well.

South Korea’s uphill struggle to become a democracy

South Korea has a total population of 49.3 million. The 20th century (1948) history of education in Korea dates back to the liberation from Japan after the Gwangbokjeol era. Then the Korean government began to study and discuss for a new philosophy of education. The new system attempted to make education available to all students equally and promote the educational administration to be more self-governing.

Following the Korean War, when the country was divided into North and South Korea, Syngman Rhee and later Park Chung Hee were in power. Education became centralized. Because of lack of resources, education was compulsory only up to the sixth grade. Reforms in the 1980s took place under the power of Gen. Chun Doo-hwan. In 1980 the number of students attending all kinds of higher educational institutions was almost 600,000, that number grew almost 100 percent to 1,061,403 students by 1983. A second reform was the prohibition of private, after-school tutoring. Formerly, private tutors could charge exorbitant rates if they had a good “track record” of getting students into the right schools through intensive coaching especially in English and mathematics.

Kindergarten is optional in South Korea and most parents prefer to keep their little ones at home as long as possible. However, at age 6 compulsory chodeung-hakgyo elementary education was imposed. The transition to 3 years of Middle School can be difficult because studies are taken far more seriously.

Places in secondary schools are awarded by lottery and everybody gets an equal chance. Discipline with uniforms, haircuts and punctuality is strictly enforced. Specialist teachers move between classrooms teaching core subjects. The final 3 years of school education take place at high schools. These may specialize according to subjects taught like Science versus Languages. Some are state owned and some are privately run. Approximately 25 percent of Middle School graduates prefer to go on Vocational Schools, where they are taught skills in Agriculture, Commerce, Fishery, Home Economics and Technology.

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The greater majority of Korean high school students must pass a college scholastic ability test with a view to studying further. Standards are high and some students start preparing as early as in kindergarten years. Whole families become involved in helping them to pass. Thus a student who passes acquires a qualification that meets top international standards – living proof of the power of a knowledge-based economy.


Before the defeat of the Kuomintang in 1949, education was effectively closed to workers, peasants and generally females in practical terms despite Sun Yat-Sen’s support of general education in principle. However, the Marxist ideology of the post-1949 government, in reacting to the overly literary and classical tradition of China, overstressed the superior wisdom of the worker and peasant. Various experiments in which peasants and industrial workers were made “teachers” overnight but were unable to communicate their knowledge.

In an attempt to make education more practical and accessible, Chinese characters were simplified by communist leader Mao Zedong for quick learning. The Great Leap forward (1958-1960) and the Socialist Education Movement sought to end deeply rooted academic elitism, to narrow social and cultural gaps between workers and peasants and eliminate the tendency of scholars and intellectuals to disdain manual labor.

Later on Deng Xiaoping’s introduced far-ranging educational reform policy, which involved all levels of the education system, critical to modernizing China. Academically, the goals of reform were to enhance and universalize elementary and junior middle school education, to develop vocational and technical education, a paramount importance. China’s mandatory nine-year compulsory education, now effectively cover 85 percent of the population. Illiteracy in the young and mid-aged population has fallen from over 80 percent down to five percent.

As of 2014, China’s population is estimated at 1,393,783,836. International cooperation and education exchanges increase every year. China has more students studying abroad than any other country. Chinese students have been studying in 103 countries. About 185,000 have returned after finishing their studies.


India has a population of 1,238.9 million as of 2014. Both public and private education in India is funded from three levels: central state, and local. Free and compulsory education is provided to children between the ages of 6 and 14.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2012, 96.5 percent of all rural children between the ages of 6 to 14 were enrolled in school. Its quality has been questioned. Some of the reasons are attributed to the absence of around 25 percent of teachers everyday. Private schools in India must be non-profit to run any accredited educational institution.

The Indian education system is structured as follows: preschool education is not compulsory. The Montessori system is especially popular at the preschool level since Dr. Maria Montessori lived here to continue her research on the Cosmic Curriculum. The medium of teaching is often English, but Hindi, the national language is compulsory. More than 50 percent of the children are enrolled in private schools in urban areas and 20 percent in rural areas. The percentage of untrained teachers (parateachers) is 54.91 percent in private, compared to 44.88 percent in government schools. Even the poorest often go to private schools despite the fact that government schools are free. Elementary education for 6 to 14 years old is a major challenge for the government, specially to engage communities where child labor is still a common practice and young females particularly are still being deprived of this opportunity.

The secondary school curriculum is still largely based on the colonial system that the British left behind. Young people who do not wish to go on to tertiary education or who fail to complete secondary school often enroll at privately owned vocational schools. In so doing, they prepare themselves to face the impact of the liberalization and globalization of the Indian economy.

Tertiary Education – India is justifiably proud of its universities, which are mainly funded by state governments and many are centers of excellence. The 12 larger ones are funded by the central government, which is more generous in its financial support. The National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) is responsible for the management of the education system and teacher accreditation.

 Singapore – Strictly multi-lingual and ‘subject band’ based, leading to British GCE ‘O’ levels

Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded Singapore Institute (now known as Raffles Institution) in 1823, thereby starting education in Singapore under the British rule. Due to the multi-racial nature of the population, there are three main types of schools which appeared in Singapore: the Chinese and Tamil schools (taught thru their native tongue) Malay schools. English schools were exclusively then for the British residents.

In 1947, after World War II, the Ten Year Programme for Education Policy was implemented partially with the British military administration (1945-1955). Internal self-government set in 1955-1962 when Singapore separated from the Malaysian merger and Lee Kuan Yew became the head of the new Republic calling for a universal education system that would prepare for “self governance.” The industrialization program started. The bilingualism policy in schools was officially introduced in 1960, making English the official language with the mother tongues. The first Junior College was opened in 1969.

In 1980s, Singapore’s economy started to prosper. Education system shifted from quantity to quality, such as revamping vocational education under the new Institute of Technology and splitting secondary schools into Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams. Lee’s son Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong continued the “ability driven system.” Preschools are run by private sector, including community foundations, religious bodies, and civic or business groups. Primary education is compulsory and free for all, though there is a fee of up to SGD13 monthly per student to help cover miscellaneous costs.

Streaming after Gr. IV is quite different and complicated since pupils are divided as Primary 5 to the EM1, EM2 and EM3 (English and mother tongue). This includes the “Subject-based banding” where students take subjects at different levels depending on their scores in the respective subjects. To get promoted to Secondary School, students sit for the national Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE)

“Special” and “Express” are four-year courses leading up to the Singapore-Cambridge GCE “O” Level examination. This is complicated with obligatory “higher mother tongue” Mandarin, Malay and Tamil. There are ongoing debates about the effectiveness of streaming with some arguing that it should be abolished due to its detrimental psychological effects. The Integrated Programme, which leads to either an International Baccalaureate Diploma or to an A-level exam.

Polytechnics in Singapore provide three-year diploma courses. They accept students based on their GCE “O” level, GCE “A” level or Institute of Technical Education (ITE). Polytechnics offer a wide range of courses in various fields, including engineering, business studies, accountancy, tourism and hospitality management, mass communications, digital media and biotechnology. There are also specialized courses such as marine engineering, nautical studies, nursing and optometry. About 40 percent of each Secondary 4 cohort would enroll in Polytechnics.

Asia’s mad rush to become globally competitive

The parents and teachers of all Asian countries eagerly anticipate the sustainable future of their children with the “best” system of education, to the extent of entrapping them within a “pressure cooker” lifestyle without recognizing the hidden treasures of infancy to adolescence.

Beyond 2015: The Education We Want

By 2030, all youth and at least x% of adults reach a proficiency level in literacy and numeracy sufficient to fully participate in society, with particular attention to girls and women and the most marginalized. Literacy is an indispensable foundation for engaging in learning opportunities throughout life and is understood as a continuum, with different levels and uses according to context. All young people and adults must reach a literacy proficiency level that allows them to effectively function at home, school, work and in society. Given the persistence and scale of the literacy challenge both in developing and developed countries, the future education agenda must provide for increased efforts in this area.

Download the Beyond2015 UNESCO UNICEF Flyer

English in K to 12

To understand what the Senior High School (SHS) Core Subject called “Reading and Writing” is all about, we should not look only at its course description but at the entire Curriculum Guide for English, starting with Kindergarten. The reason is that all subjects are now spiraled.

Spiraling means that the student is taught a subject in Kindergarten, that subject is enhanced a little bit in Grade 1, enhanced a little bit more in Grade 2, and so on, such that, by SHS, the student will have mastered the subject.

Let us take the English curriculum as an example. (I will quote verbatim from the curriculum guides available on the website of the Department of Education.)

The English curriculum is based on the guiding principle that “students enhance their language abilities by using what they know in new and more complex contexts and with increasing sophistication (spiral progression).” Spiral Progression is described in this way: “Skills, grammatical items, structures and various types of texts will be taught, revised and revisited at increasing levels of difficulty and sophistication. This will allow students to progress from the foundational level to higher levels of language use.”

There are five skills (called “sub-strands”) that are highlighted in the curriculum: listening, speaking, reading, writing, and viewing. Since we cannot discuss all of the skills or competencies in the curriculum guide, let us take one “language arts domain” common to all these sub-strands, namely, Vocabulary Development.

In Kindergarten, the student is expected to “actively engage in meaningful conversation with peers and adults using varied spoken vocabulary,” while “acquiring new words / widening his/her vocabulary links to his/her experiences.”


In Grade 1, the student “demonstrates understanding of familiar English words for effective communication, demonstrates understanding of word meaning for correct usage, uses basic vocabulary to independently express ideas about personal, home, school and community experiences,  and correctly uses familiar words in speaking activities.”

In Grade 2, the student “demonstrates understanding of suitable vocabulary used in different languages for effective communication and uses familiar vocabulary to independently express ideas in speaking activities.” Note the addition of the terms “suitable” and “independently.”

In Grade 3, the student “demonstrates understanding of English vocabulary used in both oral and written language in a given context and proficiently uses English vocabulary in varied and creative oral and written activities.” Note the addition of the terms “given context” and “creative,” as well as the introduction of writing.

In Grade 4, the student “demonstrates understanding that word meaning can be derived from different sources, demonstrates understanding that words are composed of different parts and their meaning changes depending on context, uses different resources to find word meaning, and uses strategies to decode the meaning of words in context.” Note the stress on context and on finding the meanings of words.

In Grade 5, the student “identifies different meanings of content specific words (denotation and connotation) and infers the meaning of unfamiliar words (compound, affixed) based on given context clues (synonyms, antonyms, word parts) and other strategies.” Note the introduction of connotation, synonyms, and antonyms.

In Grade 6, the student “infers meaning of idiomatic expressions using context clues; infers meaning of borrowed words and content specific terms using context clues, affixes and roots; clarifies meaning of words using dictionaries, thesaurus, online resources.” Note the addition of online resources.

In Grade 7, the student “distinguishes between slang and colloquial expressions in conversations, uses appropriate idiomatic expressions in a variety of basic interpersonal communicative situations, explains the predominance of colloquial and idiomatic expressions in oral communication, discriminates between literal and figurative language, identifies figures of speech that show comparison (simile, metaphor, personification) or contrast (irony, oxymoron, paradox), categorizes words or expressions according to shades of meaning, identifies collocations used in a selection, determines words or expressions with genus-species (hyponymous) relations in a selection, identifies words or expressions with part-whole (partitive) relations, uses lexical and contextual cues in understanding unfamiliar words and expressions, analyzes relationships presented in analogies, supplies other words or expressions that complete an analogy, gives the various meanings of identified homonymous or polysemous words or expressions, identifies words or expressions used in a selection that show varying shades of meaning (gradients), and creates or expands word clines.” Note the introduction of what are essentially literary devices.

In Grade 8, the student “determines the meaning of idiomatic expressions by noting context clues and collocations; uses appropriate strategies in unlocking the meaning of unfamiliar words and idiomatic expressions; determines the meaning of words and expressions that reflect the local culture by noting context clues; distinguishes between and among verbal, situational, and dramatic types of irony and gives examples of each; identifies figures of speech that show emphasis (hyperbole and litotes); explains the meaning of a word through structural analysis (prefixes, roots, suffixes); and analyzes intention of words or expressions used in propaganda techniques.” Note the addition of more literary devices, the stress on culture, and the warning on propaganda. (Next week: English in Grades 9 to 12)


Training the child’s poetic mind

Twenty-eight years ago during our first Poetry Festival, Lea Salonga, then a senior in the O.B. Montessori High School, won the gold medal reciting “The Vulture’s Eye.” Mercy Soliven-David, OBMC speech consultant, the teachers and students were mesmerized for a good five minutes when Lea transported them to the crazed world of a murderer. Ever since then, this poem by Edgar Allan Poe has been the toughest test of a declamation contest we hold in our four schools. In 2003, Kristine Pascasio, Grade VI, of our Las Pinas branch got the gold medal for her excellent rendition of the same piece. Her parents, both doctors, Jet and Ida Pascasio, were champion orators in high school.

Training the poetic mind

Poetry is essentially an oral art. Young children are especially responsive to it because they share with the poet a free, vivid imagination and the capacity to enjoy words. For them, the sound and rhythm of poetry are an integral part of its meaning. So the speaking of poetry is not only useful vocal practice, it is a means to poetic appreciation.

Poetry is not only a way of saying. It is a way of seeing – a way of looking at the world, and responding to it. It develops the “third eye.” This ability does not belong exclusively to the poet. Almost every child possesses it. His senses are clear, and he has the poet’s knack of relating one impression to another and expressing his experience in imaginative language. For instance, can you see the “orange tree,” the golden sun shining through a small tree, or taste “a jungle full of juicy animals.”

What kills the natural gift of poetry

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Education today has the tendency to ”divorced the word from the image, and have put it under bondage to reason”. We are trained with an analytical view of the world, and a logical, factual interpretation of it.

If we want children “to enjoy poetry and not merely to learn” about poetry, we have to keep alive and foster in them the imagination. We must believe that a sensitive awareness is no less important than a quick factual memory or the power of accurate calculation, and that it deserves as much care and attention. What’s more, we must learn to cultivate it ourselves, and not allow the mechanics of teaching to kill what was once our natural gift.

During our school days, we sang the National Anthem in English so mechanically, that its poetry was lost: “Land of the morning, child of the sun returning, with fervor burning, thee do our souls adore…“ Even its Filipino version is in lyrical Tagalog “Lupang hinirang, duyan ka ng magiting, sa manglulupig, ‘di ka pasisiil…”

Choose poems which you like yourself – not the ones you think you ought to like, because they have been praised as literature. If we do not enjoy a poem, chances are the class won’t either, however much “expression” we use. With poetry, honesty is definitely the best policy. You’ll surely enjoy God’s Minute, author unknown. “I have only one minute. Sixty seconds in it. Forced upon me; can’t refuse it. But it is up to me to use it. I must suffer if I lose it. Give account if I abuse it. Just a tiny little minute… Ah! But eternity is in it!”

Where can we purchase poetry books? Mercy David recommends, “I gathered my collection for O.B. Montessori from bookstores in New Jersey like Barnes and Nobles, Borders and B. Dalton’s. I visited the difference city libraries to copy poetry and declamation pieces. I selected from my brother, Max Soliven’s columns and from his book of 108 unpublished personal poems written during his high school days (1941-1948), and from great men of our country grouping these for preschool, grade school and high school. As for elocution pieces, I collected some from Max’s speeches, Jose Rizal’s, William Shakespeare’s and various statesmen here and abroad. Below is one of Max’s poem, The Flag”:

Take it: Caress it! Cover it with tears.

It’s your flag and my flag

that holds all hopes and fears.

It stands for a nation,

my country right or wrong

The flag of my people,

a nation ever strong!…

her Imperial Majesty Empress Michiko’s love for poetry

On December 2002, while Mercy David was undergoing neuro-surgery, which she never expected, her main concern was the 40 poems she chose for the Poetry Festival 2003. In her high school and college days, she herself was a consistent gold medalist in oratorical contests in St. Paul and St. Theresa’s College. Later, she assisted Fr. Reuter in the Ateneo Dramatic Guild.

Mercy David who married a Cebuano, Engr. Mariano David, followed her husband who was assigned to the Ambuklao Dam project in Baguio, where two of her nine children were born. Finally, they settled in Maluso, Basilan, where her husband cultivated 80 hectares of rubber trees for the David family farm. When the rubber trees were matured, Martial Law broke out and so their children evacuated to Manila for further studies. Meantime yearly, they would receive gold and silver medals in Ateneo de Zamboanga and Pilar College.

When her only daughter, Marites David-Ramos worked in Tokyo, Mercy David would baby-sit for her first grandchild, then later her second. Nuns at the Sherayuri College for Women (an exclusive Catholic school) in Tokyo would involve Mercy during their poetry festivals where she met then Her Imperial Highness Princess Michiko. Their love for poetry became a strong bond to the extent that Princess Michiko would invite her to Togu Palace during her annual visits to Japan where they recited English poetry together. Later, Mercy was invited to the Imperial Palace when the princess became the Empress.

‘Keep a poem in your pocket’

“Keep a poem in your pocket” is the title of a poem but Mercy David uses it often to remind the parents whose children she coaches for the contest, “Parents of our young ones should absolutely voice record their children’s delivery so that they would hear themselves and improve on their recording. Three copies of the poem or declamation piece should promptly be made – one for the parents, one for pasting on the assignment notebook and one to carry in their shirt pockets. Just remember! Keep a poem in your pocket!”

“Meantime, I make sure the teachers would explain first the meaning of the poem, its message and background. Two weeks are given for students to commit it to memory. If I am here, since I only come from New Jersey from November to the end of January, I personally coach the students, giving one day for Sta. Ana and another for Las Pinas branches during the week. I try to go to Angeles, Pampanga to supervise the poetry and elocution practices.”

What poetry teachers and students should do

even during the first year recitation in 1987, poetry had caught fire with both parents and students. “As their trainor,” Mrs. David emphasizes, “each student must observe six pointers: Doing the curtsy, gracefully or bowing like a gentleman, observing a few seconds of pauses between stanzas and five second pause at the end of the speech before saying ‘I thank you,’ a change of voice when needed and a few unobtrusive steps to the front or side while reciting have become important parts of the graded recitation.”

“Teachers and students should mark out the phrases that need emphasis. The teachers should read aloud the selection showing them how to project their voices. One should consult the dictionary when in doubt about pronunciation. Appropriate gestures should accompany the recitation of the poems and declamations. When talking about something in one direction, one should consistently point to the same direction. Smiling should set you in a pleasant mood. A pause of five seconds should come after saying the title, author and curtsying or bowing. Eye contact with the audience is important to establish rapport – looking at the far end, then right, left and front. Teachers should coach their respective students daily in front of the class, while at home parents and siblings would be the audience.”

Poems can lift a grieving heart

Poems are not always sweet and happy, nor a courageous call to arms. Half of the time, they soothe broken hearts especially those who have lost their loved ones. Here is the poem, ‘God Saw You Were Getting Tired’, which was selected for Engineer Bong Alterado by his brother.

Bong was an O.B. Montessori loyalty student from preschool to high school, who recently passed away at 29 after a painful ailment, which lingered for two weeks. His mother, Nita was a former cook at the school canteen, while his father, Nards looked after the supplies of Ristorante La Dolce Fontana. After graduating from Mapua Institute of Technology and passing the board exams, Bong was hired by Ayala Land as technical assistant for Glorietta 4 and Greenbelt. After almost three years, he worked at Fort Bonifacio Real Estate Corporation as their Building Administrator.

God saw you were getting tired,

And a care was not to be,

And whispered, ‘Come to me.’

With tearful eyes we watched you,

And saw you pass away.

Although we loved you dearly,

We could not make you stay.

A golden heart stopped beating,

Hard working hands at rest.

God broke our hearts to prove to us,

That He loves His children best.


More adults, children complete literacy program

(Press Release) — A total of 52 Adults and 54 children completed the CNMI Motheread/Fatheread Family Literacy Program from the Kagman Elementary School, the Garapan Elementary School and the William S. Reyes Elementary School.

The CNMI Motheread/Fatheread event honored the families from these respective schools for completing eight weeks of family literacy classes.

Families would meet for one hour per week for eight weeks. During these sessions, they would borrow books from the Motheread/Fatheread curriculum, read stories, and share experiences and activities with their families, as well as, receive incentives for attendance.

Kagman Elementary School’s completion ceremony on Friday, March 6, 2015 congratulated the following 5 Adult Course participants for successfully completing the Motheread/Fathered Family Literacy Program: Maria Rosa San Nicolas, Jack Pangelinan, Benylin Mettao, Dolores Taitano, and Theofilus Minor.

Story Exploring participants included the following 5: Tyler Rdialul, Jerrico Pangelinan, Anastacia Minor, Ely Joseph Taitano, Darren Pangelinan.

Garapan Elementary School completion ceremony was on Thursday, March 5, 2015, and there were 21 Adult Course participants: Janet C. Bagas, Analyn De Luna, Marla Ann Cabrera, Deborah Ladringan, Romelyn Ramos, Rod Ramos, Victor Silva, Evangeline Seguritan, Lan Yan Xu Carlson, Belinda G. Dela Cruz, Mildred Ebuen, Jennifer Felipe, Precilla Arcega, Anastasia Mality, Valerio Mality, Raynna Mality, Surya Gautam, Sandhya Gautam, Mei Rengiil, Editha Villamena, and Rita Demapan.


Story Exploring participants included the following 26 children: Precious Denise Valerio, Xyleena Eliana Villamena, Ashnoy Mallik, Menmoy Mallik, Ria Rengiil, Rina Rengiil, Paul Sam Paulis, Rayjay Mality, Telinamae Mality, Johnlane Delacruz, Sunshine Gautam, Susana Gautam, Rodnyle Matthew Ramos, Ryle Angelo Ramos, Reign Angel Ramos, Gabriella Venezuela, Vince Silva, Evan Joseph Seguritan, Elline Joy Seguritan, Angela Xu Carlson, Leandro Delacruz, Francine Joy Ebuen, Earicka Joi Bagas, Heart Mariell M. De Luna, Jaceylene Rios, and Noah Wilbur Ladringan.

William S. Reyes Elementary School’s completion ceremony was on Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

The 26 Adult Course participants who successfully completed the Motheread/Fathered Family Literacy Program were: Marichu V. Legaspi, Dorothy Fernandez Trasporto, Estelita Oller Cabrera, Jane Tanamor Malabanan, Icy D. Maximo, Jeremiah Encarnacion Maximo , Elvie D. Castillo, Maria Gloria Nery Dalupo, Evelyn Cabrera Palacios, Susana N. Cabanban, Edilwisa Sombrero Viana, Amy Guanlao, Luis Jr. Hernandez, Maria Erlinda Voces, Jonnielyn Namauleg, Diego Lazar, Elvira Valenzuela Lazar, Tina Borja, Shirley Lynne Monkeya, Felix Fitial, Lou L. Fitial, Erlynda Elewel, Olivia B. Aldan, Precila B. Campo, Cecilia Guevarra, and Minda Castro.


The Story Exploring participants included the following 23 children: Montrea Elewel, Marialus Elewel Sablan, Jene Daniel Sablan, Alexander Guevarra Jr., Mary Grace Legaspi, Jercy Maximo, Jeremiah Maximo Jr., Mark Anthony Lloren, Viana Edison, Benjamin Palacios, Alliezon Palomares, Kiara Tabora, Angel Nica Voces, David Camacho, Herbit Jr. Villagomez, Avril Lazar, Alvin Lazar, Aldrin James Lazar, Juco Jesudicto Limes Fitial, Paul Lizama, Maria Rosa Manibusan, Frances Hernandez, and Murielle Campo.

A great big thank you goes out to the Parent Trainers: Lilia King, Celina Foreman, Beth Demapan, Angel Lourdes Cabrera, Bryan Manabat; the Story Exploring Instructors: Jocelyn Eusebio, Margie Sugaste, Evangeline Espanola, Reinaldine Casilang, Joanne Ordona, and Rency Castro; the Kagman Elementary School Administration (Go, Marlins!); the Garapan Elementary School Administration (Yay, Mallards!) ; the William S. Reyes Elementary School Administration( Biba, Kingfishers!); the Americorps volunteers; the CNMI Motheread/Fatheread team; and the Northern Marianas Humanities Council for making such a successful event finale possible. We thank you and congratulate you families for your commitment and dedication to literacy for your families! Hip, Hip Hooray!


National literacy strategy an ‘unprecedented’ effort to boost Malta’s low literacy levels

The National Literacy Strategy for All launched last year has proven to be an unprecedented effort to boost literacy levels in Malta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said this morning.

Dr Muscat was speaking during a visit to the Luqa Primary, where local personalities who have been made reading ambassadors – as well as Dr Muscat and Education Minister Evarist Bartolo – read stories to children.

The literacy strategy had been launched last June, and a National Literacy Agency (NLA) was established within the Education Ministry to help implement it.


The strategy, which covers the years 2014-2019, includes a total of 138 policy actions, and NLA deputy chairman Charles Mifsud noted that 80 of these are already being implemented.

Prof. Mifsud noted that one of the initiatives, the Read With Me programme that seeks to promote literacy education in the first three years, has already reached 15,000 children, as well as their parents.

Dr Muscat pointed out that thousands more were being exposed to the “culture of reading” as a result of the strategy.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that the most recent studies confirmed that literacy levels in Malta were not adequate for a developed country.

But he added that while the strategy’s effect may not be immediately evident, he was confident that an “unprecedented” effort to boost literacy would bear fruit.

Mr Bartolo, on his part, said that he recognised the link between reading and children’s development. He also emphasised the importance of linking reading with fun, pointing out that many children unfortunately associated it with boredom.

Mr Bartolo and Dr Muscat also took the opportunity to point out that arrangements have been made so that the upcoming spring hunting referendum and local council election would create as little disruption as possible in schools, which are used as polling places.

The education minister said that he recognised that schools tended to panic when elections arrived due to the disruption the setting up of polling booths – as well as their dismantlement – caused.

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He added that as a result, following discussions with the Electoral Commission and political parties – “because we know how paranoid political parties can be” – an agreement was reached on a set-up which is as quick to set up and dismantle as possible.

The event also saw Agenda Bookshop donate a number of copies of You Can Read, an English-language series aimed at encouraging children aged between 3 and 6 to read, to the Luqa Primary School as part of its efforts to boost literacy in the country.

All Year 1 students received a copy of the first part of the series, and the entire 12-part series is to be donated to the school to be used every year to encouraged reading.

The company is a sponsor of the ministry’s reading ambassadors programme.

Digital Library Connects Haiti’s Poorest Kids to World of Books

A 2013 project to create a digital Library for All platform in Haiti has now put books at the fingertips of up to 2,000 school-aged kids, many of whom are former child slaves living on less than two dollars per day.

The Respire Haiti school in Gressier served as the pilot for the program. One of the school’s French teachers felt a digital library would be useful “to help us develop our faculty, our students, their intellectual capacity and our teaching.”

And students seemed to love the idea. Twelve-year-old Sephora, who enjoys reading stories, said the library allows her to look up words she is not familiar with in the dictionary. Crystal, who is 15, said her school needs a library and expressed her happiness for having this resource.

Founded by Rebecca McDonald and Tanyella Evans, the non-profit Library for All group targets school children, teachers, and adults taking literacy classes. Project leaders hope to reach one million users by the end of the year and have set their sights on a much higher number.

“We are on a mission to provide the 250 million children who are not currently learning the basics of reading and writing with access to the tools they need to learn, dream and lift themselves out of poverty,” said Isabel Sheinman, Director of Business Development at Library For All, in an email interview.

Two students at a school in Gressier, Haiti, who have a five-month Library for All access, use the library in class for a lesson. (Maritza Chateau and Amanda Truxillo)

Two students at a school in Gressier, Haiti, who have a five-month Library for All access, use the library in class for a lesson. (Maritza Chateau and Amanda Truxillo)

She acknowledged that this is an ambitious goal.

“The greatest value of our Library is that it has been built to scale,” she said, meaning that the group will be able to increase the number of users “dramatically” in the coming months.

The pilot project started in October 2013, targeting one school in Haiti. Sheinman said 70 percent of the students were former restaveks or child slaves, and both teachers and students had limited educational resources, particularly in Haitian Creole.

“What we found was that local content by Haitian Creole publishers was by far the most popular,” said Sheinman. “Some of the students had never seen a book in Haitian Creole and were delighted to see children who looked like them in the illustrations.”

As a result of the pilot, Library for All partnered with local publishers to help fill the gap and initiated training programs for teachers and technical support staff.

The program is not free. Local partners in Haiti pay an annual implementation fee per student. Library for All helps schools find affordable, low-end devices to access the digital books.

“Each country will be different,” added Sheinman. “But in Haiti our current partners have elected to pay this fee for the first year and will consider passing this off to the local community in future years. This is our model of sustainability.”

Ten Haitian schools have already joined the program and Sheinman expects more than 30,000 students at 60 schools to join within the next few months.

The library is currently available for Android devices and provides access to more than 1,200 books in six languages. Other versions are in the works.

“We are currently raising the funds needed to build different versions of the Library app, which will make it accessible on a wider range of devices,” said Sheinman. “We are also working on a public domain release — a version of the app available to everyone in Haiti, the Congo and Rwanda, whether they are in school or not.”

Sheinman said the public domain app will include titles that she believes will be relevant for  parents in rural communities and children learning literacy.

In addition to that, she said the group has launched a pilot in the Democratic Republic of Congo “to provide 2,000 students access to international French and local content via low-cost tablets” and is currently “mapping out a pilot in Rwanda for 2015.”

With millions of children in need of books, Sheinman said Library for All hopes to expand to reach five million users by the end of 2017.