A ‘Tatak Pinoy’ classroom

Posted by watchmen
April 9, 2024
Posted in Better Days, OPINION


By Sonny Angara

Over the past few weeks, we have started seeing an alarming trend of schools suspending onsite classes because of extreme heat being experienced in various areas of the country.

With temperatures reaching the high 30s and over 40 degrees Celsius, students and teachers alike have found the sweltering heat unbearable and not conducive for learning.

A survey conducted by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers showed that around 67 percent of the respondents said they experienced intolerable heat in their classrooms, with the most commonly reported result being the students’ difficulty paying attention to lessons.

The teachers also noted how they were conducting lessons in congested classrooms, which results in severe difficulties for students with medical conditions.

Apart from the long-time problem of congestion, there are also other issues that hound schools, particularly their ability to handle extreme weather conditions.

Year after year, we see many schools that are severely damaged whenever our country is hit by typhoons. The classrooms are not built to withstand typhoons and as a result of the damages, the affected students are forced to miss classes.

The same impact is being seen now with the extreme heat our country is experiencing. The suspension of classes by several schools has led to the utilization of the alternate delivery mode — the same system that was used during the COVID-19 pandemic when the schools were shuttered for the safety of our children.

This brings about another set of problems such as students who have no internet access at home or just have difficulty learning outside of the classroom setting. The people in charge of our education sector are working on their own solutions, including adjusting the school calendar.

This effort should be complemented by more long-term and permanent actions that will end up saving us more money and hopefully, addressing with finality school disruptions.

One of the key objectives of Republic Act 11981 or the Tatak Pinoy (Proudly Filipino) Act is to enhance our productive capabilities. It is also about expanding our know-how to make a better society for our people, including among other things, designing and constructing our schools to make them more climate resilient.

During our public hearings on the Tatak Pinoy Act, I spoke about how there must be some way of infusing a “Filipino” identity into our built spaces such as our classrooms, especially since two of the biggest budgets under the annual General Appropriations Act go to the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Education.

We are now seeing that we cannot continue building our school buildings and classrooms the same way in a one size fits all manner. The same problems emerge every year and from what we are seeing, the effects of climate change are intensifying.

We are not just talking about the outward appearances of the buildings but the very design of these structures need to solve “Tatak Pinoy” problems. There is a vast amount of knowledge and expertise out there that can be tapped to provide solutions to these problems — be it from abroad, homegrown talent, and maybe even indigenous / heritage wisdom. All of these can be brought together to come up with creative solutions, tailor-made for our needs.

Singapore for instance, being situated near the equator, has gotten very good at greening their urban spaces to help lower ambient temperatures. The nation’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew was famously remembered for saying that air conditioning “one of the signal inventions of history.”

PM Lee said air-conditioning “changed the nature of civilization by making development possible in the tropics.” He knew that people in a comfortable environment would be more productive.

Researchers all over the world have also come up with the whitest paint, so reflective that they actually help cool down surfaces. A quick fix to our hot classrooms would be to install air conditioners but given our tight fiscal space, we need to think out of the box and come up with alternative solutions.

Aside from making them resistant to the heat, these classrooms should also be able to withstand natural disasters, specifically typhoons and earthquakes that are common in our part of the world.

True to the Tatak Pinoy ethos, coming up with a bonafide “Tatak Pinoy” classroom should be a product of public and private sector collaboration. Basically whole-of-nation, comprehensive, holistic, interdisciplinary. We’re no expert at this, but maybe those who can should start thinking about this problem. They would definitely find someone who would listen in our office./WDJ

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