Year 1936: Educational Reform Discussion Similar to Today’s K+12

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Year 1936: Educational Reform Discussion Similar to Today’s K+12

Topic |  


Happy Fiesta to the people of Tagbilaran City!  The actual feast day of St. Joseph is March 19.  It was the then Bishop Julio Rosales who transferred it to May 1 in order to stop the animosity between the residents of Poblacion I and Poblacion II of Tagbilaran.

The May 9 Election Day is fast approaching and the political atmosphere is rife with charges and countercharges of wrongdoings.  In the Philippines it is the usual situation during elections.  It is confusing and you must have to trust your own judgment what to believe.

I would discuss another pressing problem that is waylaid in the overemphasis of the election.  This problem is the June 2016 implementation of the Senior High School.


The DepEd authorities say that they are ready. However, if you will investigate properly only very, very few High Schools are ready.

Do you know that in year 1936, the year the Philippine Commonwealth was implemented, there was already a discussion how to improve our educational system?

The Forum

The “Philippine Forum” was a monthly magazine edited by Camilo Osias (Later on a senator).  It was national in scope and published in a manner similar to today’s Reader’s Digest.  The authors of the written articles were prominent and authoritative persons.

The two writers that I will quote are Dr. Rafael Palma and John H. Manning Butler.

Educational Situation


During the American period from 1902 to 1936 the educational system was Elementary, 7 years (4 years primary + 3 years intermediate); four (4) years Secondary or High School; four (4) years Bachelor’s Degree.


The curriculum in the Elementary was divided into academic subjects and work education subjects.  There was three (3) types of High Schools; the academic, the trade and vocational, and the agricultural.

In Bohol, the Bohol Provincial High School was the academic High School.  The Bohol Trade School was the trade and vocational, and the Bilar Rural High School was the agricultural High School.  There were yet no regular colleges in Bohol.  The Rafael Palma College (now: University of Bohol) started in 1946 and the Holy Name College (now: Holy Name University) started in 1947.

Those who desired to obtain college degrees must go to Silliman Institute in Negros Oriental or go to Manila.  Later on, colleges existed in Cebu.


The so called basic education during the American period consisted of 4 years primary grades, 3 years intermediate grades, and 4 years high school or a total of 11 years.

If a child will start schooling at the required 7 years old, he will be 17 years old when he will graduate in high school.


Rafael Palma’s Revision

In the July 1936 issue of “The Philippine Forum”, Dr. Rafael Palma (the first Filipino to become President of the University of the Philippines), wrote an article entitled “Principles of the Revision of Our Educational System”.

Dr. Palma accepted the fact that the use of the English language as a medium of instruction in school was a major contributing factor in huge dropouts of pupils in the Primary Grades.

He proposed the following principal features in his proposed revisions: 1.) Elimination of illiteracy.  2.) Teaching of adults.  3.) Shortening of the years of study according to the finances of the government.  4.) Placing the emphasis upon vocational and practical instruction.  5.) Readjusting of the functions of the present schools.

Shortened Elementary

In 1936 the high schools were only found in the Provincial Capital.  The intermediate grades were found in large towns and the primary grades were found in towns and large barrios.

Many of those who finished the primary grades cannot proceed to the intermediate grades and only few from the intermediate grades can proceed to high school and many high school graduates cannot go on to college.

Dr. Palma was of the opinion that those who obtained only the 4-year primary education was not educated enough for a productive adult life.  He proposed to eliminate the intermediate grades (Grade 6 and 7) and create a 5-year primary education.

The whole lessons in the elementary will be compressed in 5 years. The curriculum must be oriented towards trade, vocational, and work education.  The academic will only be the bare minimum.  The new 5-year primary grades shall be free and compulsory in the public schools.

Dr. Palma said, “Academic instruction cultivates the intelligence and perhaps the tongue, but it does not prepare the hands for material labor.  We have professionals in abundance but skilled workers and producers of wealth are lacking.”

However he proposed a 6-year academic high school and 4-year vocational high school.

Longer Basic Education

In the September 1936 issue of “The Philippine Forum”, Dr. John H. Manning Butler, a respected American educator in the Philippines wrote an article entitled, “Some Phases of Public Instruction Under the Commonwealth.”

Dr. Butler argued the benefits of the educational system introduced by the Americans.  However, he argued the benefits of the educational system introduced by the Americans.  However, he argued that training and education can be best implemented using the “direct method” of English instruction.  It means that only grammatically correct English can best implement the learning process.  There should be no “code switching” or resorting to the mother language to explain the details.

The objective is to let the student learn, understand, and communicate in English because English is already becoming the “international language”.

He proposed that two (2) more years will be inserted in the basic education process after Grade 7.  He called it “Junior High School”.  In other words Dr. Butler is in favor of preparing the Filipinos for international employment.  His proposed basic education will be 7 years elementary, 2 years Junior High School, and 4 years High School or a total of 13 years.  (Note: It is similar to today’s Kindergarten + 12 years.)

Eventually the Philippine Commonwealth passed an education law requiring 4 years of primary education, 2 years of intermediate education, and 4 years of high school or 10 years of basic education.

This law was recently replaced by the K+12 law that will start functioning this coming June 2016.


Dr. Palma was interested in the internal growth of the Philippines.  His objective was to train the Filipinos to be producers so that they will be able to manufacture or supply their own needs.

Dr. Butler was interested in the “external growth” of the Philippines.  His objective was to train the Filipinos to provide services to the international community.

Now, after the passage of 80 years, it seems that the concept of Dr. Butler has gained preeminence.  However, the present form of our K+12 law is supposed to be implemented using the concept of Dr. Palma.

Until now it seems that nobody has found a way how to reconcile the opinions of Dr. Palma and Dr. Butler.  If it was not done in 80 years, how many years do you think that we can reconcile these two ideas?  How can the invented “Filipino language”, which is the largest Pidgin English language in the world, be able to make the reconciliation? (By Jes B. Tirol)

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