Prospects and Challenges in Implementing a New Mathematics Curriculum in the Philippines

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The Philippine Department of Education recently introduced a major revamp in the curriculum, providing for an additional two years in basic education. Three provisions of this new program directly relate to mathematics education. First was the shift of language of instruction in early primary education from English to the mother tongue. Second was the development of a new mathematics curriculum that places critical thinking and problem solving as the goal of mathematics education. Third was the extended opportunities for specialization in non-academic tracks. In this chapter, we draw upon studies in the Philippines to examine the issues and concerns that need to be addressed to derive the intended outcomes of the new curriculum. We first provide an overview of curricular changes in the Philippines. Next, we discuss the prospects and warrants of the curricular changes, given that the use of English to teach mathematics has been fraught with coping strategies, and that the relevance of school mathematics has repeatedly been questioned. Finally, we argue that achieving the intended goals is not simple, particularly in resource-poor classrooms where mathematical learning is often viewed as the ability to imitate procedures set forth by the teacher or text. In a developing country like the Philippines, there is a particular need to acknowledge the constraints within the working environment where reforms will take place. A curriculum that offers some prospects for improving mathematics education can only succeed if it follows through to the most crucial stage—that of providing sustained and practical guidance for supporting implementation and managing constraints.