Multigrade schools and multigrade instruction are neither a new educational innovation nor a recent experiment introduced by education experts. These have been adopted for over a century, a reality based on geographical and economic necessity for many countries in the developing world. The multigrade approach has become an imperative in these countries, particularly in poor, rural and remote locations, as part of broader efforts to widen and improve access to quality education for all.
The Philippines has embraced the multigrade schooling approach subscribing to international research findings that multigrade schooling is a cost-effective means of raising participation rates and student achievement in poor, remote areas. It believes in the potential of the approach to bring education closer to remote and marginalized communities. Thus, multigrade schools in the Philippines have increased in number and organization over the past decades. As of 2009, close to a third of the public elementary schools in the country have some form of multigrade instruction. Issues and challenges have emerged as a consequence of rapid growth.
This survey research, jointly conducted by the Department of Education’s Bureau of Elementary Education and SEAMEO INNOTECH, provides a glimpse of what these multigrade schools currently look like, what curriculum and pedagogies they use, who their teachers are, what are the conditions of their learning environment, and what challenges they face. Findings from this research tend to re-confirm the complex and demanding nature of teaching a broad range of grade levels. And while there are limitations in the sample, the study still provides baseline data from which policymakers, implementers, region and division officials, school heads, and teachers may derive basis for policy and program changes, as well as comparative information for monitoring of progress in the future.
Multigrade schools have become an integral part of the Philippine education scene, making a real and significant contribution to the EFA goals of access and equity. The study highlights both the strengths of the current multigrade system and issues and concerns that need to be addressed to improve the quality and effectiveness of instruction. It also identifies some possible areas for policy reform to enhance the possibilities for multigrade schooling to further contribute to achievement of the long and difficult road to Education for All.