"Justice for Teacher Emylou"

News of a newly hired school teacher at Lapaz Elementary School in the Philippines committing suicide has gone viral on social media. The 21-year old teacher, Emylou Malate, is supposedly suffering from depression mainly brought by stress from her heavy teaching workload. A recent study from Morocco finds that indeed, heavy workload among teachers is the primary cause of stress, which is nothing new, as this have been known for sometime. An example is a study from Canada. The workload of a teacher becomes onerous when resources and support are lacking. Teaching conditions become even more untenable when respect is lacking.

The viral post comes with a "rant, an awareness and a call for help" (See below), explaining the circumstances of Emylou's working conditions. Although a novice, Emylou apparently has been assigned to a multi-grade classroom and is expected to submit more than 20 lesson plans everyday. And with all the burden, Emily has no one to receive support from, …

Servants Make Things Happen

When the situation is not good, change is needed. Oftentimes, we focus too much on changing what is outside and not what is inside ourselves. Energy project CEO Tony Schwartz sums this up in his article on Harvard Business Review: "...the most effective transformation begins with what’s going on inside people — and especially the most senior leaders, given their disproportionate authority and influence.  Their challenge is to deliberately turn attention inward in order to begin noticing the fixed patterns in their thinking, how they’re feeling in any given moment, and how quickly the instinct for self-preservation can overwhelm rationality and a longer term perspective, especially when the stakes are high." I think the following tweet from the Philippine Inquirer illustrates why a change in mindset is important. The tweet has been shared on social media by superintendents and principals. Some even cite it as a prime example of servant leadership. It is indeed a demonstration…

Making Sense Out of Numbers

Numbers like words have meaning. We use numbers to quantify what we see in our world. Their significance is often attached to who we are. A year of kindergarten appears like eternity to a five-year old, but as we age and reach midlife, that one year becomes a small fraction. To a poor family, one thousand is a big number especially if the number is associated with money. To a struggling household, even a hundred is huge. On the other hand, to a well-to-do family in the Philippines that is used to spending daily at least a thousand pesos (20 US dollars), one hundred pesos appear miniscule. Number sense is indeed linked to who we are. Thus, when the vice president of the Philippines makes the mistake of multiplying 40 by 4, it speaks volume not so much about her arithmetic skills but more on who she is.

Leni Robredo, in her attempt to discredit the Duterte administration, is simply trying to make the economic situation in the country appear especially dire. With inflation, prices of bas…

"Nosebleed, Don't English Me, I'm Panic"

It is not easy to be multilingual. While it is important that young children are encouraged to maintain and develop their mother tongue, neglecting the learning of English can have serious ramifications in the future. GetRealPhilippines has several recent posts on this topic of language, all of which are pointing to the current sad state of communication in the Philippines. Competency in English, however, is not just a matter of will. It is now becoming clear that English comprehension, if not attained on time, is extremely challenging to address even with the best interventions.

A research article scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology reports that it is exceedingly difficult to improve English reading comprehension among students who spoke a language other than English at home and had underdeveloped vocabulary in English by the time they enter secondary school. A two-year intensive reading intervention designed for adolescents is found not to have any sig…

Lessons in Math for Young Filipinos

A teacher at Diliman preparatory school, Errol John Gumogda, recently wrote an article in the Education Digest of the online resource site Squeeze. The title of the article (translated to English) is "A Shameless K-12 Textbook". It comes with the following picture of a page taken from a textbook called Hiyas ng Lahi (Jewel of a Race) that talks about the past president Benigno Aquino III, citing that he is single, has no children, and therefore has no First Lady. It adds the fact that he is the first one born in the month of February to become president of the Philippines and the only one with the suffix "III" in his name. And he is also the second president who comes from the province of Tarlac. The page is supposedly a part of an "additional knowledge" section. Gumogda raises the question of whether this page responds to the cognitive needs of young Filipinos. Of course, the obvious answer is 'No'.

What is interesting in Gumogda's article is…

Access to Literacy Is a Fundamental Right

Society has laws for five basic reasons: preventing people from harming others, preventing people from harming themselves, promoting morality, granting goods or services to those in need, and protecting the government. Laws are, of course, often imperfect and end up being misinterpreted and even abused. It is therefore quite dangerous to use existing laws to define what is right and what is wrong. The ninth amendment of the United States Constitution recognizes its own limitations: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." A Federal District Court judge in Michigan should probably have taken note of this when deciding whether access to literacy is a fundamental right or not.

Access to literacy is obviously a fundamental right. How can basic education be compulsory if access to basic education is not a right?

Judge Murphy III is correct that the US Constitution does not specifically sta…

"It Is More Important to Be Kind Than to Be Right"

We want our schools to teach our children critical thinking. We also demand that schools promote good manners and right conduct. With all the things we desire, do we clearly understand what we are asking for? Do we simply want critics? Or do we want thinkers? Do we also want blind obedience? One thing I know about learning is that it requires, first of all, an openness. It starts with some degree of trust. And, as with any gift, it is a fruit of kindness. Critical thinking requires if not kindness, at least, respect. In our pursuit for knowledge, our objective is to find the best ideas. It should never be about knocking another person down. Philippines president Duterte recently attached the word "stupid" to Catholic doctrines. Where he comes from actually is logically sound but, unfortunately, the way it has been delivered is a long way from being considerate. The response from the other side is equally laced with abomination.

As discussed in the previous post, character ed…