"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Duterte Chooses Social Watch Philippines' Lead Convenor for DepEd

Philippines' incoming president Rodrigo Duterte has a new nominee for the Secretary of Education, University of the Philippines professor emeritus Leonor Magtolis Briones. Briones is currently lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, "an international network of citizens’ organizations struggling to eradicate poverty and the causes of poverty, to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights." Briones is a member of the W8, a group of eighth women committed "to remind world leaders of the promises they made and of the responsibility they have to fulfill, and to bring the voices of the poor in the south, particularly of women, to those who make global decisions, and to put faces to global statistics". Before joining W8, Briones was asked the question, "Can you describe how health / education in your country is experienced by ordinary people on a day-to-day basis?" This was her response:
"We have high levels of poverty, we suffer from climate crisis and economic crisis. Malnutrition is a big problem. Education is free but for a lot of families it’s almost impossible to let the children go to school because other things (work) have to be done and often the schools are too far away. The Philippines have to deal with a lot of drop outs from school. Education is a right but it takes more than free access to make it possible for all children to get it. What if you don’t have shoes and you have to walk 10 km to reach school? For those who go to school, there is a severe lack of school buildings, books, materials and equipment. There are not enough teachers. It is also recognized that the quality of education is going down as well. Performance in English and Math compare very poorly with other countries. Education is the key to development. In order to have a great productive life you need to be educated. In order to get real access to education there need to be better roads and more schools. The government reacts now on the economical crises, while this is the time to invest in education. Health/education services for the ordinary people in my country is characterized by deterioration both in quantity and quality. As far as health is concerned we have among the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in Asia. There has to be a midwife in every village. Not all villages have doctors in their clinics. Some don’t even have nurses and midwives. They only have health attendants. I just came from a public health centre near my university for my Oxfam photo shoot. This is considered a fairly good centre but a doctor goes there only once a week. The staff in the health centre we visited complained they don’t have enough medicine for even the most simple of illnesses.”

Above copied from OXFAM
Google Scholar returns five entries for Leonor M. Briones as author.



The UP Diliman-Diary also keeps a record of a speech delivered by Briones to the United Nations General Assembly ten years ago:


FULFILL YOUR PROMISES

Statement Submitted to the United Nations General Assembly in behalf of Civil Society
Presented by Prof. Leonor Magtolis Briones, Social Watch, International Facilitating Group on FfD and Global Call to Action against Poverty.

14 September 2005.

The Millennium Development Goals will not be reached by 2015. This is the assessment of civil society organizations five years after their adoption by the global community of nations. The promises of the Millennium Declaration are not fulfilled; the financial resources identified under the Monterrey Consensus have not all been generated. The leading actions on financing for development which heads of state and leaders of government agreed upon have not been fully implemented.

As a consequence, more than a billion people continue to live in absolute poverty, girl children are not able to go to school; infant mortality rates remain high; mothers still die in childbirth, the HIV pandemic continues to escalate, the environment continues to be devastated, and global issues on trade, on debt and on ODA remain unresolved.

Mobilizing domestic financial resources for development. Developing countries are continually reminded that they are responsible for mobilizing domestic financial resources. But, how can they collect more taxes when their economies stagnate and are stunted because of unfair terms of trade, because of massive debt burdens and structural adjustment programs?

Mobilizing foreign direct investment. We deplore conditionally in structural adjustment programs which compel countries who are unprepared to open their markets and their natural resources to foreign investment.

Developing countries demand that foreign investors should not only exercise corporate responsibility. They need to be transparent in their operations. They have to be accountable to their host countries whose natural resources they exploit for profit.

International trade. Trade is the single most important external source of development financing. Ironically, developing and least developed countries continue to suffer from unfair terms of trade. As poignantly stated by an African official, “You demanded that we faithfully pay our debts, and we did. You asked us to restructure our economies. Our people underwent indescribable suffering but we did it. You even demanded that we change our leaders, and we did. But you refuse to buy our cotton, our cocoa and our other products!”

ODA. Substantial increase in ODA to developing countries has not been achieved. A number of rich countries steadfastly refuse to honor their 30-year commitment to share .7% of their GNP. We ask the General Assembly to remind recalcitrant member countries of this promise.

External Debt. The debt crisis continues to rage in many countries in Asia, in Latin America and in Africa. While the G8 committed to cancel all the debts of eligible HIPCs, countries which are euphemistically described as “middle-income” teeter on the brink of disaster as they struggle with unsustainable debts.

It has been two decades since the last global debt crisis. The babies who have survived are now 20 years old. They still carry the scars of malnutrition, inadequate education and poor health. They have been tragically deprived of the basic capacities for human development.

These countries have been further shaken by natural catastrophes, bad terms of trade, bloodletting and conflict.

We therefore urge the General Assembly to support debt relief for “middle income” countries whose economies have been devastated by natural catastrophes like the tsunami, as well as those with high levels of poverty and debt.

The persistence of debt crises underscores the need to reform the international financial system. We demand transparency and accountability from multilateral institutions. Developing countries voice and vote in the governance of these institutions need to be strengthened.

Follow up of Monterrey Consensus

Gender Equality. We likewise urge the members of the General Assembly to allocate resources to promote gender equality in their respective countries.

Promises, Promises. The heads of state and leaders of governments have made many promises for decades, some of which are the World Summit on Social Development in 1995, the Beijing Conference also in 1995, the G7 meeting of 1999, the Millennium Summit in 2000, the International Conference on Financing for Development in 2002, the Johannesburg Summit, also in 2002, and the G8 Summit in Gleneagles.

Promises, promises. This General Assembly is not the time for more promises. It is time to fulfill old and new promises. The poor of the world cannot wait until 2015. Fulfill your promises!



Nominating Briones for Secretary of Education in the Philippines definitely passes the baton of Philippine basic education to a progressive. I guess we will have to wait and see if Leonor M. Briones accepts the huge responsibility of steering basic education in the Philippines




Blogger Tricks

If DepEd's K to 12 Pushes Through, at Least, Do It Right

What is worse than a broken ten-year basic education program? A broken thirteen-year pre-university education. Adding years without actually fixing an education system simply adds to wasted time and resources. In reality, this is what the additional years would do if the problems Philippines basic education faces are not addressed first. It is simply throwing both money and time. Senior high school, implemented without thoughtfulness and due diligence, is nothing but an indiscriminate spending of precious and limited resources. It is therefore not surprising to see a profound frustration among those who have their eyes set on improving the quality of basic education in the Philippines.

For example, on learning resources, Antonio Calipjo Go, a retired academic supervisor of the Marian School of Quezon City, has long been waging a lonely crusade against badly written English-language textbooks in the Philippines. In an opinion article, reposted in this blog, Go says:

The Department of Education (DepEd) simply ignored my commentary published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer last June 10, 2013 (“Again, error-ridden textbooks”) and my letter to the editor published in the same paper last July 26, 2013 (“‘Worst learning material’ prepared for Grade 8 schoolers”) regarding the numerous errors that I found in two learning materials currently used by Grade 7 and Grade 8 students in public secondary schools. What did the DepEd’s deafening silence imply—that I was wrong in both instances, or that I was right? A great divide separates what is said and what is done, and it likewise separates what is promised and what is delivered. In the matter of textbooks, that which is promised but not delivered—that which is missing—is quality.

To this, Go has added a more alarming concern in a recent opinion article on the Inquirer:
...I sent the Inquirer the photos I took of some of these DepEd-recognized and accredited schools which aggressively advertise and promote themselves as “semipublic but private schools.” The pictures clearly show the sorry, pitiful and pathetic physical condition of these iskul bukols— derelict, dilapidated, hole-in-the-wall lean-tos hardly capable of providing the conditions ideal and conducive to the teaching and learning processes.
These schools are situated right alongside a very busy, crowded and chaotic national road in one of the biggest squatter colonies here in Quezon City. They have no playgrounds to speak of, their classrooms have no proper lighting, ventilation or air-conditioning, and their teachers carry dubious and questionable credentials. Their students are crammed inside multilevel classrooms, such that Grades 1 and 2 or Grades 3 and 4 pupils are “taught” inside one common classroom all at the same time. One of these horror houses even has the effrontery to call itself a “COLLEGE,” offering the full course from preschool to the tertiary level! Being squatters themselves, these schools can be evicted or driven out at any time. What will happen to their students then? 
Why is the DepEd giving permits to schools that do not even rent or lease space but merely occupy properties that are not theirs and that they will never own? How do you expect these schools to teach what is right when they are doing very wrong things? 
These iskul bukols are nothing more than business enterprises masquerading as educational institutions. They are not there to teach and their students will consequently not learn anything from them. They are just after the money. These schools, in fact, use the very approval of their permits by the DepEd to fool and dupe unwary parents and their children into believing that they are capable of delivering what they boastfully promise, when they aren’t even capable of teaching the grade school levels properly....
Unfortunately, the photos provided by Go are not included in the above article, but Curtis Riep of the University of Alberta, Canada, has already provided glimpses of the schools described by Go in an Education International publication.







And with regard to teachers, this is what Riep says:


DepEd's K to 12 is clearly paving the way for a total destruction of the Philippines basic education system.



Friday, May 27, 2016

No Room for Violence in Promoting Basic Education

In advocacy, there is nothing worse than doing something clearly against what you are fighting for. Voicing one's opposition against DepEd;s K to 12, because it does not respect the rights of parents, teachers and children, is not helped by violence or destruction of public and private property. There is no room for violence if we claim to stand for quality education of our children. There is no room for hegemony if we claim to stand for equity in education. Doing so only provides reasons for people not to see what we are truly advocating.Doing so only provides an additional excuse for the government not to address the real and urgent problems Philippine basic education faces.

Below is a post on Facebook  by Elvin Uy, an assistant secretary of DepEd.


Last Friday, I met with representatives of Gabriela about their concerns regarding the nationwide implementation of Grade 11 this coming school year. As part of the Makabayan bloc, they are calling for the abolishment of the K to 12 Program and for the Department not to push through with its rollout of senior high school next month. I told them that unless the Supreme Court decides otherwise (there are 5 petitions against the "K to 12 Law" and the SC has yet to render a decision), we have no choice but to follow the law and implement the program fully.
We proceeded to discuss their specific concerns about Grade 11, particularly the mom from North Caloocan who wanted to know where her kid can enroll considering their public school won't be offering senior high this year. While we were having the meeting, they had a contingent of about 20 people protesting outside the main gates of the DepEd. When I asked them why the need for protest action considering we're already discussing the issues and I was offering them possible solutions to the problems, they said that it was standard for them to do this even if there's a dialogue.
Fair enough. They want to express their views; we want to help them make sure all kids who are supposed to be in school will be in school. That's our system. That's democracy.
Today, other members of Makabayan (i.e. Kabataan, Anakbayan, LFS, KMU) decided to "Occupy DepEd". They pretended to be visitors, entered our premises, gathered during lunch time, and vandalized the DepEd vision-mission-core values marker outside the main building (Rizal) of the DepEd Complex.
Why? Because "Stop K-12!!!"
Okay.
They refused to leave the DepEd Complex and we have allowed them to stay despite the disruption.
Maayos namin kayong kinakausap sa iba't ibang lugar at pagkakataon. Ginagalang namin ang inyong mga pananaw. Iisa ang ating mithiin na lahat ng Pilipino ay umunlad at makapasok sa mga ligtas at magagandang paaralan. Pakiusap lang: itigil na natin ang mga kalokohan at stunt.
The Filipino deserves better political discourse, especially from groups who claim to be progressives.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

A Plea to President Duterte: "Padi Mayor, Please Suspend K to 12"

The next president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, has recently announced a "change of heart". He now apparently supports DepEd's K to 12. He originally opposed the new curriculum based on his perception that the government is ill prepared for the new basic education program. In addition, he thought the additional years in high school should be made optional. At the moment, the government is not really equipped to provide K to 12. Nearly half of the schools offering grade 11 in 2016 are private. And senior high school is part of compulsory education in the Philippines. Clearly, nothing has changed to reverse the previous misgivings of the incoming president. But apparently, Duterte has changed his mind because DepEd simply has used the old argument that the Philippines is being left behind in education.

Above copied from the Philippine Star
This piece of news, of course, brings profound sadness to those who are opposed to DepEd's K to 12.

The following is a post on Facebook by Cheryl Daytec-Yañgot:


PADI MAYOR, PLEASE SUSPEND K TO 12.
Dear President -elect Duterte, if there is something good that we saw in your meeting with DepEd officials, it is the fact that you listen. You already made a stand opposed to K to 12 but after you sat down with DepEd officials, you changed your mind. You are now for K to 12. Whether you are for K to 12, the concept, or for the K to 12 of Bro. Armin Luistro, it is not clear from your pronouncements.
Mr. President, there are six petitions now pending before the Supreme Court questioning Bro. Luistro's ill-concocted K to 12. I am sure the petitioners see as you do the need to strengthen Philippine basic education whether through a K to 12 program or something else. But Luistro's version does not accomplish this. It was hastily planned (or unplanned) and imposed on the public. Because there was no good plan for it, the schools merely stretched the 4-year high school curriculum so that it will be taught for six years. Whether Luistro will admit it or not, DepEd is not ready. Grade 11 will be offered in public high schools this June or July but buildings for it are still far from finished. And did you see some of the supposedly K to 12-ready books? They miseducate children. One book claims that Aetas are the people in the Mt. Province and Ibanags and Ivatans are in Central Luzon. One book teaches that the Banaue Rice Terraces are found in Baguio City, Benguet. Other teaching materials are equally reeking with ignorance to be passed on to children.
Mr. President, we filed the third petition on behalf of parents and children. We questioned how a DepEd Order addressed to a few individuals could change our education system overnight in 2012. We questioned why RA 10533 signed by Pres Aquino in 2013 was not the same bill passed by Congress. (There was cheating, in short.) The law signed by PNoy leaves it to the private sector to shape the curriculum. There are forces behind K to 12 and these are the private school owners who want to deliver the education service to their control. Who went to you to lobby? In most likelihood, these are private school owners and their agents in DepEd like Luistro.
More than 76,000 teachers stand to lose their jobs because of K to 12 which is based on a mere Dep Ed Order and legitimized by RA 10533 passed in violation of the constitutional rules on legislation. There are more issues aside from unemployment. We fear that the K to 12 program with all its constitutional infirmities will privatize education. Please suspend its implementation until all kinks shall have been ironed out. We want your administration to succeed. Please study the program carefully before it becomes your headache.


And here is another post from Rene Luis Tadle:

As quoted, President elect Duterte said “I was against it on the first day it was being implemented, but the bright guys sa Department of Education came to see me and explained to me how we are failing behind our neighbors” This is the same argument trumpeted by DEP-Ed to support the full implementation of K-12 for a number of years now. The officials of Dep-ED advanced the same when they met President Duterte. Unfortunately, Dr. Abraham Felipe, has debunked this argument as early as 2012, using more objective data. The bright guys from Dep-Ed are not so "bright" after all. Our dear President Duterte, please reconsider your decision. A more objective, scientific and evidenced-based justification will show you that K-12 is not good for our country at this time.


Tadle included in his above post a link to a 2012 article posted on the blog of late Joe Padre, a strong advocate of mother-tongue based multilingual  education, which enumerates why a former DepEd official, Abraham Felipe, is opposed to K to 12. Below is one of the reasons given by Felipe:
The argument for K+12 is not rational. Those in favor of K+12 say that the existing basic education system produces inferior students. Proof: the TIMMS results. The TIMMS reported in an international comparison that Filipino Grade 4 pupils were among the worst of Grade 4 pupils from some forty (40) other countries; and so with Filipino second year high school students when compared with their equivalent grade levels (i.e., grade 8). The K+12 conclusion: lengthen the Philippine system to twelve (12) years instead of the present ten (10). The main purpose of K+12 is to make our basic education competitive.
This conclusion looks rational but is really not. The rational reaction would be to improve Grade 4 and the second year of high school if we want them competitive. If after lengthening our system to twelve (12) it is again found that our 12thgrade is not comparable to the others’ 12th grade, will it be rational to lengthen our system some more?
President Duterte needs to hear from both sides, not just from the "bright guys at the Department of Education". In fact, it is important that Duterte considers this comment from Flor Lacanilao (This is a repost of a previous article on this blog):



A critique of some commentaries on the Philippine K-12 program
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Note that in my critiques below, the comments of scientists (1 to 3) on the Philippine K-12 program are supported by properly published studies or authorities, whereas those by nonscientists (4 to 8 ) are not.

Note further that the nonscientist authors and cited authorities include prominent people in education, and that these nonscientist authors and cited authorities enjoy wide media coverage. I think this situation explains the present state of Philippine education.  [My comments are in brackets]

A. Views of Filipino academic scientists [By definition, academic scientists are defined as those who have made a major contribution or contributions to one’s field as shown by publications in peer-reviewed international journals; that is, in journals covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). You can find that out with Google Scholar.]

1. The basic education system of the Philippines faces two major problems: (1) high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools, and (2) lack of mastery of specific skills and content as reflected in poor performance in standard tests for both Grade IV and Grade VIII (2nd year high school) students. Unfortunately, the proposed K+12 curriculum does not directly address these problems. Click this link to read the full text: “First things first: A commentary on K+12”

2. The Philippines has embarked on an enormous P150-billion project—the K to 12—that is set to add as part of the basic education a mandatory kindergarten and an additional two years to the high school. The mandatory kindergarten is not contentious because there is empirical evidence that it does improve learning outcomes. It is the learning outcomes that should concern us here. I still have to see evidence (perhaps I did not look hard enough) that the additional two years of high school will improve learning performance. Click this link to read the full text: “K to 12: Wasteland”

3. The controversial K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12) is not really controversial. All commentaries I have read by Filipino academic scientists are not in favor of the new K-12 program (For example, Science and K+12Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6 Feb 2012). On the other hand, Filipino authors supporting it are not natural or social scientists (without valid publications or properly published work), regardless of their position (e.g., Group launches program to save RP educationPhilippine Daily Inquirer, 28 Jan 2010). Click this link to read the full text: “K+12 most likely to fail”

B. Views of nonscientist Filipino educators and cited authors  [By definition, nonscientist Filipino educators and cited authors are those without any major contribution to one’s field as shown by lack of publications in peer-reviewed international journals; that is, in journals covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). You can check this with Google Scholar.]

4. The central feature of the K to 12 Program is the upgrading of the basic education curriculum to ensure that learners acquire the relevant knowledge and skills they will need to become productive members of society… With the participation of the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the program has the capability of offering professionally designed classes and apprenticeships in sports, the arts, middle-level skills, entrepreneurship, and applied math and sciences. [Note that officials of CHED and TESDA are not academic scientists.] Click this link to read the full text: “The K to 12 curriculum: Our first step to recovery”

5. Meanwhile, Brother Armin remains upbeat, saying “Genuine reform needs at least a generation to take root. We’ll just have to be happy with being part of planting the seed.” [Commentaries by academic scientists, however, show that this planted seed will either not grow or has been planted in infertile soil.] Click this link to read the full text: “Building a literate society”

6. The delay (referring to the implementation of the K-12 system) has already caused considerable damage. The truncated basic education cycle exerted a perverse effect on the entire educational system… Filipino students, while studying more, were learning less because they were not getting enough time to master basic concepts. [The above claims, however, are not supported by properly published studies or authors.] Click this link to read the full text: “Returns on higher education”

7. Adding two years to the present 10-year basic education cycle is “an absolutely essential reform” to put the country’s public education system at par with the rest of the world, an international education expert said on Wednesday… “I actually don’t see how people can disagree with it,” said Shaeffer before an audience of top Philippine education officials and representatives from various schools.
[This so-called international expert has only 2 SSCI published paper; none in SCI. He did not cite any properly published study or author, just like others who have made commentaries supporting the Philippine K-12.] Click this link to read the full text: “K+12 program ‘absolutely essential,’ says expert”

8. Department Order No. 74, issued in 2009, institutionalized mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) as a fundamental policy in our formal and non-formal education… the Department of Education has decided to use the L1 as medium of instruction in all kindergarten and Grade 1 classes nationwide effective June 2012 under the new K-12 curriculum… This is precisely what the 2nd Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education aims to inculcate in us…

The keynote speakers are international literacy consultant Dr. Kimmo Kosonen and our very own Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo.
 [The keynote speaker has only 2 SSCI and no SCI published papers; the other speaker has none. See also commentary 1.] Click this link to read the full text: “A sense of where we are”

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.


Duterte needs to listen to people who have a well established record in their field....





Monday, May 23, 2016

Mistreating Our Teachers Means Mistreating Our Children

John R. Lutzker, Director of the Mark Chaffin Center for Healthy Development and Professor of Public Health at Georgia State University in Atlanta gave the following response when asked the question, "What sort of person—a teacher, no less—could treat a child so disdainfully and abusively?":
"People who abuse and neglect children are much more likely to have experienced abuse or neglect growing up, or witnessed it, or had parents with mental illness. People are resilient and survive but anyone who experiences those things is more likely to perpetrate child maltreatment."
The above came from an article by Ellen Seidman on her blog, Love That Max. Seidman also mentioned that Lutzker did not want parents to be too alarmed but there were indeed "modern-day realities that make it particularly key for us to be on our toes". What is worth noting in Lutzker's response is the relationship he perceives between what a teacher feels and how he or she treats his or her students. It is true that abusive teachers are probably just a few bad apples. Nonetheless, the teaching profession has been under attack during the past decade. Such an emotional toll is only expected to leak into the classroom.

Above copied from The Tutor Report

With education research, the connection between a teacher's knowledge and student's learning is well established. In fact, even the motivation and interest a teacher brings into the classroom leads to a positive engagement of students with their learning. There is, however, a negative relationship as well between learning outcomes and a poor emotional status of a teacher. Students who are in classrooms where the teachers do not feel good appear to underperform as demonstrated by a recent empirical study.

The study, Teachers’ Emotional Exhaustion Is Negatively Related to Students’ Achievement: Evidence From a Large-Scale Assessment Study, by Uta Klusmann, Dirk Richter, and Oliver Lüdtke, is scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. The study includes more than 20,000 fourth grade students in Germany. The authors examine the relationship between students' performance in mathematics and a teacher's emotional exhaustion as measured in a four-point scale in response to the following items: “I often feel exhausted at school”; “Altogether, I feel like I am at the end of my rope”; “I often notice how listless I am at school”; “I sometimes feel really used up at the end of a school day”, with 4 as strongly agree and 1 as strongly disagree. The results are summarized in the following graph provided in the paper:

Above copied from 
Klusmann, U., Richter, D., & Lüdtke, O. (2016, April 7). Teachers’ Emotional Exhaustion Is Negatively Related to Students’ Achievement: Evidence From a Large-Scale Assessment Study. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. 




What is so remarkable in the above findings is that the relationship is strongly moderated by the type of students in the classroom. Classrooms with a greater percentage of language minority students are much more affected by the emotional exhaustion of the teacher. It therefore appears that students with greater needs are far more sensitive to a burnout teacher.

Children with greater needs often demonstrate delayed development. These students frequently show substantial academic gaps from their peers. Socio-economic status likewise translates to academic gaps. It is perhaps not too much of a stretch then to hypothesize that the emotional state of a teacher is a lot more consequential in classrooms with high poverty. In a country like the Philippines where a large number of children come from poor families, it thus becomes much more important for the government to ensure the well-being of teachers. Unfortunately, it is in countries like the Philippines that have children of greater need that teachers are not treated well, thus explaining in part poor learning outcomes.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Strongest Argument Against DepEd's K to 12: Death of the Teaching Profession

In a recent article on NEAToday Tim Walker writes, "There’s no doubt that the past decade or so has been hugely challenging for educators and for the public schools where they teach. From the failure of No Child Left Behind to the devastating budget cuts following the Great Recession to the vilification of the teaching profession stirred up by the education reform movement, it’s clear why public education advocates hope the next ten years is more promising." While people can indeed lament about teaching in public schools in the United States, the status of the profession in the Philippines upon the introduction of the new K to 12 curriculum depicts a scene of greater sorrow. On one hand, DepEd's K to 12 may seem to elevate teaching by encouraging people to become teachers, but teachers are not really made by sheer will. Kindergarten teachers should not come simply from volunteers. Senior high school teachers cannot be made from other professionals who merely woke up suddenly to an urge to teach. Doctors, engineers and lawyers are not treated this way. Obviously, one can not be a surgeon overnight but why do we expect that an individual can be a teacher by simply wishing to become one.



How DepEd's K to 12 destroys the teaching profession does not manifest any better in how instructors in colleges are currently losing their tenure. Sadly, not many people seem to pay attention. I am therefore sharing here an opinion article by Rebecca T. Añonuevo (posted here with her kind permission) in the Daily Inquirer:



K-to-12 being used to trample on educators’ rights


—REBECCA T. AÑONUEVO, PhD

professor, Miriam College
This refers to the news article titled “Scholarships, voucher program to help ease K-to-12 birthing pains” (News, 5/16/16).

The report paints a very optimistic and charitable picture of Miriam College’s administration headed by its president, Rosario O. Lapus, who is quoted as saying that the school has come up with “a sufficient number of strategies that will allow us to survive and do well during those lean years.” Among the strategies cited was the offer of senior high school classes that will be taught by college faculty, as well as “various continuing education and certificate programs to make up for the loss of college freshmen income and also to keep busy faculty members, who would have little or nothing to do.”

The fact is Miriam College has become a trailblazer when it decided to introduce the mandatory early separation program (ESP) and apply the same to its general education (GE) faculty, despite our proposals to alleviate the impact of transition as there are available loads that remain to be offered to students from second year to fourth year. The ESP is the first, last and only recourse of the school, even as it continues to accept first year applicants to school year 2016-2017.

Last week we received our Notice of Separation to take effect on June 13, 2016—21 GE faculty members teaching Filipino, literature, philosophy, science, math, Rizal, history, physical education, and theology, among other subjects. Miriam College is showing the door to GE faculty with top credentials and performance ratings, using retrenchment as ground for dismissal. But at the same time, it has applied for another round of tuition increase with the Commission on Higher Education because it promises, among other improvements, to upgrade its programs for faculty and the quality of education for the sake of its students.

Composed of respectable and highly accomplished men and women, Miriam College’s administration remains implacable in its decision to trample on our fundamental right to security of tenure, reiterating the need “to make tough decisions” in order to transform the community into a “viable and vibrant institution of the future.”

Not only have we been consistently ignored; we have been thoroughly undervalued and abused. College teachers will only be accommodated to SHS if they accept early separation and reapply for a lower compensation rate and for part-time employment only. And Miriam College is offering CHEd’s exchange programs and grants to those who remain in school, instead of helping the ones being displaced. By tempting us with a cheap message, “Re-engagement will also be possible as needed,” the administration insults GE faculty members who have given the best years of their lives to the school.

No law has caused more anxiety and anguish than the Aquino administration’s flagship education program K-to-12, which is being used by educational institutions to flout the Constitution.

We can only hope that presumptive President-elect Duterte would heed the various sectors’ call for a suspension of the law before it fully succeeds in turning education into a massive contractual labor business, with little regard for the Filipino educator. We stand by the presumptive President-elect in his anger at the hypocrisy of the powers-that-be: Any institution that cries out loud for truth, justice and peace should come clean and be a model to its stakeholders.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Duterte's Choice for Education Secretary in the Philippines

The social news network in the Philippines, Rappler, has launched a crowdsourced vetting process for newly elected president Rodrigo Duterte's choices for cabinet members. Duterte has recently announced his list of possible secretaries and for education, he has picked Dr. Peter Laurel, president of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), Batangas and Laguna campuses, and the fourth son of Senator Sotero Laurel, the third son of former Philippine President Jose P. Laurel.

Above copied from Rappler
Rappler poses the following questions for its crowdsourced vetting process:
  • Does the nominee have the knowledge and experience for the job?
  • Does the nominee have conflict of interest?
  • Is the nominee facing or is linked to graft and corruption cases?
  • What do you know about the nominee's lifestyle?
The last three questions obviously address ethical issues and are outside the scope of my blog. Thus, in my comments, I would dwell only on the first question. The first question is very important as sincerity or honesty, albeit essential, is not sufficient to address the challenges Philippine basic education currently faces. Competence is key.

The field of basic education is an area of scholarly work. Oftentimes, education reforms do not materialize for one reason: The changes introduced are not firmly based on good research. Secondly, a record of scholarly work demonstrates that one is capable of addressing difficult problems and contributing to human knowledge. Thus, although it may sound elitist, considering an individual's citation record allows for gauging someone's record on tackling significant problems. Heading an education department should be no exception as such task should require previous scholarly work. 

Google Scholar is one way to broadly search scholarly literature. And with this tool, the results for Duterte's choice for education secretary, Dr. Peter Laurel, do not look promising.


The above is no different from the results obtained with outgoing DepEd secretary Armin Luistro:


Duterte's nominee for education secretary, Peter Laurel, like current DepEd secretary Armin Luistro, does not have any record of scholarly work. With this in mind, it is worthwhile to repost an article of Flor Lacanilao on this blog:


Suggestion to Solve Philippines' Basic Education Problems

by Flor Lacanilao

Studies on education abroad have shown that the best way to improve basic education is to improve first higher education. And the best way to improve both is to put only the right people in charge. Right people refers to those who have made major contribution to one’s field, as shown by properly published research works (that is, following internationally accepted criteria). At present, none of those in charge in higher and basic education has such minimum requirement.

For basic education, the above prerequisite will insure that (a) program components are based on tested studies abroad, (b) curricular changes are based on properly published studies of local problems, and (c) thay have undergone trial runs or verification at selected schools before nationwide implementation.

For more discussion, see “K+12 most likely to fail” (Inquirer, 17 Feb 2012) and “A critique of some commentaries on the Philippine K-12 program”.

[Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained his Ph.D. (specialization in comparative endocrinology) from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman, chancellor of UP Visayas, and chief of SEAFDEC in Iloilo. Email florlaca@gmail.com]



With the above in mind, Duterte's choice for DepEd secretary is not good.

Dr. Peter Laurel is currently president of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), Batangas and Laguna campuses. These schools take pride in their accreditation by the International Centre of Excellence in Tourism & Hospitality Education. On one of the schools' webpages, it displays as achievements the following:

Above copied from Lyceum of the Philippines, Laguna
Dr. Peter Laurel is also an author of a presentation entitled "Key Takeaways from Family Run Educational Institutions".  One of the slides in his presentation is the following:

Above copied from Key Takeaways from Family Run Educational Institutions
Dr. Laurel's interests in privatized education is obvious. The universities he heads are likewise offering senior high school.

Above copied from Lyceum of the Philippines University
Thus, in spite of the fact that this blog tries to focus on research based aspects of education, a conflict of interest is undeniable.

However, to address whether Duterte's nominee for education has the knowledge and experience for the job, one must look at the major challenges faced by basic education in the Philippines. To this, we return to "First Things First":



First Things First:  A Commentary on K+12 
Published in two parts in Philippine Star:
http://www.philstar.com/science-and-technology/798002/first-things-first-commentary-k12
http://www.philstar.com/science-and-technology/800468/first-things-first-commentary-k12

The basic education system of the Philippines faces two major problems: (1) high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools, and (2) lack of mastery of specific skills and content as reflected in poor performance in standard tests for both Grade IV and Grade VIII (2nd year high school) students. Unfortunately, the proposed K+12 curriculum does not directly address these problems. Both dropout rate and poor performance in standard exams indicate failure in the early years of education. That these problems are caused by a congested 10-year curriculum is not strongly supported by currently available data. The international standard tests take into account both years of education and basic skills.  The standard tests ensure that students from all the participating countries had the same number of years of schooling.



Dr. Laurel's lack of background in basic education is without doubt a negative. The troublesome aspects of DepEd's K to 12 such as the spiral sequence, poor teacher preparation, poverty's grip on education, and lack of research-based practices, are outside Dr. Laurel's interests or experience. A secretary of education must at least be aware of these challenges and issues. Unsurprisingly, secretaries of education in other countries usually rise from the ranks of public school teachers, supervisors or education scholars.

It is urgent that the Philippines addresses correctly the problems of basic education. Duterte needs advice from competent people in this field. Unfortunately, Duterte's choice for education secretary does not appear to be a step in this direction.


Monday, May 16, 2016

A Stubborn Grip of Poverty on Education

Claiming on one hand that an education reform is not a panacea while at the same time, insisting that changes that have been taken are designed to deliver a "quality, equitable, culture-based and complete basic education", should really make us pause and reflect to see if these changes are indeed good. A thorough evaluation obviously requires data. Unfortunately, informative results from the Philippines are not available. What one sees instead is a continuing shortage of resources. Worse, with the introduction of two additional years in high school, the number of educators in college losing their jobs and the number of students actually enrolling in senior high school are both up in the air.

The Educators Forum for Development (EfD) has called for a review of DepEd's K to 12 in the Philippines. These educators also add that the government should focus on "basic education that contributes to the building of a self-reliant economy, based on genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization". The Manila Bulletin writes in a two-sentence report that newly elected president, Rodrigo Duterte is asking for a month to study and discuss the basic education curriculum with his incoming DepEd secretary:

Above copied from the Manila Bulletin

It is at least comforting to hear that a study of DepEd's K to 12 will be made. We could only hope that this study is based on sound data and evidence.

Even without good data from schools in the Philippines, it is still possible to arrive at what public school education can and cannot do based on results from other countries. Poverty is one important factor that affects learning outcomes. And poverty is everywhere even in developed countries like the United States. Data from the US regarding how poverty impacts basic education can be enlightening. Take, for instance, "How Much Can High-Quality Universal Pre-K Reduce Achievement Gaps?", a report from the Center for American Progress.

The following table tells us how much a high quality preschool program can improve learning outcomes for minorities and poor children:


For both, African American and Hispanic, the gap in reading is almost completely erased. The math gap is cut almost in half with African Americans and with Hispanics, it is close to an eighty percent reduction. On the other hand, even with high quality preschool, children from poor households are still way behind in math and reading. This is how stubborn the grip of poverty is on education especially when one looks at what the study considers as a high quality preschool program. Below is an example:
Boston Public Schools’ Pre-K Program is also considered high-quality. In addition to having an adequate level of teacher compensation and overall funding, the program utilizes research-based curricula and continuous teacher coaching throughout the year. All teachers in Boston’s program must have a bachelor’s degree to obtain initial licensure; after that, teachers have five years to obtain a master’s degree and become professionally certified. Boston’s pre-K teachers are paid on the same pay scale as K-12 teachers. Prior research has found that classrooms in the Boston program are of high quality as measured by emotional and instructional interactions between teachers and children. All children are served in full-day classrooms.
The above already stands in stark contrast with the kindergarten year of DepEd's K to 12.

There is likewise daycare or preschool in the Philippines. The College of Human Ecology at the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, provides training for early childhood learning:
The College maintains teaching laboratories and daycare centers to enhance the competence and practical management skills of teachers and their apprentice students. It conducts capacity building for daycare workers and child care practitioners to equip them with appropriate knowledge, skills, and attitude in teaching daycare students and with proper understanding of daycare administration and operation. 
The Child Development Laboratory (CDL), which was established in 1965 and the Day Care Laboratories (DCL), which were established in 1994 are extension programs that provide learning experiences for the holistic development of young children. These also serve as venues to enhance the competence and practical management skills of teachers and apprentice students and to test educational materials.
In one of the seminars given to daycare workers, what a child can learn at home is highlighted. The following is a chart made by some of the attendees to illustrate how a kitchen inside a home can be used for a child's learning.

Above copied from the
Facebook page of Paete's Municipal Social Welfare and Development Office
With this chart alone, it is easy to see why poverty significantly influences early childhood learning. Poor households often do not have a source of drinking water, much less a refrigerator.

Poverty definitely needs to be addressed. Its effects are already present right on day one of formal schooling. DepEd's K to 12 looks at the wrong end of basic education and focuses on adding years to high school when the country needs to ensure first that young children are able to develop foundational academic skills. This is what equity means, when each and every child is given a fair shot at success.



Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Challenge of Unlearning

Almost 14 million voters in the Philippines have chosen to bring the son of a former dictator a heartbeat away from presidency. With an election involving more than two candidates, a mere third of the votes cast can send a candidate to a national office. Still, 14 million is a significant number. Such is the enormous challenge of basic education in the Philippines.
Above copied from the New York Times
Unlearning has always been a huge task for basic education. In the sciences, for instance, misconceptions abound. Obviously, to correct these misconceptions, delivering the right information is required. Unfortunately, such effort which already demands good learning resources and a competent teacher is often not enough. Confronting the issue of climate change deniers, Joel Achenbach of the National Geographic writes, "...Science appeals to our rational brain, but our beliefs are motivated largely by emotion, and the biggest motivation is remaining tight with our peers... ...Throwing more facts at them doesn’t help...." Clearly, to unlearn requires not just providing the correct information but also an understanding of the misconception.

Such understanding obviously begins with an awareness of misconceptions. One cannot methodically cure without knowing the illness. An article written by Philip M. Sadler and Gerhard Sonnert published in the American Educator specifically looks at addressing misconceptions and what may be required of teachers. Sadler and Sonnert find that a teacher who is knowledgeable in the subject he or she is teaching is inadequate for correcting misconceptions. In order to be effective, a teacher must be likewise aware of the misconceptions his or her students have. This is summarized in the following graph in Sadler and Sonnert's paper:.

Above copied from American Educator
When it comes to topics where students are unlikely to hold prejudices, a knowledgeable teacher has a dramatic impact on student learning. However, in topics where misconceptions are present, teachers who know their subjects well are still ineffective in helping students unlearn misconceptions. There appears an improvement when the knowledgeable teacher is also aware of the misconceptions his or her students may have, but the effectiveness still does not reach the same level of learning as in topics where students do not carry misconceptions.

Why is it so difficult to unlearn? The reason is that such misconceptions have become beliefs. Achenbach quotes Marcia McNutt, editor in chief of Science and president-elect of the US National Academy of Sciences:
“We’re all in high school. We’ve never left high school. People still have a need to fit in, and that need to fit in is so strong that local values and local opinions are always trumping science. And they will continue to trump science, especially when there is no clear downside to ignoring science.”
It therefore makes sense that creating a cover page similar to the one below to characterize Marcos' undying popularity in the Philippines is really an exercise in futility.

Above copied from the Daily Mirror
As children, we learn a lot from stories handed down to us by our elders. As we grow up, we lean towards those that support our own beliefs (confirmation bias) and we seek only the evidence that agrees with our own instincts.

Unlearning is indeed a significant challenge to education and it becomes insurmountable if people of influence remain unaccountable for spreading misconceptions. Millions of Filipinos appear to have misconceptions of the Marcos dictatorship. It is perhaps true that textbooks as well as teachers have not done enough to correct these misconceptions. This, however, is not the complete story as demonstrated by Sadler and Sonnert in their science instruction study. People dream of better times when they are unhappy. The failure of various administrations after the Marcos era to deliver a more transparent government and a more inclusive economic growth continues to fuel these misconceptions. Addressing this only through basic education is not enough. With continuing incompetence and corruption in both private and public sectors in the Philippines, this misconception of the Marcos dictatorship will only grow in the generations to come.



Thursday, May 12, 2016

Why Quality in Basic Education Is Important

There is no question that the Philippines needs more scientists for various reasons. Reacting to a post analyzing votes cast for vice president in the recent elections in the Philippines, the dean of science at New York University, Michael Purugganan, comments, "...This year, they see "perfect fit trend lines", and again say Leni is cheating. One of the best answers to why the Philippines should have more scientists? So that you can have astrophysicists like Reina Reyes or neuroeconomists like Migs Garcia crunch the numbers and show us why this is all normal math in action and not simply fraud." 

Whether having more scientists would help the public form sound opinions remains to be seen. In the US, for instance, Joseph E. Uscinski in OpenDemocracy writes, "Despite the fact that climate scientists are in near total agreement that climate change is real, man-made, and harmful, about 40 percent of the US population rejects the scientific consensus... ...Democrats came to support climate change not because they sat down and confronted the evidence, read the scholarly journals, and evaluated the climate models, but rather because they accepted cues from their elites (which is exactly what Republicans are doing)...."

All of us, including scientists, are all vulnerable to what is called "confirmation bias". We prefer not only to see but also look for evidence that supports what we already believe. What saves scientists from this bias is that their work are submitted to peer review before being published. Unfortunately, with social media, ideas can easily spread without due diligence.

The election for vice president in the Philippines is quite close. With nearly 96% of votes processed, GMA News reports Leni Robredo leading her closest rival Bongbong Marcos by about 200,000 votes, which is about half a percent of the total votes cast. 

Above copied from GMA News Online
With such a small lead, naturally, there is angst, and, unfortunately, a professor of political science at De La Salle University, Antonio Contreras, has fueled a conspiracy theory by promoting a work done by David Yap, an instructor at the Ateneo de Manila University:

Above copied from Antonio Contreras' Facebook page
Fortunately, in the US, no one questioned the following, as blogged during the 2008 presidential elections:
7:47 pm - McCain's up by 15 in Virginia, with 6 percent reporting, mostly from southern rural counties.
8:06 pm - King's looking at Virginia. A lot of red. McCain's up by 13, with 19 percent reporting.
8:33 pm - Virginia seems to be tightening somewhat. McCain's lead has been reduced to 11, with 37 percent reporting.
10:39 pm - Obama has pulled ahead in Virginia. With 90 percent reporting, he's up 51-49.
The above reversal is expected because election returns are not really transmitted randomly. In the state of Virginia, the northeast region always lags the rest of the state in transmitting results. Northern Virginia is heavily democratic.

The situation in the Philippines is in fact very similar to what happens in Virginia. Instead of plotting the actual lead held by a candidate as election returns are processed, one should look at the lead in terms of percentage of the votes processed, similar to the blogging illustrated above. Using the graph displayed by Contreras, the data can be presented in the following fashion.


With the above graph, it becomes clear that like McCain in Virginia's presidential election, Marcos starts with the lead but actually loses this lead in a monotonic fashion as votes are processed. Votes transmitted early are from regions in the Philippines that are known to be very supportive of Marcos. The data support this explanation as shown by Reina Reyes: