"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

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Poverty's Effect on Education Starts Inside the Womb

Children born in poor families have limited opportunities for learning during the preschool years. This is one reason why economically disadvantaged children are often less prepared for kindergarten and first grade. Poverty, however, harms education long before the toddler years. Poverty's damaging effects are already at work inside the womb. For this reason, economist John Komlos makes the claim that "In America, inequality begins in the womb":
Above copied from PBS Newshour
One parameter that higlights the effects of poverty inside the womb is a child's birth weight. Children born in poor families are more likely to have low birth weight (less than 2.5 kilograms or 5.5 pounds). In Korea, the likelihood of a low birth weight is four times greater in poor families. How a low birth rate affects education has also been examined recently in a study in Copenhagen. This recent work published in Pediatrics looks at intelligence at three adult ages (19, 28 and 50 years old) and extracts its dependence on birth weight. In order to tease out how intelligence correlates with birth weight, adjustments have been made to take into account other possible confounding factors such as gender, mother's age, socioeconomic status, gestation period, birth order, and a smoking mother. The study concludes that there is indeed a strong association between a child's birth weight and intelligence in young adulthood into midlife. The results at 28 years old are shown below:

Above graph based on
Birth Weight and Intelligence in Young Adulthood and Midlife
Trine Flensborg-Madsen, Erik Lykke Mortensen
Pediatrics Jun 2017, 139 (6) e20163161; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-3161
Children born at 3.0-3.5 Kg are chosen as reference in the above graph. Children born at 3.5 Kg on average have IQ scores 5.3 points higher than those born at less than 2.5 Kg. For the same data, one can likewise use socioeconomic status of parents as the category and the difference in IQ scores between the poorest and the wealthiest is about 15 IQ points, suggesting that the birth weight alone does have a significant effect on intelligence in adult life. It is obvious then that addressing problems in basic education must include those nine months between conception and birth.

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Thursday, June 22, 2017

"Let Them Eat Cake" Lipstick for "Not-so-underpaid" Teachers

For 45 Euros, one can buy a pink lipstick inspired by the "opulence of the court of Versailles" and send it to the the Philippines to help teachers in the war-torn region of Mindanao. After all, "teachers in the Philippines are neither underappreciated nor underpaid", according to the secretary of education Leonor Briones. Nikko Dizon of the Inquirer also writes "In times of despair, a clean hijab or a nice shade of lipstick—coupled with basic human kindness — can be one’s source of hope and courage." A paper published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, "What is appropriate and relevant assistance after a disaster? Accounting for culture(s) in the response to Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda", tries almost desperately to make sense of how assistance should be extended to victims of a disaster in the Philippines. It paints a disconnect between the values of international donors and those who are affected, merely deducing it to a disregard of differences in culture. But honestly, would you really follow my advice to buy a lipstick and donate it to victims of terrorism in the Philippines?

Above copied from
Lipstick Queen
Of course not, Philippine culture is not shallow. What is evident is that leaders in the Philippines often resort into facades to hide their inefficiency and corruption. The elite in the Philippines uses seemingly inspiring anecdotes to provide evidence on actions that they take. For instance, the former education secretary used an encounter with a principal in promoting the inclusion of lipstick in relief aid. His eyes were apparently opened when he heard a principal say "Brother, I want to look good when my students will see me. I want them to think that I have recovered so that they will be inspired to also move on." This is the same education policy maker in the Philippines who said:
"... If we look at the old education system, a lot of the subjects included are very alien to Filipinos, especially the sciences and math. I think that’s why in the past several years, we have rated very low in those two subjects, science and math. I think the old curriculum was not really enmeshed with essential elements of the Filipino culture. We have to ask the question: How does a Filipino naturally think?"
Obviously, Luistro is not the only person infected with this disease of turning assumptions into facts by simply making it sound reasonable. The current secretary of education Leonor Briones recently concluded that teachers in the Philippines receive good treatment:

Above copied from The Inquirer
The reason Briones used to reach such a conclusion is the apparent migration of teachers from private schools to public schools. There is a reason why in science we have standards. We know how long a meter is and we know how much mass really is one gram. Without such universal standards, we can easily make arguments that may appear sound but are actually quite erroneous. Whether teachers are underpaid or not can only be answered by asking whether their salaries are in fact adequate enough for their cost of living. Can a public school teacher afford all the basic needs of his or her family? Why teachers from private schools are transferring to public schools may simply be due to the fact that these teachers are simply in a much more dire situation.

Without using standards, one is really at the mercy of misinformation. For this reason, it is not possible to gauge the effectiveness of policies and programs taken by the Philippines. Its new K to 12 curriculum is a great example. One can easily issue a statement that K to 12 is a success, as Briones did in January of 2017:

Above copied from
Department of Education, Philippines

There is no assessment that backs up this assertion. In fact, during the opening of this school year, I happened to see the following post:

Lacanaria was first very impressed with the list of courses under the ABM track of the senior high school of DepEd's K to 12, but when she saw what subjects her daughter was currently enrolled, only Organization and Management was included. This was already after spending one of the additional two years of DepEd's K to 12. Worse, school had already been opened for a week and her daughter had not seen even the shadow of a teacher.

When we are facing an economic recession, we tend to buy traditional inferior goods, go and watch morale boosting entertainment, and of course, beauty products. In a dearth of research-based evidence, we likewise subscribe to mere impressions.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

When Fake News May Cause Harm

Facebook is definitely a place where authenticity is not guaranteed. It is, after all, just one letter different from "Fakebook". "Social media can be dangerous if you think that that's real life", says Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, author of Everybody Lies. He says what people look up with Google is a much better "digital truth serum". And in his analysis, he finds that it is not the politically charged issues that really occupy people's deepest worries or concerns. People care more about their finance and health. This is where fake news can do real great harm. Recent research shows that we are less likely to be skeptical if we think that we are not alone. We are less likely to verify when we are in a social context, somehow feeling secure or "safe in numbers". Combined this with a seemingly "trustworthy" speaker, fake news can indeed be a serious societal problem. There are plenty of examples one can easily find by simply browsing through posts on Facebook. There are cases, however, where the jury is still out. One example is a recent advisory issued by the American Heart Association (AHA).

Above copied from The Huffington Post
The advisory begins with a factual listing of how much of each type of fatty acids is present in various fats and oils:

Above copied from Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart AssociationFrank M. Sacks, Alice H. Lichtenstein, Jason H.Y. Wu, Lawrence J. Appel, Mark A. Creager, Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Michael Miller, Eric B. Rimm, Lawrence L. Rudel, Jennifer G. Robinson, Neil J. Stone, Linda V. Van Horn and On behalf of the American Heart AssociationCirculation. 2017;CIR.0000000000000510, originally published June 15, 2017
The advisory then states, "...because coconut oil increases LDL cholesterol, a cause of CVD (cardiovascular disease), and has no known offsetting favorable effects, we advise against the use of coconut oil." Such statement hinges on the assumption that saturated fats are linked to heart disease. Based on some highly publicized research, this view is apparently wrong. "Saturated fats are not associated with all cause mortality, CVD, CHD, ischemic stroke, or type 2 diabetes, but the evidence is heterogeneous with methodological limitations." This is the conclusion reached by de Souza and coworkers in a paper published in the British Medical Journal. And in a 2013 meta-analysis, Schwingshackl and Hoffmann state that "The present systematic review provides no evidence (moderate quality evidence) for the beneficial effects of reduced/modified fat diets in the secondary prevention of coronary heart disease." However, in a much more recent research article, Zong and coworkers find that "Lauric acid, myristic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, after multivariate adjustment of covariates." Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid. Who should we believe? The perceived absence of a connection in the previous studies between saturated fats and heart disease apparently is due to not considering what people have used to replace saturated fats in their diet. The AHA advisory therefore appears to be a response to a widely becoming popular notion that coconut oil offers health benefits. The title of a USA Today article covering this AHA advisory captures the message AHA wants to deliver.

In the Philippines, a producer of coconut oil, in response to the AHA advisory, Dr. Fabian Dayrit, current president of the Integrated Chemists of the Philippines and the chairman of the Asian and Pacific Coconut Community’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Health, has written the following:

Above copied from
The Integrated Chemists of the Philippines
As teachers, we are very much concerned about our student's ability to verify information they get from the internet. As a society, we should be concerned with how people obtain information regarding issues that are of importance. Unfortunately, even on issues that are neither "Republican" nor "Democrat", progressive nor conservative, atheist nor theist, information often comes with a sales pitch. The reason is perhaps simple. It is not clearly black and white. In "Is All Saturated Fat the Same", Dr. David Katz writes, "In the real world, “all good” vs. “all bad” is reliably more about salesmanship than data."

Monday, June 19, 2017

Poverty and Higher Education

There are plenty of factors that can negatively impact the chances that a child born in poverty will graduate with a bachelor's degree.

Above copied from
Center for Poverty Research, UC Davis
Those born in affluent families have ample opportunities to visit zoos, museums, and even other countries during their early childhood years. Rich children can afford to spend their days in high quality preschools. They are introduced to a greater number of books in their homes. Their parents, unlike those in poor households who are often forced to work more than forty hours a week just to make ends meet, are able to spend more of their time and money with their young children. Poor children likewise spend their formative years in poor neighborhoods. The environment a child grows in is also strongly correlated with a child's chances of reaching college. Schools that provide basic education to these poor neighborhoods also experience the greatest challenges. Like a domino effect, even if a poor child manages to finish high school, graduating from struggling elementary and high schools means limited options in college admissions. These poor students end up enrolling in poor quality colleges.

Addressing all of these truly requires a gigantic effort. Improving outcomes in education clearly involves much more than reforming schools. It requires helping parents and revitalizing communities. And when a poor child does succeed in basic education, higher education must do its part as well. In this area, one can be easily tempted of the simple solution of tuition-free college. This seems socially fashionable these days. Unfortunately, one overlooks the fact that not only do poor children have trouble finishing high school, but when they do, they also have difficulty getting admitted to a high quality college. Recent research clearly shows that admissions officers in selective colleges in the United States are less likely to offer admission to poor students (Lower socioeconomic status (SES) students):

Above copied from
Improving Admission of Low-SES Students at Selective Colleges
Michael N. Bastedo, Nicholas A.Bowman
Educational Researcher
Vol 46, Issue 2, pp. 67 - 77
First published date: March-09-2017
The admission outcomes are improved slightly when officers are provided more detailed information regarding a poor student, factors that are relevant to an applicant's academic achievements. I served once in the admissions committee at Georgetown University and knowing that an applicant, for instance, is a first-generation college applicant, can be an important factor to consider.

Obviously, admission is only the first step. Poor children also struggle in college especially when they are so different from their peers. They need not only financial but also social support to thrive in higher education. The grip of poverty on education outcomes is strong. Solutions are not simple.

Friday, June 16, 2017

On Father's Day: Reflecting on My Role in My Child's Basic Education

One way to gauge the role of a father in a child's basic education is to compare various characteristics of school-age children for those who live with and without a father. A 2008 paper published in Social Indicators Research shows that fatherless children are less likely to be healthy, more likely to have attention problems, more likely to repeat a grade, more likely to be suspended, less likely to receive A's, and less likely to enjoy school. Not having a father seems to correlate with so many negative outcomes. Whether this is a clear proof of the important role a father plays in a child's basic education can still be debated since not having a father often correlates with other factors that are already known to affect a child's education and health. Poverty, for instance, is one important factor and this often correlates with not having a father. Another factor is racism since African American samples represent a significant portion in the studies conducted in the United States. Fortunately, there is now an international study on the effects of a father's absence on a child's cognitive and noncognitive skills that controls for socioeconomic background, measured by the child's mother's educational background. And the results are clear, in all 33 countries, a father's absence is associated with adverse outcomes in children.

The data come from the Programme for International Student Assessment’s release for 2012. Cognitive measures are based on scores on a standardized math exam (Numeracy). Noncognitive skills are gauged by responses to survey questions which generally ask how much a child attributes success to either effort or fate (Locus of Control). The results are summarized in the figure below:

Above copied from
Radl, J., Salazar, L. & Cebolla-Boado, H. Eur J Population (2017) 33: 217. doi:10.1007/s10680-017-9414-8
The effects are negative across all countries and it is apparently bigger for cognitive outcomes. Clearly, the effects of a father's absence on a child's education are not exclusive to the United States. It is therefore not due to being African American. It is not merely a product of racism. And since the above have also been corrected with mother's education and immigrant status, the effects seen above are beyond poverty.

The mere absence of a father unfortunately does not tell why and how these negative effects come about. And of course, as a father, I know that our mere presence cannot likewise guarantee more positive outcomes. The best we can do as dads on this Father's day therefore is to reflect simply on how we can best help our children in their development and schooling. And perhaps, it is no longer our absence that counts, but also our presence. Happy Father's Day to all.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Pictures Help Us Learn..., Or Unlearn...

Reading a science article from a primary source is not that easy. I remember one scientist I worked with at the National Institutes of Health. He often emphasized the importance of figures in an article to his students during group meetings. A well-written piece in a journal is one whose figures allow for a reader to digest the main findings of an article without reading fully the text. For learning materials in basic education, pictures may have other purposes than figures do in a science journal article. Pictures may be present in a child's textbook not only to help explain a text, but also to elicit positive emotions. Figures therefore can be decorative as well as instructive.

Pictures like baby animals can elicit positive emotions.

Above copied from the Denver Post

One can imagine having the above photo accompany a text that discusses endangered species. This picture is both relevant and positive.

In contrast, a photo of maggots does not.

Above copied from The Shiznit
The above photo can be used within a text that describes the life stages of insects. It is relevant but the picture is generally unpleasant.

Recent research shows that relevant and positive pictures (PS) that accompany text actually help learning. Surprisingly, irrelevant pictures (simply decorative) but evoke positive feelings (PW) somehow benefits a reader as well. On the other hand, relevant but negative pictures (NS) are detrimental. And not surprisingly, irrelevant and negative pictures (NI) are worse. These findings are summarized in the following figure:

Above copied from
How Affective Charge and Text–Picture Connectedness Moderate the Impact of Decorative Pictures on Multimedia Learning.
Schneider, Sascha; Dyrna, Jonathan; Meier, Luis; Beege, Maik; Rey, G√ľnter Daniel
Journal of Educational Psychology, Jun 05 , 2017, No Pagination Specified. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000209
Clearly, we need to be thoughtful when composing learning materials in basic education.

Unfortunately, such thoughtfulness is severely lacking in the Philippines. In one textbook for children, there is even a need to add a new category: Incorrect Figures (IF). These images are related to the text, but provide the wrong information. The Cordilleran Sun highlights this in one of its posts:

Mario L. Flores II, Jessica Mariz R. Ignacio, and Rowel S. Padernal are listed as authors of this textbook intended for third grade social studies. The book introduces several indigenous cultures in the Philippines. The boy in the above picture is saying (translated to English), "A good day to you. I am Gambo. I live in Zambales. I like to play with my friends." At the bottom of the drawing of the boy, the caption says "Gambo is an Igorot". The picture is relevant and looks positive since the boy is smiling. Unfortunately, Igorots in the Philippines do not live in Zambales. Zambales is home to a different indigenous group called Aetas. Igorots actually live near the Cordilleras.

This new category (IF) is not included in the recent study on how picture connectedness impacts learning. I am guessing that such category, if included, will have the worst impact on learning, even worse than negative and weakly connected pictures. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Learning from Soccer: How to Improve Instruction

My son belongs to a soccer team that just won first place in their group in the Suburban Friendship League in Northern Virginia. Their team also scored the second highest number of goals, forty six in ten games, in the entire division. Armed only with skills and even talent can only bring a soccer team halfway to winning a game. Good positions and good decisions, and therefore, teamwork is extremely necessary.

Annandale soccer team celebrating their victory
The coach of a soccer team needs to see the field in its entirety and so does his or her players. Every play is indeed a learning opportunity. the coach helps assess every move his or her team makes. And between games, the team goes to practice, reviewing their past games, and studying what the team may be able to improve. Focusing on the importance of maintaining good positions, creating opportunities, keeping possession, and thoughtful defending, are obviously key principles. Still, careful planning, keen observations, and thoughtful revisions as a team are still necessary to improve from one game to the next.

With the above elements in mind, basic education can actually learn a lot from soccer. First and foremost, to become better, a team sports like soccer focuses specifically at improving plays. Improving players simply becomes a side product. Unfortunately, in basic education, we often emphasize improving teachers instead of improving teaching. Hiebert and Stigler wrote in the Educational Researcher:
We examine the distinction between teaching and teachers as it relates to instructional improvement. Drawing from work outside of education on improvement systems and from analyzing the Japanese system of lesson study, we contend that a focus on teaching can shape a coordinated system for improvement whereas a focus on teachers, common in the United States, leads to elements that are uncoordinated and often work against the continuous, steady improvement of classroom teaching.
They found that lesson study in the Japanese education system contains four essential elements:
  • Begin With Shared Learning Goals
  • Develop Widely Used Curricula That Invite Improvement
  • Produce Assessments That Provide Useable Feedback for Teachers
  • Design Professional Development to Enculturate Teachers Into the System for Improvement
Looking at each of these elements brings out an overall theme of "working as a team", similar to soccer. Collaboration among teachers, researchers and administrators is key. 

The school my son currently goes to, Mason Crest Elementary School, is a "A National Model Professional Learning Community at Work!" This is probably not surprising since its current principal, Brian Butler, not only played basketball at George Washington University but also played soccer in high school. We can learn important lessons from soccer, the importance of a shared goal, commitment to essential elements, useful observations and assessments, and practices that develop plays moreso than just simply developing players.

Friday, June 9, 2017

A Gap in Executive Function Correlates with Poverty

By now, we should all be acquainted with academic achievement gaps that correlate with socioeconomic status. Children from poor families start kindergarten behind their wealthier peers by as much as one standard deviation in both reading and math. A recent analysis of nationwide data on young children in the United States reveals that indigent children are also scoring lower in assessments that measure working memory and the ability to switch gears. These mental functions, the ability to hold onto and work with information, and the flexibility to shift one's attention are part of what we call executive functions of the brain. Children immensely develop executive function skills during ages 3-5. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University in its research brief on executive function skills takes note of the following: "Adverse conditions such as abuse, neglect, community violence, and persistent poverty can disrupt brain architecture and place children at a disadvantage with regard to the development of their executive function skills."

Tests measuring different forms of executive function skills indicate that they begin to develop shortly after birth, with ages 3 to 5 a window of opportunity for dramatic growth in these skills. Development continues throughout adolescence and early adulthood.
(Copied from Center on the Developing Child (2012). Executive Function (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu)
Executive function skills are obviously important factors in learning. In addition, a child whose executive function is delayed may appear as belligerent or inattentive, and therefore may be easily labeled as a "troublemaker". Gaps in executive function skills due to poverty are therefore important to recognize so that schools are better able to respond to the needs of these students.

In the nationwide study, working memory has been assessed by the Numbers Reversed task, during which a child is given a set of numbers and is then asked to give back those numbers but in a reversed order. Mental flexibility, on the other hand, is measured by Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS), described in the following figure:

Above copied from
The Dimensional Change Card Sort (DCCS): a method of assessing executive function in children
Philip David Zelazo
Nature Protocols 1, 297 - 301 (2006)
Executive function skills actually include self-control, but is not measured in the study. However, it has already been suggested that poverty also adversely affects a person's self-control. The gaps in both working memory and mental flexibility at the beginning of kindergarten are actually substantial (measured in terms of standard deviation):

Above graphs based on
Racial and Socioeconomic Gaps in Executive Function Skills in Early Elementary School. Michael Little. Educational Researcher Vol 46, Issue 2, pp. 103 - 109. First published date: March-09-2017
The above gaps can be compared to academic achievement gaps. Gaps in mental flexibility is about half of the gaps in reading and math, while gaps in working memory are almost the same as those in reading and math.

Above graphs based on
Racial and Socioeconomic Gaps in Executive Function Skills in Early Elementary School. Michael Little. Educational Researcher Vol 46, Issue 2, pp. 103 - 109. First published date: March-09-2017
What is encouraging is that while academic gaps persist throughout elementary school, gaps in executive function skills narrow such that by second grade, the gap in working memory has already been halved. It is therefore very important to support a child's growing executive function skills as early as possible. Research has shown that a safe and less stressful environment is important. Children learn from adults and developing executive function skills is no exception. Children need models they could follow. Mental development not only requires proper nutrition but also physical exercise. Recess and physical education are crucial periods in kindergarten and elementary schools. Not only do these periods provide physical activity but also opportunities for exploration, creativity and social interactions. Without addressing gaps in executive function skills, tackling gaps in both math and reading can easily become exercises in futility.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Problems Will Only Get Worse with K to 12

A year ago, Philippine Education secretary Leonor Briones lamented that K to 12 must continue. Otherwise, there might be more problems. One excuse she gave was "with or without K to 12, you will have 50% of those who graduate from elementary who cannot proceed – that is the record." In addition, four years had already been spent preparing for the new curriculum. Fast forward to this week's opening of classes, enrollment and dropout figures are unclear. Anakbayan's Einstein Recedes claims that there are now 2.5 million additional dropouts based on 3.9 million students in grade 10 for the school year 2015-2016 and only 1.4 million students enrolled in grade 11 for 2016-2017. This calculation appears to be incorrect since there are only 1.3 million students enrolled in grade 10 in public schools in 2015-2016. The 3.9 million figure is apparently an upper estimate of how many students will be enrolling in both grades 10 and 11 for this current school year. Nonetheless, the numbers provided by the government with regard to how many actually enrolled in grade 11 this past school year are likewise mysterious. At the beginning of the school year 2015-2016, at least one region, Central Luzon, was reporting that 42 percent did not enroll. Magically, right before Briones reported to the Senate, senior high school enrollment for 2016 reached 1.5 million.

Above copied from Rappler
The reason why government figures seem inaccurate can be easily seen by simply following the money. Since there are not enough public schools in the Philippines to offer the additional years of high school, a voucher program has been established.

Above copied from DepEd Secretary Luistro's report to Congress
It is in this DepEd's voucher program that Recedes obtained the projected numbers for senior high school enrollment.

Above copied from DepEd Secretary Luistro's report to Congress
The figure 3.9 million therefore corresponds to what DepEd projects for both 2016 and 2017. The funds allotted for the voucher program for 2016 is 12 billion pesos. Assuming Tier 1 (22,500 pesos per student) at 100%, this funding can support about 0.5 million students, which is far less than half the projected number shown above (Half of 0.8 M - 1.0 M from public JHS to Non-DepEd SHS plus 0.7 M from private JHS to private SHS is 0.75 M - 0.875 M). What is more perplexing is how much of this fund has been spent for 2016.

Above copied from The Business Mirror
607,208 beneficiaries for an actual payment of 3.95 billion pesos amount to 6500 pesos per student, which is even less than the lowest possible voucher amount of 8750 pesos (Tier 3, 50% for SUC's and LUC's). The numbers do not really make any sense at this point. 3.95 billion pesos at the full voucher amount of 22500 pesos per students can support only 0.18 M students. After all, there is a reason why 12 billion was initially allocated. 12 billion pesos can support 0.75 M students at the rate of 16000 pesos per student, the median value of a voucher. What is therefore crystal clear is that the majority of the funds for the voucher program have not been spent thereby casting an overwhelming shadow of doubt on the government's enrollment numbers.

Recedes' numbers for school dropouts may have been incorrectly overstated (so did Al Gore's prediction for global warming, but that does not mean that climate change is a hoax). Nevertheless, the government's figures claiming that the additional years of high school did not force students to leave school remain highly questionable. The Philippine government cannot hide the fact that problems will only get worse with K to 12. The reason is simple. The numbers are shouting at us. As Congressman Tinio explains, "We attribute low enrollment and high drop-out to the alarming shortage of public schools, especially high schools, and the insufficient budget for their maintenance and operations." K to 12 significantly increases the resources required for Philippine basic education therefore exacerbating the problems caused by insufficient funding especially for high schools. There are only 7,000 public high schools compared to 36,000 public elementary schools in the country. K to 12 adds enormous burden to a public high school system that is already sufferring severe shortages. The arithmetic is really quite simple.

During last year's school opening, DepEd secretary Briones asked this question:
"Right now, from where I am, from my own involvement in the 4-year process of preparation, the question that we have to raise is, which is more harmful: to stop it at this time, to suspend it at this time, or to continue and to recognize the deficiencies?"
A main fault in DepEd's K to 12 is its failure to address the major problems in Philippine basic education. It adds years to high school where resources are already problematic. It does not address the fact that a large number of elementary school graduates are not really prepared for high school. DepEd's K to 12 basically demoted its old high school of four years to a "middle school" and created a new high school that is only two years long. If the objective is to lengthen basic education by two years, a much more reasonable place to add these years is at the end of elementary school. And there is still time to change since this school year marks the implementation of the new sixth grade curriculum. Seventh and eight grade curricula have already been implemented. What simply remains to be done is to look again at the four years of high school and adopt a curriculum that is basically similar to that of the United States. Middle school makes a lot more sense than senior high school.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

How Do Math Teachers in the Philippines Fare?

Students in the Philippines have not been participating in international standardized exams for over a decade now. In 2003, fourth grade students in the Philippines ranked 23rd out of 25 countries and in 2008, during which only students from science high schools participated, the Philippines ranked last among ten countries participating. Teachers in primary and secondary schools in the Philippines also partook in the Teacher Education and Development Study in Mathematics (TEDS-M). The results of this study have been recently analyzed and in terms of quality assurance, teacher education in the Philippines does not fare well. In terms of both content and pedagogical knowledge, math teachers in the Philippines are near the bottom.

The following graphs summarize the findings.

Above graph based on
Quality Assurance in Teacher Education and Outcomes: A Study of 17 Countries
Lawrence Ingvarson, Glenn Rowley
Educational Researcher
Vol 46, Issue 4, pp. 177 - 193
First published date: May-22-2017

Quality assurance in teacher education includes:

  • Recruitment and Selection
  • Accreditation of Programs
  • Entry to Profession
The above measure is found to correlate strongly with scores obtained by the teachers on tests that measure their knowledge in mathematics. With regard to content, teachers in the Philippines obtain a low score compared to teachers in other countries.

Above graph based on
Quality Assurance in Teacher Education and Outcomes: A Study of 17 Countries
Lawrence Ingvarson, Glenn Rowley
Educational Researcher
Vol 46, Issue 4, pp. 177 - 193
First published date: May-22-2017
Not only do teachers in the Philippines perform poorly in math knowledge exams, they also score low in tests that measure how well they can teach math.

Above graph based on
Quality Assurance in Teacher Education and Outcomes: A Study of 17 Countries
Lawrence Ingvarson, Glenn Rowley
Educational Researcher
Vol 46, Issue 4, pp. 177 - 193
First published date: May-22-2017
With the above in mind, it is only timely to look back at an old article written by Flor Lacanilao on this blog:

Suggestion to Solve Philippines' Basic Education Problems

by Flor Lacanilao

Friday, June 1, 2012

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]