"Aquino Has No Concern for the Filipino Children and Their Parents"

In the Philippines' Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on the Dengvaxia controvery, officials in the previous administration including former president Noynoy Aquino are labeled as “primary conspirators” and must be held criminally liable for “all the tragedy, damage, and possible deaths” resulting from the Dengvaxia mass vaccination program. Scientists from Sanofi Pasteur, the maker of the vaccine, have recently published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, confirming the higher risk of severe dengue in vaccinated persons who had not been exposed to dengue (seronegative individuals).

The results are summarized in the following figure:

For severe dengue, the risk in vaccinated seronegative individuals is six times higher than those who have not been vaccinated. The Manila Standard reports Aquino's continuing adamancy on this issue:
Former President Benigno Aquino III said Monday the benefits of an anti-dengue vaccine that was administered to 830,000 children under his wa…

"Practice Makes Perfect"

It is an old adage but it is true. There is another saying I got from one of my organic chemistry professors in college, "If you do not understand, memorize". My professor's point is that if one is familiar with something that still needs to be understood, there is a greater likelihood for serendipity. When the time is right, one is simply more prepared. It is therefore reasonable to hypothesize that fact learning is intimately related to higher order learning. A recent study scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychologyattempts to demonstrate that these two are not related, that is, knowledge of facts is not important to develop critical thinking. Here is definitely one instance where one needs to be extra thoughtful with regard to what an experiment is really measuring. Although the title and abstract do suggest that students do not need fact knowledge before higher order learning, examining in detail the experiment and the results does not really …

We Like Marshmallows and We Cannot Wait

Finding relationships between so many factors and a specific outcome is tricky. In the physical sciences, we often have enough control so that we can focus on one element while keeping the other factors constant. In the social sciences, like education, it is generally arduous if not impossible. Thus, we need to be more cautious when presented correlations in this field because more often than not, we can entirely miss the big picture. And with our penchant for silver bullets, we are more than likely to arrive at the wrong conclusion.
A video of physicist Dr. Michio Kaku, interviewed by Tom Bilyeu, has recently gone viral on Facebook. It has been viewed more than 14 million times during the past three weeks. Uploaded by Goalcast, the video comes with this text, "World-renowned physicist Michio Kaku reveals how a simple test using marshmallows can predict how successful you can become." The marshmallow test, first presented by Shoda, Mischel and Peake, measures a young child&#…

What Makes a Good Teacher Happy

More than a decade ago, I met quite a number of elementary school teachers in the Philippines. One of these was a young lady who was also working on her masteral degree. This teacher, Arlene Alegre Inogada, recently posted a photo on Facebook that should be an eye-opener to anyone interested in improving education in the Philippines. The photo, yet so simple, conveyed the happiness felt by a teacher. And to me, the message was clear - if we desire to improve education we must start addressing the needs first. The beginning of this school year was quite special for this teacher because of one simple reason, her students would have textbooks this year.

Focusing on what is important in education is crucial because how we make students learn involves strenuous effort from so many. We require students who are willing to learn, teachers who are committed to their work, parents who are supportive, and a curriculum that makes sense. "But do we really need any more comprehensive, costly …

Are School Vouchers Really Bad?

A study from the United States Department of Education shows that after two years, K-12 students who availed of scholarships under a federal voucher program in the District of Columbia are performing about 10 percentile points lower in a standardized math exam than students who were not in the program. Julian Hellig at Cloaking Inequality uses some humor in relating the above results. He adds famous "fake quotes" inspired by Britney Spears' 'Hit Me Baby One More Time':

“Oh baby, baby, how was I supposed to know” Howard Fuller
“I must confess I still believe (still believe)” Betsy DeVos
“The reason I breathe is you” Mike Petrilli
“There’s nothing that I wouldn’t do” Donald Trump
“It’s not the way I planned it” Matt Chingos
“Don’t you know I still believe” Rick Hess

It is true that students under the voucher program are scoring lower than those who are not, but the correlation between vouchers and poor performance is certainly not generalizable, and the reason behi…

What Schools in the Philippines Really Need

Just before the start of a new school year, communities are again helping out in preparing the classrooms. Of course, some politicians take this as photo opportunities. After all, being photographed while applying fresh paint on a wall may bring the message that something is being done to help basic education in the Philippines. Yes, walls with fresh paint may seem inviting but the challenges faced by students in schools in the Philippines should be addressed with solutions that actually understand and address their problems. The prevalence of poverty, the fact that a significant number of parents are working overseas, and the various tracks now available for senior high school should make it obvious that students in schools need a individual who would offer a listening ear and provide guidance. Students in the Philippines, like students in other countries, need counseling. Yet, the country remains short in the number of guidance counselors. Earlier this year, ABS-CBN News reported, &…

Reading and Visualization

Learning to read is very important in basic education. Reading and listening are ways by which we can receive information and build knowledge. How we process what we hear or read and derive meaning is comprehension. How well an individual can visualize the text is important in both engagement and comprehension especially with children who are just beginning to learn to read. Experiments performed decades ago by Brooks decades ago have shown "a conflict between reading verbal messages and imagining the spatial relations described by those messages." Clearly, connecting reading and imagination does not occur readily. Like other children, my son and daughter like seeing pictures in the books that they read. I likewise enjoy reading cartoon strips. Who doesn't? Illustrations help. With the internet and television, these illustrations can be animated. That makes it even more attractive. Recent research, however, shows that with regard to helping children with language process…