"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, October 7, 2012

Education Reform Requires Social Reform?

Paul Thomas, an associate professor of education at Furman University, wrote an article entitled "

Is Poverty Destiny?: Ideology v. Evidence in Education Reform

 for the Daily Kos. In the article, two points of view were examined:


In the spirit of his Education Week blog, Living in Dialogue, science educator and activist Anthony Cody entered into a five-part exchange with the Gates Foundation (GF) about education reform. 
These point-counterpoint posts serve well to illustrate the essential difference between Social Context Reformers, represented by Cody, and "No Excuses" Reformers, represented by the GF:
“No Excuses” Reformers insist that the source of success and failure lies in each child and each teacher, requiring only the adequate level of effort to rise out of the circumstances not of her/his making. As well, “No Excuses” Reformers remain committed to addressing poverty solely or primarily through education, viewed as an opportunity offered each child and within which...effort will result in success.
Social Context Reformers have concluded that the source of success and failure lies primarily in the social and political forces that govern our lives. By acknowledging social privilege and inequity, Social Context Reformers are calling for education reform within a larger plan to reform social inequity—such as access to health care, food security, higher employment along with better wages and job security.
 Paul Thomas attributes the difference in perspective to ideology versus evidence. Viewing education reform as separate from social problems is not supported by evidence. And Thomas uses the recent predicament of Chicago schools to hammer the importance of data:
The weight of evidence about the impact of teacher quality on measurable student outcomes shows that teacher quality is dwarfed by out-of-school factors, and the evidence on value-added methods of determining teacher quality is not valid....
"In Chicago, 87 percent of public school students come from low-income families — and as if to underscore the precarious nature of their lives, on the first day of the strike, the city announced locations where students could continue to receive free breakfast and lunch. We need to demand the highest performances from our teachers while we also grapple with the forces that bear down on the lives of their students, from families that have collapsed under the stress of unemployment to neighborhoods that have deteriorated because of violence and disinvestment. And we can do that both inside and outside the schools — but teachers can’t do it alone."
The situation in the Philippines is that of Chicago raised perhaps to orders of magnitude. There are not that many life stories of poor children escaping the social class they are born into. There is no social mobility and schools simply reinforce the inequity already present in society. With these, it is clear that the necessary reform in education must address the factors outside of school. It is obvious that among the first steps is to upgrade teachers' salaries. This is not demanded by education alone, but by social and economic norms. Next is addressing the physical needs of the poor pupils. With poverty as an important factor affecting the quality of Philippine basic education, the correct solutions lie so far from DepEd's K to 12. A new curriculum does not address the sad plight of public school teachers. A new curriculum does not cure the hunger of poor children.
"However, education is not as simple as placing a child in a classroom. Without food, a child cannot process the information he or she is receiving, and without the support of their family, they can struggle to be succesful." http://manonverchot.tumblr.com/post/17263777644/the-value-of-education

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