"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

Friday, June 29, 2012

Teachers retain FAILED remarks on PNoy’s Report Card

by Act Phils on Friday, June 29, 2012 at 7:22am ·
PRESS RELEASE: June 29, 2012

Teachers retain FAILED remarks on PNoy’s Report Card as his second year in office as President of the Philippines ends.

President Aquino’s second year in office ends tomorrow and we, teachers, one of his so-called “masters” has not found a reason to celebrate his Presidency. His core program on education, K to 12 is anti-teacher and anti-people in essence.

His “Social Contract with the Filipino People” which was embodied in our country’s 2012 national budget is a contract that prioritizes foreign debt, dole out programs, bloated intelligence funds, and dwindling allocations for social services.

“It is a budget that does not serve the fundamental needs of our people and instead makes use of ineffective measures like the Conditional Cash Transfers and public-private partnerships (PPPs),”Mr. Benjie Valbuena, Vice-chairperson of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) said.

PNoy promised the Filipino people among other things, to improve the quality of education for he considers education as a primary tool to address poverty. But his actions prove it otherwise. He remained deaf and blind to the demands and calls of the education sector.

PNoy’s education program called K to 12, spelled further degradation of our public school system in particular. Government’s neglect of social services like education is reflected in the budget. Diminishing public funds for public education remains a major issue such that our educational system is in perennial crisis.

“Pnoy must prioritize education in a genuine way – in the current budget call and planning, address long standing deficiencies, shortages and call for a higher Salary Grade for teachers in particular. Job creation and poverty reduction will not happen if the same failed globalization policies of previous administrations are retained. There must instead be more democratic income, asset and wealth reform and greater assertions of economic sovereignty in the country’s international trade and investment relations,”” Mr. Valbuena ended.#####


2/F Teachers’ Center, Mines St. cor. Dipolog St., Bgy. VASRA, Quezon City, Philippines

Telefax 453-9116 Mobile 09178502124;09198198930

Email act_philippines@yahoo.com Website www.actphils.com

Member, Education International

DepEd K to 12: By the Dozen

The following is the backpage of the Philippine Collegian Issue 3, Wednesday, 27 June 2012. The Philippine Collegian is the weekly newspaper of the students of the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Education for contractual work --- Workers protest K+12 anew



Asserting their call for the junking of the K+12 education program, workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno held a protest action today in front of a high school in Quezon City, saying K+12 will only seal the fate of the youth as contractuals for big capitalists.

Launching their signature drive against the education program, the workers asked parents waiting for their children in front of the school, as well as the students, to sign a petition.

“K+12 seeks to systematically produce contractuals who receive lower wages and are denied of benefits, job security, and other rights. K+12 will give away diplomas for entry into severe exploitation by big capitalists,” said Roger Soluta, KMU secretary-general.

“K+12’s implementation is another dictate of the biggest foreign capitalists on the Aquino government. Big capitalists seek to re-align the country’s educational system with the demands of their companies so that they can extract bigger profits,” he added.

KMU refuted the Aquino government’s claim that K+12 will improve the quality of education in the country, citing experts who say that the length of elementary and secondary education does not correspond to the quality of education.

“To improve the quality of education in the country, the Aquino government should allocate a bigger budget to education and solve the shortage of classrooms, teachers, books, and subsidy,” said Soluta.

KMU also belied the Aquino government’s claim that K+12 will help ease the chronic unemployment and poverty in the country.

“The causes of chronic unemployment in the country are the government’s so-called employment program and its basic economic policy, not the education system. With the K+12, the Aquino government is modifying the education system with the false hope that somehow, someway, more Filipinos will get a job,” Labog said.

“Contractual employment is a symptom of poverty, not a solution to poverty. K+12 is about generating contractual jobs, and cannot be a solution to poverty,” he said.

“Only genuine land reform and national industrialization can generate decent jobs for the majority of Filipinos. The Aquino government, however, is pursuing the exact opposite of these policies – concentrating land in the hands of a few and destroying what’s left of our industries,” Labog added.

Remedial Education: A Bridge to Nowhere?


The K to 12 program, according to DepEd, answers what elementary school children are failing to learn. The Philippines has performed poorly in the international standardized exams for Grade 4 pupils. Each year, the average scores of elementary pupils fail to reach the passing mark in national achievement exams. It is clear that basic education in the Philippines is not working that well even at the primary level. "Do not leave for tomorrow, what you can do today." This is as old as "First things first".

The video above talks about a valedictorian candidate from an elementary school. The principal is worried that even the top student from this primary school may find high school difficult. With the lack of learning materials and equipment, grade school children are not being prepared for high school. For example, there are more than six hundred elementary school students that share one computer. Most of the time, students see these learning facilities only in pictures. Even the libraries are empty. Thus, it is not surprising that most students do not pass achievement exams. Teachers emphasize that elementary schools really need better facilities. DepEd responds that this lack in elementary schooling will be addressed by the enhanced K to 12 curriculum.

The picture looks even worse when one considers the Quick Counts Data of DepEd on elementary and high schools. High school has less teachers, less classrooms, less desks. Take, for example, the case of Paete, Laguna. The town has three public elementary schools in its poblacion, but there is only one public high school and it is not as big as the three elementary schools combined. At the national level, the number of teachers in elementary schools is approximately twice the number of teachers in high school. If problems in elementary schools are not addressed at the earlier stages, one may guess that problems would only get worse in high school. And if problems remain in high school, we will do remediation in college. Do we know remedial education? The following is a good place to start:


The above reminds me of my years at the Ateneo. During my freshman year, students were placed in English classes. My English was deemed poor so I was enrolled in one of the lower sections. And in those sections, there was apparently a cap in the expected performance of students. Students could only dream of getting C's and D's. I got a D in the first semester and a C in the next. Only my grades in chemistry and math made it possible for me to stay in college.

If we are thinking about remedial education in high school, we probably should look at:


Both papers highlight evidence-based research. The Department of Education in the United States created in 2002 the What Works Clearinghouse with the goal of providing a central and trusted source of scientific evidence for what works in education. Mark Rohland of Temple University writes a description of this clearinghouse in the following:
So what does scientific evidence say about remediation? It is not yet clear what programs actually work but what is clear is that remediation is difficult work. It is difficult in college, it is difficult in ninth grade. 

Do not leave for tomorrow, what you can do today....

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Who Here Wants to Be a Teacher?"

This question was raised by Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg to a group of senior high school students in Manhattan (New York Times, 2011). 2 out of the 15 students raised their hands. In Finland, according to Sahlberg, the number would be about twice as much and with greater enthusiasm. He also noted that being admitted to a teacher education program in Finland is more difficult than getting into either law or medicine.

Sahlberg would probably be surprised if he had asked two Filipino children named Enrico and Danica. The following video is from Rappler.com, introducing us to these two kids ("Meet Enrico and Danica, Child Workers"):

These are the words from Enrico:
Ang pangarap ko ay maging isang titser para maturuan ko iyong ibang kabataan na hindi pa gaano, wala pang gaanong kaalaman (My dream is to be a teacher so that I could teach children who don't know that much.)"
And from Danica:
"Ang pangarap ko po sa buhay ay maging isang guro po. Kasi gusto ko pong matulungan yung mga tao tsaka yung mga bata na walang alam, kung pano magsulat, pano magbasa. Tsaka ipapaalam ko po sa kanila yung tungkol sa child labor po. (I aspire to be a teacher. Because I want to help those people and children who don’t know much, how to write, how to read. And I will tell them about child labor.)"
Both children are among the 5.5 million child laborers in the Philippines. The National Statistics Office and the International Labour Organization reports (2011 Survey on Children: Child labour in the Philippines):

"Preliminary results of the 2011 Survey on Children in the Philippines revealed that of the 29 million Filipino children, aged 5-17 years old, there were roughly about 5.5 million working children, of which almost 3 million were in hazardous child labour. The National Statistics Office conducted the survey with the support of the International Labour Organization and the US Department of Labor." -International Labour Organization 
This survey may not be directly comparable to the statistics obtained ten years ago, but it is quite clear that the number of child laborers in the Philippines is increasing. Congressman Raymond V. Palatino writes in his blog (Poverty and Children):
"These are very alarming numbers and they highlight the ‘heinous crimes’ committed by the state against Filipino children. The crimes pertain to the lack of social services and welfare programs provided to children."
Child labor and school dropouts are very much linked to each other (review the figure above). As Pasi Sahlberg has noted, education reform begins with total commitment to the following:
  • Funding of schools
  • Well-being of children
  • Education as a human right 
The commitment from the public is enormous without any doubt. Even Enrico and Danica are committed to education. The child laborers speak of their dreams of becoming teachers in the future. Teaching is a vocation and in the Philippines, it is a huge sacrifice. We witness this commitment everyday in the lives of hundreds of thousands of teachers who have chosen to serve the youth in the Philippines. We know where lack of commitment lies....
The Lost Children of Ulingan

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Classrooms: An Environment for Learning

The classroom is the centerpiece of a school's education. Inside each room is a teacher and pupils engaging with one another. The main purpose is to create a climate suited for learning. Classroom management could be a challenging task to any teacher. There are times when a teacher needs complete silence and there are times when a teacher wants active participation from the students. The objective is always keeping the attention of the pupils. Both lectures and activities can be held inside a classroom.

In the following video of GMA News, the situation in a school in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan is highlighted. About 500 students are crammed inside a covered court with only portable blackboards dividing the different classes.

The challenges are crystal clear. There are 5 section in grade 4 and 4 sections in grade 3, with each section numbering more than 50 students. The covered court also sits right next to busy roads so vehicular traffic adds considerably to the noise inside the covered court. The statement made by Pangasinan DepEd officials regarding the fact that problems such as this will remain with or without the implementation of DepEd K to 12 is correct:
"...the six division superintendents stood with conviction that problems on the shortage of classrooms, insufficiency of books and school facilities have been age-old problems in most schools — so whether to implement K to 12 or not, these problems would still be present...." 
What the DepEd officials fail to see is that addressing such problems must be first priority. The fact that these problems exist reflect the gross neglect of the government in providing quality education to the youth. The failure to provide the basic needs of public education provides a good measure of how well, or in this case, how bad a government runs its educational system. If the government cannot add 1 + 1, then the government cannot solve for x in (x + 1 = 2). The classrooms in Urbiztondo, Pangasinan provide what quality people could expect from DepEd's K to 12.

We should not be blinded by sound bites like "It takes an entire community to educate a child." Partnerships with the private sector can indeed aid public education but there are responsibilities that rest on the government. One of these is providing an environment for learning. The government can not delegate its primary responsibility of providing the basic needs of public education to the private sector while wasting resources and time on a misguided K to 12 curriculum. The government should not waste its funds paying consultants and preparing new materials for a new curriculum if the implementation of a new curriculum will happen in an environment like that of Urbiztondo Integrated School. The government cannot preach to parents the need to make their homes more conducive to learning when public schools can not do the same. It is true that it takes an entire community to educate a child but that community includes the government.

Changing a curriculum, drawing K to 12, these are all easy tasks. These do not translate directly to the education of the youth. The classrooms and the teachers in these classrooms do. Another sound bite is that "people generally do not like change." People actually do, if the change is for the better. If the government changes the way it treats public school teachers by upgrading their salaries, supporting their work, improving their training, giving them the respect they deserve, the people will embrace this change.

Monday, June 25, 2012

DepEd's K to 12: "Yes" to Rice Terraces, "No" to Mangroves?

"...For those in senior high school, we developed a curriculum based on the Rice Terraces. What we did was embed the engineering concepts of the Ifugaos in the math and science subjects. The Ifugaos already had this engineering knowledge even before the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines. What we’re showing is that engineering is not a foreign concept for Filipinos. If early Filipinos didn’t understand engineering, then they couldn’t have built the Rice Terraces. These early Filipinos already have a hydro and agricultural system that has been preserved for the past 2,000 years. That’s my point when I say that the old curriculum is a little alien for Filipinos...."
-Bro. Armin Luistro, DepEd Secretary

"Posted below is one of my many letters for DepEd to mainstream the modules. These letters were followed up by 3 visits to the DepEd headquarters in Manila (side errands to official trips, as I am based in Iloilo) trying to seek audience with both high  and lower officials of the Department ... to no avail. In short, I was given the run-around. I have a paper trail to show the processing of my request -- actually simple up-down and lateral movements, but no real progress in terms of the mangrove lessons getting an inch closer to primary students (in public schools), their target audience.

Now I read that the Rice Terraces are used to introduce schoolchildren to engineering concepts. The Pew modules likewise use mangroves as an entry point to introduce students to continental drift, earthquakes, tsunamis, storm surges, greenbelts and other scientific concepts/phenomena. No need for DepEd to invest time and money in development, only in reproducing and mainstreaming the modules in coastal primary schools throughout the country. So perhaps someone in this egroup can show Sec. Luistro that the mangrove modules in fact are rich in lessons that can ground a child to his native ecology, specifically, the mangrove ecosystem (and also coral reefs and seagrasses) which is as tropical as you can get. BTW, some half dozen copies have been submitted to various DepEd officials. For any help in increasing mangrove awareness, thank you."

J.H. Primavera, Ph.D. 
Pew Fellow in Marine Conservation
Scientist Emerita 
SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department


Bro. Armin A. Luistro, FSC
Secretary, Department of Education
DepEd Complex, Meralco Ave.Pasig City
Fax 02) 636 4876
                                Re: Request for appointment 16 Nov. or 19 Nov. 2010
Dear Secretary Luistro
May I request an appointment with you in the afternoon of either 16 Nov. 2010 (I will be flying in from Iloilo) or 20 Nov. 2010 ... to discuss mangrove instructional materials for primary schools?
In 2004, I was granted a Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation to conserve mangroves in Panay through formal education (and local governance). So I commissioned the preparation of the Mangrove Resource and Instruction for Elementary Grades Students' Modules and the accompanying Teacher's Manual (enclosed) published in 2009. Since then, more than 2,000 copies of the Module and 200 copies of the Manual have been distributed to 80 coastal elementary schools in the Western Visayas provinces of Aklan, Capiz, Guimaras and Iloilo, and a few in Luzon and Mindanao.
To maximize the returns of this major initiative (total cost of field trips, writing, publication etc. approx. PhP1 million over 3 years), I officially requested then Secretary J. Lapus and also Undersec. V. Labrador to mainstream the modules within the Department of Education by reproducing and distributing the materials to other regions, and by supporting teachers' training. There was no reply to both requests.
Meantime, teachers from the recipient schools find that they lack the confidence to teach the modules despite the available Teacher's Manual. Recognizing this major gap, the Association of Elementary Science Teachers in the Philippines (AESTEP) has initiated such hands-on, field-based training in the use of the modules: 36 local teachers in Nueva Sevilla, Iloilo and 110 teachers in Kalibo, Aklan. However, these are only 146 out of thousands of teachers in Panay! May I therefore discuss with you the possibility of DepEd support for a regional Mangrove Education training for the whole of Western Visayas, in addition to dissemination nationwide of the modules.
I hope you will be available in the afternoon of either 16 Nov. or 19 Nov. (or anytime 20 Nov.) 2010. Thank you.
J. H. Primavera, Ph.D.                                                                                          
Pew Fellow and
Scientist Emerita
SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department

Instructional Modules for Mangroves Education

A. Elementary Level
Module 1  Starting a Walk to the Mangroves Dr. Purita P. Bilbao
Module 2  Mangroves: Growing Forest by the Sea Dr. Crisanto Lopez, Jr. 
Module 3 Mangroves: Take a Closer Look Prof. Ruth L. Gelvezon
Module 4 Mangroves: Our Natural Treasure Prof. Marievic Violeta
Module 5 Mangroves: Our Responsibility
B. High School Level
Module 1 The Mangrove Ecosystem Prof. Jeannemar Genevieve Y. Figueras
Module 2 Mangrove Ecosystem Energetics Dr. Lourdes N. Morano 
Module 3 Man and Mangroves Prof. Ma. Elena Bernadette P. Hojilla
Module 4 Natural Forces and the Mangrove Forest Dr. Edna D. Domínguez 
Module 5  Mangrove Conservation Dr. Carla B. Torre

Dr. Jurgenne Primavera is a Researcher in the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in the Philippines. She holds a PhD in Marine Science from the University of the Philippines. She will use her Pew fellowship to promote protection of the country's mangrove ecosystems, which are threatened by construction of aquaculture ponds and other exploitation. Primavera's message is that mangroves can save lives and property from destructive typhoons, filter out silt runoff that kills coral reefs, provide nurseries to juvenile fish and shrimp, and renew fisheries catches. 
Having spent many years promoting the construction of aquaculture ponds in mangrove areas, Primavera's message of mangrove protection carries significant weight. Primavera will develop educational materials and give thesis grants to high school and college students in the provinces of Iloilo and Aklan, where mangrove loss has been severe. In addition, she will promote improved government protection of mangroves and increased enforcement of current regulations.



The following is another education kit on mangroves, authored by Jens Marquardt and Malcolm Trevena, and supported by The Center for Education, Research and Volunteerism in the Philippines (CERV) and Meaningful Volunteer.

$1B Loan to IMF: Height of Gov't Neglect of Education

 Rep. Antonio L. Tinio (09209220817)

ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio hit the Aquino government’s $1B pledge to the International Monetary Fund’s emergency pool.
Based on the latest Reference Exchange Rate issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the pledge amounts to P42.26 B.
Tinio says that the contribution to the kitty, allegedly for crisis prevention and resolution and to meet the potential financing needs of IMF members, works as a loan for countries mostly in Europe, currently under economic crisis.
“PNoy again displayed the utmost insensitivity to the education sector.  Our country pays its Kinder teachers P3,000 a month, and its  class sizes sometimes bulge to 70 students per classroom.  Our public school teachers are themselves drowning in debt because their salaries cannot keep up with the rising costs of living.  Why would our President extend loans to countries whose Kinder teachers are paid around five times more than ours receive, whose class sizes are sometimes 15 to a teacher?”
Tinio points out that P42.26 B could have translated into a 16.3% increase in the ceiling set by the Department of Budget and Management for DepEd’s appropriations in 2013.  It could have funded additional resources to run his K to 12 Program effectively and with respect to the rights and welfare of teachers and students.  Aquino gave up sufficient allocations for the Universal Kindergarten Education, including P4,453,070,980 for the regularization and bonuses of 20,000 Kinder teachers and about P23.6 B for 34,500 classrooms nationwide.
Tinio also observes that “it is just typical for PNoy to think of ‘poor’ economies in Europe first and not provide for the salary upgrading of teachers, which they have long been demanding.”  The pledge could have answered the budgetary requirements for increasing the salaries of public school teachers from Salary Grade 11 to 15—about P40 B for some 520,000 teachers already in DepEd’s payroll.
Despite gaining the support of more than 180 Members of the House of Representatives, Tinio’s House Bill 2142, or the Public School Teachers’ Salary Upgrading Act, has been lying dormant with the House Committee on Appropriations—waiting for DBM’s comments—since September 20, 2010.
Tinio notes that the $1B pledge is further proof that Aquino’s priorities lie in areas beyond the benefit of the Filipino people.  “In the hopes of raising investor confidence and inviting the US Federal Reserve to buoy our economy—unfounded speculations—PNoy again surrendered the future of Philippine education.”


Paying our teachers well

Rep. Sonny Angara pushes for higher teacher wages
teachersWe all know about the dismal state of education in the country. Aside from the glaringly obvious need to improve school facilities, it is a well known fact that our country’s public school teachers are grossly underpaid.
Imagine having to handle anywhere from 50 to 70 students in an overcrowded classroom, many of which don’t even have the necessary school books or school supplies and being responsible for the molding of the country’s youth, yet getting paid peanuts for it. Domestic helpers abroad make more money in a week more than what a public school teacher makes in a month.
Push to increase wages
Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who is the Chairperson for the Committee on Higher and Technical Education is once again pushing for increased wages for government teachers. He has filed house Bill 395 to upgrade the minimum salary of our public school teachers from an SG 10 to a much more comfortable SG 19.
Poor salary places education in jeopardy
According to the Aurora Representative, “Quality education and healthcare are crucial to improving the welfare of our people as these pave the way for good employment opportunities.”
In an interview with Karen Davila on ANC Hot Copy, Rep. Angara said that the pre-school teachers that the government has only make P6,000 a month. They are technically called volunteer teachers and are given P3,000 per shift.
This salary is certainly shocking, as P6,000 a month is only the price of a pair of imported designer shoes in Manila! How can we expect to attract good pre-school teachers if they are paid only about P250 a day?
Salary Standardization Law III
To address the low wage problem of government employees, especially public school teachers, the salaries of our public school teachers and nurses are subject to an improved pay scale under the Salary Standardization Law III, also known as SSL III or the Joint Resolution 04.
Back in May, President Aquino said that the release of the fourth tranche of the increase would happen a month earlier instead of the schedule in July. According to Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a total pay raise valued at P2.7 billion pegged for 1.6 million government workers would be released as early as June 1. The fourth tranche of this pay increase is going to be rolled out this month.
Minimum salary
According to Rep. Sonny Angara, the minimum salary of a public school teacher in the country is only at P17,255. This falls under salary grade 10 (SG 10). On the other hand, government nurses also suffer from poor wages. They receive P18,549, placing them under SG 11. This figure is well below what is mandated in the Nursing Act of 2002 or RA 9173. This republic act sets the minimum salary of nurses at P24,000 each month, placing them at a salary grade of 15.
As these levels, Angara said that “keeping the base pay for teachers at such low levels actually jeopardizes our efforts to improve our education system. But it’s also a matter of having a competitive pay scale to make teaching a viable long-term career.”
If this pushes through, it would peg the basic salary of public school teachers at P33,000 a month. At this level, perhaps more people would be more inclined to enter the teaching profession. It would certainly be a way to attract the smartest graduates and the most qualified teachers.
Comparable to Thailand
According to UNESCO, the base salary of the country’s teachers is about the same as in Thailand. A veteran teacher will get as much as 94% pay increase after 15 years of work experience.
Other benefits to consider
Perhaps aside from a monetary increase, other benefits can be given as incentives to public school teachers. Aside from good health care insurance, perhaps housing for public school teachers can be given. Allowances for transportation and educational materials may also be given. Maybe they can also be given discounts, much like Senior Citizens get 20% off their food items and free movies.
Companies know that in order to attract the best people, they need to give competitive wages. If we are truly ready to make changes in the country’s education system, then we need to start making the investment for it. We need to put our money where our mouth is.
HB 393
Back in 1991, the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM) recommended that the salary levels of teachers be upgraded from Grade 10 to Grade 17. House Bill 393 seeks to increase it to Grade 19, in keeping with the higher cost of living in today’s times. This will increase the teacher’s salaries by about P6,000. This will boost the minimum salary of public teachers to at least P23,000 a month.
HB 393 is also an act meant to grant additional insurance benefits to all public school teachers. Also called Public School Teacher’s Insurance Act of 2010, the measure seeks to increase GSIS benefits of teachers to a death benefit of P200,000; provide teachers with burial expenses of P50,000; and reimburse medical expenses up to P100,000.
HB 274
Angara has also filed HB 274 An Act Instituting a Program for the Continuing Education of College Teachers. This is meant to amend the existing RA 7784 to help strengthen the education system of the country by providing more training available for teachers. The current law subjects teachers to take periodic merit examinations to determine their competency in professional education, general education and other specializations.
This measure if passed would provide additional training for teachers at least once every five years.
Is it an election move?
Critics claim that this may be a political move since Rep. Angara can no longer run for a congressional seat as he is already in his third term. He would certainly win in the 2013 elections should he manage to pull this off.
Already, the son of Senator Edgardo Angara (who is ending his fourth senate term next year) is placing 12th in the latest Pulse Asia survey.
Give teachers their due
We can no longer say that we don’t have the money to do this. After all, we had one billion dollars to lend to the IMF, didn’t we?
What we are running out of is time. Our teachers are getting impatient and the good ones are leaving for better opportunities elsewhere. In the meantime, our children are not being prepared for the future.
We need to give our public school teachers their due. Increasing their wages, improving classrooms, updating the curriculum and extending the years of schooling are just some investments we can do now to overhaul the education system of the country.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

DepEd's Take on Math and Science

The following are excerpts from an interview of DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro by Philippine Graphic (The K+ 12 Basic Education Program: Helping Filipino Children Adapt to Ever-Changing World). The DepEd secretary states why changes in curriculum are necessary. In K to 12, he emphasizes that teaching in both math and sciences require a Filipino touch:
"... 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? That’s why the heart of the reform of the K+12 Program begins in kindergarten and Grade 1....

...It also involves developing a way of thinking, a way of speaking and a way of looking at reality. Let us take as an example the concept of the olfactory sense in English. Our dialects have a rich vocabulary for what in English is a foul smell. In Tagalog, we have mabantot, mabaho, mapanghi, etc. In English, it’s just a foul smell. And a foreigner told me this. This concept of smell is very critical to science. By using the mother tongue, we would help the children understand such concepts in a way that’s very familiar to them. In effect, the students learn a basic concept in a manner that is natural for them, not alien. The student will eventually understand science as part of his life. It would no longer be so alien that such a simple concept will have to be taken up in a laboratory....

...For those in senior high school, we developed a curriculum based on the Rice Terraces. What we did was embed the engineering concepts of the Ifugaos in the math and science subjects. The Ifugaos already had this engineering knowledge even before the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines. What we’re showing is that engineering is not a foreign concept for Filipinos. If early Filipinos didn’t understand engineering, then they couldn’t have built the Rice Terraces. These early Filipinos already have a hydro and agricultural system that has been preserved for the past 2,000 years. That’s my point when I say that the old curriculum is a little alien for Filipinos....

...Let’s face this fact: a curriculum needs to be periodically reviewed, about once every five years. A curriculum is a way of looking at and understanding the world. The world perpetually changes. If a curriculum remains static despite the changing world, then something is wrong. The key word then is “appropriateness.” We can learn a lot just by looking at our country. We also learn by looking at other countries. But we have to heed the lessons they’ve learned from their mistakes. And by adapting these lessons, we can better prepare the next generation of students to face the world they will live in."

Pasi Sahlberg, a reform expert from Finland's Ministry of Education, wrote an editorial months ago on the Washington Post (What the US can't learn from Finland). He cited three reasons why it would be difficult for the United States to emulate what Finland has accomplished in its basic education. And at the heart of these reasons is not a curriculum, not a teaching style, not the content or method of teaching. These are more attractive since these usually offer lucrative business opportunities, that is, production of new teaching materials, textbooks, hiring of consultants, etc. Instead, at the heart of education reform must be equity.

First, it begins with total commitment to the following: 
  • Funding of schools
  • Well-being of children
  • Education as a human right 
Education in Finland is free from preschool to university. By not providing adequate funds for education, the above will not be met.

Second, "school autonomy and teacher professionalism are often mentioned as the dominant factors explaining strong educational performance in Finland. The school is the main author of curricula. And the teacher is the sole authority monitoring the progress of students."
"Finland is home to such a coherent national system of teacher education. And unlike in the United States, teaching is one of the top career choices among young Finns. Teachers in Finland are highly regarded professionals — akin to medical doctors and lawyers. There are eight universities educating teachers in Finland, and all their programs have the same high academic standards. Furthermore, a research-based master’s degree is the minimum requirement to teach in Finland."
Third, teaching inside Finland's classrooms is no different from good and quality teaching in any other classroom in any other country. It is not so much about Finnish innovations in classroom instruction or state-of-the-art technology. There is conservatism in Finnish schools.

Reforms in education at the national level as described by Sahlberg talk more about equity and emphasize education as a basic human right. The Philippines DepEd, on the other hand, talks about something entirely different....

Canada, as the following table shows, looks up to Finland in its evaluation of its educational system....
Downloaded from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/hcp/details/education.aspx

On the other hand, Canada regards a four year college education in the Philippines as equivalent to only two years of tertiary education.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Quality Is Not in Numbers But in Substance

A request has been recently made by the Philippine government to Canada's Ministry for Citizenship and Immigration to relax its hiring rules for Filipinos. Currently, Canada equates a four year college degree in the Philippines to two years of tertiary education. The request is made in the light of a looming shortage in Canada's labor force. (http://dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/newsroom/dfa-releases/5727-dfa-secretary-bats-for-canadas-recognition-of-phl-earned-academic-degrees-to-spur-hiring-of-filipinos)

At first glance, the recognition of education may be mistakenly regarded as a simple matter of years. And with this cursory perspective, sound bites that translate standards of education to number of years can be propagated. And if repeated enough, this becomes true in the minds of the public. A colleague of mine could not believe that government officials (DepEd division superintendents in Pangasinan) in the Philippines could issue such a statement:
"the six division superintendents stood with conviction that problems on the shortage of classrooms, insufficiency of books and school facilities have been age-old problems in most schools — so whether to implement K to 12 or not, these problems would still be present." 
The statement has just been reiterated not just once, but twice in the website of the Philippine Information Agency.

As a member of a faculty of a university, I have served in both graduate and undergraduate admissions committee. Reviews of applications take time because such examinations, unfortunately, are not just looking at numbers. There are sets of numbers to be seen in applications; grade point averages (GPA) and standardized test scores. If decisions on admissions are based solely on these numbers then admissions committees are not really necessary. Computers can easily sort these numbers out. A correct evaluation of education goes much farther than looking at numbers. Canada equating four years of college education in the Philippines and other developing countries to two years of education is not so much about years, but more about what courses a student actually takes in college.  Taking algebra as a college course does not count much if science and engineering degrees are involved. With regard to employment or admission to graduate programs, courses that fall under General Education generally do not capture the stage. But these courses are in college, even in developed countries, because education does more than prepare students for either employment or graduate education. What admissions committees and employers are looking for is qualification and competence. This, of course, is a matter of quality of preparation a student has received in his or her education. Shortage of teachers, classrooms and learning materials affect the quality of education. There are students who may excel in spite of this great lack, but these are exceptions. That colleague of mine who could not believe what government officials are stating believes that the government must address the basic needs first before venturing into new programs. If basic needs are not met first then it should be obvious that additional years are likewise doomed to fail. 

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has recently issued the following statement:

Despite the various campaigns undertaken by the Department of Education (DepEd) in promoting its K to 12 Basic Education Program, many teachers,  students and parents remain confused, disappointed and dismayed of its implementation when classes in public schools opened last  June 4. 
DepEd proclaimed , there is no stopping the implementation of the K to 12 being pilot tested this school year – not even its legality or the perennial problems faced by students  Education Secretary Armin Luistro said DepEd  “I have been saying this before, if we will not start the program now, when?”
“Pnoy and Luistro remain deaf and blind on the realities on the ground”, Ms.France Castro, Secretary-general of ACT said. Opposition on the implementation of K to 12, now on its second phase, sparked anew when shortages in basic inputs, particularly in classrooms, teachers, and sanitation facilities greeted most of the 21.49 million students in public schools this year. 
Teachers from Alliance of Concerned Teachers ( ACT) are calling on the DepEd and the President to stop the K to 12 program because it is not a solution to our educational system’s problems.  The lack of readiness to implement the K to 12 is evident with the faulty curriculum and insufficient funds to cover the basic inputs such as shortages on teachers, classrooms, textbooks, chairs and sanitation facilities. 
“If President Aquino is genuinely concerned on the quality of our education, he should   not blindly follow the dictates of monopoly-capitalists., address our own problems and get real,” Ms. France Castro ended.

The group of teachers will hold a dialogue with President Aquino on Tuesday afternoon (3 pm) June 26, 2012. I hope their voices are not only heard but heeded. 

Finland has been sharing its success story with developed countries. And some educators in the United States are listening. Linda Darling Hammond writes:

"One wonders what we might accomplish as a nation if we could finally set aside what appears to be our de facto commitment to inequality, so profoundly at odds with our rhetoric of equity, and put the millions of dollars spent continually arguing and litigating into building a high-quality education system for all children. To imagine how that might be done, one can look at nations that started with very little and purposefully built highly productive and equitable systems, sometimes almost from scratch, in the space of only two to three decades."
Finland has nine years of basic education:

Source: The Education System Chart is published by The Finnish National Board of Education.
 And Finland's foundation for its basic education rests on its teachers:


"....Finland has created an inspiring and respectful environment in which teachers work. All teachers are required to have higher academic degrees that guarantee both high-level pedagogical skills and subject knowledge. Parents and authorities regard teachers with the same confidence they do medical doctors. Indeed, Finns trust public schools more than any other public institution, except the police. The fact that teachers in Finland work as autonomous professionals and play a key role in curriculum planning and assessing student learning attracts some of the most able and talented young Finns into teaching careers." 
-Pasi Sahlberg

While in the Philippines....

"....How can we attract and retain good teachers in basic education? Besides raising their salaries and restoring their professional pride, we should also upgrade the normal schools and colleges of education: these are our primary fields of recruitment. Pero tila mababa rin ang kalidad ng mga ito. UP professors have complained that the knowledge levels of BSE degree holders who are taking graduate courses is pathetic. They seem to have mastered the techniques of teaching but not the subjects they are supposed to teach...."
Francisco Nemenzo Jr., former president, University of the Philippines


PRESS RELEASE: June 26, 2012

Spokespersons: Ms. France Castro, Secretary General, Cellphone No. 09178502124

Mr. Benjie Valbuena, Vice-Chairperson; Cellphone Nos.:09182399222;09162294515
Media Liaison – Zenie Lao, Cellphone No. 09198198903

Teachers hold a rally at Mendiola Bridge to press action on President Aquino’s unfulfilled promises for the education sector

President Aquino will celebrate his second year in office as President of the country on June 30th. But we, teachers, one of his so-called “masters” has not found a reason to celebrate his Presidency.For one, he had snubbed our call for dialogues in the past.

We are supposed to have a dialogue with him today but again even booking an appointment with him is getting close to impossible. Hence, he lost his chance to explain himself before us prior to his delivery of State of the Nation Address (SONA) next month.“With this development, President Aquino’s “FAILED “mark on his Report Card from the “University of the People” stays. His eyes are fixated on other nations’ predicament. Actually, he went overboard. He committed $1B for IMF which could have been used to cover basic shortages in our education system,” Ms France Castro said.

Instead he must focus on and give more time, funds, resources and prepare the implementation and development of Quality Kinder Education as the foundation of basic education for the Filipino youths.PNoy promised the Filipino people among other things, to improve the quality of education for he considers education as a primary tool to address poverty. But his actions prove it otherwise. He remained deaf and blind to the demands and calls of the education sector.PNoy’s education program called K to 12, spelled further degradation of our public school system in particular.

Government’s neglect of social services like education is reflected in the budget. Though DepEd had the biggest allocation for 2012, the P238.8 B budget is still insufficient to address the shortages. It is crucial to note that the increase remains grossly insufficient in addressing the needs of basic education alone. Diminishing public funds for public education remains a major issue such that our educational system is in perennial crisis.If many so-called education reformers really want to close the student achievement gap, they should direct their fire away from public school educators and take aim at the real issue—poverty.

This crisis only confirms that the Philippines have yet to liberate itself from the age-old problems, which have plagued it in the economic and political spheres. The much-trumpeted new epoch of free competition and borderless economies has not resulted in any real development but only in a more intense form of economic domination and exploitation of the poorer countries by the advanced capitalist countries.

We, teachers must work together with the basic sectors to get PNoy’s full attention. The parliament of the streets has been a tested formula to effect changes. Our rally today which symbolizes our thirty years of existence for genuine service to the teachers and our Motherland is another step forward to gain more victories for the education sector and the Filipino people in general.

“Hence, this administration must heed our call to Scrap Pnoy’s K to 12 which is foreign oriented, has no quality and an additional burden on teachers, children and parents! Promote the formulation of a nationalist, scientific and mass oriented education,” Ms France Castro ended.