"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, February 10, 2013

An Evaluation of This Blog

This blog started in April 2012. In less than a year, it has over 200,000 page views. Google shows that this blog appears near the top of the list on search pages that use keywords related to basic education especially in the Philippines. In fact, most of the visits, now totaling more than 100,000 are from the Philippines:
Recently, this blog was submitted to Teach100, a resource that helps educators find the most relevant education blogs across the world wide web. Teach100 is a service provided by the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. This blog did not make it to the top ten, of course:


This blog, Philippine Basic Education, however, managed to land in the upper half of the entire list. Teach100 currently has reviewed 217 education blogs.

The criteria used by Teach100 in ranking education involve four different parts as shown in the four separate columns above. Forty percent is determined by the social activity (this is measured by numbers of comments, shares, likes, etc.). The next twenty percent is a reflection of how frequently articles are posted on the blog. Another twenty percent is assigned to "authority" as deciphered from the number of other web sites linking to the blog, which is similar to one of the ways Google ranks web pages. The remaining twenty percent is decided by the Teach100 staff:
"This is the single subjective factor in the evaluation of the Teach100. The Teach Score considers how media is used throughout a blog, how topics in education are discussed, the timeliness of blog content, the capacity to inform, and the overall presentation of the blog."
This blog is assigned 16 out of the 20 points possible under this column. Out of the 217 blog sites that have been reviewed only a few have received 17 or higher in this category:


All of the above are among the top 30 education blogs. The Khan Academy, currently ranked #74, also received 16 points in Teach Score. Thus, it is gratifying to see that our blog is regarded highly in a category that actually involved peer evaluation as opposed to a simple algorithm.

Over the recent months, this blog has been highlighting several factors that influence basic education. Reading one post from this blog is perhaps inadequate to get the overarching themes. I am therefore taking this opportunity to highlight these in this post.

Teaching and learning involve persons. It involves communities. Thus, it is diverse. In the social sciences of psychology and economics, generalizations need to be always carefully drawn. Oftentimes, statistics is employed, and in these cases, it is important to note that if conclusions are ever drawn, these are only statements for what is most probable. A teacher is confronted by a concrete situation. The classroom is real and it is filled with children. These children live in homes. They have families that live in a community. Hence, it is only reasonable to expect teachers learning on the job, finding the ways that work best, and embracing these experiences as truth. It is. There is, of course, no question about that. In fact, teachers must innovate and apply what they know to specific conditions faced by their students. 

If I may use an analogy, I will cite a recent health care issue. This concerns the current governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Christie
A former White House physician, Dr. Connie Mariano, provided an unsolicited opinion on the governor's health:

The doctor, without personally examining Christie commented that because of the governor's current overweight condition, the governor may die while in office. The doctor here was clearly out of line. Governor Christie made his point clearly and the governor is right. The governor did not go beyond himself, however. No claim was made that obesity is not a medical problem. It is, in general. To deny that goes against science. Thus, we indeed find truths that are quite exclusive. Generalizations need to be applied carefully to specific situations in health care. So what is really the role of science here? Science is the discipline that guides us in drawing generalizations from specific situations. I hope we do see this very important point. I think it works the same way in education.

A teacher can indeed find his or her way of making students learn more effectively. A teacher can create a learner-centered environment. In fact, this is a very responsive system in which a teacher does utilize all possible forms of feedback to fine tune his or her teaching styles. There are strategies out there that a teacher may try and there are strategies that simply come out of experience. Finland's educational system prides itself with seven elements of education reform, one of which, is diversity:
The school network is based on the idea of inclusive education that promotes diversity in schools and classrooms. Steering of teaching and learning has never been based on written standards, but rather upon guidelines encouraging creative solutions within increasingly diverse social and human environments.
Applying specific solutions to specific situations is responsible. This is one reason why teachers must be professionals, independent enough to tackle the specific challenges of their classrooms.

Diversity, however, does not provide the entire human picture. We are in fact more similar than different, thus, paving way for generalized approaches. This is where science comes in. At least, this is how it works in health care. Controlled studies are designed and these studies are examined and peer-reviewed. If a policy is to be applied to the entire population, the voice of science must be heard.  This involves a much larger scale and the question of whether something is transferable needs to be addressed. It involves greater resources and affects everyone. This is what this blog is about. With over 300 posts, the overarching themes are the following:
  1. Teachers are key to learning. They need independence and support. 
  2. Early childhood learning is the most important period of basic education.
  3. Science must be introduced to young children. It needs to be constantly nurtured throughout the years.
  4. Poverty affects learning in so many ways, but poverty in schools, if properly addressed, could alleviate poverty's negative effects.
The above themes appear to be general. Teaching is a life-long learning process and so is this blog. The journey continues....



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