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Showing posts from April, 2013

Shaping Education for the 21st Century

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One could hazard a guess on what the 21st century has in store for the children of today. Most of the current problems and opportunities are visible today and perhaps, will outlast a generation or two. With an exploding human population, the needs continue to rise and resources are fast dwindling. The generations of tomorrow will face substantial pressure for sustainable growth and existence. The technology of today provides glimpses for the shape of employment future generations have to face. Basic education can be reconfigured to prepare the youth to meet these challenges that await them. There is no question that education must be reformed. The remaining question, however, is how.
"Learning to learn" is one catchy phrase. It can be used to describe an education through which a student develops thinking skills. Certainly, this is an ideal objective. How one gets there, how this can be achieved inside a classroom is not as straightforward as it seems. "Critical thinki…

What a Teacher Would Do to Teach Math and Science

In Southwest Washington, DC, a place plagued with problems common to poor neighborhoods, there is a school, Leckie Elementary School, where there is a teacher, Jerrie Hall, who finds creative ways of engaging third grade students into learning math and science. Hall creates special activities that require him to redesign the classroom. At one time, he changed his classroom into an emergency ward where students have to solve math and science problems in order to save patient Charlie Brown. This time, Hall made himself an ambassador from an alien civilization and his classroom into an alien planet. Kids from the southwest section of the nation's capital probably have yet to meet a real scientist. In fact, a lot of these children do not even know anyone who has gone to college. Hall makes a difference in these children's lives by showing them a world different from where they live, a world where there are possibilities and dreams. The following is a video from PBS highlighting ma…

"A Child Without Dreams"

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These are words of Joseph Miles, copied from a Huffington Post blog article, "A Child Without Dreams" by Marian Wright Edelman, president of Children's Defense Fund: I never had dreams as a child, a teenager, or as a young adult. Until 2010, I had never sat in a room and heard people talk about their dreams for the future.I did not come from a loving, nurturing family. ‘Motherf***er, you little ugly mother***er.’ I could go on telling you how I was spoken to as a child but the words will remain the same.There was no one in my life who could have talked to me about dreaming about my future. As I got older, my inner pains turned to anger and that anger turned to rage.In 2006, I got serious about education and just before I got my GED in 2008, I started dreaming about my future -- at the age of 41. That was the first time I had ever had a dream about my future.In 2010, I was part of an undergraduate Inside Out college class ... This class had seven young students from …

Problems and Solutions in Science Education

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The 19 April 2013 issue of the journal Sciencedevotes a considerable section to the state of science education both in the United States and the rest of the world. It starts with an introduction by Hines et al., "Plenty of Challenges for All". The challenges are enumerated as follows:
Use technology to improve pedagogy, management, and accountability. Improve access to, and the quality of pre- and postprimary education. Develop appropriate policies for regulating and supporting the private sector in education. Develop an understanding of how individual differences in brain development interact with formal education. Adapt learning pathways to individual needs. Create online environments that use stored data from individual students to guide them to virtual experiments that are appropriate for their stage of understanding. Determine the ideal balance between virtual and physical investigations for courses in different subject areas.Identify the skills and strategies that teach…

Sesame Street: When Is Something Better Than Nothing?

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What technology could clearly achieve is providing greater access to education. Technology, as in internet, digital video discs, tapes, or network broadcasting, may cost less in terms of scales. Initial production covers much of the cost. Distribution is not as staggering compared to building so many classrooms and hiring so many instructors. This is especially relevant to places where there are no qualified and effective instructors. Technology may not be that advantageous if online sources are only replacing textbooks. On the other hand, if technology is the only resource available that can provide educational intervention, something is better than nothing.
As an example, Rojiyln Q. Bagabaldo, currently the vice mayor of Paete, Laguna in the Philippines, together with the members of the town council (Sangguniang Bayan), provided computer access to elementary and high school students inside the council's hall. When the council is not in session, students are able to work with co…

A Disconnect Between Reformers and Educators

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Teaching is a full time job. It is one job that usually goes beyond the classroom. Not surprising, both grading and planning sometimes even occur inside a teacher's home. With other factors influencing learning outcomes inside a classroom, teaching can easily be a day-to-day struggle. A good question to ask then is whether teachers actually have the time to reflect on what they are doing. Are there ample opportunities for teachers to recharge? Perhaps, this is what the summer break is about. However, rest also takes time.

Some teachers post on blogs. Some teachers even have their own blog. I find these internet pages quite informative. Teachers are sharing their small victories, their aspirations, their struggle, their opinions, their life inside the classroom. One example is Lisa, a kindergarten teacher. She writes on her profile, "I'm Lisa, mom, wife, kindergarten teacher. I love my job and work with some of the best teachers on the planet. I can't imagine doing any…

Functional Literacy and Out of School Children in the Philippines

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Access to education is only the first step. Education for all must be learning for all. It is important to assess a nation's literacy level in order to gauge accurately and properly both needs and current human capacity of a country. To this end, levels of literacy must be clearly defined against standards. These are measures that are only as good as the instruments or tools used. When a nation is supposed to be close to a 100% literacy rate, does this high rate actually agree with day-to-day observations? There are certainly different levels of literacy. My 4-year old daughter can recognize some letters now and my 6-year old son can read children's books. Are they going to be considered literate?

Wikipediadistinguishes between primary and functional illiteracy:
There are two different kinds of illiteracy:
Primary illiteracy: People with primary illiteracy have never learned how to read or write.Functional illiteracy: People who have learned some reading and writing, but not well…

What Will You Do with 5 Billion US Dollars?

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Five billion (5,000,000,000) dollars - this is surely a lot of money. Yes, it is still less than the budget of the Department of Education in the Philippines for 2013 (290 billion pesos). The annual budget of a country's basic education program of course includes not only reform measures but the day-to-day needs of schools like teachers' and other personnel salaries, classrooms, textbooks, maintenance, and others. To spend billions of dollars on a project that addresses one specific factor in education requires careful analysis even if the money is coming from a private source. With a large sum of money, the effects may be quite dramatic. Even with a philanthropic spirit, no one should donate a large sum of money for something that may in fact harm society.

Bill Gates has been paying close attention to the state of public school education in the United States and other countries. Gates' recent efforts center on identifying and developing effective teaching. Quite frankly, …

Statistics and Measures, Test Scores and Performance Assessment, How These Should Be Applied

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When one is prescribed statin medicines, blood tests are required 1-3 months after the start of the treatment. After about a year, the blood tests become less frequent to just once or twice every year. Statins are drugs that interfere with a body's capacity to make cholesterol. Thus, these drugs are usually prescribed to patients that have high risks for heart disease or stroke. The blood tests are necessary to monitor a patient's cholesterol, fatty acids and glyceride levels as well as possible side-effects on one's liver. Advances in health care take place with extensive research and arduous clinical trials. These trials involve a representative sample, extensive enough to allow for conclusions or generalizations to be drawn. In spite of these trials, implementation still comes with a watchful eye of a physician. In statistics, there are outliers and in real life, there are side effects. This applies not only to drugs but also to diagnostic procedures or tests. There is …

New United Nations Development Goal: Learning for All

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Something is not necessarily better than nothing. The United Nations is now aware that even if all children go to school, what these children learn in school can not be taken for granted. Thus, although it is highly unlikely that universal schooling will be attained in 2015, the United Nations is moving to refine its original goal of education for all to learning for all. Access to education alone can not solve the education crisis developing nations face. Equally important is the quality of education. Without quality of education, a child can not prepare for the future. Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, wrote on the Huffington Post:
"But reaching the classroom is only the first step. Every child should have the opportunity not only to go to school but to acquire the knowledge and skills she needs to lead a healthy, productive life, care for herself and her family, and become an empowered citizen. At the national level, countries need workforces with the skills and …

A Harsh Look at Education?

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Combing through the featured blog posts at the education section of the Huffington Post, one does get the feeling that there seems to be nothing out there that is good to hear or read about education:
"If You Believe in Meritocracy, Fund State Universities" by Mark Yzaguirre with the title criticizes the the decrease in funding of state schools. Yzagurre starts by citing an interview of Harvard professor Todd Rose by the Boston Globe where Rose said, "We're supposed to be the country of [virologist] Jonas Salk, right? Jonas Salk's parents immigrated, and he went to the City College of New York, which doesn't charge tuition. We made that bet as a public: If you went to school on the taxpayers' dime, you could succeed. And then Jonas Salk cured polio, and he gave that cure away. The impact of that one innovation changed the world. So for me it's about, if our cure for cancer is probably a Latina sitting in a classroom in Oakland, how do we take advantag…

Attracting Bright Teachers

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I remember spending one evening with other Filipino graduate students in Chicago. We had a guest from the Philippines, Rev. Bienvenido Nebres, S.J. He was on a private mission then, trying to figure out how to attract Filipino talent to return home. One of the students mentioned "a house and lot". At that time, I wondered how many Filipinos who pursued graduate studies in the sciences in the United States actually had some property back in the Philippines. In my case, I knew I had nothing. When I received my doctorate, I received a letter from a former teacher asking that I consider returning home. At that time, I knew my training was not yet done - I was in transition to the other campus of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, to begin my postdoctoral training. Evidently, starting from scratch without anything but a diploma from Illinois was clearly a challenge. I had no influential connections and my last name, although "providential", is not among the Philippines' …