"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, June 30, 2013

Malaybalay City, Bukidnon-DepEd charging for classroom learning packages?

by Joy Rizal

I recently learned of some disturbing issues regarding this school year’s (2013-2014) text books / learning packages which the schools are suppose to be using. (The Learning Packages, which are essentially low budget workbooks, are to be used until next year or perhaps the following school year when standard textbooks should be available.)

According to a recent news article in several national publications senior DepEd officials have stated several times that throughout the nation there should be no shortage or a very small shortage of text books /learning packages available for students this school year. Here is one example:

DepEd: No more shortage of classrooms, teachers

MANILA, Philippines - There will be no more shortage of classrooms, teachers and textbooks in public schools this coming school year, the Department of Education (DepEd) said yesterday.
DepEd Assistant Secretary for Planning Jesus Mateo said the government is building 34, 131 classrooms, which is enough to erase the backlog this year.
Mateo, however, said the government would continue to construct classrooms to accommodate the increase in enrollment every school year.
He there will also be no shortage of teachers with the hiring of 61,510 additional teaching personnel this year.
“As of last school year, the book-student ratio is 1:1 in both public elementary and secondary schools,” he said, adding that there is no more backlog in school seats.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

What Applies to Teachers Do Not Apply to Administrators....

"Evaluations" have become a big word in schools. Teachers need to be held accountable for what they do. If a class is not reaching the goals set by a curriculum, should we place the blame fully on educators. While educators are being subjected to evaluations, it is disconcerting that the administrators are not. The Wall Street journal recently published an article, "New York City School Chiefs Get Informal Job Checks: Top School Administrators Haven't Been Subject to Formal Evaluations".
The figure above downloaded from Science Archives

Friday, June 28, 2013

Early Childhood Teachers: Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

I was a senior in high school and was participating in a regional Science Fair when I just happened to see my physics teacher from third year high school. It had been months since I last saw her and we chatted about out class. She shared with me her impressions of our class, specifically what she thought about me. She said I was a "late bloomer". Nevertheless, she saw some potential. Well, I did not become a physicist. I settled for physics' blithe sibling, chemistry. I am using here the words of Nobel laureate Dudley Herschbach who recalls in a paper remarks such as "A topic is dead when it has been turned over to the chemists."

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Dan Brown is currently serving as a teacher ambassador fellow. He is currently on leave from his teaching duties so that he can give a voice to educators in policies being drawn by the government. Dan Brown recently interviewed US secretary of education Arne Duncan on the topic, "Perceptions of Teachers":

Related to this, the US Department of Education has recently released a report called "Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching (RESPECT)":

The following is a brief description of RESPECT:
To support this vision, the U.S. Department of Education has begun working with educators—teachers, school and district leaders, teachers’ associations and unions, and state and national education organizations—to spark a national conversation about transforming education for the 21st century. We call it the RESPECT Project. RESPECT stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching. Educational Success recognizes our commitment to improving student outcomes. Professional Excellence means that we will continuously sharpen our practice and that we will recognize, reward, and learn from great teachers and principals. Collaborative Teaching means that we will concentrate on shared responsibility and decision-making. Successful collaboration means creating schools where principals and teachers work and learn together in communities of practice, hold each other accountable, and lift each other to new levels of skill and competence. 
There is no one path to success. Different districts, schools, principals, and teachers will take different approaches to achieving the vision. Our goal is for a national conversation about the RESPECT Project to serve as a catalyst for remaking education on a grand scale. To do so, we must lift up the accomplished teachers in our classrooms and bring in a new generation of wellprepared, bright young men and women. Together these teachers will make education a valued and respected profession on par with medicine, law, and engineering. We must staff our schools with strong principals who nurture and develop great teaching. And we must take a wholesystem approach to support these teachers and principals in our schools. By transforming the teaching profession, this country’s most important work will become our most valued work.
RESPECT identifies the following seven critical components:
  1. A Culture of Shared Responsibility and Leadership
  2. Top Talent, Prepared for Success
  3. Continuous Growth and Professional Development
  4. Effective Teachers and Principals
  5. A Professional Career Continuum with Competitive Compensation
  6. Conditions for Successful Teaching and Learning
  7. Engaged Communities
The following is a video describing RESPECT from the voices of teachers:

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Do the Wealthy Have a Different Perspective on Education?

I came across a recent article on Perspective on Politics. The article is the following:

Democracy and the Policy Preferences of Wealthy Americans

Benjamin I. Pagea1, Larry M. Bartelsa2 and Jason Seawrighta3

a1 Northwestern University. E-mail: b-page@northwestern.edu   a2 Vanderbilt University. E-mail: larry.bartels@vanderbilt.edu  a3 Northwestern University. E-mail: j-seawright@northwestern.edu
It is important to know what wealthy Americans seek from politics and how (if at all) their policy preferences differ from those of other citizens. There can be little doubt that the wealthy exert more political influence than the less affluent do. If they tend to get their way in some areas of public policy, and if they have policy preferences that differ significantly from those of most Americans, the results could be troubling for democratic policy making. Recent evidence indicates that “affluent” Americans in the top fifth of the income distribution are socially more liberal but economically more conservative than others. But until now there has been little systematic evidence about the truly wealthy, such as the top 1 percent. We report the results of a pilot study of the political views and activities of the top 1 percent or so of US wealth-holders. We find that they are extremely active politically and that they are much more conservative than the American public as a whole with respect to important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs. Variation within this wealthy group suggests that the top one-tenth of 1 percent of wealth-holders (people with $40 million or more in net worth) may tend to hold still more conservative views that are even more distinct from those of the general public. We suggest that these distinctive policy preferences may help account for why certain public policies in the United States appear to deviate from what the majority of US citizens wants the government to do. If this is so, it raises serious issues for democratic theory.

Monday, June 24, 2013

K to 12, 13 Years of Basic Education

There are two major opinions regarding basic education. It prepares students for a career or employment. It is also viewed as a stepping stone to higher education or college. Whatever the objectives are, basic education is universally composed of stages. This is how human learning works. We learn to walk before we learn to run. Knowledge and skills are both cumulative. With this in mind, whether basic education is aimed at a vocation or college education becomes irrelevant. The "basic" in basic education means that the early stages are meant to serve both tracks. For this reason, when basic education is failing it is important to pinpoint where the problem is first evident. Not doing so denies completely the fact that education is very much akin to climbing a ladder.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The STEM Situation in the United States

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) play a vital role in industrialized and knowledge-based economies. Thus, there is particular attention to these fields when a country weighs its current standing in the global economy. The president of the United States spent several sentences on this issue in his inaugural speech months ago. STEM issues, however, are not easily distilled or summarized in a simple picture. Very recently, the Economics Policy Institute (EPI) published a paper that suggested that in terms of the STEM workforce, the United States actually does not face a serious shortage. In "Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market", Salzman, Kuehl and Lowell demonstrated by analyzing current statistics on both education and employment that "the United States has more than a sufficient supply of workers available to work in STEM occupations."

The following figures copied from the EPI paper illustrate the arguments made by the authors. First, although the US may seem lagging behind other countries in international exams on math and the sciences, the US still holds a significant share of the best performing students in these fields:

Shares of OECD countries’ high-performing students

Above figure copied from "Guestworkers in the high-skill U.S. labor market"

Friday, June 21, 2013

Global Competitiveness through Education

In May of 2012, China launched its first National Early Childhood Development (ECD) Advocacy Month. UNICEF-China reported:
"By making early childhood education and development a clear government priority, China is taking a momentous step toward ending the inter-generational cycle of poverty, achieving the Millennium Development Goals and brightening the future for all of its citizens.” said UNICEF Representative to China, Ms. Gillian Mellsop. 
A body of scientific evidence shows that quality early childhood development is vital to children’s optimal physical, mental and emotional growth. Yet according to official statistics, only around half of young children in China have access to preschool education. Preschool attendance rates are even lower in rural areas.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Social and Emotional Learning

In examining public school education, one can focus on academics alone and sadly lose sight of other important dimensions of child development. A child is expected not only to master reading, writing and arithmetic but also grow healthy - both physically and emotionally. Society requires not only critical thinking but social skills as well. And since character especially self-control is correlated with better learning, a child whose physical, emotional and social needs are met is likewise more likely to do well in academics. Those who advocate for these additional dimensions in learning may be quick to ask for special programs or additional subjects in school. These, however, are not necessary. Social and emotional learning can be integrated inside lessons and activities in reading, writing, math, arts, music, science and social studies. The trick is building and nurturing a special bond between a child and the school. A school is no different from a home. Inside each classroom is also a place to represent, reason and relate. Instructional practices that provide opportunities for team work and sharing, and greater family involvement so that parents and teachers work together pave effective routes for establishing such special relationship between a child and a school. These efforts genuinely make a child feel belonging to a classroom, a small yet representative section of the community.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

If Students Do Not Learn, Schools Should Pay

What a concept! An idea such as this makes me realize that solving problems in education does require society to change. How education is viewed by society guides how schools are reformed. Education is a right and therefore must be accessible to all. The same goes for health care. These rights, however, come with responsibilities. Both education and health care can not be narrowly viewed as other services or goods that we buy from a store that come with "satisfaction guaranteed":

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Differentiating Instruction to Engage Learners

Sitting still inside a classroom while trying to listen attentively to an instructor for consecutive 50-minute blocks with only ten minutes to go from one classroom to the next could be challenging to an adolescent. Most of us remember our high school years as days when we really began learning more about ourselves and our relations to others. In high school, there seems to be a growing need to become more active learners inside a classroom. At the same time, there is now a desire to become more social. Science laboratory classes seem cool when done in groups and students work side by side on a given task. It is more active. It is much more engaging. Besides, we can then chat about things other than the subject we are trying to learn.

A high school classroom in the Philippines, crowded yet full of energy

Monday, June 17, 2013

Animation : Illusion of Understanding

There are times when I do something out of the ordinary in my General Chemistry class. I would ask for five volunteers, four females and one male. The five would stand in front of the class with the male student surrounded by the four female students. I would given them a piece of chalk. I would then turn my back and instruct the volunteers to pass around the piece of chalk among themselves and let me know when they had decided who would keep it. I then had to guess who among the five was holding the piece of chalk. Unless I was lucky, I would not be able to guess correctly. That stroke of luck did not happen that often so I would ask one of the girls to return to her seat so that now I would have to guess only from four individuals. Still, one in four was still not good and I would request another one among the volunteers to return to her seat. One in three provided better chances and of course, as I asked another volunteer to sit down, I would now have a 50:50 chance of guessing who had the chalk. After this brief exercise, I would ask the entire class a rhetorical question, "Was there was a point behind this activity?" And I would say, "Nothing, I just wanted to wake you all up." At this point I would show them the following figures I created on my webpage:

Acid-Base Behavior and Chemical Structure

Perchloric acid (Strong Acid)

Chloric Acid (Ka = 1)

Chlorous Acid (K= 1.1 x 10-2)

Hypochlorous Acid (Ka = 4.0 x 10-8) 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

All the Mangyans Want Is for Their Children to Learn

Formed in 2009, Haggibat, the organization of Mangyan tribes, has caused the building of 16 to 18 literacy schools among seven tribes in communities in the uplands of Mindoro. But all their efforts would come to naught if the military would continue to harass them to stop them from organizing against the operations of mining firms.

7 June 2013

MANILA — Every opening of the schoolyear, the spotlight is focused on the public school system’s lack of classrooms, books and toilets. Often though, the spotlight misses the school situation of indigenous children. For children of the Mangyan, an indigenous people’s group comprising seven linguistic tribes in Mindoro, school opening is marked by an even more basic set of problem — they do not have schools nearby.

Mangyan children share stories during the Mangyan Day gathering of 7 tribes in Mindoro (Photo by M. Salamat / www.bulatlat.com)

If the lack of classrooms afflicts ordinary Filipino children, Mangyan children who live in far-flung areas frequently do not have formal schools at all, resulting in a far worse illiteracy incidence among the Mangyan. This, in turn, leads to the tribe’s further marginalization.

Mangyan's Lit-Num Schools Face Seemingly Insurmountable Challenges

The schools of the Mangyans have to deal with shortages, water being cut off during heavy rains, and harassments from the military. But they persist and are even planning to expand.

7 June 2013

MANILA – Edgar Banaw, 25, a Hanunuo-Mangyan, has been teaching at the literacy school of their community in Sitio Gaang, village of Panatayan, Mansalay, Mindoro. He is called a “para-teacher,” as he is not a licensed teacher under the Professional Regulatory Commission. But for five years now, he has been teaching Mangyan children in their sitio or sub-village the “nine basic lines, the Filipino alphabet, numeracy and literacy.” Banaw was encouraged to teach by fellow Hanunuo and pioneer lit-num teacher in Mansalay, Ernie Uybad. Two years older than Banaw, Uybad first taught Mangyan children and even elders to read and write in 2007.
Uybad first taught in another sitio after talking with Mangyan leaders, and then he became a volunteer-teacher under the Integrated Development Program for Indigenous Peoples (IDPIP) of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP)-Southern Luzon Jurisdiction. He took seminars on teaching and school administration. He trained other Mangyans to become teachers and one of them is Banaw.

Hanunuo Mangyan teachers share teaching challenges, aspirations (Photo by M. Salamat / Mangyan Day 2013 / www.bulatlat.com)

Shy and soft-spoken, Banaw describes his pupils, the children as energetic, sometimes to the point that classes are disrupted. But if he has any problem with the children, he said, he just talks to the parents. The problem is usually acted upon immediately.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Introducing a New Curriculum

With the introduction of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in the United States, it may be worthwhile for the Philippines to examine and observe how a new curriculum is implemented. The changes in the United States public school education are not as dramatic as the Philippines DepEd's K to 12. CCSS involves new standards for mathematics and english language arts. On the other hand, the new curriculum in the Philippines includes addition of kindergarten plus two years at the end of high school, mother tongue based - multilingual education, and a spiral curriculum for both math and science. CCSS is therefore so much smaller and yet, the discussions and consultations are wider and deeper in participation. When the draft of CCSS was made public back in March 2010, nearly 10,000 people provided feedback (half were K-12 teachers). And after almost three years, the discussion continues. Recently, the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center, with support from the Hewlett Foundation, published a survey of K-12 teachers' views on the new CCSS:

Thursday, June 13, 2013

School's Out for Summer

Well we got no choice all the girls and boys
Makin' all that noise 'cause they found new toys
Well we can't salute ya, can't find a flag, if that don't suit ya that's a drag
School's out for summer, school's out forever, school's been blown to pieces
No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks
Well we got no class and we got no principals and we got no innocence
We can't even think of a word that rhymes
School's out for summer, school's out forever, my school's been blown to pieces
No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks
Out for summer, out till fall, we might not come back at all
School's out forever, school's out for summer
School's out with fever school's out completely

This is Alice Cooper's song. From Wikipedia:
Cooper has said he was inspired to write the song when answering the question, "What's the greatest three minutes of your life?". Cooper said: "There's two times during the year. One is Christmas morning, when you're just getting ready to open the presents. The greed factor is right there. The next one is the last three minutes of the last day of school when you're sitting there and it's like a slow fuse burning. I said, 'If we can catch that three minutes in a song, it's going to be so big.'"

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Philippines: Among Top Five Countries for Number of Out-of-School Children

Based on a recent report from UNESCO's Institute for Statistics more than 57 million children are denied the right to primary education. Nigeria tops the list with 10.5 million out-of-school children. The top five countries are: Nigeria (10.5 million); Pakistan (5.1 million); Ethiopia (2.4 million); India (2.3 million) and the Philippines (1.5 million). The following dynamic map of Southeast Asia shows where the Philippines currently stands compared to its neighbors:

Out of school data for the other countries in the region are as follows: Thailand (611,000); Lao (23,000); Cambodia (73,000); Vietnam (121,000); Indonesia (236,000).

False Dichotomies in Education

We have heard the debate on content versus higher order thinking. Pause for a moment and ask if a person can really exhibit thinking at any level without content. This is really a false dichotomy. Thinking and content go hand in hand. This brings me back to a classic paper written by Hung-Hsi Wu, professor emeritus of mathematics at the University of California in Berkeley. Wu's paper is entitled "Basic Skills Versus Conceptual Understanding: A Bogus Dichotomy in Mathematics Education". Here are excerpts from this paper:

Looking back at a previous post in this blog, "Making Sense Out of Numbers: Math Common Core", one can appreciate better the following:

The Mathematics Common Core provides specific content and practices, yet it allows for teachers to do the final finishing touch so that it will be effectively implemented inside the classroom. Is this for real? Barry Garelick wrote in the Atlantic back in November of last year the following article, "A New Kind of Problem: The Common Core Math Standards". First, here are his comments for the first 97 pages of the Math Common Core Standards:
Let's look first at the 97 pages of what are called "Content Standards." Many of these standards require that students to be able to explain why a particular procedure works. It's not enough for a student to be able to divide one fraction by another. He or she must also "use the relationship between multiplication and division to explain that (2/3) ÷ (3/4) = 8/9, because 3/4 of 8/9 is 2/3." 
It's an odd pedagogical agenda, based on a belief that conceptual understanding must come before practical skills can be mastered. As this thinking goes, students must be able to explain the "why" of a procedure. Otherwise, solving a math problem becomes a "mere calculation" and the student is viewed as not having true understanding. 
This approach not only complicates the simplest of math problems; it also leads to delays. Under the Common Core Standards, students will not learn traditional methods of adding and subtracting double and triple digit numbers until fourth grade. (Currently, most schools teach these skills two years earlier.) The standard method for two and three digit multiplication is delayed until fifth grade; the standard method for long division until sixth. In the meantime, the students learn alternative strategies that are far less efficient, but that presumably help them "understand" the conceptual underpinnings.
I guess the point of providing the student multiplication to help appreciate division by fractions is to overcome the limitations of manipulatives, of things we could actually hold, in explaining what happens when we divide something by a fraction. A child can easily relate to dividing by a number greater than 1. A pizza can be divided into four parts, each slice being a quarter of the whole pizza. But how does one divide a pizza by 3/4? Why is the answer 4/3? It is bigger than before. Making the student perform the reverse process brings the equation to something much easier to relate. 3/4 of 4/3 is one. This can be visualized.

Garelick does end the article with a hopeful view:
As the Common Core makes its way into real-life classrooms, I hope teachers are able to adjust its guidelines as they fit. I hope, for instance, that teachers will still be allowed to introduce the standard method for addition and subtraction in second grade rather than waiting until fourth. I also hope that teachers who favor direct instruction over an inquiry-based approach will be given this freedom.
At the end, for any curriculum, teachers provide the determining step. I do hope that teachers do make sense out of this curriculum.

In General Chemistry, students struggle with calculations of pH for aqueous solutions that contain the conjugate base of a polyprotic acid, such as phosphoric acid. How does one calculate the pH of a 0.1 M aqueous solution of sodium dihydrogen phosphate? The pH for this solution is halfway between the first and second pKa's of phosphoric acid. Arriving at this quick solution requires likewise a deeper understanding, in this case, of simultaneous equilibria conditions. 

These are algorithms that are proven and we should take advantage of these procedures. This is how we stand on the shoulders of intellectual giants who came before us. These algorithms are less cumbersome and can be generally applied. For an entire classroom, waiting for each student to come up with his or her own own way of solving each problem will simply lead to mistakes and gross inefficiency. There is really no need to reinvent the wheel all the time. 

On the other hand, passing to students these proven algorithms and recipes without the underlying principles and explanation leads to rote learning. It is how we teach these algorithms that make the difference. It is only when we fully understand what these shortcuts really are can we teach them properly. And yes, these need to be taught.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Scientific Theories Explain

After I finished college, I taught Chemistry to non science majors at the Ateneo. Unlike other lecturers, I did not choose to use a textbook specific for students that are not majoring in the sciences. Instead, I used the textbook that I had when I was taking first year Chemistry. I taught for two years and I did learn a lot about Chemistry during those couple of years. Teaching was quite different from just me sitting in one of the chairs inside the classroom as a student. I actually had to know the stuff that I was about to teach.

It is no wonder that some think that teaching is one of the effective ways to learn. Having the obligation to explain somehow forces a mind to understand. After all, one can not explain something one does not comprehend. In science, however, explanations are not really provided as options. A correct understanding of the nature of science leads us to a conclusion that a lot of people probably take for granted. In science, theories are the explanations.

Wikipedia provides the following definition of a scientific theory:

A scientific theory is a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment.

A theory is an explanation:

Above cartoon captured from http://web.missouri.edu/~hanuscind/8710/NSTA_Science101theorylaw.pdf
I copied the above cartoon from an article by William C. Robertson in the Science and Children journal of the National Science Teachers Association in the US. The article actually has a title that is in fact a misunderstanding of science so one should really read the entire article and not just the title, "Q: How does a scientific theory become a scientific law?" Obviously, an explanation of a law does not become a law, so the question indeed demonstrates a misunderstanding of what theories in science really are. Laws are basically summaries or collections of observations. These are descriptions of our world as we experience it. Robertson answers the question, How does a scientific theory become a scientific law?, with the following paragraph:
"... Theories generally provide mechanisms that explain the things we observe. There is a theory known as the kinetic theory of gases that provides a mechanism for understanding Boyle’s law. In the kinetic theory of gases, we make various assumptions about how the molecules in a gas act. In the most basic form, we assume that gas molecules run into one another without sticking and that they move about randomly. We assume that the molecules have an average kinetic energy based on the temperature. Those basicassumptions lead to Boyle’s law holding true. Because the kinetic theory of gases provides a mechanism rather than just a description of results, it qualifies as a theory. The kinetic theory of gases will never become a law, because that’s not what theories become. If a theory is any good, it explains a law. The kinetic theory of gases explains Boyle’s law, but the theory does not evolve into the law. The highest award for a theory is that it is a good theory, not that it becomes a law...."
One reason I learned a lot when I was first teaching Chemistry was that the explanation I had to give in class was in fact what Chemistry was all about. Theories are the explanations provided by scientists so that we could better understand the world we live in. Theories are the concepts, the substance of science. Teaching science means teaching its theories. The atomic theory of matter is how a chemist explains some of the things we observe like color, taste, odor, softness or hardness.

It is therefore baffling to hear someone say that when teaching science one must find different ways of explaining. Does that mean offering different theories? That, of course, is not possible. Only good theories should be taught although one can possibly present a bad theory to illustrate an example when a theory must be discarded. The theories are the explanations. So perhaps, it means to try and present the same explanation with different styles (like slowly and not too fast; or with slides not with chalk). Nonetheless, what is important here is to realize that since the main substance of science is its theories, and theories are the concepts, teaching science is indeed so much more than just teaching skills, it is teaching explanations.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Philippine Education Asian Laggard

"Philippine Education Asian Laggard" is the title of a news article in the Manila Standard June 11 issue. The article laments:

The country’s top five universities managed to be included in the top 300 schools in Asia but fared poorly against many educational institutions in other Asian countries. 
The University of the Philippines improved to 67th place in 2013 from 68th place in 2012, but Ateneo de Manila University dropped 23 places from 86th in 2012 to 109th in 2013. 
The University of Santo Tomas fell two places from 148th in 2012 to 150th in 2013. 
De La Salle University placed 151st in 2013 ranking, down from 142nd in 2012. 
The University of Southeastern Philippines, a Cebu (sic)-based institution established in 1927 offering Arts and Engineering courses, stayed at 251st rank.
Apparently, the head of the research behind the rankings notes that the Philippines is falling behind Korea, Hong Kong, China and Singapore. This is, however, not the complete story. The Philippines is likewise begin to trail Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The following are the list of universities that made the list from these south east Asian countries:








"There's More to Reading than Meets the Eye"

I am sure a lot of people can read the posts in this blog. Almost everyone can decode the Latin alphabet. Understanding what each post in this blog says, however, is a different story. "There's More to Reading than Meets the Eye."

We have heard this goal: Every child a reader by the end of Grade 3. Grade 3 is about 8-10 years in age. It is also the same time that a child must have learned how to add and subtract. Philippine president Aquino is even more ambitious. He wants every child to be a reader by first grade. Reading and arithmetic are the very first steps in learning. These skills are in fact necessary for learning. Information and new knowledge is obtained via reading. The higher math skills are likewise dependent on the basic number operations. Failure or delay in acquiring these skills presents substantial challenges in the upper years of education. Remediation is not only loss of time, but also missed opportunities. With the current understanding of how the brain develops, paying attention to the early years is now even more important. Better Brains for Babies from the University of Georgia explains this quite well in the following excerpt:
Pruning is a key process that shapes the brains of young children. Synaptic overproduction causes synapses to develop extremely rapidly. The pruning process refines these connections based on experience. Connections used regularly become stronger and more complex. Connections not used are considered non-essential, and the brain eventually prunes them away to increase efficiency. 
As an example, an infant's brain has connections that allow her to hear sounds from all languages in the world. During the early years, the brain strengthens connections for sounds in the languages she hears regularly. Over time, the brain eliminates the connections for other sounds. This is why most adults have trouble distinguishing sounds that are not in our language.
The time periods for brain development are not set in stone. The stages are likewise not abrupt. Thus, goals, such as "Every child a reader by grade 3", are best estimates, or in this particular case, a good limit.

Back in 2010, the Annie E. Casey Foundation published a report, Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters:

To read more, download Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters
The following are some of the highlights of this report:

Why reading proficiently at the end of Grade 3 matters a lot:
  • After Grade 3, students are now expected to read to learn. Children who cannot read at this point likewise suffers in science and math since textbooks and other printed learning materials on these subjects are incomprehensible.
  • Reading proficiently at this grade level is strongly correlated with high school graduation rates, as well as earning potential, global competitiveness, and general productivity.
What factors undermine grade level reading proficiency:
  • A readiness gap exists right at school entry
  • This gap starts at child birth, it correlates with birth weight and prenatal health
  • This gap widens during the toddler years, again correlating with early health problems as well as lack of exposure to to early interactions that foster linguistic development.
  • Poor development in social and emotional skills contributes to this gap.
  • The gap widens during formal schooling since oftentimes students who need the most are given the least resources.
  • Chronic absences from school exacerbate this gap.
  • Children who are exposed to problems outside school interfere with these crucial years of learning.
What constitutes a good reading instruction: (The answer to this is provided by a National Reading Panel from the US National Institutes of Health, authorized by the US Congress in 1997)

Above captured from Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters
The report from the Casey Foundation likewise adds a section on English-language learners. For this, it borrows from a study by Linda Espinoza, "Challenging Common Myths About Young English Language Learners".

Above captured from Early Warning! Why Reading by the End of Third Grade Matters
Reading by Grade 3 involves not just learning a specific language. It involves cognitive development that goes beyond recognizing or comprehending a given language. Reading is different from oral language. Mother tongue based instruction must likewise assist a child in developing cognitive skills that are necessary for learning in the following years. The ability to manipulate sounds in words, knowledge of relationships between written letters and sounds, understanding the meaning of words, ability to read rapidly, and the ability to gain meaning while reading, all of these equally apply to any language used in instruction. Choosing the mother tongue as medium of instruction indeed makes the school closer to home, but without the proper reading instruction, mother tongue based instruction likewise would fail. "There's more to reading than meets the eye."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

GMA News TV launches new original series on education: Titser 

GMA News TV launches new original series on education: Titser 

More Shortages Afflict Public School System Despite DepEd Claims

“Twenty six years after our Constitution mandated free high school education, the government has not been able to make high school accessible to a substantial number of Filipino children.” – ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. Antonio Tinio

7 June 2013

MANILA – Lack of books, chairs, water and toilet facilities once again greeted public school students of school year 2013-2014. While the Department of Education said that the shortages are being addressed for this year, recent reports however belied this.
DepEd Assistant Secretary for Planning Jesus Mateo said shortages in textbooks and classroom seats have been addressed since last year with an expected 1:1 student-textbook and student-seat ratio this year.

But several reports showed schools where classrooms are jam-packed with students; some schools have make-shift classrooms and a class without chairs where students sat on the floor. ACT Teachers’ Party Rep. Antonio Tinio visited schools in Quezon City and found the same old problems.

During Tinio’s early morning visit in some Quezon City public schools as class started last June 3, Monday, they observed that the standard classroom was divided into two, school corridors were converted into makeshift classrooms, some classrooms have no blackboards and chairs, other facilities such as covered courts are converted into classrooms, chairs are still lacking and some students were relegated to the home study program.

At the F.G. Calderon High School in Tondo, Manila, 60 to 80 students are packed in one classroom.

Enrollees in the said school reach up to 3,000 every school year said Louie Zabala, teacher at F.G. Calderon High School and chairman of ACT-Manila. Public schools in Negros Occidental have enough teachers but they lack 784 classrooms. According to a report, provincial school superintendent Juliet Jeruta said they are short by 483 classrooms for kindergarten, 129 for elementary and 172 for high school.

The DepEd also said they continue to hire teachers to meet the shortages. The DepEd, according to its assistant secretary for planning Jesus San Mateo has hired 61,510 teachers. However, the DepEd also said 70,000 more teachers are needed to fully address the shortages.

According to France Castro, second nominee of ACT Teachers’ Party, there are only a few applicants for teaching positions in public schools. “Kindergarten teachers are required to specialize in Early Childhood Education, but not all teachers have that specialization,” Castro told Bulatlat.com.

Tinio also noted that the DepEd continues to rely on 35,449 volunteer Kindergarten teachers, 4,828 mobile teachers and ALS coordinators, and 49,530 teachers funded by local governments, majority of whom are paid less than their DepEd-funded counterparts and have no benefits or job security.

Volunteer teachers are receiving an honorarium of only P3,000 to P8,000 ($71.10 to 189.59) a month that sometimes is even delayed.
“The government cannot claim that the shortage in teachers has been addressed when it relies on 89,807 contractual and grossly exploited teachers, who are paid far below the minimum wage with no benefits and no job security.”

Also, Castro said there are teachers who are now applying as call center agents because of the higher salary.

Lack of public secondary high schools

The government should also pay attention to and immediately address the gross shortage in public secondary schools. According to Tinio, 4.6 million high school-age youth from 12 to 15 years old are not enrolled in high school due to the gross shortage in public secondary schools. According to Tinio, the said figures make up a significant portion of the country’s 6.24 million out-of-school youth.
Citing the DepEd’s figures, Tinio noted that there are 7,268 public high schools throughout the country in 2011. By contrast, there are 38,351 public elementary schools.

“In short, there’s only one public high school for every five elementary schools. Almost all barangays in the country have at least one elementary school. By contrast, high schools may be found mainly in urban areas and population centers only. As a result, 91 percent of school-age children are enrolled in elementary, while only 62 percent are enrolled in high school.”

Zabala said the F.G. Calderon High School is the only high school in District 2 of Tondo, Manila. Their area is also near Caloocan City. “So there are also students from Caloocan who are enrolling in our school. There is no other nearby public secondary school within our area,” Zabala told Bulatlat.com, adding that the bulk of their enrollees are graduates of the four elementary schools within the Tondo area that is why the student population in their school continues to grow. “When the slots are already full and we cannot accommodate more students we refer them to other schools,” Zabala said.

Tinio said more children in the rural areas are not enrolled in high school. “The shortage of public high schools, particularly in rural areas, explains the alarmingly high number of children who are not enrolled in high school. The existing high schools are simply too far away, making even free secondary education too costly for rural poor families,” said Tinio.

“Twenty six years after our Constitution mandated free high school education, the government has not been able to make high school accessible to a substantial number of Filipino children,” Tinio lamented.

Tinio criticized the implementation of the K to 12 program amid the continued failure of the government to address the shortages and lack of access of millions of children to secondary education.

“What is the DepEd doing to enable 4.6 million children to enter high school? Its current intervention, particularly the Alternative Learning System (ALS), is commendable but grossly inadequate, compared to the magnitude of the problem. Currently, ALS serves a mere 300,000 out-of-school children.

Furthermore, there’s no substitute for learning in the classroom setting. Children of the rural poor are as much entitled to quality teachers, classrooms, and textbooks as other Filipinos.”

The solon teacher also pointed out that the failure to provide the poor access to secondary education further worsens social inequality and hinders genuine national development. “If the shortage of public high schools is not addressed, we will see a further widening of the gap in educational attainment among Filipino youth in the urban centers and the countryside, and among the middle and upper income groups and the poor. Our country will not progress until the government assured that every Filipino child finishes high school.”

Higher budget on education

The teachers’ group is demanding that the government allocates six percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to education, amounting to P884.6 billion ($20 billion). The group said that to follow the UN standards, the government should allot at least P590 billion ($13 billion) more to basic education. However, the average share of DepEd’s budget from the GDP is only 2.2 percent.

The group also lambasted the increase in the budget of DepEd’s GASTPE (Government Assistance to Students and Teachers to Public Education) program. According to Castro, for this year, the government targets to allocate P7 billion ($165 million) for one million grantees.

Under the GASTPE program is the scheme called Education Service Contracting (ESC). It provides financial assistance to students for the payment of their tuition in private high schools. These students could not be accommodated in public high schools. According to its website, “the program is geared towards reducing the class size to manageable levels in high schools, especially those experiencing shortage of classrooms and teachers.” For this year, grantees in the NCR will receive P10,000 ($236.99) while grantees in the province will receive P5,500 ($130.34) per year.

According to the government website, the management of GASTPE is contracted to the Fund for Assistance to Private Education (FAPE), a perpetual trust fund created by an agreement between the Philippine government and the US government under Executive Order No. 156 series of 1968 to provide assistance to private education in the country. FAPE is chaired by the DepEd Secretary.
“This is the longest form of Public-Private Partnerships in the history of Philippine education system,” Castro said.

Zabala said the GASTPE is not really helpful in decongesting public high schools in the country. In fact, he said, the poorest of the poor are not benefiting from the said program. “The P10,000 worth of grant to students is not enough to cover the one year tuition. It was indicated in the GASTPE program that the remaining balance shall be shouldered by the parent. Only a few families could afford to shoulder the expensive cost of private education,” Zabala told Bulatlat.com.

“The trend is that more and more students are transferring from private to public schools. So why spend more in private education? The government should therefore spend more in the public education. They should follow the UN recommendation to spend its budget amounting to six percent of the GDP to the education system,” Zabala added.