"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

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Learning to Read Without Textbooks

Like arithmetic, reading is essential for learning. Dr. Shannon Riley-Ayers, a literary expert at the National Institute for Early Education Research in New Jersey, emphasizes the importance of reading to young children especially during this coming  holiday season. In a recent blog article on PreSchool Matters, Riley-Ayers talks about picture books. Picture books should be part of everyone's childhood. These books essentially make the connection between written words and images. As a child, and even as an adult, I do enjoy reading books with lots of illustrations. Even with research articles in scientific journals, a good research report is one that presents figures that capture the story line of the study.

It is unfortunate that elementary schools in the Philippines are still waiting to receive textbooks. Joy Rizal, who has been following the situation in public schools in Bukidnon, has posted the following update:
In the last week of November and The Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) decided to deliver two (2) more of the second grade books that were supposed to have been delivered by July.

This brings the total number of books and learning materials delivered to the second grade students of DepEd's Bukidnon Malaybalay City School District to three (3).

Just to refresh everyone's memory, the following is the list of the material that DepEd promised that every public school second grade student would receive at the beginning of the school year.

***********

  • Math - at this time NO TEXT BOOKS OR MATERIAL RECEIVED FOR STUDENT USE.
  • English - at this time NO TEXT BOOKS OR MATERIAL RECEIVED FOR STUDENT USE.
  • Character Education - at this time NO TEXT BOOKS OR MATERIAL RECEIVED FOR STUDENT USE.
  • Social Studies - at this time NO TEXT BOOKS OR MATERIAL RECEIVED FOR STUDENT USE.
  • Filipino - text book received in august. (three months into the school year)
  • Mother Tongue  - Text book received last week of November. (Six months into the school year)
  • Music, Arts, Physical Education, Health (MAPEH)     - Text book received last week of November. (Six months into the school year)
The above is beginning to sound like schools in other developing countries that face enormous challenges in basic education. The following are excerpts from an article published in the Asian Journal of Education Research (Udosen, Alice E. "LANGUAGE AND COMMUNICATION IN A MULTILINGUAL NIGERIA: IMPLICATION FOR UBE ENGLISH LANGUAGE CURRICULUM DEVELOPMENT." Asian Journal of Educational Research Vol 1.1 (2013)):
Materials/Textbooks

Textbooks and teaching/learning aids are essential for effective curriculum development. But these days a lot of teachers complain that students do not have even the recommended texts talk less of supplementary texts that could be used to reinforce classroom learning. Part of the problem with textbooks is that the prescribed texts are oftentimes not available in the market and so make it difficult for students to acquire them. At other times, the texts cost so much that most parents cannot afford them for their words. Another dimension to the problem is that most parents have been made to believe that Government has supplied textbooks to the schools and that the texts are there for their wards. It is difficult to convince this crop of parents otherwise. One can imagine what happens during a reading comprehension lesson in a class of about 50 students with only 5 of them owning the text. Assuming three children share a text. That means that the teacher concentrates on fifteen children out of the fifty. This author has witnessed such a scene during teaching practice supervision. What happens to the rest of the children who are in the majority without textbooks? Yet as Ekpo (1994) shows, the content of knowledge embodied in the curriculum is conveyed to the learners through communication channels such as textbooks and other devices.

Another problem with textbooks has to do with their readability index. The texts, apart from the Nationwide English pupils book one that is manageable, the Macmillan primary English course for primaries two to six is quite above their level. The paragraphs with long sentences are really cumbersome and intimidating to these pupils with their scanty experience in the language. In most schools where they have the supply, the teachers pack them one place. They will always tell you that the pupils cannot read them.

Instructional materials are necessary for effective curriculum development. This is especially so in the case of English, where it’s teaching and learning are better facilitated with the use of materials. The use of materials helps to reduce the abstractness of the language to something meaningful and relevant to the pupil’s life. As wiltch and Schuller (1973) show, creative teachers use a variety of inter-related resources to assure the quality of instruction. The use of picture, charts, realia, audio and other related materials improve learning opportunities for L2 learners of English. But sad to say that, most teachers never give thought to this. To them, it is the duty of government to provide materials and where they are not provided, no effort is made to improvise them.
The last part of the above excerpt definitely shines light on teachers who are resourceful enough to overcome the lack of textbooks and other learning materials. The following photos from an elementary school in Paete, Laguna demonstrate how a teacher is able to make up for the missing resources. There is a reason why public school teachers in the Philippines need to have good handwriting skills as well as some sense of art.





Above photos courtesy of Aileen Mendoza Padallan

Even in this blog, pictures tell the entire story....







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