Posts

Showing posts from 2014

Another year almost over and what do we have to show for it?

By Joy Rizal


Another year is almost over. And we still face the same old issues, from text books not being delivered until the last part of the school year (if at all), to school instructors and school heads that refuse to report (or make written reports regarding) health, safety or corruption issues. After all, as one DepEd school head (principle) so quaintly summed up the situation, "'everyone' knows about the problems why do we need to report it to anyone?" "What you expect of us is unreasonable."


With that in mind I would like to leave everyone with some thoughts to consider as we enter into 2015.

- The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. [George Bernard Shaw]

-Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all. [Dale Carnegie]

-Ideas a…

"It's the Economy, Stupid": A Lesson That Should Be Required for Philippines' DepEd

Image
This phrase apparently came from a sign that James Carville made for Bill Clinton's campaign headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was supposed to be one of the three simple and direct to the point reminders for Clinton's campaign staff:

Economics touches our lives in so many different ways. Economics is obviously very important in basic education. Even the World Bank recognizes this fact in the following brief:

Ignoring the economics of education can certainly lead to wrong curricular reforms. One example, sadly, is the Philippines DepEd K+12 curriculum. Education requires both capital and talent. Good schools need learning materials, effective teachers, and adequate infrastructure. These are necessary inputs for education. Thus, the first two lessons that the Philippines' DepEd needs to take into heart are the following:

First, children from families who are poor are at a disadvantage. These children require more in terms of learning resources. In fact, the following…

Being Curious Is a State of the Mind

Image
Motivation enhances learning. For instance, I can ask my son the following arithmetic word problem: "There are 49 bananas in a box. Gregory takes 13 bananas. How many are left?" Or I can choose to ask the question quite differently: "In the game Injustice Gods Among Us, the character Flash needs 49 experience points to get promoted to the next level, Flash currently has 13 experience points, how much experience points does Flash need to get promoted?" Since my son likes the game, rephrasing the math question to take advantage of his interest makes it easier to make my son do his math homework. Of course, it is impossible to recast each and every lesson my son has to tackle into something interesting. And as a matter of fact, whether we like it or not, there are lessons that need to be taught that are simply boring. There is hope, however. Neuroscience research has recently demonstrated that curiosity is in fact a state of the brain. Being curious apparently puts th…

A Wish For Education in 2015

Image
If I have to write Santa my wish for basic education, I would simply echo what we heard this past World Teacher's Day; Invest in Teachers.


The field of medicine got it right. Indeed, advanced equipment and new therapies are simply enablers. It is only the health care worker: doctors and nurses, who can really make treatment happen. In education, it is only the teacher that can really treat each student as a person. It is only the teacher that can truly personalize learning and meet the educational needs of a pupil. This blog therefore simply reiterates what the The Global Thematic Consultation on Education in the Post-2015 Development Agenda has stated with regard to teachers:

We support our teachers by:
good conditions of employment, including appropriate contracts and salaries, and prospects for career progression and promotion;good conditions in the work environment, based on creating school contexts that are conducive to teaching; high-quality pre-and in-service training for te…

If Students Do Not Do Well, We Must Have Bad Teachers

Image
The 2014 evaluation of teachers in the state of New York has been recently made public. More than 90 percent of teachers in the state are considered either effective or highly effective educators. This percentage runs in stark contrast with the percentage of students in New York reaching proficient levels in standardized exams. Only 35 percent of students in New York are considered proficient in math and only 30 percent in English Language Arts. Indeed there is a sea of difference between 90 and 30. It is not surprising then to read serious doubts against how teachers are evaluated as illustrated in the image below (taken from the New York Post):


The disbelief comes mainly from the assumption that there is an exclusive, that is, one-on-one cause and effect relationship between teacher quality and learning outcomes. If someone believes that the only factor that affects how students perform in exams is the teacher then the above ratings of teachers in New York compared against how the s…

Should We Teach All Children How to Code?

Image
"Hour of Code" received a great boost when the commander-in-chief of the most powerful country became a "coder-in-chief". This was part of the the Computer Science Education Week which run from December 8 through 14. Last Monday, both President Obama and Vice President Biden participated in coding exercises with students.


Even my son, a third grader at Mason Crest Elementary School, got a taste of how coding works. The school's website now even has links to coding activities designed for elementary school students:

Similar to what Obama and Biden were doing, my son needed to select line by line instructions to help Angry Red Bird find Silly Pig:
By choosing instructions from the various blocks listed above, an assembly of steps is constructed. The above is then translated to a script that looks like this:

I learned computer programming when I was already a senior in college, about thirty years ago. Of course, there were no Angry Birds yet at that time but I did…

How Should Teachers Teach?

Image
This question is in fact difficult to address in a well designed experiment. The method of instruction is only one of many factors that may influence learning. Intimately related to how a teacher teaches is teacher quality. Another factor is the quality of learning materials. And I would guess that with the proper controlled conditions, the conclusions may be similar to what Slavin found when examining how the medium of instruction affects learning:

The findings of the present study reinforce the frequently stated conclusion that what matters most in the education ... is the quality of instruction, not the language of instruction... Schools may choose to teach ... in either their native language or English for many reasons, including cultural, economic, or political rationales. Yet the data from this experiment do not support the claims that this choice is crucial for ultimate learning of English or Spanish reading. -Reading and Language Outcomes of a Five-Year Randomized Evaluation of…

Computers and Learning

Image
When I helped elementary schools in Paete, Laguna acquire computers for their classrooms, my main objective then was to provide access to the internet. It is true that computers in classrooms are required to teach students on how to use word processors and spreadsheets, and create publications and slide presentations. However, I am not quite sure if these skills are in fact appropriate for the early years of education when children are just starting to learn how to add, subtract, multiply and divide, as well as how to read and write. Pupils in the elementary years can still work with pencils, crayons, scissors and paper. And there is so much to learn even with these simple tools. The internet, on the other hand, is unique, in terms of the learning resources it provides. There are children books that are online. There are educational videos available with just a click on a mouse. More importantly, the internet is a place where teachers can share and learn from each other. With smart ph…

Are You a Quill or a Crayon? Differentiated Instruction in an Elementary School

Image
At first glance, recognizing that "one size does not fit all" seems to be quite an attractive preamble to education. Addressing the students' needs, abilities, interests and preferences does seem reasonable in basic education. Thus, in an academically diverse classroom, it may sound logical to group students. It sounds logical until one watches a particular episode of Clarence, the one entitled Average Jeff. In that episode, an assessment was made in order to group students. The two groups are called quill and crayon. If a student is deemed a quill, that student ends up with a group of students shown below:


If the student gets labeled as a crayon, that student lands in a classroom like the one shown below:


The quills receive higher quality instruction and greater opportunities while the crayons do not. Of course, opposition to differentiated instruction can not be purely based on a cartoon like Clarence. It is only research that can really settle this issue. There are pr…

"K to 12: Producing Uneducated Filipinos"

Image
With the problems basic education in the Philippines currently faces, the curriculum is really the last place to look for solutions. There are other factors, some obviously more important than a set of standards or "wish list". The physical and social well being of children, parental involvement, quality of teachers, learning materials, classrooms, and facilities are factors that can heavily influence learning. While ignoring these other important factors, to top it all, the new DepEd K+12 curriculum is not even good. The following is an article recently authored by Jose R. Gullas. In this article, Gullas first strays away from what is truly pertinent to education but in the end drives home what is basically wrong with DepEd's K+12. The article,  K to 12: Producing uneducated Filipinos, is posted here in its entirety without permission from neither the author nor the Philippine Star:

K TO 12: Producing uneducated Filipinos

Ni Jose R. Gullas - Founder, JRG Halad Foundation

Do Not Isolate - Encouraging a Love for Reading

Image
In the previous article, "How to Make a Child Hate Reading", Alfie Kohn's 2010 article, "How to Create Nonreaders", is revisited. Kohn enumerates ways by which schools may in fact take away the love for reading from young children. One of those ways is isolation:
Isolate them. I’ve been in the same book group for 25 years. We read mostly fiction, both classic and contemporary, at the rate of almost a book a month. I shudder to think how few novels I would have read over that period, and how much less pleasure (and insight) I would have derived from those I did manage to read, without the companionship of my fellow readers. Subscribers to this journal are probably familiar with literature circles and other ways of helping students to create a community of readers. You’d want to avoid such innovations – and have kids read (and write) mostly on their own -- if your goal were to cause them to lose interest in what they’re doing. Mason Crest Elementary School, …

How to Make a Child Hate Reading

Image
My son who is now eight years old and currently in third grade still asks me to read a book before he goes to sleep at night. Right now, he is a big fan of Stone Rabbit and we have been reading (four times as of last night) Dragon Boogie. In addition to our right before bed reading, my son has to read on his own for about thirty minutes each day. Unlike the bed reading, it takes quite some prodding to get him to do this daily assignment.


I remember an old article  by Alfie Kohn, published about four years ago in the English Journal. Kohn wrote, "I’d like to begin my contribution to an issue of this journal whose theme is “Motivating Students” by suggesting that it is impossible to motivate students." In this article, Kohn enumerates the number of ways teachers can kill the love of reading in children. Here is the list:
Quantify their reading assignments.Make them write reports.Isolate them.Focus on skills.Offer them incentives.Prepare them for tests.Restrict their choices. At…

Texting Helps Young Children Read

Image
Yes, the title is misleading. But it is no different from the title of the news article in Ozy. At least, the title can perhaps draw your attention. A different title which states more clearly what the research finding is about may not be as attractive.

The above news item shares the results of a study performed by Stanford researchers, York and Loeb:


During a week, parents receive three text messages. On Monday, the message is a "fact" text, which usually describes an opportunity to help a young mind develop a skill necessary for learning. On Wednesday, the message is a "tip" text, which provides a parent a simple lesson or activity that is related to the "fact" described in the previous message. And on Friday, a "growth" text" is delivered, which gives an extension of the lesson or activity. Here are specific examples of text messages shared by York and Loeb in their paper:


Here is another example:


Obviously, texting here is simply used a…

Higher Standards Do Not Necessarily Mean Better Learning

Image
Raise the bar and students will automatically rise to the challenge. If this is true then education reform is indeed easy. One simply has to write a new curriculum with greater demands. One may start teaching quantum mechanics in kindergarten. Of course, this could be also viewed as an extreme and inappropriate. But take, for example, a milder reform: Require every student to take algebra in 8th grade. This is what the state of California has done which enables us to see what "raising the bar" actually does in real life.

The following paper is published in the journal Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis:


 Aiming High and Falling Short: California’s Eighth-Grade Algebra-for-All Effort Thurston Domina University of California, Irvine Andrew McEachin North Carolina State University Andrew Penner University of California, Irvine Emily Penner Stanford University

The United States is in the midst of an effort to intensify middle school mathematics curricula by enrolling more 8th grade…

Textbooks and Learning Materials

Image
Outside the classroom, textbooks are often the only resource to which all students can have access. A teacher can only be available during class time or office hours, but a textbook is within reach twenty four hours, seven days a week. Textbooks likewise guide teachers on what to teach. Good textbooks are rich with exercises and problems. Working through these activities is an effective way of studying. Even with the obvious and significant role textbooks play in learning, it is still important to measure their impact on education. Like teachers, classrooms and other resources, textbooks come with costs. It is helpful then to weigh the costs and benefits of using textbooks especially when resources are very limited. A carefully controlled experiment designed to yield this information is not easy to perform. Why would a group of students or their parents agree not to use a textbook just to inform us on how important textbooks are? In fact, people realize how important textbooks are tha…

Philippines' DepEd, Six Months into School Year and 3 Textbooks Delivered.

The Textbooks/new curriculum learning material third grade students have received at the end of November 2014 (six months into the school year) are:

English: - NOTHING FOR STUDENT USEMathematics: - NOTHING FOR STUDENT USEScience: - NOTHING FOR STUDENT USEMother tongue: - NOTHING FOR STUDENT USEAraling Panlipunan: (social studies) – NOTHING FOR STUDENT USEFilipino: – received paperback book at end of November.Mapeh: - received paperback book at the end of November.Edukasyong Pagpapakatao: (education freedom) – received paperback book at end of November. DepEd has long considered the following as core subjects: English, Math, Science, and Filipino. It is interesting that these core subjects, the subjects that have the greatest impact on our children's future, like last year, seem to be at the bottom of the priority list for printing and distribution to our children.

The following article is from a 2008 article.

The DepEd-IMCS said it expects to attain a 1:1 textbook-to-pupil rat…

When Should a Child Start Schooling?

Image
There is evidence that shows benefits from quality preschool education. A good preschool program can decrease educational gaps between children from high- and low-income families. These gaps are often associated with the limited vocabulary and experiences children in poor homes have. There are, however, gaps observed in the early years of schooling that are not related to family income at all. Children also develop at different rates. There are obviously age differences since birth dates are distributed all throughout the year. Thus, in one kindergarten class where the school entry age is five years old, there are children who just turned five while there are children who would be six after only several weeks in school. A difference of about six months to a year in age can be substantial at a young age. Six months in five years is after all ten percent in terms of time. In terms of skills and knowledge already acquired, the differences can therefore easily be substantial.

Datar and Go…