"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

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Philippines' DepEd Seriously Lacks Innovation

Facing limitations breeds opportunities for transformative innovations. Unfortunately, "transformative innovations" as well as "21st century learning" have been grossly misused by education reformers and policy makers to pretend that they are actually doing something. Science instruction is challenging because of the costs associated with its practical or laboratory component. With limited funds, equipping schools for science laboratory classes can be totally precluded. However, even with relatively larger budgets, laboratories in schools in the United States are quite different from those several decades ago. Laboratories are now designed with both safety and impact on environment in mind. In the Philippines, with more than 600 million pesos, DepEd plans to equip 2966 high schools to support biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, and mathematics. Using the current exchange rate of 44.84 Philippines pesos per US dollar, this budget translates to about US$4849 per school. It is not a lot but this makes it even more imperative to be innovative. Yet, the list of supplies DepEd plans to provide leaves so much to be desired.
To view a complete list download from DepEd Malaybalay Division
Some of the equipment described in this memo comes from the National Science Teaching Instrumentation Center which boasts of the following slogan on its webpage, "The Science of Today Is the Technology of Tomorrow". The following image is copied from its website:

There are also items in the list that are obtained from the general market. Overall, the development of this kits clearly shows a lack of innovation if not incompetence. These are no different from those used in laboratories when I was in high school.

The General Chemistry laboratories, for example, at Georgetown University, are now dramatically different compared to the time I first taught, about twenty years ago. The changes are in part driven by lowering costs as well as decreasing impact on the environment. There are various examples of companies in the United States that are developing cheaper and environment-friendly laboratory kits for high schools. This post is not meant to advertise but it is useful to see what these kits are and how much these cost so as to compare with what the Philippines' DepEd has done. The kits are from Quality Science Labs, LLC:

Quality Science Labs, LLC
 Here are pictures of the kits:

  • Earth Science
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Biology
Each one comes with a laboratory manual. The experiments that can be performed with each kit are quite numerous comprehensive. Take for instance the experiments with the physics kit:

LAB EXPERIMENTS:Introduction A: Scientific Investigation
Introduction B: Scientific Analysis
1.    A Recording Timer, The acceleration of gravity
2.    Newton's Second Law
3.    The Sum of vectors
4.    Acceleration on an Inclined Plane            
5.    Potential and Kinetic Energy
6.    Coefficient of Friction
7.    Work and Power
8.    Projective Motion
9.    Impulse And Momentum
10.    Conservation of Momentum
11.    Conservation of Energy and Momentum
12.    Mechanical Advantage of a Simple Machine
13.    Hooke's Law, a Spring Constant
14.    Centripetal Force
15.    A Pendulum
16.    The Speed of Sound in Air
17.    Specific Heat of Aluminum
18.    Latent Heat of Fusion
19.    Curved Mirrors
20.    Refraction
21.    Lenses
22.    Wavelength of a Laser Beam
23.    Wavelengths of the Visible Spectrum
24.    Laser Measurements
25.    Static Electricity
26.    An Electronic Breadboard
27.    Ohm's Law
28.    Capacitors
29.    Diodes
30.    Transistors
31.    Magnetic Fields
32.    Electric Magnets, Electric Motor

The kits are made from plastic (not glass) to reduce breakage. After all, even in advanced laboratories, no one sees those glass volumetric pipettes anymore. And, of course, the bottom line is the cost:

Cost (US$)
Physics Kit
Chemistry Kit
Biology Kit
Earth Science
Compound Microscope
Digital Scale

The Philippines DepEd is spending US $4849 to equip schools in the Philippines with kits from the "dinosaur" era. With the above, each school can even afford to have not just one but FIVE sets. And one must keep in mind that these are prices in the US where labor costs are high. These can be produced a lot cheaper in the Philippines.

DepEd's claim of reforming basic education in the Philippines so that it meets the standards and challenges of the 21st century can be correctly gauged by its actions. The above demonstrates that DepEd is actually doing nothing. And this is unfortunately the case not only for the laboratory component of science instruction, but also in the curriculum in general. The Philippine government is sadly currently overwhelmed by corruption especially with allegations of pork barrel scams. To make matters worse, the above project of DepEd lucidly demonstrates incompetence, inefficiency and a lack of resourcefulness.

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