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Showing posts from April, 2014

Poverty and Graduation Rates

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There is a correlation between the income level of a family and graduation rates. In a previous article posted on this blog, "Functional Literacy and Out of School Children in the Philippines" the following data from "Why are some Filipino children not in school?" have been highlighted:

The following figure also brings out the striking correlation between poverty and not graduating:

The above shows the situation in the Philippines. One may be surprised to see that such correlation also exists in the United States. It is surprising because the United States unlike the Philippines has Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965. (Financial Assistance To Local Educational Agencies For The Education Of Children Of Low-Income Families).The United States also has a nationwide School Breakfast Programand a School Lunch Program. There is also Head Starta federal program that provides early childhood programs for low-income families. Title I and these pr…

Education Cannot Solve Poverty

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There is the myth that climate has changed before so we, humans, cannot be responsible for what is currently happening with our planet. Myths owe their longevity to their intrinsic appeal to common sense. Unfortunately, attractiveness is the only thing that myths have. It is completely divorced from reality. Another myth embraced by so many is the belief that education is the solution to poverty. I used to subscribe to this idea as well. After all, my education was indeed responsible for where I am now. However, in an analogous fashion, it has been very cold this winter, even the great lakes have been frozen, so global warming is probably a hoax. Of course, these are individual points. Temperatures in my neighborhood do not necessarily represent the long term trends in global climate. The globe is so much bigger than my backyard or even the continent where I live. The same holds for education. Individual cases are not sufficient to show that education is the solution to poverty. In th…

Misaligned Spending on Technology

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Since I have been part of a group that helped elementary schools in the Philippines obtain computers, I occasionally receive requests for computer donations from other schools. What is sorely lacking in these requests unfortunately is a proposal, a plan of how these computers can assist learning in a classroom. Computers are tools. We do not pick up any tool without having an idea of how we are going to use them.There are plenty of digital instructional tools available now. Apparently, only half of teachers in the United States regard these as effective. This survey comes from a report recently released by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The report, "Teachers Know Best: What Educators Want from Digital Instructional Tools", highlights the finding that resources teachers would like to see are simply not available.

The gaps are high especially in the sciences at all levels of K-12 while the market seems to have an ample supply for mathematics and for english language ar…

Is College Becoming Like Kindergarten?

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The following is a lecture given by a 4-year old to her father who teaches college chemistry:



"Your class just sits and listens to you. In my class there's playing, and reading books, and listening to teachers, and "circle time", and nap. And your class just listens. Why?"

Good thing, my daughter has not heard that I also give exams in class.

I posted the above video and received the following comments:
"Uh-oh! She's challenging you and maybe you need to think about how you conduct your classes Angel. You had better come up with a good answer to that why.""I'll bet she gets pretty high evaluation scores from her students.""I wanna be her student! Then maybe, I'd start liking Chemistry a bit more! I'd like the nap time idea too. Nothing personal, Prof." My daughter is not in kindergarten yet. She maybe disappointed at what kindergarten in the United States is shaping into: Additionally, the title alone of the followin…

Reading in the Mother Tongue

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Imagine a school that does not use the language used at home as medium of instruction in the early years of schooling. In such an environment, one may guess that what happens at home matters a lot. In fact, it does. There is now a study published that captures and answers the question of how literacy at home affects early childhood learning. The study looks at more than a hundred children from English-speaking families studying at six public schools that employ a French immersion program. The French immersion program uses French exclusively as medium of instruction for kindergarten and Grade 1. Reading instruction in English is then introduced as a daily 60 minute subject in Grade 2. In this scenario, any English the children know by the end of Grade 1 comes mainly from their homes. The study finds that there is indeed a strong correlation between literacy activities at home, both formal and informal, and a child's reading ability and vocabulary. Formal activities include teaching…

Engagement of Teachers: Key to School Improvement

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Both in reading and math, teachers serve the important role of measuring the pulse of their students. Effective teachers are those who could navigate various ways to reach children. Experience, which enables a balance between order and innovation, plus mastery of the subject provides the necessary tools for teachers to discover and develop various approaches to help students learn. However, even with the best tools and resources, even with the best talent, teachers can only be good if they are strongly motivated. Motivation happens if teachers take ownership of their work. Motivation unfortunately does not work when teachers are treated as robots. And here is the bad news: According to a Gallup survey, "Teachers are dead last among the occupational groups Gallup surveyed in terms of their likelihood to say their opinions seem to count at work." In the United States, teachers in K-12 are among the highest to express satisfaction with their lives overall (second only to physic…

Experience Matters in Teaching: One Big Reason Why We Should Treat Teachers Right

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The previous post in this blog, "What is wrong with how we are teaching math?", underscores the importance of assessing what students need. Teaching is supposed to be a lifelong process of learning as well. It must be responsive. It is true that there are quite a few individuals who seem to have an inborn talent of connecting with students but for most of us, we need experience to improve our teaching. For this reason, it maybe useful to examine how teachers are introduced to the profession. It is likewise helpful to look at teacher turnover rates as this affects not only student learning but also undermines investments in both time and resources on the country's teaching force. The following is an example of such study:
Among the findings of the above study are: "Of the teachers who began teaching in public schools in 2007 or 2008, about 10 percent were not teaching in 2008–09, and 12 percent were not teaching in 2009–10." These are alarming numbers. It is no…

What Is Wrong with How We Are Teaching Math?

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Although quite a number of people would be quick to respond, the above question is in fact complex and difficult to answer. There is a tendency to dislike one specific algorithm or way to solve a problem, yet some people unknowingly subscribe to one specific way of teaching children how to do math. Some even go as far as teaching so many ways to do math that not subscribing to this diverse set is now viewed as wrong. Rote learning is frowned upon, but now students need to go through mindless and seemingly endless examples of various ways that learning by drill during my time as a grade school student seems like a walk in the park. For instance, here are five ways to add 47 and 35:


If we could do income tax the way DepEd Delivers learning materials

by Joy Rizal Originally posted on Facebook April 9, 2014 at 3:23am If you watch any TV here in the Philippines you are sure to have seen the recent ad spots by our government reminding everyone to register, fill out our tax forms correctly, and pay.

I could talk about how much fun it has been to go to the government office for copies of the tax forms, only to discover once at home that no instructions were included.  This makes doing the paperwork very difficult when the forms say enter the amount following the instructions of section whatever.  When there is no instruction section whatever. Even the work schedule pages say fill in the number following instructions from another mysterious non-included instruction section.

Ask why the instruction pages are not included?  The basic response is we do not have enough and cannot afford to copy them for everyone.

(And the Philippine government officials wonder why they have so much trouble getting cooperation from the people.)

However grum…

What Should Children Learn in School?

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By simply raising standards, it does not mean learning will improve inside classrooms. An obsession with goals and assessments does not guarantee quality education. Such exercise is usually myopic, boiling down to our own often misguided answers to the question "What should children learn in school?".

Our answers are often misguided because we fail to see that a fruitful relationship between a teacher and a student must be truly dynamic and responsive. Teaching begins first and foremost with getting to know the student. Learning also works with the student getting to know the teacher. In order to advance, learning inside the classroom must begin not with setting the goals, but with identifying the strengths and challenges of a student. Instead of asking what children should learn, the first question must be "What does a child need?"

It is truly an entirely different question. No one should be able to answer this question without knowing the child first.  As adults …

Where Does the Philippines Stand in the Global Youth Wellbeing Index

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There is a new global index. There is now an index that focuses on the youth. Early this month, Nicole Goldin with co-authors Payal Patel and Katherine Perry published The Global Youth Wellbeing Index. This report is a joint effort between the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Youth Foundation (IYF) with funding from the Hilton Worldwide. The survey looks at the well being of youth defined in the report as individuals aged 12 to 24. The report covers 30 countries, representing different levels of income and encompassing nearly 70 percent of the world's youth population. Where does the Philippines stand? Below is the overall ranking:


The Philippines is #22, ranking below its neighbors Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. The index measures the following different domains and the numbers shown in the last column is the Philippines' rank in that particular domain:
The ranking of the countries in each domain is shown in the following:
To have …

When We Try to Fit Everyone in a Box....

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There was a Tagalog poem which I read when I was in college, "Ako ang Daigdig" ("I am the world") by Alejandro G. Abadilla. The poem impressed me not just with its content, but so much more with its style. It was different and in so many ways, was a real strong and proud proclamation of one's uniqueness. This month is "Autism Awareness Month". The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States have recently released the following data:

The number 1 in 68 is just one of the ten things the CDC wants us to know about their most recent data on autism. Another one of those things is that almost half of the children identified with autism had average or above average intellectual ability. Autism is a spectrum. I have had two opportunities to observe a social skills class for young children at a Jewish community center in Fairfax, Virginia. In a class of a dozen children, each individual is unique. It is like reading twelve different …

The Case Against a Curriculum

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There are various media through which information may be disseminated. Popular press and social media have the widest reach. With regard to very important issues, mass media indeed shoulder a great responsibility. With complicated matters, pundits are necessary to provide expert opinions so that the public could be best informed. Oftentimes, materials that need to be digested by the public are quite voluminous, deep or too complex that the eyes of an expert become indispensable. Reforms are being introduced on education in the US and in the Philippines. Unfortunately, in both cases, the media seem to have failed in informing the public. With a poorly informed public, political strategies are then very much in play. In the Philippines, where politics is still personality based and oligarchic, the media dropping the ball on correctly informing the public about education reforms serves the purpose of keeping everyone in the dark. In the United States, keeping a reform under a low key may…