"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, October 30, 2014

Do Any Of These Performance Management Systems Really Help?

Various performance management systems are sprouting all over the world that it now seems that such practices have already been proven to be effective. In the Philippines, there is the the Results-based Performance Management System, which the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) completely opposes:

The following is a statement from the secretary general of ACT, France Castro:
"Quality of education in the country is not solely dependent upon the teachers. It is more dependent upon the learning environment, learning materials and facilities. According to the recently implemented RPMS, it is designed to squeeze us to do more beyond our limits by obliging us to have an output of 130%. Where in the world can you see a system wherein an employee is asked to have an output that is beyond 100%? This is something very inhumane and is in violation of our rights to be treated accordingly and rightfully. As a matter of fact, the present system already requires us too much. We are doing our workloads beyond the working hours. After class, we are bringing home with us our students’ academic outputs for us to evaluate and assess it. Aside from it, we are doing also a lot of class preparation at home."
The municipal administrator of Paete, Laguna, on the other hand, seems to welcome the Strategic Performance Management System (SPRM - This one is meant for government agencies) on his Facebook page:

The word from published scientific studies, however, is quite unclear. Improved transparency, increased focus on output, goal setting, and performance feedback are indeed sound objectives, but these systems unfortunately often have questionable designs and implementations. What is clear, however, is that performance management systems are often equated to managers and administrators actually doing some work, which perhaps explains why such systems seem to be sprouting everywhere.

How such a management system can help an organization perform depends on a lot of factors. One of these factors is what a manager or administrator actually does upon seeing the assessment measures. Another factor, which is obvious in why teachers in the Philippines opposes such systems, is how performance is measured. Measuring the performance of a public school teacher is not easy. Still, even with the wrong-headed notion of using test scores of students as measures of teaching performance, the more important question of what a manager (in this case, the principal) can do, is likewise a difficult issue to address. Paul Nielsen has studied this specific question in a paper published in the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory:

The following is the first paragraph summarizing some of the implications of the above study:
Summing up, the findings demonstrate that a lack of managerial authority over the means of production—particularly over human resources—can cause strategic planning and careful tracking of performance developments to fail to deliver on their promises. Increases in managerial attention to and knowledge of the potential for performance improvements do not in themselves empower managers to change their organizations. The implementation of performance management systems carries with it costs in terms of time and resources, and managers might become frustrated if limited managerial authority hinders them in pursuing what they perceive to be necessary and important changes, especially if central management and politicians insist on holding them accountable to performance achievements. Similarly, a lack of decision-making authority may eventually cause managers to ignore any beneficial uses of performance information in decision making (Moynihan and Landuyt 2009; Moynihan and Pandey 2010). As the findings illustrate, this also indicates that performance management systems can be detrimental to organizational performance, even in the absence of perverse effects such as gaming and cheating (Kelman and Friedman 2009).
Schools are really different from other organizations. Where my son attends, the principal, Brian Butler, emphasizes one thing: promoting collaboration among teachers. Reading specialist Jacque Heller writes on the blog, ALLTHINGSPLC, the following to describe what is going on at Mason Crest Elementary School:
That is the reality in a highly functioning professional learning community (PLC). It has been my reality over the last eight years as I joined Principal Brian Butler on the journey of not just one, but two elementary schools in Fairfax County, Virginia, as they transformed from a traditional model of teacher isolation to a PLC. When you apply the three big ideas of a PLC to build a culture of collaboration in which all teachers ensure that every child learns at high levels by collectively focusing on the results, you leave the educational lottery behind. It is hard, and it is messy. It is a journey that takes time. It is not an educational fad that will fade away after its fifteen minutes of fame because it is a process that ensures every student and adult in your school wins. We win when we all become better teachers because we are not left in isolation to do the best we can. The students win when whole teams of teachers constantly analyze their data to improve their learning and provide the supports or extensions they need. And parents win when there is no longer anxiety over any child suffering through a miserable year with “that teacher” instead of the “good teacher.” We all need that win.
"Professional Learning Community" does sound like big words. In practice, this is how it looks. Yesterday afternoon, during the parent-teacher conference for our son, my wife and I were sitting around a table with four teachers. What should be obvious right away here is that there are six pairs of eyes watching my son grow, learn and develop. And in terms of learning, there is one child and six adults, all seven are learning.

The following is a video in which Mason Crest principals, Brian Butler and Diane Kerr, describe what a Professional Learning Community means:

Performance Management Systems, on the other hand, often build on competition, not collaboration. It usually treats a teacher as an individual isolated from all the rest. This is perhaps the real reason why such management system is inappropriate for education.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Worked Examples

Some educators do express an aversion to spoon-feeding because the process somehow implies that a student is provided with so much help that there is no room left for thinking. Perhaps, there is indeed no more need to think, but educators must remind themselves that learning is different from thinking. Thinking requires expertise or experience. Learning, on the other hand, oftentimes starts from scratch. Providing steps to students is necessary. This guidance acts as a scaffold to support learning. Inquiry in the hands of a novice can be easily unsuccessful if the learner is not provided with anything. What is important is to figure out the amount and type of support that is needed. One may appreciate this with IKEA manuals. Assembling a child's chair like the one below does not need multiple pages:

But assembling the following cabinet from more than a hundred pieces obviously requires looking at a multi-page manual:
Learning chemistry is no different from being able to assemble furniture from IKEA. One simply has to browse a General Chemistry textbook to see that there are likewise worked examples (similar to a step by step manual):

What goes into a worked example depends on the difficulty level as well as the current standing of the learner. The example above assumes for example that a student already knows how to rearrange an equation:

There are students who need more guidance while there are those who need less. Getting the correct amount of guidance necessary is important. Providing too much simply overloads the student. There is a limit to what can be placed in our working memory. If the mind gets too preoccupied with items that should have already been learned then the mind cannot tackle any new material. This is "over spoon-feeding". On the other hand, not giving enough guidance is likewise taxing on one's mind. This is what students would normally regard as "impossible". To illustrate this in a scientific study, educational researchers have looked closely at how students in secondary schools in Australia tackle specific lessons in geometry:
The paper scheduled to be published in the American Educational Research Journal finds that a "step guidance" approach works best for geometry instruction while "problem solving" is the worse. The difference between "step guidance" and "theorem and step guidance" is demonstrated in the following example:

Above figures copied from
  • Sahar Bokosmaty
  • John Sweller
  • and Slava Kalyuga
Learning Geometry Problem Solving by Studying Worked ExamplesEffects of Learner Guidance and ExpertiseAmerican Educational Research Journal0002831214549450first published on October 3, 2014 as doi:10.3102/0002831214549450

"Theorem and step guidance" can be regarded as one hundred percent spoon-feeding while "step guidance" leaves some parts that students should already know but still shows what the student must do step by step. In this particular example, the results show that there is obviously a huge difference in learning outcomes (measured by both similar and transfer tests) between students with and without guidance. There is only a small difference between "theorem and step" and "step" guidance. However, with a much more advanced topic such as the one illustrated below, the difference provides a very useful insight:

Above figures copied from 
  • Sahar Bokosmaty
  • John Sweller
  • and Slava Kalyuga
Learning Geometry Problem Solving by Studying Worked ExamplesEffects of Learner Guidance and ExpertiseAmerican Educational Research Journal0002831214549450first published on October 3, 2014 as doi:10.3102/0002831214549450
With the lesson above applied to students three years apart in schooling, the "theorem and step" guidance ends up working best with 7th grade students while the "step" guidance approach provides the best learning outcomes with 10th grade students. On the other hand, problem solving without guidance works poorly in both sets of students.

One can easily extrapolate these studies to the learning of young children. Young children need a lot of support and guidance. The guidance must come from either textbooks or teachers. Teachers, however, are the only ones who are in the right place and time to gauge where a student stands and can therefore tailor the worked example according to the student's needs. But obviously, without either a textbook or a teacher to provide guidance, we really cannot expect too much from the student....

Monday, October 27, 2014

Can an Online Tutoring Program Help in Algebra?

I was browsing the internet last night to find sites that might help my son improve his reading comprehension. One thing I noticed with various sites was that, although it might seem at first a child would be able to navigate easily, there were in fact numerous stumbling blocks. Learning or working on anything online obviously has prerequisites which adults may easily overlook. The effectiveness of an online tutoring program still hinges significantly on guidance. Thus, there is clearly a strong argument in favor of blended learning, one that mixes online learning with classroom instruction. However, the question remains on how much an online program really contributes to learning. This question has been addressed by numerous studies and results are unfortunately murky. One example is a paper recently published in Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis:

"Improving the median student's performance by approximately eight percentile points" may indeed sound impressive. This size effect is in fact comparable to the amount of mathematical growth typically seen over one full year of instruction in middle school or high school. The software, Cognitive Tutor Algebra I (CTAI), has likewise been reviewed in HomeSchoolMath.net and screenshots of the program have been provided (An example is shown below):

HomeSchoolMath.net describes CTAI with the following paragraph:
"It is a "tutor": for all problems, the software includes on-demand hints that advance from general hints to more specific ones. It is cognitive: the software adapts the problems to the student's performance, and sometimes provides hints for the student ("just-in-time help").
I especially liked the grapher problems. The student is presented with a problem situation from the real world, such as work hours & pay, time & distance, or number of packages & price. The students need to choose the variables, build an algebraic equation to model the situation, answer questions about specific values of the variables, and make a graph using the Grapher."
One can indeed appreciate the above description with the screenshot provided. The program does provide a lot of tools to the student. And those who understand algebra can easily appreciate this. The question is whether this is really effective for someone who is just learning algebra for the first time. The study by Pane and coworkers unfortunately does not provide a clear answer. The abstract must be read carefully. The effects are absent in the first year of implementation. Actually, the effects were negative in the first cohort of students for both middle school and high school (except for the lowest performing quintiles in middle school):

Above copied from
 Reading the paper closely also brings us to the following section:

Above copied from
The above does show that we may need to reflect a lot more on what blended learning really entails....

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Reading Comprehension (Online Tools)

The internet does provide an excellent avenue for us to find tools that may help our children learn. These tools are, however, quite useful not so much because of the technology they provide but because of the content that they make accessible. My son, currently in third grade, is asked to read at least for half an hour each weekday to develop both stamina and skills in reading. There are, fortunately, books for children that are now available online. With half an hour each day, one may easily find not having enough children's books at home. But there are resources on the web that provide more than just reading materials. My son and I have been using sites compiled by internet4classrooms. One of the sites is Harcourt Publishers' Test Tutor:

The above is an example of a short story and this is accompanied with a set of questions that can be used to assess a child's reading comprehension. The question shown here illustrates an example of a question that can not be answered correctly without reading the story. It is quite specific yet it also contains some valid distractors. The days Saturday, Friday and Monday can clearly be found in the passage, but only reading and understanding the passage can lead to the correct answer that this story takes place on a Saturday morning. One thing the above makes possible is some sort of instant gratification. Stickers can make a child more motivated. The same is true for keeping scores. After going through three short passages and nine questions, my son got eight of nine correctly. At the end, there is an option to replay, and my son eagerly clicked on that and went through the entire series again just to get a perfect score at the end. This sure beats the other times when my son looks at the clock so often just to check how many more minutes remain till half an hour.

My son and I have also looked at a site provided by the English Language Centre at the University of Victoria. An example is shown below:
With the question above, my son actually paused for a moment and asked if the story was actually true. My son also attends Sunday school during which he has been introduced to the story of creation. So I told my son that he needed to answer this question based on what he has read and not on what he knows outside of the passage. The above question does illustrate an example in which a student's reading is being assessed and not a student's knowledge. There are other exercises that the above site provides. One example is shown below:

I guess my son and I will find out how this exercise pans out later tonight....

Friday, October 24, 2014

How Not to Attract the Needed Talent to the Teaching Profession

The world just celebrated Teachers' Day on last October 5, recognizing the important role teachers play in our future.
Unfortunately, such critical message seems to have not reached everyone. Investing in teachers means equipping and preparing them so that they could perform their job well both inside and outside the classroom. This is the important message: We need to support our teachers. The world needs teachers, good and effective teachers yet some still focus on the other side of the story, the world needs to fire teachers if they are not performing well. Sadly, the cover page for the coming issue of Time magazine only highlights this wrong-headed notion:


There are several reasons why a fixation on the ability to fire teachers is problematic. First and foremost, equating the evaluation of a teacher's performance to how other professions are measured is incorrect. Learning outcomes or students' scores on standardized exams are influenced by several factors in addition to what a teacher does. Poverty, lack of resources, and a poor curriculum dictated from the top can all contribute immensely to poor learning results in schools. Oftentimes, these other factors are in fact much more significant in deciding how much a student learns in school. Second, an emphasis on firing teachers seems to imply that being hired and granted tenure, or job security, is a given. It is not. Both hiring and granting tenure are the appropriate places to ensure quality in teaching. For instance, the National Center for Education Statistics notes that in 2007, for every 200 public school teachers, three tenured teachers are fired while only one untenured teacher is dismissed. Clearly, there are more tenured teachers being fired than untenured ones. Of course, the current attrition rate among teachers is much higher which brings us to the third most important reason. Almost half of the teachers in the United States leave the profession within their first five years of teaching. Focusing on tenure as a problem is exactly the way how one would not be able to attract the needed talent to the teaching profession. 

This blog therefore joins the call of the American Federation of Teachers against the cover page of the Time magazine:

It is quite clear how misleading the cover page of Time is. This is indeed the last thing one needs while the country is trying hard to attract talent to the teaching profession. But one last point, Diane Ravitch also states on her blog a fourth reason:
"Since when do tech millionaires know anything about teaching children? Why should they determine the lives and careers of educators? Why don’t they volunteer to teach for a week and then share their new wisdom?"

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Medium of Instruction and Science Learning

Apparently in Chinese, a single word can be used to convey either "heat" or hot":

This obviously could be confusing to a high school student who is trying to learn fundamental physics in Chinese. Science learning does require much more than just grasping concepts. Science requires a certain precision in academic language. Even in English, force and power may seem interchangeable in everyday conversations, but in physics, these two correspond to two distinct quantities. Hence, the question of how the medium of instruction affects science learning is an important issue to address especially now that most learning resources for the sciences are in English.

A paper scheduled to be published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching tackles this question by performing a quasi-experimental study in a secondary school in Hong Kong. Participants (about 200 students) come from working class families. For about half of the students, the highest educational attainment of the parents is junior high school (9 years of basic education). All of the students in the study use Mandarin as the language at home. Since Chinese is the medium of instruction in junior high school, the students have been exposed to English only when taking the English subject. In the study, about half of the students is enrolled in a physics class where English is the medium of instruction (EMI) while the other half is placed in a class where Chinese is the medium of instruction (CMI). The following is the abstract of the paper:

Albeit the authors seem to emphasize that Chinese seems to be a better medium of instruction in enabling low-ability students, this appears to apply only on one of the topics covered, forces. When it comes to heat or thermal concepts, the results do not really support this conclusion:
Above copied from
Fung, D. and Yip, V. (2014), The effects of the medium of instruction in certificate-level physics on achievement and motivation to learn. J. Res. Sci. Teach.. doi: 10.1002/tea.21174
In the above figure CMI corresponds to Chinese as medium of instruction while EMI corresponds to English. Since a pre-test is provided, the students can be initially grouped according to initial ability at the end of junior high school (where only the general sciences have been covered with everyone using Chinese as the medium of instruction). Clearly, as the authors have also presented in the paper, when differences are examined, EMI provides higher improvement for both "middle" and "high-ability" students, and there is really no difference between CMI and EMI with regard to students who perform poorly in the pre-test:
Above copied from 
Fung, D. and Yip, V. (2014), The effects of the medium of instruction in certificate-level physics on achievement and motivation to learn. J. Res. Sci. Teach.. doi: 10.1002/tea.21174
The above results are indeed telling. More importantly, an interview has also been performed by Fung and Yip, and one specific issue that comes out is a question often raised by students who are in the physics class that uses Chinese as medium of instruction. It is in fact more of a comment than a question: How will they perform in college where physics is exclusively taught in English? It is an appropriate question to ask. Unfortunately, their answer perhaps is to dismiss simply physics as a future course to take.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Online Versus Face to Face

One can read a chemistry textbook from cover to cover. How much one would learn by doing so depends on one's motivation, the ability to comprehend, and the capacity to commit information to long term memory. Of course, the same factors are in play when trying to learn chemistry from an instructor. The important question is whether face-to-face interactions, what traditional classrooms offer, really makes a difference. This question is addressed in part by a study recently published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching:

This study looks specifically at the difference between online and face-to-face collaborative learning among students in a public middle school (grade 8) in central Virginia. The online platform used in the study, Edmodo, allows students in the experimental group to work on their collaborative assignments, which include reading files, answering online quizzes, and participating in discussion threads.
To learn more about Edmodo, please visit this link

The control group does all of the above as well, but inside the classroom, face-to-face. The assignments are identical and both groups of students receive instruction on the materials covered by the assignments. Thus, the only difference is how the students perform their assignments, face-to-face versus online. To assess the students, the MOSART exam (Harvard College, 2011), a test that measures understanding of key scientific concepts, has been utilized:

Above is a screen capture of the Mosart site.
The results are unequivocal. Students from the online class perform poorly compared to the students who are in the face-to-face class:

Above copied from
Wendt, J. L. and Rockinson-Szapkiw, A. (2014), The effect of online collaboration on middle school student science misconceptions as an aspect of science literacy. J. Res. Sci. Teach., 51: 1103–1118. doi: 10.1002/tea.21169
In fact, the experimental group performed a bit better in the pretest, suggesting that students even developed misconceptions during the online activities. One main reason suggested by the researchers behind the poor performance of students assigned to the online activities is the asynchronous nature of online discussions. One does not receive immediate feedback, body language and thus, misunderstanding as well as development of misconceptions can easily occur.

One important lesson that should be learned from the above study is that the mere use of technology in the classroom does not necessarily translate to improvements in learning. Some activities like collaborative learning are much better facilitated face-to-face. The results of the above study certainly supports the notion that the DepEd's new K+12 curriculum is truly wrong-headed:

DepEd should realize that collaboration does not require technology. It actually happens a lot easier face-to-face. And it is cheaper to do this inside a classroom.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Can DepEd Deliver Anything on Time?

by Joy Rizal

It seems the ONLY things that DepEd has the ability to keep and insure will happen on time, according to schedule, are breaks and holidays.

According to the official DepEd Schedule (DO_s2014_18), last Thursday and Friday, October 16-17, 2014 were supposed to be the dates that second quarter exams would be given,with the week of October 20-24 as mid term assessment and INSET as well as a semester break for students. Report cards are to be given at a parent teacher conference on Saturday Oct 25, 2014. 


"The teachers made their assessment of the Aquino administration’s performance through a “Progress Report Card” using the K-12 grading system in several ‘key result areas’ or actions that were expected from the administration which include the increase in the salaries and benefits of teachers, sufficient education budget, fund allocation for K-12 program and patriotic education. The president got a failing grade B (for beginning), in all of those aspects and was advised to provide the needs of the education sector in his remaining years in office."

That all sounds well and good, EXCEPT for the fact DepEd living up to its standard level of incompetence, has not seen a need to bother creating, or at least not seen a need to bother distributing, the exams for the schools to use.   Not even a single copy of the exams for the schools (at least not for the elementary schools in our area) to replicate.  

This of course would make distributing (honest) report cards at the parent teacher conference (which will most likely be canceled) impossible.

It is no wonder we STILL do not have the promised textbooks for all our children. The Philippine Department of Education cannot even distribute a set of Exams that consists of less than 50 pages per grade level before the required dates.  It seems the ONLY things that DepEd has the ability to keep and insure will happen on time, according to schedule, are breaks and holidays.

I have always believed that the best way to teach is by example.  Sadly the example that DepEd and oversight committees are teaching our children is that work schedules, deadlines, ethics and promises mean nothing. They teach that incompetence and excuses are ok for people that are in charge and that leaders seem to rarely be held accountable for even the most grievous atrocities.   At the same time, our children are condemned by not receiving a decent education and are held accountable both with poor grades (it is difficult to study when there is no material to study) as well as later in life by only being able to get low level manual “grunt” jobs.

Our country is held accountable by the fact that DepEd and our elected officials (who are supposed to at least pretend to be trying to better our country) are condemning generation after generation of children that do not even have the basic skills needed to compete in today’s world.   These officials have also been teaching our children for their entire school life that corruption is to be accepted and that people in the working world do not need to worry about doing a good quality job with anything.

Look around at how many times a year does the same sections of road need to be repaired rather than fixing it correctly the first time?  How often have you seen anyone install much of anything correctly the first time?  How many people have you seen who actually try to be accountable, take responsibility and are proud of the honest work they do?  (Sadly, I know a lot of people that take far more pride with their dishonest actions.)

If anyone wonders why the Philippines is in the mess it is in, one can start by looking at DepEd, which for YEARS has been downgrading the education quality even though its budget has been steadily increasing while getting away with the lamest of excuses for the continually increasing shortcomings.

DepEd can go for YEARS not delivering learning material, having very questionable invoices, ordering useless items (for instance two bulb solar lighting kits), and when asked by Senate officials how they spent over 300 Billion pesos actually get away with saying “they do not know” (with no serious repercussions).

The things DepEd is teaching our children by their living examples explains a LOT about why our country has among the lowest ratings in all areas of any country on the planet.  Simply put the results we are seeing in our nation is exactly what the Philippine Department of Education is teaching our children, through their actions and inactions.

Are these really the kind of people we want to be responsible for our children’s education and the foundation of their future?

It is time to stand up and say enough is enough.  It is time to start insisting that everyone in DepEd From the lowest to the highest-level do their job honestly and correctly, without excuses, or get out!  

DepEd, we are getting nothing from you now; if you are gone, we can at least start using your salaries to make photocopies of learning material for our children....

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Understanding Angles

While not understanding fractions can become an obstacle in performing well in algebra, a misconception of what angles are can really pull a student behind in geometry. For people who do not have problems with angles, it may sound strange but it is possible that one major stumbling block in achieving proficiency with angles is language. It is as simple as not understanding what the word "angle" really means. In geometry, the word "angle" precisely means one thing. It is a measure of the amount of turn between two lines. It could be acute (The following figures are obtained from MathIsFun):

It could be right:

It could be obtuse:

It could be straight:

It could be reflex:

Or it could be zero, or a complete rotation:

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Much Does It Cost to Raise a Child?

How much raising a child would cost depends of course on where you live. In the United States, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released a report that estimates how much currently rearing a child costs. The numbers range between $12,800 and $14,970 annually. A family of four children should expect to spend less, as the average goes down by about 22% per child, but the numbers are still quite substantial, about $40,000 per year. A family with four children earning an annual household income (before tax) of $60,000 clearly has to exercise tight budgeting.

The following is an infographic from the USDA summarizing the report:

Raising a child from birth to age 18 (before college) costs $245,340. This is the average. Raising a child in a rural area is cheaper, but still requires $193,590. These numbers should not be surprising however. Child care, for example, in Fairfax county costs about $250 per child per week. This alone costs over $10,000 per year. Even with free tuition in public schools, increasing costs in transportation, food, health care, housing, and clothing, can easily replace the costs of daycare (shown in the following graph).

Above copied from Expenditures on Children by Families, 2013
Those who could spend more would naturally spend more on their children. Here are the estimates for children born in 2013 for households at different income levels:

Above copied from Expenditures on Children by Families, 2013
A wealthy family is expected to spend half a million dollars to raise a child from 0 to 17. And that is before college. The total expenditure from birth through college can easily surpass one million dollars. This means that in order to raise two children through college, my household needs to earn at least $2,000,000 in about two decades. (about $100,000 annually) And that is for child support only. These numbers place in a correct perspective what responsible parenting entails.

Comparing against child expenditures in 1960, Americans have only increased child costs by 24 percent.

Above copied from Expenditures on Children by Families, 2013
However, there are dramatic changes regarding where expenses are made. Food has become cheaper because of great improvements in agriculture, but education and child care have increased significantly. It has risen by 800 percent.

The new K+12 curriculum in the Philippines should not be taken as a minor burden on Filipino families. Properly raising and supporting a child requires not only time and effort, but real money. These are real costs, which should be taken into account, especially when the benefits are highly unlikely to be realized.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Basic Education Is Not a Cure for Unemployment

Though it sounds attractive to a lot of people, the suggestion that education is the solution to high unemployment should be taken with a great deal of skepticism. If the reason behind unemployment is lack of skills then the number of jobs available must be high enough to support this hypothesis. The fact is that unemployment is not so much about not being able to fill positions but more about no positions to be filled. Unemployment oftentimes is caused by a low number of jobs available. As Laurence Mishel pointed out in a report published by the Economic Policy Institute, even in the United States, there are college graduates who are unemployed.
Above table copied from
Education is Not the Cure for High Unemployment or for Income Inequality
The employment situation in the Philippines is no exception. It is clearly wrong to suggest that the unemployment is due to some gap in skills. Laborers and unskilled workers comprise the majority of the employed in the Philippines. And according to the National Statistics Office of the Philippines, about one in five of the unemployed is a college graduate.

Therefore, to claim that a new curriculum (DepEd K+12) can cure unemployment is disingenuous. Yet, business leaders in the Philippines seem to continue to tout this fallacy:

Above copied from GMA News
The above news article also attempts to explain how and why the new curriculum could improve the chances of getting employed by citing the case of workers in fast food restaurants. Graduates of the new curriculum apparently are now going to be qualified to flip burgers and sell fries. Such view completely ignores market forces in employment. The fact that these restaurants are hiring college graduates is not because graduates of the old high school curriculum are incapable of unskilled labor. In the United States, the following table summarizes the characteristics of fast food workers:

Above table copied from
Slow Progress for Fast Food Workers
In fact, it is a common misconception that only high school students work at fast food restaurants but this group does comprise about 30 percent of the total workforce. And these teenagers are not paid with lower wages:

Above table copied from 
Slow Progress for Fast Food Workers
College graduates and undergraduates find employment in fast food services not because these positions require a great deal of skills or training but because these college graduates cannot find jobs in their field. Schmitt and Jones at the Center for Economic and Policy Research wrote:
The wage structure for non-teenagers in the industry is almost identical to the overall distribution (the second column in the table above). Older workers in fast-food have little to show for their additional education, age, and experience. 
The majority (53 percent) of workers in fast-food are adults (21 and older) with a high school degree or more, which you would never guess from the way the industry pays.
Clearly, there are other more important reasons why people are unemployed. Lack of skills is unfortunately not the most important one. The reason why there is high unemployment can be as simple as: "There are no jobs".