"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, April 30, 2015

Lessons From Thailand

An article published in the Asian Correspondent talks about Thailand's education reform and how it has failed to address so many issues, most importantly, the existing inequity in education. It is particularly striking to see the Philippines mentioned in one of the sentences. And it is not gratifying: "According to this most recent data, the only countries in Asia with a worse record of opportunities for education are India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines."

The reform described in the Asian Correspondent is similar in scope and size as the Philippines' DepEd K+12 curriculum. Borgen Magazine distills Thailand's most recent education reform in two paragraphs:

The third wave of reform began in 1997 and came to a close recently in 2010. It has been the most complex and extensive reform period thus far, and has called for a number of changes: it guaranteed government-provided education for 12 years. Many universities became autonomous institutions. The system became decentralized, breaking into 175 different local education service areas. Standards were implemented to award teacher licenses.

During this period education was heavily restructured into three basic levels: one, two and three. Level One is optional. It consists of kindergarten education for children between the ages of 3 and 5. Three grades are included in the program as a whole: KG1-KG3. Level Two begins primary education, and the first years of required schooling for Thai children. This level consists of six years: P1-P6. Level Three is secondary education, and includes M1-M6. Not all six grades are required; a student need only finish M1-M3. The end of each year requires children to take a test in order to advance to the next level of education.
How much resources Thailand provides for basic education shows how serious the country has been in its education reform. NationMaster reports that in 2011, Thailand spent 5.8% of its GDP on education (The Philippines spends less than 3 percent).  The pupil to teacher ratio is also not high (less than half of the Philippines), 16 in primary and 20 in secondary. Lack of resources surely can derail any education reform but in the case of Thailand, the problem seems to be beyond these factors.

Since more than ten years have passed, there are now published studies that attempt to explain why Thailand's education reform failed. One study is by Hallinger and Lee, published in the Cambridge Journal of Education. In this paper, the authors conclude, "The lack of results is linked to a reform strategy that has emphasized top-down implementation and a cultural predisposition to treat change as an event rather than as a long-term process." Similar to other studies, the variability of the reform across schools is noted. It is partial and superficial. For the reform to succeed, Hallinger and Lee provided the following recommendations:
At the national level, policy-makers will need to allocate financial resources in a manner that allows local leaders to deploy these resources so that they reach the right people at the right time. This remains a continuing frustration. At the local level, leadership is needed to build staff interest and capacity, and create ownership among those implementing these reforms. Finally, training for teachers that fosters both deeper understanding and skill development is needed on a broad and continuous basis.
Fry and Bi offer a more detailed evaluation of Thailand's education reform in a paper published in the Journal of Educational Administration. The following problems are cited:

  1. Too many efforts/programs that are fragmented and uncoordinated
  2. Overcentralization in budget and personnel
  3. Lack of innovation in teaching/learning
  4. Neglect of science and research/development
  5. Lack of equity
  6. Lack of investing in people (teachers)
  7. Inadequate use of available technology
Fry and Bi also noted the following to explain further the failure of education reform in Thailand: 
"Problems in implementing reform in the Philippines mirror those in Thailand. The implementation of reform in the Philippines has been adversely affected by a large bureaucratic highly centralized hierarchical Department of Education resistant to change." 
It is also worth noting that Fry and Bi cited Hallinger with regard to the problem of implementation:
Finally, the ministry failed to mobilize key stakeholders such as businesses and parents in support of the reform. Only bureaucrats and some politicians were genuinely mobilized.
Wongwanich and coworkers focus on the delivery side of the education reform in their paper published in Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences. In particular, these researchers found that:
Conventional ways of policy delivery, such as meetings, distribution of documents and manuals and trainings were not so effective. At the policy level, the methods used were document distribution and meeting and training organization. After policies were forwarded to educational service area offices, it was found that training was emphasized and circular letters were increased to inform all involved parties at all levels. Most schools distributed documents and organized training sessions. It was also found that knowledge exchange and collaborative working were hardly used at the three levels. This showed that most policy delivering units used the methods of transmitting knowledge and receiving information from the central government. They did not learn together or create new knowledge regarding education reform. Document distribution, meetings and training sessions can be done easily and widely across the country. Learning together requires a large number of experts and knowledge exchange in educational service areas and educational institutes. Personnel at the policy level, the educational service area and existing networks may not be enough to make changes to education reform at the school level.
It only becomes natural then that education reforms remain on paper but not inside classrooms.

There is plenty to learn from Thailand. The above paragraph alone from Wongwanich and coworkers shows that the Philippines started on a wrong foot in implementing its K+12 curriculum.

And it is not only the government that needs to look at these lessons, parents and teachers need to learn from these as well.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Why Parents Must Be Involved?

"I spent three weeks of this past summer in the small town of Paete in Laguna, conducting a series of lectures to parents and teachers in the town's three public elementary schools." This is the first sentence of an article that was published in the Philippine Star, and later included in the book, "Selected Essays on Science and Technology for Securing a Better Philippines". Education primarily involves children. Quality education does require a voice from research and expertise. However, the hearts of those who have their future at stake likewise need to be included.

Teachers and parents, An introduction to computers and the internet in elementary schools, Paete, Laguna, July, 2005
I do not have a child enrolled in any of the schools in Paete, Laguna. And I could not possibly equal the concern of those who actually do. Brady and Kennedy wrote in Curriculum Construction:

"Parents are a constant reminder that the curriculum is inextricably linked with values, feelings, affection and love - it is not merely an abstraction for academic inquiry or government manipulation." The importance of parents' participation and consultation on education can not be overstated.

The Parents Advocacy for Children's Education (PACE) has been appealing to the Philippine government to heed the concerns raised by parents regarding DepEd's K+12 curriculum. Ray Vargas describes the lack of consultation. In a comment to an article on this blog, Vargas writes:
"Sometime in September 2011, K to 12 was being discussed in Mapsa EduPh (Manila Archdiocesan and Parochial Schools Association) Annual Convention in Immaculate Conception Parish in Cubao, Quezon City. I was there representing my children's school's parents association, being the president. The cluster is supposed to be a group for PTAs and the topic was K to 12. There were around 200 participants. The speaker was from DepED. During the open forum, I asked who among the participants were parents, and I was surprised to see that there were less than 5 among us who were PTAs. I asked the speaker on how they consulted the parents, and the answer was through a "public hearing". I asked if there was an organized parent group who represented them. Obviously, there was none. Msgr. Gerry Santos, who was then the chair intervened and acknowledged that parents were supposed to have been asked about the program. He continued by challenging the parents to come up with their advocacy concerning the issue."
What is more disturbing is an apparent response to the complaint of lack of consultation with parents. The following is a memo signed by the Quezon City PTA-Federation president and it comes with an attachment - five pages of Frequently Asked Questions regarding K to 12, which even include the following question:

I think it is actually straightforward to see which side of the story is true. If parents were indeed consulted, such question would not be a frequently asked question.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Voice of Parents

It was back in February of 2012 that I received an email from the mayor of a town that is not too far from Manila. The email said, "Just a bit of news: I attended the welcome party for the new District Supervisor and I was really surprised that she and the other supervisor are not aware of the proposed extended years for high school. They said they heard something about it but no definite instructions yet. I told them that according to the news these will be implemented in 2012 school year."

I first heard of planned curriculum revisions in basic education in the Philippines during the later months of 2011. I even volunteered to assist but only received one short response from someone in DepEd. The next thing that happened was reading in the news in January of 2012 that the K+12 curriculum was already about to be implemented. Thus, it was interesting to note that a few months before the implementation, a district supervisor was not informed of the new curriculum. And if a district supervisor is not aware, how much more uninformed would the parents be?

The Philippine Constitution recognizes the role of parents in rearing their children. The Constitution specifically states within its article on education, "Without limiting the natural right of parents to rear their children, elementary education is compulsory for all children of school age." The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 also mentions the role of parents in curriculum development by including parents-teachers associations as among those groups DepEd needs to consult. Unfortunately, the same act fails to include parents in the review and evaluation of the implementation of the basic education curriculum.

Since K+12 is implemented in stages, it is not surprising that parents seem to be delayed in their reaction to the new curriculum. After all, the additional two years are still yet to happen. But those years are now getting closer. Consultation in a process is difficult to quantify, but how much the public is informed can be measured. How much the public understands the new curriculum can be gauged. One can browse through discussion threads and evaluate how informed the comments are. Parents themselves can likewise attest to whether they have been consulted or not. The following post from Rey Vargas of PACE (Parents Advocacy for Children's Education) is highly informative:

There is a new colored version:

Being mere "observers" is not being consulted.

The province of Ontario in Canada is likewise currently involved in a curriculum revision, although much smaller in scale and range compared to DepEd's K+12. The revision only involves sex education. Still, the curriculum scheduled to be implemented in September 2015, has received plenty of criticisms from parents. To appease parents, the Globe and Mall reported in October 2014:
"The Ministry of Education announced Wednesday that it was going to survey one parent at every elementary school across the province – approximately 4,000 parents - on the appropriate ages to introduce sensitive topics. The consultations will inform a “relevant and age-appropriate” Health and Physical Education curriculum that will be introduced to classrooms next fall, according to a government press release."
One parent from each school was consulted. It is then not surprising to see the following page rise recently on Facebook:

The new Ontario curriculum is actually not that new. It was first introduced in early 2010.

Consultation as mentioned in laws often refers to drawing input from the public, by way of suggestions and comments, on a proposed policy or legislation that may affect them. Consultation is therefore not an easy process if the public does not understand or is not even aware of the proposed policy. It is impossible for the public to comment on how a policy would affect them if they are not informed. How a policy affects them is also hard to imagine unless the changes are so imminent. The public is hardly known for its lack of procrastination. These difficulties, however, do not absolve the government of its responsibility to consult stakeholders. And in the case of the Philippines, what happened on the Senate floor as described by Ray Vargas clearly demonstrates the lack of consultation on DepEd's K+12. Perhaps, the Senate is merely following the law which does not explicitly include parents and teachers in consulting when it comes to the implementation of the new curriculum.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Characteristics of a Pro-Poor Education

It is easy to claim on a poster that a particular education program is for the underprivileged. One can simply grab a photograph showing a group of children and paste a couple of sound bites like "The right to education is for everyone. Not implementing K to 12 is anti-poor." However, whether the claim is true or not depends on evidence. To gauge whether DepEd's K to 12 is pro-poor, it boils down to one issue, equity. In this aspect, it is not difficult to see that DepEd's K to 12 fails in so many ways with regard to addressing the gross inequities in Philippine basic education.

Above copied from DepEd Philippines' Facebook page
Addressing poverty through social programs is not something totally uncharted territory. There have been numerous attempts in the past in so many countries and thus, it is now possible to see which ones are effective. In the United States, for instance, there are a few interventions that are strongly supported by evidence. These are:
  • Nurse-Family Partnership (A nurse home visitation program for low-income, pregnant women)
  • Child FIRST (A home visitation program for low-income families with young children at risk of emotional, behavioral, or developmental problems, or child maltreatment)
  • Success for All for Grades K-2 (A school-wide reform program, primarily for high-poverty elementary schools, with a strong emphasis on reading instruction)
  • Annual Book Fairs for High-Poverty Elementary Schools (Book fairs providing summer reading over three consecutive years, starting at the end of first or second grade)
  • Child Immunization Campaign With Incentives (Monthly immunization camps in poor Indian villages, combined with small incentives for parents to have their children immunized – e.g., $1 bag of lentils)
The above first of all exemplify programs that directly target the poor. The above programs emphasize addressing the specific needs of struggling students. Socio-economic disadvantages in education are real. A child comes to school, already shaped by what is happening at home. Huge achievement gaps are already present right on the first day of school and these gaps only increase if disadvantaged children are not provided greater resources and support. The right to education is for everyone, but the children of poor families have a right to quality education. This is the reason why it is imperative that all schools are provided all the necessary resources. Struggling students who mostly come from poor families need more effective teachers. Children who lack exposure to educational experiences outside school are in greater need of learning opportunities in school. When laboratories especially in schools attended by poor children are ill-equipped, education can not be regarded as pro-poor. When libraries are not able to provide the required resources to inspire reading among poor children, education can not be regarded as pro-poor. When not all schools are able to offer enough classrooms and years of basic education, education is in fact anti-poor.

The question of resources cannot be disregarded. It is central to delivering quality education to all. If an education program siphons the best only to serve those who are already ahead, if a curriculum cannot be delivered to where it is most needed, if not all students are provided access to basic education, we do not have a pro-poor education. Resources are limited and for this very important reason, prioritization is key. Basic needs should come first. Failing to do so, an education program only magnifies the inequities that are already present in society. DepEd's K to 12 is not pro-poor for one simple reason. The program stretches the already limited resources of the Philippine public school system making it impossible to answer the needs of those who need the most.

Above copied from Climate Adaptation

Friday, April 24, 2015

Almost a Month Has Passed, Yet No Response from DepEd

This blog has focused on the lack of research backing DepEd's K+12 curriculum. This blog has in fact enumerated a long list of reasons why DepEd's move to overhaul basic education in the Philippines is not founded on good evidence. This blog has also lamented the fact that Philippine lawmakers have not examined thoughtfully the new curriculum and have needlessly rushed to pass the Enhance Basic Education Act of 2013 (Republic Act 10533). Thus, in addition to lack of sound research, DepEd's K+12 is now facing legal challenges.

Perhaps, DepEd has already asked for an extension from the highest court in the Philippines. A month has passed since the Supreme Court's order to various government agencies to respond to a challenge that DepEd's K+12 undermines the Constitution's protection of labor rights.

Above copied from the Philippine Star
Perhaps, the crowd is not paying attention to this issue because of the coming boxing fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather. The article has not been "tweeted" nor shared. Perhaps, after May 2, this may start getting some attention.

Legal challenges against DepEd's K+12 are not confined to labor issues. It is in fact surprising that in a country where it is obvious that any changes in term limits of elected officials, any revisions regarding "restrictive" economic provisions, or a shift to a parliamentary system would require amending the Constitution, to see an education bill smoothly passed and signed into law when the bill is in fact amending the Constitution.

Article XIV of the Philippine Constitution states it clearly, "...elementary education is compulsory for all children of school age." On the other hand, the Enhanced Basic Education Act states something obviously different, that there are now three compulsory stages of education. Kindergarten is the first stage, elementary is the second stage, and high school, composed of four junior years and two senior years, is the third compulsory stage.

The above are not just semantics. The word "compulsory" carries a lot. The State, more than anyone else, is enjoined by the Constitution. Compulsory requires that what is required is accessible or possible. Anyone claiming that there are resources adequate for the years added to basic education by Republic Act 10533 is without doubt, in a state of denial or hallucination. If it is not possible, it can not be made compulsory. These are far worse legal challenges. Perhaps, the Supreme Court would give DepEd more than ten days to respond when these challenges do arise...

Thursday, April 23, 2015

CHED Respects Supreme Court Decision

With regard to the temporary restraining order placed on one of its orders, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the Philippines is preparing to respond within ten days. The Supreme Court of course has the final say on how to interpret the highest law of the land. The issue at hand, however, touches on principles that are not specific to the Philippines. These are academic freedom, tenure in higher education, labor protection, as well as rights of learners and instructors.

CHED has issued the following release as its initial response to the Supreme Court ruling:

Source: Commission on Higher Education
The Philippine Constitution does require something to be present in the curricula of schools; "All educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the curricula." One would imagine that what verb follows the word "shall" in the Constitution has been chosen carefully. The combination "shall include" means a requirement. Another section says "Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning." Again, in this instance the provision states something that is specifically required. The phrase "shall be enjoyed in all" provides a clear instruction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that subjects other than the study of the Constitution be required in higher education.

The State is indeed mandated by the Constitution to develop and enrich Filipino. The State is likewise mandated to support science and technology. The State is also required to foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture. The State is enjoined to promote physical education. With these provisions, it must be clear that the State cannot do something that goes against what needs to be promoted, developed and encouraged. Obviously, doing nothing to promote, develop or encourage any of these items is also against the law.

It is easy to argue why the study of the Constitution is required. It is likewise easy to see why the Constitution does not require any other subject and simply settles on providing general guiding principles for education:
They shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency.
In my opinion, the wisdom is simple. Requiring a certain course to be taught in higher education is not necessarily promoting or encouraging. In fact, it achieves the opposite. Only scholarly work can promote a given field in higher education. With specific courses being required in colleges and universities, academic freedom is lost. Along with freedom, so does responsibility. With a guaranteed stream of students enrolling in required courses, there is no longer any incentive for both faculty and the State to promote and enhance the field, the discipline, or area of study. Academic freedom must be an absolute in higher education. Otherwise, the word "higher" is likewise lost.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

DepEd's K+12 Must Be Suspended for the Right Reasons

Somehow, I fail to recognize the significance of a recent issuance by the Supreme Court in the Philippines of a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the new college curriculum removing Filipino as a mandatory subject in college. The new college curriculum outlined in a memorandum issued by the Commission on Higher Education is set to be implemented in 2018. We are currently in the year 2015. The need for a TRO was therefore unclear until I heard of news of academic departments of Filipino in some colleges in the Philippines being closed.

Above copied from Bulatlat
Primary and secondary education are systems that are complex enough that changes must be introduced in a carefully planned and integrated manner since these can easily have unintended consequences.

In the Philippines where basic education faces so many challenges, it is very important to keep in mind various factors that are in play. Formal schooling does not begin at childbirth so parents and early childhood care also matter. Education requires resources, classrooms, desks, teachers and learning materials. Teachers and learning materials come from higher education. If higher education is likewise in a bad shape, reforms in basic education are not going to succeed.

Article XIV of the Philippine Constitution provides the general principles that need to be followed when providing education in the Philippines. The various sections in this article basically enumerate what needs to be considered. Nowhere in this article does it state that one provision is more important than another although one could easily imagine a conflict potentially arising between sections.

Here is an example. The article actually starts with a statement of "education for all" and it ends with a section on Sports stating that the State must promote physical education. Of course, sports programs and competitions are mentioned. However, in the spirit of "education for all", it is only through providing opportunities for all, and not only for athletes, would the last section be harmonious with the first.

Another section worth noting is Section 5. This section lists the following: local planning in the development of educational policies and programs, academic freedom, right to select a profession or course of study, right of teachers to professional advancement, ensuring that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents. In an article published in Forbes, Morrison describes failed educational reforms as reforms imposed on teachers, who are told what they have to teach and how they have to teach it. Section 5 therefore basically informs what to avoid in order to have an education reform that has some chance of success.

The State can easily find conflict with itself by not taking a "systems" approach in reforming education. It is indeed prescribed in the Constitution that nationalism and a national language must be promoted in schools. It is also mandated that regional languages and indigenous culture be respected. The Constitution also recognizes the importance of science and technology. Dictating that a course in science be required for all college students may be viewed as an advancement of science education, but in the light of Section 5, this is not advisable. Universities on their own can dictate such a requirement but the Constitution prohibits the State from doing so. In essence, Article XIV of the Constitution protects the rights of the people with regard to education and tells the State what it should promote and encourage.

It is in these two words, promotion and encouragement, lies what is necessary in an education reform. Education needs resources. It is no mystery then that at the end of section 5, assigning the highest budget priority to education is mandated. Mother tongue based - multilingual education (MTB-MLE) is part of DepEd's K+12 curriculum. Without the required textbooks and adequately trained teachers,  MTB-MLE is likewise bound to fail. Simply mandating that the Filipino language be taught in institutions of higher education without supporting scholarly work in this area is equally meaningless. College students need not be forced to take courses if such courses indeed carry some degree of scholarly work. Departments of Filipino languages can not flourish and thrive without the State's support in scholarly work in these areas. In the end, this is what really makes a discipline part of higher education.

DepEd's K+12 must be suspended so that the correct approaches and preparations are made before its implementation. Section 5 of Article XIV carries the guiding principles of a successful education reform. DepEd's K+12's lack of adherence to this section is the right reason why it must be suspended.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Education Reform in the Philiipines Must Address Deficiency First Before Growth

I once had an insightful conversation with a successful businessman in crafts from Paete, Laguna. As he lauded my efforts in bringing computers to the elementary schools, he lamented that I was not prioritizing the needs of the school children, and of course, the basic needs of the town, in general. After all, how could a child possibly focus on a lesson with an empty stomach? His words were certainly no different from this excerpt from the Education Textbook:

The figure above is derived from Maslow's classic paper in Psychological Review. Maslow originally defined five sets of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. The following words from the original paper are really no different from the words of the businessman from Paete:
All capacities are put into the service of hunger-satisfaction, and the organization of these capacities is almost entirely determined by the one purpose of satisfying hunger. The receptors and effectors, the intelligence, memory, habits, all may now be defined simply as hunger-gratifying tools. Capacities that are not useful for this purpose lie dormant, or are pushed into the background. The urge to write poetry, the desire to acquire an automobile, the interest in American history, the desire for a new pair of shoes are, in the extreme case, forgotten or become of secondary importance.
Maslow's work lacks full empirical support. Whether one can in fact categorize human needs into five distinct and independent groups remains to be validated. However, there is support that needs can be at least categorized into two: deficiency and growth (Wahba and Bridell, 1976).

Categorizing needs may indeed help in understanding ways to improve basic education. After all, education relies on motivation and motivation depends on needs. Assessing education reforms needs to take into account the difference between deficiency and growth as well. Providing meals to children in school may not improve learning outcomes. However, this does not necessarily mean that other interventions without attending first to the nutritional needs of children would work. Attending to deficiency needs may be necessary, but not sufficient in improving education. After all, even schools in Florida still recognize the significance of providing a meal to students:
Above copied from the Brandenton Herald

The important word here that cannot be overlooked is "necessary". Hanushek and coworkers have looked at two decades of education research to find what works in improving schools in developing countries. Their conclusion, not quite earth-shaking, is this: "The few variables that do have significant effects – e.g. availability of desks, teacher knowledge of the subjects they teach, and teacher absence – are not particularly surprising and thus provide little guidance for future policies and programs."

My response to the businessman from Paete was that my contribution was only a simple experiment. It was aimed at opening our eyes to the importance of supporting our schools, enabling our teachers, and letting children know that we still care.

A nationwide education reform, on the other hand, must adhere to the wise words of this businessman. The reason need not be founded on Maslow's speculation for the real reason lies in pragmatism.

Meeting the growth needs of an educational system is not easy. One can simply compare the following two objectives:
  • Every graduate will be equipped with: information, media and technology skills, learning and innovation skills, effective communication skills, and life and career skills. (DepEd's K+12 objective)
  • Every student will be provided the necessary learning materials (textbook).
Without doubt, the second objective is easier to meet for it does not require anything from neither learner nor teacher. This is all on DepEd. Yet, DepEd fails miserably in this objective. If DepEd fails in this easier task on which it has full control, the probability that DepEd can meet higher objectives is really zero. DepEd must address deficiency first to demonstrate its capability to implement simpler reforms. DepEd's K+12 is doomed to fail simply because DepEd is not even competent to meet deficiency needs. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Education Reform In the Philippines Must Begin Where We Currently Stand

If there is a gap that needs to be addressed in Philippine basic education, it is the completion rate. The completion rate in both elementary and secondary levels has stubbornly remained near seventy percent.

"Instead of adding two additional years, why not first fix the foundation in the primary education?" is a statement made by Rene Tadle, a professor at the University of Santo Tomas and lead convenor of the Council of Teachers and Staff of Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (COTESCUP), during a discussion on DepEd's K+12 curriculum. 

Professor Rene Tadle
A discussion on K+12
Tadle, in his opening statement during the discussion "K+12: Go or No Go?" mentions low enrollment in colleges in 2016 that may result in labor problems in higher education. Tadle emphasizes that this is only one perspective that comes from college teachers, a group he represents. Tadle briefly switches to a more general one, citing that the two additional years do not really address the more pressing concern of basic education in the Philippines, the failure of "education for all". Unfortunately, the discussion of how K+12 addresses the major problems of Philippine basic education has become a minor issue.

There are stages in improving basic education. Mona Mourshed and coworkers explain the importance of identifying these stages in the Mickinsey Report "How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better". Below is an excerpt.

There is poor, fair, good and great, as shown in the following figure. It has taken several decades for Singapore to move from one stage to the next.

Above copied from
"How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better"

The Philippines must take into account where it currently stands so that its educational system can take the right course for improvement. Given the following examples, the Philippines falls near "Fair" or "Poor":

Above copied from 
"How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better"
From this point, it is helpful to look at the themes of successful education reforms in the group, "Fair to Poor":
  • Providing scaffolding and motivation for low skill teachers and principals 
  • Getting all schools to minimum quality standard
  • Getting students in seats
Of the above three, there is no question that the Philippines needs to meet minimum quality standards for all schools as well as keep children in school. These have been achieved by "improving school facilities and resources to a minimum threshold adequate for attendance and learning", "providing textbooks and learning resources to every student", and "meeting the basic needs of children (meals, clothing, transportation, toilets). Failing in any of these items obviously does not get an educational system to go even beyond the "fair" stage.  But when it works, like in Western Cape, "education for all" becomes more of a reality than an illusion:

Above copied from 
"How the world’s most improved school systems keep getting better"
The above is not as exciting as adopting pedagogy models, but without addressing first the minimum requirements of schooling, even basic numeracy and literacy are impossible to reach. To appreciate how improved school systems keep improving, the following paragraph from the report is worth reading:
The pattern we have found shows that all the school systems that are successful in achieving sustained improvement within a given performance journey share a common set of characteristics in what they do and how they do it. One reason why this pattern may have been previously obscure could be due to the fact that these characteristics change over time, depending on what stage of the journey the school system has reached. In the early days, outcomes improvement is all about stabilizing the system, reducing variance between classrooms and schools, and ensuring basic standards are met. At this stage of the journey, the reforms are almost always driven from the center. Later, as the system improves, the engine for improvement shifts to instructional practices. This, by its very nature, has much less to do with the centre and is primarily driven by the teachers and the schools themselves: it is all about turning schools into learning organizations. The pattern only becomes clear when this one spot is studied assiduously: without this, it is all too easy to confuse what is needed at one stage with what is necessary at another, quite different, stage.
Philippine basic education still remains in the lowest stage and support from a strong central government is still very much needed. There is no quick fix. This support includes meeting first the basic needs of children and teachers. The fact that the Philippine government still fails to provide what teachers and children need in school is the strongest argument against DepEd's K+12.

Sadly, the Philippine government has chosen to skip this important part and simply jump to the next. And in the stage that the Philippines has chosen, improving instructional practices, it misses the important lesson learned from other countries, "This, by its very nature, has much less to do with the centre and is primarily driven by the teachers and the schools themselves."

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spiral versus Strand

In the United States Senate, the committee on education has unanimously approved a rewrite of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Emma Brown of the Washington Post writes "Senate’s effort to rewrite NCLB sparks cautious optimism". At the heart of the bill is the role of the federal government in basic education. Mercedes Schneider at the Huffington Post highlights the following key phrases in the bill:

  • "The Secretary shall not have the authority to require a State..."
  • "Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to permit the Secretary to establish any criterion that specifies, defines, or prescribes..."
  • "The Secretary shall be prohibited from requiring or coercing a State to enter into a voluntary partnership..."
The following paragraph is also important to note:
Nothing in this title shall be construed to authorize an officer or employee of the Federal Government to mandate, direct, or control a State, local educational agency, or school’s specific instructional content, academic standards and assessments, curriculum, or program of instruction, as a condition of eligibility to receive funds under this Act.
Diane Ravitch therefore describes the bill with the following words:
One may quibble with details, but the bottom line is that this bill defangs the U.S. Department of Education; it no longer will exert control over every school with mandates. This bill strips the status quo of federal power to ruin schools and the lives of children and educators.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act in the United States in its previous form (commonly referred to as No Child Left Behind) is often criticized along its strong emphasis on standardized testing and accountability.  Still, the law even in its previous form does not go as far as dictating exactly what needs to be taught and how it should be taught in schools. One can easily contrast this with the corresponding law in the Philippines, Republic Act No. 10533. The following examples of provisions under this law glaringly demonstrate overreaching of legislation on education:
...The curriculum shall use pedagogical approaches that are constructivist, inquiry-based, reflective, collaborative and integrative...
...The curriculum shall use the spiral progression approach to ensure mastery of knowledge and skills after each level....
The law is actually dictating details of the curriculum with the obvious assumption that lawmakers and their staff who crafted this law are competent enough to make such a decision. The law basically takes the position that there are no lingering questions on how a curriculum should be designed. The law seems to assume that a spiral, constructivist, inquiry-based, collaborative and integrative curriculum is the correct curriculum. Legislators in the Philippines have apparently reached conclusions on ongoing discussions of direct instruction versus constructivist as well as spiral versus strand. While legislators in the United States are focused on how to reduce achievement gaps and how to channel resources in education to where these are most needed, lawmakers in the Philippines are confident enough that they could in fact settle lingering questions in education research.

The spiral versus strand curriculum is still an ongoing discussion. What is becoming clear in this debate is how the two different approaches are understood and implemented matters significantly. A previous post, "Did We Totally Misunderstand What A Spiral Curriculum Should Be", shows how spiral progression has been incorrectly equated to a mere mixing of various disciplines in one year. A spiral excursion on various topics actually prevents mastery. This point is excellently made by Vicki Snider from University of Wisconsin. In her paper published in the Journal of Direct Instruction, she uses two figures to illustrate the difference between spiral and strand curricula:

The above compares how mathematics can be taught in the early grades. In the spiral curriculum, addition/subtraction as well as fractions are mixed and taught in the first four years. In the strand approach, students master addition/subtraction during the first two grades before fractions are introduced later in third grade. One can imagine a similar picture in teaching sciences in high school. The curriculum dictated by Republic Act No. 10533 requires students to spend a quarter of a year on each of the following strands: biology, chemistry, physics, and earth science. Countries other than the United States do employ a spiral curriculum, but one must take note of the details. Here is the comparison between the US and China, for example:

Above copied from The Sourcebook for Teaching Science
In China, biology, chemistry and physics are indeed taught in almost every year of high school. It is important, however, to see the number of hours. In grade 12, for example, a total of nine hours is spent on science, three hours for each. This is actually quite similar to what I experienced while I was studying in the Manila Science High School. I did take chemistry and physics simultaneously over two years, but each one was a separate subject. I had something similar with mathematics. On my last year in high school, I was taking Linear Algebra and Calculus, as two separate subjects.

The spiral progression mandated by Republic Act No. 10533 and implemented by the Department of Education in the Philippines looks more like this:

How and what is taught inside classrooms should not be legislated. Otherwise, a government can ruin the lives of children and teachers.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Who Wrote the Curriculum?

Reflecting on a photo of slum dwellings with skyscrapers in the background provides an image that appropriately describes DepEd's K+12 curriculum. It is a picture of ambition towering over inequity. It depicts a story of great heights being captured in illusion with the reality of a weak foundation.

Above copied from Erwin Agapay

DepEd's K+12, on the surface, does promise a great deal in terms of goals. Kindergarten alone, in the 2014 version of the curriculum, seems infallible with the following guiding principles:

  1. The learning program is child centered. It promotes the holistic way by which young children grow and develop; and recognizes the role of families and communities to support the child through various stages of growth and development. 
  2. The learning program is appropriate for developing the domains; and must sustain interest in active learning of all young children including those with special abilities, marginalized and/or at risk.
  3. The learning program is implemented by way of diverse learning activities that may be enhanced with multimedia technologies such as interactive radio, audio/video clips and computer-enhanced activities. 
  4. The use of learning materials and other resources that are locally developed and/or locally available is encouraged. The mother tongue shall be used as the child’s language of learning.  

Anyone can furnish a wish list but for a curriculum to be sound it must have some degree of being realized. It is for this reason that teachers in classrooms must be on board since it is so easy to get lost in a fantasy. In the United States where a new curriculum is being introduced for Math and English, the lack of participation from classroom teachers on the new standards is seen as a serious drawback. Diane Ravitch writes:
...Altogether, 24 people wrote the Common Core standards. None identified himself or herself as a classroom teacher, although a few had taught in the past (not the recent past). The largest contingent on the work groups were representatives of the testing industry... 
...The makeup of the work groups helps to explain why so many people in the field of early childhood education find the CCSS to be developmentally inappropriate. There was literally no one on the writing committee (with one possible exception) with any knowledge of how very young children learn. The same concern applies to those who educate children in the middle-school years or children with disabilities or English language learners. The knowledge of these children and their needs was not represented on the working group.
In the case of the Philippines' curriculum, the absence of classroom teachers in its drawing and planning has made it impossible to temper imagination with reality. The complete disregard of the importance of input from those who are in the front lines of education is so evident in the law (REPUBLIC ACT NO. 10533) authored and passed by Congress, and signed by the president :

SEC. 6. Curriculum Consultative Committee. — There shall be created a curriculum consultative committee chaired by the DepED Secretary or his/her duly authorized representative and with members composed of, but not limited to, a representative each from the CHED, the TESDA, the DOLE, the PRC, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), and a representative from the business chambers such as the Information Technology – Business Process Outsourcing (IT-BPO) industry association. The consultative committee shall oversee the review and evaluation on the implementation of the basic education curriculum and may recommend to the DepED the formulation of necessary refinements in the curriculum.

Goals can be easily drawn especially if limitations and resources are never considered. Anyone can easily draw a diagram such as the one shown below.

Copied from DepEd Philippines
Without input from real teachers, the above diagram is nothing but an array of colorful rectangles. Without having our feet on the ground, we might forget that there are things out of our reach. For instance, the Bernidos from Bohol are very much aware of the problems science education faces in the Philippines.  In their Learning Physics as One Nation (LPON) project, the problem to be addressed is made clear:
The project is designed initially to address the severe lack of qualified Physics teachers, especially in the Philippines which has only 8% deemed qualified at present by the country’s Department of Science and Technology – Science Education Institute. The LPON project therefore answers the question: Can high school students learn essential physics topics effectively even if their classroom teacher has little or no physics training?
The shortage of effective teachers is a real problem. And this problem exists even in the old 10-year curriculum. Adding two years obviously would only exacerbate this problem. There are other shortages that still need to be met even without the increased demands of the DepEd K+12. If the discussion remains only on what type of education should be given to children in the Philippines, there is really no argument. Higher standards, additional years, and a holistic approach are probably not contentious. But it is a mere fantasy. It is alright to dream, but one must not dwell in a hallucination especially when there are real problems that need to be addressed. We need to wake up from this dream and start working realistically.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Who Is Reading

How many people actually read papers published in peer-reviewed journals is a question that is not straightforward to answer. Rose Eveleth at Smithsonian has written a piece entitled "Academics Write Papers Arguing Over How Many People Read (And Cite) Their Papers" where she concludes, "Hopefully, someone will figure out how to answer this question definitively, so academics can start arguing about something else." There is even a joke that claims that as many as half of papers in academic journals have never been read by anyone other than their authors, referees and journal editors. With a little math, such can be translated to the statement that "An average academic journal article is read in its entirety by about 10 people." With academic journals now available online, the number of views can now be recorded. Still, how does one know that someone who has viewed and downloaded an article has likewise printed and distributed copies to other readers? Citations are easier to count than readership but even with this metric, citation databases usually do not produce the same number for any given article. Anyway, these perhaps only outline a prologue to a much deeper issue. Are decisions or policies guided by these academic journals?

At least with pediatricians, an article published in the journal Pediatrics is read about 10,000 times in the three months following publication. For those among us who send their children to see these professionals, it is comforting to know that pediatricians stay up to date with primary literature. Unfortunately, this finding can not be easily extended to other fields. Medical professionals tend to read more than others as shown in the following figure:

Above copied from the J Med Libr Assoc. 2004 Apr; 92(2): 233–241
The field of education portrays almost the opposite. In a previous post on this blog, the following was highlighted:
In a paper published in The Journal of Educational Research, Sylvester-Dacy and coworkers point out that in major textbooks used in teacher education, only 18 percent are based on good evidence research.

This is quite a discouraging and disturbing picture. The other sources are usually books or position papers, secondary sources that often propagate what is popular, anecdotal or trendy, and not what is based on evidence.
It is therefore not surprising to see myths abound and linger in the field of education. The general public is not expected to read academic journals but practitioners must be reached by evidence-based research in their respective fields. Pediatricians keep themselves up to date. Teachers need to do the same.

Teachers are overworked but pediatricians also have a very tight work schedule yet they are able to find time to read. Thus, there maybe other reasons why academic articles on education and psychology are not being read by educators. In the Philippines, lack of access to these journals is probably a major reason.

Another reason may be deduced from the following table, which highlights the difference between academic articles and other reading materials:

In a scholarly article, the reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background. It is true that journal articles can easily be seen as conversations between experts. These are usually long and cannot be reduced into sound bites. In short, it takes a lot to read an article from a peer-reviewed journal.

This blog has been reaching out to education practitioners. Most of the articles posted in this blog are based on results or findings reported in peer-reviewed academic literature. The blog's readership has been growing and in the past three years, the blog has been viewed one and a half million times.

Number of monthly page views of Philippine Basic Education over time
With regard to the target audience, the blog is widely read in the Philippines:

Whether increasing access to primary literature by providing a blog such as this can improve impact of research on policies is of course another difficult question to address. We can only hope. Policies especially in the Philippines are usually drawn from the top. These are therefore people who already have access as well as resources to read primary literature. Here, a more important reason emerges on why education policies are usually not based or informed by research. Policies are usually made out of preference and not evidence.

This blog cannot change the minds that are already set. This blog can only hope to inform those who are in the ground and it is rewarding to hear from teachers who have spent some time reading my posts. Thank you very much. This blog is for you.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Why DepEd K+12 Reform Is Destined to Fail

There are three reasons why the education reform initiated by the Aquino administration is very likely to fail. The first reason is obvious, as stated by Nick Morrison, in an article published in Forbes, "Education Reform Will Fail Unless You Get Teachers on Board".

Above copied from Forbes
In the article, Morrison specifically describes what it means by not having teachers on board, "Too many education reforms are imposed on teachers, who are told what they have to teach and how they have to teach it," echoing OECD’s Director for Education and Skills Andreas Schleicher's statement, "Teachers are not just part of the delivery of reforms."

Philippines' Secretary of Education, Brother Armin Luistro, completely misses this important point as he delivers a message to future teachers:
“This is the fifth year of our educational reform. It is more than a change in curriculum—it requires a change of perspective; it requires a change of heart of those who will implement it and bring it to fruition. It requires your cooperation, your initiative, and your own contribution to make the reform work.”
Public school teachers in the Philippines are told exactly what they need to do, up to the very detail. Teachers in the Philippines, for instance, are shown specifically how to compute grades for students up to the second decimal place and transmute these percentages so that the lowest possible grade becomes 60. Teachers are not on board with DepEd's K+12 curriculum. The message from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers is clear: "Stop K to 12". DepEd's idea of including teachers in education reform is therefore simple, "Just do what DepEd says."

The second reason should also be equally apparent. DepEd's K+12 is grounded on wrong reasons. Three years ago, I responded (shown in red) to each of the common motivations or reasons behind the new curriculum:
Five Key Benefits of the K to 12 Basic Education Program 
1. It will produce globally competitive graduates

The K to 12 program answers the need for a 12-year education system which is at par with international standards such as the Washington Accord and the Bologna Accord. Graduates of the K to 12 program will be perceived with increased competency and have better global opportunities.

The Washington and Bologna Accord have nothing to do with basic education. These are agreement between countries on higher education. There is no international standard for basic education. K to 12 has nothing to do with the standards set by both Washington and Bologna agreements. These are for higher education.

2. Students will learn more easily

The improved basic education curriculum is decongested and focused. Students will have more time learning core academic areas thus ensuring better comprehension. Also, pupils from Grade 3 and below will be thought in their mother tongue to ensure better understanding of basic concepts.

Merely changing the curriculum does not guarantee that students will learn more easily. The new curriculum carries shorter instructional hours and now includes mother tongue instruction in addition to Filipino and English. At the heart of curriculum reform is the teacher, which this new program has ignored. Kindergarten teaching has been delegated to volunteers who are paid 3000 pesos a month.

3. Students will be free to pursue their passion

The new curriculum will be learner-centered. Students will be allowed to choose elective subjects and specializations which they really want. The students will love learning more and will grow to their full potential. Whether the students want to be professionals, businessmen, artists or athletes, theirs skills and talents will be honed and nurtured.

Basic education, elementary and high school, is expected for all. In fact, it is compulsory in other countries. Basic means essential and it is not a matter of choice. Pursuing one's passion is already a matter of either vocational or higher education.

4. There will be savings on college tuition fees

Grade 11 and 12 takes the form of a two-year college education. In a public school, this is tuition-free. In effect, the number of year of college courses will decrease because of redundancies. Those who will pursue college will have fewer years to pay for. Graduates will also receive training certifications, which reduces the need to study a vocational course.

College education is very different from education in high school. There may be a repetition in subjects but the environment and pace are not the same as in high school. If there is indeed an equivalence then higher education institutions in the Philippines are not doing their job properly.

5. It will reduce unemployment rate and improve the economy

With the increased competence and workmanship due to TESDA-like training and college-like education included in the new curriculum, the graduates will become highly employable, reducing the rate of unemployment in the Philippines. Those who are passionate about starting businesses will be enabled to open more job opportunities.

One must look at the reasons behind unemployment. Unemployment is not solely decided by the labor market. And the same is true for the economy. Starting businesses require not only a passion but more importantly, capital.

The K to 12 basic education program aims not only to produce better graduates but also to improve the quality of life of the country as a whole. What is asked from us as Filipino citizens is that we support the program in whatever ways we can, share the information to others and, most of all, believe in the success of this program.

The government must be the first one to show its full support for the program by first funding appropriately and adequately the kindergarten portion of the new curriculum.
The third reason is the lack of evidence-based research supporting the new curriculum. The new curriculum uses spiral progression, multiple intelligences, and learning styles. Some of these are myths. Some are currently questioned by education experts and psychologists.

Education reform in the Philippines must come from the front line. It must be taken for the right reasons. It must be based on evidence.

At this point, the matter of great concern to teachers is not really the curriculum or the number of years in education. Teachers are not given the resources and are forced to work in overcrowded classrooms. By merely claiming that the success of an educational reform lies on teachers, while dictating what teachers should exactly do without providing the necessary resources, really leaves no room for cooperation and initiative, and in the end, the only remaining possibility is failure.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Reading Accurately and Reading Fast

In any human cognitive task, a higher level of thinking is more likely to happen when basic skills have been mastered. The human brain with its limited working memory can focus more, for instance, on algebraic problems if the brain no longer needs to concentrate on correctly performing arithmetic operations. The same goes with reading. As a child becomes familiar with words, a child can now focus more attention on what meaning a series of words in a sentence are trying to express. In all disciplines of human learning, there is fluency.

Above copied from Reading Rockets
Fluency in a language is obviously not a mere memorization or fast recall of words, but it requires nonetheless memories of meanings of words. When a child reads, it is important that words are correctly recognized. There is the ability called "orthography coding", which emphasizes words as unique arrays of letters. In this area, correct spelling is a key measure. Receptive vocabulary is another component of reading. This usually refers to words that one recognizes and understands upon hearing or reading. Both word recognition and receptive vocabulary are expected to play vital roles in reading comprehension. How each of these two factors influence comprehension is not clear when only accuracy in reading comprehension is measured.

When a task is completed not just correctly but also quickly, there is clearly additional evidence of fluency. Speed is not meant to replace comprehension, but with the increasing amount of text that need to be read in school, and even in real life, the rate at which one comprehends written material becomes important as well.

Measuring the time in a reading comprehension assessment is therefore useful especially if such gauge also untangles the two important factors behind reading comprehension: word recognition and vocabulary. This has been recently demonstrated in a study published in the Journal of Research in Reading. This research work by Louise Flensted Rønberg and Dorthe Klint Petersen from Denmark involves more than 200 fourth grade children and aims to understand how orthographic coding and receptive vocabulary correlate with reading comprehension.

Orthographic coding (word recognition) and receptive vocabulary have been separately measured via the following:
Orthographic coding (2 minutes, 70 items). The timed test measured the ability to recognise correctly spelled words, which may be seen as a measure of the children’s sight word representations in long-term memory (Nielsen & Petersen, 1992). The children were asked to circle the correctly spelled word amongst four homophone alternatives, for example reine – rain – rane – raine. The test was framed by the orthographic coding test developed by Olson, Kliegl, Davidson, and Foltz (1985). The score was the number of correct responses in 2 minutes.
Receptive oral vocabulary (30 items). The test consisted of a broad selection of 30 highfrequency and low-frequency everyday words and content area words (see appendix). Danish receptive vocabulary tests suited for group administration are few. Therefore, this new measure was developed by the first author. A selection of children’s fiction and non-fiction books were studied, and 56 words were selected. Appropriate photos of the target word and four distractors were found on web pages. The five photos per item were presented in colour in a paper booklet with three items per page. It was piloted with 100 children in Years 3–5. Based on Rasch analyses, the individual items were inspected, and the final test was constructed with 30 test items. All the words were orally presented twice by the test administrator. The score was the number of correct responses. 
Their findings show that if the reading comprehension exam is not timed, a child's vocabulary is a much more important predictor than orthographic coding. On the other hand, there is a marked increase in the influence of word recognition when reading speed is measured. Furthermore, a third factor independent from either coding or vocabulary emerges in explaining reading comprehension speed, a child's ability to connect word meanings (semantic relationship).

Assessments or exams now have negative connotations. Add speed or time pressure, impressions even become worse. There remains, however, some good in tests under time pressure. It remains one of the ways fluency can be measured.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Can Critical Thinking Be Taught?

As a faculty member in a department that offers a doctoral program, the question of whether critical thinking could be taught probably sounds rhetorical. A doctorate in philosophy after all requires making a contribution to human knowledge, extending what we know, and defending this original contribution before the faculty. Solving a consequential problem for the first time obviously requires critical thinking. During doctoral training, the student acquires this ability through practice and examples. Critical thinking, like any ability, is often caught, not taught. With the desire to promote critical thinking in basic education where teachers do not normally engage in original research, it is timely to ask whether critical thinking can in fact be taught.

First, it is useful to describe what critical thinking entails. People hold beliefs for various reasons. In a soccer game for young children, a coach simply makes sure that every kid gets to play regardless of skills. This is an example of a belief based on values. Every child should be given an opportunity. There are beliefs, however, that need to be supported by evidence. A curriculum for basic education is an example. It is along this line that a less abstract discussion of what critical thinking entails is possible. Deanna Kuhn, in The Skills of Argument, offers an operational description of critical thinking. Dennis Fung outlines Kuhn's proposal in a paper published in the International Journal of Education Research:
  1. differentiate opinions from evidence; 
  2. support opinions with non-spurious evidence; 
  3. propose opinions alternative to one's own and know what evidence would support them; 
  4. provide evidence that simultaneously supports one's own opinions while rebutting the alternatives; and 
  5. take an epistemological stance that involves weighing the pros and cons of what is known.
Kuhn and Cromwell have in fact employed the above model to see if critical thinking can be taught in basic education. Their work published in the journal Psychological Science considers the possibility of teaching critical thinking to 11 and 12-year old children in middle school. The experiment randomly divides the class into two groups. One group (intervention) participates in a multiyear class that uses electronically conducted dialogues on social issues as the medium to develop reasoning skills, while the second group (comparison) receives direct instruction and participates in teacher-led discussions on the same issues. With Kuhn's model, the quality of reasoning can be assessed as illustrated in the following table:

Above copied from Psychological Science 22(4) 545–552

The issue in question here is stated as follows:
The new Columbia Town School has to decide how to pay its teachers. Some think every teacher should get the same pay. Others think that teachers should be paid according to how much experience they have, with teachers getting more pay for each year of teaching experience they have. Which do you think is the better plan and why?
Kuhn and Cromwell regard both dual and integrative perspectives as higher orders of reasoning.  And with this measure, the difference between the two groups is remarkable:

Above copied from Psychological Science 22(4) 545–552

The intervention clearly helps students develop dual-perspective arguments. After three years, for this particular cohort, thirty percent of the students in the intervention group have developed an integrative perspective. No student in the comparison group has reached such level. In addition to gauging the arguments of the student, at the end of Year 3, students are asked to provide questions that may provide answers supporting their argument. In this area, the intervention group raises more questions than the comparison group. In addition, the questions raised by the comparison tend to be "case-based" (For example, "Who is the teacher?) and not general (For example, "What is the average years of experience for teachers in the school?).

There are several points worth noting from this study. Direct instruction seems ineffective in helping students develop reasoning skills. The intervention covers three years before the highest level is reached. It is clearly a multi-year effort. As society clamors for critical thinking in basic education, it is important to point out that such task is not that easy....