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Showing posts from April, 2015

Lessons From Thailand

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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 Correspondentis 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…

Why Parents Must Be Involved?

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"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.

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.&quo…

The Voice of Parents

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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 dis…

Characteristics of a Pro-Poor Education

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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.

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 fo…

Almost a Month Has Passed, Yet No Response from DepEd

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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.


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&qu…

CHED Respects Supreme Court Decision

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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:

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 fre…

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

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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.

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 …

Education Reform in the Philiipines Must Address Deficiency First Before Growth

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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…

Education Reform In the Philippines Must Begin Where We Currently Stand

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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. 
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…

Spiral versus Strand

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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 Posthighlights 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’…

Who Wrote the Curriculum?

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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.


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:

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. 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.The learning program is implemented by way of diverse learning activ…

Who Is Reading

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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? Cita…

Why DepEd K+12 Reform Is Destined to Fail

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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".

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 brin…

Reading Accurately and Reading Fast

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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.

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 wor…

Can Critical Thinking Be Taught?

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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 exam…