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Showing posts from July, 2015

The Real Status of Philippine Basic Education

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In science, honesty is expected. Truth is the primary value in science. One simply cannot pursue truth by presenting manipulated or selected data. When a scientist lies, a potent weapon is then handed to skeptics and deniers. Truthfulness is expected in a discipline that promises to guide programs or policies. In the realm of education, knowing what really works is necessary, but if scientists begin to lie, society becomes vulnerable to snake oil salesmen. Politicians, on the other hand, seem to be able to get away easily with lies. As an example, the president of the Philippines recently offered in his state of the nation address the case of a 19-year old as proof of success of his new K-12 program when it is quite obvious that the program would only produce its first graduate a decade from now.

Antonio Tinio like the president of the Philippines is also a politician. Tinio currently sits in Congress as party list representative of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers. Hours ago, he po…

Is DepEd's K to 12 a Success?

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Obviously, one can not assess whether an education reform is successful if the new curriculum is thirteen years long and only three years have passed since its implementation. The graduates of the new K to 12 curriculum are those finishing basic education in 2024. Graduates of the new secondary education component of DepEd's K to 12 are those finishing high school in 2018. The effectiveness of the spiral progression in math and the sciences, however, can be assessed at the end of this school year since current fourth year high school students have gone through a complete four year sequence through these disciplines.

It is quite disingenuous for the president of the Philippines to claim success of the new curriculum by presenting the case of 19-year old Rezia Joy Jianoran. Below is an excerpt from the State of the Nation Address of President Aquino on 27 July 2015.

Let us listen to a story that is proof of this: Translated transcript of Testimonial of Rezia Joy Jianoran
My father has…

Autism Rates on the Rise?

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Both autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) rates in the United States are on the rise. For ADHD, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that ADHD diagnosis by a health care provider increased by 42% between 2003 and 2011. For ASD, the CDC reported a prevalence of one in 150 in 2002, but in 2010, the prevalence had soared to one in 68, a 150 % increase (three times the rate of increase in ADHD diagnosis). 
With these increasing rates, it is easy to relate to a statement made by health economist Richard Scheffler in an interview posted on the American Psychological Association's website:
"That's when we knew we were onto something, because if you want to improve test scores, one way of doing that is to have children diagnosed so you can get extra money from the school district to help tutor them or put them in smaller classes. Basically, you diagnose these kids because improving their performance helps the …

Music, Arts and Physical Education

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In the Philippines, these subjects are combined with health to form one learning area called MAPEH (music, arts, physical education, and health). In Fairfax county in Virginia, music, arts and physical education are called "specials" while health is in a separate subject with science and social studies.

The following shows the time allotment in DepEd's K to 12 for the various learning areas:


And below is an example of a class schedule in Fairfax county.


Vouchers and Providing Public Basic Education

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In the state of Wisconsin, the debate on school vouchers continues. On one side of the debate is Julie Mead, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin. In an article published in Wisconsin's Kenosha News, the following three reasons are given against a school voucher system. The system has less accountability. Vouchers pull funding away from public schools. Vouchers do not lead to better learning outcomes.


The argument from the other side as exemplified by Michael Heise of Cornell Law School focuses on school choice and increased educational opportunities. There is, of course, a benefit whenever the private sector helps in providing public service. However, good intentions are no substitute for accountability. In particular, a study of a third-party governed public voucher system in the state of Wisconsin shows that market forces sometimes fail in delivering quality. Apparently, only after the voucher system was requ…

Understanding the Problem and Attacking It Head-On

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The first and foremost challenge any basic education system must confront is school leaving. Dropouts are almost impossible to be reached by education reforms once they have left school. A school district in the United States has figured out how to track this problem and address it before things get worse. Over a course of just seven years, the city of Chicago has seen a double digit increase in its high school graduation rate, 49 percent in 2007 to 68 percent in 2014. The secret lies in understanding the problem and attacking it head-on, not really a new concept. And what works is not a dramatic education reform but old proven interventions informed by evidence-based research.

The University of Chicago's Consortium on Chicago School Research simply narrowed down the dropout rate problem in Chicago schools to one significant period in basic education, the ninth grade. High schools then focused on tracking students' grades, attendance, and engagement in school during this momen…

A Gender Gap in Philippine Basic Education

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The Philippines is among few countries where boys are more likely than girls to leave school. And for the students who choose to remain in school, standardized exams show that girls also outperform boys. It requires further research but initial studies suggest that this gender disparity is simply a manifestation of socio-economic conditions.

The following is an excerpt from UNICEF's "Why Are Boys Under-performing in Education"


The gender gap in Philippine basic education is quite dramatic as demonstrated in the following graphs (Data from Annual Poverty Indicator Survey 2013 and DepEd, Philippines). Boys, for instance, are twice more likely to leave high school.




Boys account for the majority of out-of-school children. In terms of functional literacy, 78.5 per cent of out-of-school boys had simple literacy, compared with 83.3 per cent of girls. And for those who remain in school, 65.4 per cent of girls are functionally literate while only 58.7 per cent of boys are. Girls…

Understanding the Problem in Philippine Basic Education

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The first step in solving a problem is admitting that there is a problem. The second step is understanding the problem. It is obvious to everyone that basic education in the Philippines is not in a good state so at least the first step is accomplished. The second step, understanding the problem, turns out be a lot more difficult for there is a natural tendency to prejudge and immediately offer solutions. DepEd's K to 12 is one example, as this gigantic reform fails to comprehend what is really plaguing schools in the Philippines.

There is a research paper from the Philippines that exemplifies how we often wrongly approach a predicament. The paper authored by Bangcaya and Alejandro is published in the European Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. It starts with correctly recognizing the problem: Students enrolled in special science classes like students in regular classes in Philippine schools perform poorly in standardized exams.

The three types of special science classes…

Poor Reading Comprehension Skills and Poor Performance in Math and Science

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High school education in the Philippines faces two huge problems: Poor reading comprehension skills and poor performance in Math and Science. It is tempting to correlate the two areas and suggest that the dismal performance in math and science is due to poor reading skills. If this is the case then the solution lies in addressing reading challenges in the elementary years of education. Research, however, shows that there is indeed a correlation, but not a significant one. Poor performance in math and science therefore not results not merely from poor instruction in reading, but from poor instruction across the board.

Ombra A. Imam and coworkers specifically looked at more than 600 first-year high school students, from both private and public schools in Cotabato City. Their findings were in agreement with those of standardized international exams as well as the National Achievement Tests in the Philippines. The study was designed to examine various reading comprehension skills and how …

A Correlation Between Poverty And Teachers

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In mathematics, international standardized exams place Philippine students near the bottom in terms of performance. Equally dismaying, findings of the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) show that math teachers in the Philippines, compared to those of other countries, likewise demonstrate low Mathematics Content Knowledge (MCK) and Mathematics Pedagogical Content Knowledge (MPCK).


There exists a very strong correlation between academic performance and poverty. An achievement gap defined by socioeconomic status is undeniable. The relationship between poverty and teachers likewise highlights poverty's strong grip on education. Data from the National Center of Education Statistics in the United States provide a clue on how poverty further impacts basic education. Students who enroll in teaching schools often come from families of lower income.


Since the IEA's study includes teachers from the Philippines, a closer examination of the backgr…

Preference for the Poor

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Poverty profoundly affects education. By providing greater funding to schools in poor neighborhoods, the state of Ohio seems to be narrowing the achievement gap caused by socio-economic status. It may seem obvious that, to improve public basic education, greater resources should be provided to schools that serve poor children. Lamentably, school reforms often miss the obvious. Again and again, changes in education frequently focus on curriculum, standards and accountability. Delivery and implementation are seldom placed on a spotlight.

Schools in poor neighborhoods are usually lacking in infrastructure. An article posted on the UNICEF Philippines website that cites the importance of water, sanitation and hygiene in schools says:
Schools in poor communities in the Philippines are the least served. A 2010 survey by the Department of Education (DepED) estimates that more than 7,000 primary schools have no steady water source and more than 90,000 school toilets need to be constructed to me…

Poverty's Grip On Education

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WBEZ and the Daily Herald have recently released a report that closely examines public schools in the state of Illinois. The report shows a strong correlation between poverty and test scores. This is of course not new. However, what is especially worth noting is the persistent grip of poverty on education. After a decade, the picture remains the same.

Comparing 2004 and 2014, even after a decade of No Child Left Behind, the situation remains more or less the same. Schools with a greater number of pupils from poor households have lower passing rates in standardized exams. The following excerpt summarizes the frustration expressed by the authors after seeing these results: In fact, test score data in Illinois indicate that the degree to which poverty is tied to school performance is slightly stronger than it was a decade ago—despite reforms that have included school re-staffings, closures, consolidations, new state standards and more stringent guidelines for evaluating teachers. It is t…

DepEd's K to 12 and Elephants in a Room

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Classroom shortages, lack of learning materials, teacher salaries are all obviously instrumental in basic education. The Department of Education in the Philippines has instead chosen adding years at the end of high school as the most important step in improving the state of basic education in the country. There is no argument that instructional time is a significant factor in education.

The graph below from Marcotte and Hansen demonstrates how big the effects are of adding 10 school days to learning outcomes compared to those of other interventions:


10 additional instructional days even work better than having an effective teacher. If just adding ten days is so influential, perhaps adding two years will lead to even greater effects. However, grade retention, also shown in the above graph, adds a year, but its effect is less than the improvement seen with just 10 additional instructional days.

Another elephant in the room in terms of education issues becomes obvious with another graph …