"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

Monday, February 29, 2016

Teach the Children in the Language They Know

Most publications in the sciences are in English. There is no doubt that learning English is important in basic education. Children from homes where the adults and older siblings do not regularly talk in English learn to communicate in a different language, a mother tongue different from English. These children are therefore developing their cognitive skills in a different medium. One might be quick in suggesting that this is bad for children who are expected to learn English. For this reason, it is necessary that we make ourselves knowledgeable of what current research on language learners tells us. Learning a mother tongue other than English is obviously not a disadvantage. It should not lead to developmental delays. On the other hand, simply giving a lip service to mother tongue based education is likewise incorrect.

In 2013, the State Advisory Council on Early Learning and Care in California published California’s Best Practices for Young Dual Language Learners: Research Overview Papers:

The above is more than 200 pages long. It consists of six papers that review current research findings on young dual language learners. Dual language learners can be classified into two types: simultaneous and sequential. In the Philippines, it is likely that dual language learners are sequential. Before attending school, children in the Philippines are often exposed only to one language spoken at home. Within this context, it is important to take note of the following excerpt:
In contrast, the language development of children who learn a second language sequentially—that is, after the first language is established or from about three years of age onward—follows a different progression and is highly sensitive to the characteristics of the child as well as the language learning environment.
Research on dual language learners is also quite clear on what is required.
Children should be provided with high-quality language experiences and support to master both of their languages. Across multiple domains, the cognitive advantages of bilingualism were strongest when children were proficient with both languages, and there were no discernible benefits to dual language learning when children’s experience with one language was limited. 
Mother tongue based education clearly offers children a more welcoming atmosphere in the school. To be effective in education however requires more. Growth in cognitive skills using the mother tongue requires the same quality in learning resources as English books do. These also require teachers who are effective in mother tongue based education. The teachers not only should bring the language spoken at home, but also the home culture and experiences.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Remembering EDSA

Part of basic education is learning our past so that we are better equipped to understand the present. Here is a cartoon from Malaya that captures one perspective regarding our past.

Copied from Medals and Shoes: Political Cartoons of the Times of Ferdinand Marcos and Imelda Marcos, 1965-1992 (Anvil), posted by Pinoy Weekly on Facebook.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Schools Should Be Ready for the Pupils

Dr. Justin Tarte, the Director of Teaching & Learning in the Union R-XI School District in Union, Missouri, brings to our attention in his blog, Life of an Educator, the following tweet from a superintendent in Vermont, Dan French: "School readiness should be about schools being ready for students not students being ready for school."

Then I came across the following post on the Suspend K-12 Coalition page:

Above copied from Suspend K-12 Coalition Facebook Page
With this in mind, it is worth reading what Joy Rizal has to say with regard to the Department of Education in the Philippines:

Enough is Enough. It IS time for a Change.


It is now nearly the end of February 2016. 

Well into the FOURTH quarter of our children's school year.
The time when DepEd should be preparing all the learning materials for the 2016-2017 school year so that the material can be delivered to all the schools by the end of May. Ready for the start of school in June.

But alas, The Philippine Department of Education with its normal substandard levels of honesty, integrity, and competence has not yet delivered any learning materials to this year's condemned K-12 conversion students. Material that DepEd adamantly and proudly promises year after year will be in the hands of the children no later than the end of June. (A MONTH into the school year, almost at the end of the first quarter of the school year.)

It seems strange that for yet another year DepEd gets a bigger budget while the condemned K-12 students get nothing. For yet another year DepEd ignores and/or evades oversight reviews. For yet another year the oversight committees do very little to hold DepEd accountable. Nor does there seem to ever be any meaningful sanctions against DepEd officials and employees that callously, without fear of repercussions, give inaccurate information, file blatantly false documentation and seem to have no concern about anything other than maintaining their delusions of superiority.
We could discuss as with every previous year of the DepEd K-12 education implementation fiasco how our nation's children are being condemned with no books, no learning material, for most of the school year (if materials are delivered at all). Yet DepEd continues to report everything is fine, they see no serious problems.
We could talk about how for yet another year DepEd refuses to acknowledge its overwhelming number of shortcomings. Several of the more serious short comings should lead to various levels of legal proceedings being held against many members of DepEd from the highest to the lowest levels.

Or we could talk about how for another year our elected officials vote to simply throw more money at our country's education problems. Apparently, yet again, without any method to hold DepEd officials or anyone accountable with serious penalties when DepEd again fails to meet even the most basic obligations to our children's education.

But alas discussing any of that would be simply repeating the same old issues again. Sadly issues are so similar year after year that new articles could nearly be completed by doing nothing more than cutting and pasting any of the previous years issues to the current year; often without even changing the names of the people involved.

Much like this article from 2013:
Congress Is The Philippines Biggest Criminal Syndicate

While some of the names, amounts and tactics may have changed. I wonder, if we simply changed the published date to 2016, I wonder if there have there been enough changes that more than a handful of people would even notice that the article is not current and actually discussing issues from several years ago? Or are we trapped in a stagnating, putrid, infinite loop of corruption, incompetence and indifference that is going to constantly doom our country and our children?

We have tried so many different things to try to get positive changes implemented. All of which over the years has been met with useless lip service, laughter, scorn, ridicule, even threats.
However, this year there is something different that can be done. Something that can cause a lot of the officials from the local level to the highest that have done little other than collect a paycheck and spout off useless nonsense to become very uncomfortable. Something that can get rid of the officials who seem to spend more time traveling to locations which have nothing to do with their job, than doing their job.

This year we can remind all these over paid servants what the word REPUBLIC means in The Republic of the Philippines.

This year we can 'fire' every elected 'useless corrupt dead beat' from the local levels to the highest offices and replace them with people that will not only do the job expected of them, but will also do everything possible to remove the appointed and hired parasites that create many more problems that harm everyone.
This year we have a chance to vote for and 'hire' only the people that understand that the oath that they take is more than just words they have to repeat in order to get a government paycheck, an office in a government building, as well as other perks.
This year we have the chance to vote to 'hire' just the people that have a strong, honest, history of doing what is right, not simply what is legal or tolerated.

This year we have a chance to vote to 'hire' only the people that will aggressively hold other officials accountable when the corrupt slackers fail to deliver quality work on time.

This year we have a chance to take a major step towards changing our country into the shining example of what a country should be.
This year we have to be brave and stand up to the dangerous powers that want to tell us how and who to vote for.

This year we have a chance to 'declare war' on every corrupt, dishonest, lazy, narcissistic government employee and show them who really controls this country.

This year we have a chance to start changing our country into something that our children will want to stay in rather than leaving the country trying to find jobs in other nations, often never wanting to return.

This year we have a chance to start turning our country into a leader of nations rather than continuing to be a pathetic 'foot stool' of other nations.

This year so many will say somebody needs to do something to change things in OUR country.

This year, I have but a simple question.

Are you nothing more than a pathetic, useless, NOBODY that deserves pig waste we are currently being dragged deeper into? Are you going to keep waiting on others to fix OUR nation’s problems?

Are You a SOMEBODY that is going to do everything possible to challenge and stop the incompetence and corruption found in so many areas of our government? Are YOU a SOMEBODY that wants to make this country a shining independent world leader again?


We should project this mentality that if a Department of Education isn't prepared to experience this and isn't able to handle that, public basic education is doomed to fail.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

DepEd's K to 12: "It Doesn't Affect Me So I Don't Care"

Eric March at Upworthy takes us back to the eighties. He shares a video posted by Vanity Fair that relates recently released audio recordings of Reagan's press secretary and reporters who are laughing at the AIDS epidemic. When the transcript was first released in 2013, Dan Amira had this to say:
"The entire exchange is, in retrospect, dark and utterly nauseating, with both aptly named press secretary Larry Speakes and a seemingly significant chunk of the White House press corps treating AIDS as a hilarious joke."

Eric March takes the story a step further by generalizing that:
"Too often, when tragedy strikes, we prefer to see it as someone else's problem."
March even adds the following instances:

The case of climate change is made even more concrete by the following story from McClatchyDC:

In the above story, a native was quoted, "Today, there’s almost nothing left of that island, maybe one family can picnic there at a time. We look at that place and we fear we are looking at our future."

Before we start caring, we need to know first. That is why it is very important to listen. My children do not go to schools in the Philippines but I take time to listen. And I think it is worth your time to listen to what this mother and president of the Manila Science High School General Parents Teachers Association, Dolly Brillantes, has to say.

About 2 million students are about to be directly affected by the newly mandated senior high school in the Philippines. Of these 2 million, only about half can be accommodated by existing public schools. To address the gap, the government is providing vouchers that will cover part of the tuition in private schools. Nonetheless, the added years of high school with its additional expenses would likely force children especially from poor families to drop out of school.

"It doesn't affect me, but I still care...."

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The High School Teacher: Content Knowledge and Identity Threat

My children are still in elementary school. They are still learning how to do arithmetic, read, write, and socialize. In the years to come, they will begin to accumulate knowledge. That is something to worry about. Both middle school and high school introduce fundamental ideas and concepts in the sciences. There are two reasons for concern. First, how much teachers know about science matters. Second, science often threatens values held deeply by individuals. A recent paper published in the journal Science illustrates just how these two factors, content knowledge and identity threat, can have a dramatic and profound negative impact on science education. The paper, Climate confusion among U.S. teachers, shows how well or how bad teachers in the United States are handling the topic of climate change in their classrooms. The picture is not pretty. More than half of US teachers do not even acknowledge the fact that more than nine out of ten active climate scientists consider human activity as the cause of global warming. It is at least comforting that only 2 percent of the teachers who recognize the consensus among scientists still continue to deny that global warming is occurring.

Incidentally, according to a recent report from NASA, the past month of January has been a record month in two areas for the arctic region. It has been the warmest:

Above copied from NASA
January 2016 likewise points to the lowest ice coverage in the Arctic region:

Above copied from NSIDC
Although teachers' lack of knowledge in the sciences can easily be the culprit, the authors of the Science paper also point to the following:
...Rejection of sound scientific conclusions is often rooted in value commitments rather than ignorance, and science teachers are not immune from this tendency. A question measuring political ideology was a more powerful predictor of teachers’ classroom approach than any measure of education or content knowledge....
In the Philippines, the situation is a lot more challenging. Just recently, famed boxer Manny Pacquiao was recently quoted:
“Do you see animals mating with the same sex? Animals are better because they can distinguish male from female. If men mate with men and women mate with women they are worse than animals.”
There is no doubt with regard to the strength of a religious conviction in the above statement. Of course, people are entitled to their opinions. However, with regard to science, that is not the case. It is known that animals exhibit homosexual behavior. Here is an example from the International Journal of Primatology.

Volume 16, Issue 2, pp 173-204
First online: 01 April 1995

Homosexual behavior in primates: A review of evidence and theory

  • Paul L. Vasey
Homosexual behavior is defined as genital contact, genital manipulation or both between same-sex individuals. Available data indicate that this behavior is phylogenetically widespread among the anthropoid primates, but totally absent among prosimians. The majority of the 33 species that demonstrate homosexual behavior do so rarefy, but for a substantial number (N =12) it appears to be a more common pattern under free-ranging conditions. I summarize data on homosexual behavior as it relates to form, living condition, age, sex, social organization, and ecological context, and discuss hormonal, demographic, and sociosexual theories for primate homosexual behavior. Among adult primates, the behavior is not the product of abnormal excesses or deficiencies in androgens. Prenatal excesses of androgens may have some effect on the expression of female homosexual behavior, but these effects might vary over the life span, and data are equivocal at present. Demographic processes that result in skewed sex ratios can favor the expression of homosexual behavior in a population, which causes intraspecific variation. I examine several sociosexual explanations, including (a) proceptivity enhancement, (b) receptivity reduction, (c) dominance assertion, (d) practice for heterosexual copulation, (e) tension regulation, (f) reconciliation, and (g) alliance formation. An evolutionary scenario highlights the transformations this behavior underwent during the evolution of the anthropoid primates. I suggest exaptation as a theoretical framework for interpreting homosexual behavior and conclude that future consideration of sexual selection among primates should address homosexual components of this process.
The paper, "Climate confusion among U.S. teachers", ends with the following note:
Our data suggest that, especially for political or cultural conservatives, simply offering teachers more traditional science education may not lead to better classroom practice. Education efforts will need to draw on science communication research and acknowledge resistance to accepting the science and addressing its root causes. College and university instructors will need help reaching teachers and teachers-in-training who bring diverse political and value commitments to the classroom—particularly in avoiding “boomerang effects,” in which attempts to promote a particular view can instead harden opposition. This may entail acknowledging and addressing conflicts that teachers (and their students) may feel between their values and the science. Such instruction will promote understanding of the science as well as the pedagogy that future teachers will need to promote climate science literacy. 

Without doubt, the above applies to Philippine basic education as well.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Saint Jude, Patron Saint of Impossible Causes

"When all else fails, when we are in the most difficult of situations, we turn to Saint Jude, “Helper of the Helpless” and Saint of the Impossible", Novena.com writes about the apostle. With the school year about to end and college admissions already being decided, a ruling by the Supreme Court in the Philippines on DepEd's K to 12 is becoming more and more like an impossible solution to a seemingly hopeless predicament.

Saint Jude Thaddeus
Above copied from Catholic Online

The Supreme Court in the Philippines is the same court that recently banned the field testing of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant and nullified biosafety guidelines of the Department of Agriculture. For some, the Supreme Court in the Philippines appears to be making a scientific pronouncement that is well above its competence. However, upon closer examination of the decision, the court is in fact stopping the field testing for the sake of transparency. The Supreme Court is upholding a decision made by a lower court years ago. The journal Nature reported on that previous decision in an article published in September 2013:
...In the Philippines the combined campaign of nongovernmental organizations and citizens persuaded the three-judge panel to ban field trials, which were already complete by the time of the ruling, arguing in part that existing biosafety protocols did not include sufficient citizen consultation....
The Supreme Court therefore only has reiterated the need for consultation. 

This case is in so many ways similar to DepEd's K to 12. These cases show up in the highest court for one reason. The legislative branch is simply not doing its job. 

Congressmen in the Philippines are doing something else besides debating what is good for the country and formulating sound policies and programs. Congressmen are busy doling out funds for local projects. Getting and spending pork has become the primary function of the legislature in the country. This practice becomes even more obvious when elections are near. It is therefore no surprise that most national policies and programs have been passed without consultation and a thoughtful deliberation. 

Parents of students and teachers at my alma mater are now pleading before the highest court in the Philippines. Their plea has been captured by all news providers. I guess only time would tell if their prayer is likewise going to be heard this time.

Parents, teachers, students ask SC anew to stop K to 12
Rappler - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎

MANILA, Philippines – Petitioners against the implementation this year of the K to 12 program of the Department of Education (DepEd) went to the Supreme Court (SC) again on Monday, February 15, to ask for a temporary restraining order (TRO)....

WATCH VIDEO : Grade 10 students to suffer
Philippine News - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎

They said their Grade 10 students will suffer grave injustice and irreparable injury of not being admitted to college next school year if the high court will not act on their petition. Aside from their latest motion, the teachers, students and their ...

Petitioners vs K-12 tired of waiting for court to act
Inquirer.net - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎

AFTER failing to get a resolution three times over, the petitioners have decided to give the Supreme Court a deadline. Parents, teachers and students from Manila Science High School Monday told the high court it had “no later than the first week of ...

High tribunal asked to stop K-12
The Standard - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎

A group of parents, teachers and students of Manila Science High School has prodded the Supreme Courtanew to look into the merits of their petition questioning the constitutionality of the K-12 program of the Department of Education. In their fourth ...

Parents, teachers seek TRO vs K to 12 anew
Sun.Star - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎
MANILA Science High School community filed Monday before the Supreme Court (SC) its fourth petition asking to suspend the implementation of the K to 12 basic education program. Manila Science petitioners -- involving parents, teachers and students ...

MaSci parents, teachers, studes to SC: Act on plea vs K-12
Inquirer.net - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎
PARENTS, teachers, and students of the Manila Science High School (MaSci) have asked the Supreme Court anew to stop the implementation of the government's “Kindergarten-to-Grade 12″ program. In its fourth “most urgent” motion which the petitioners ...

Manila Science questions SC on constitutionality of K-12 program
Manila Bulletin - ‎Feb 15, 2016‎

Four months before schools adapt the new education policy, parents, teachers and students of the Manila Science High School called on the Supreme Court (SC) to look into the merits of their petition questioning the constitutionality of the ...

Manila Science faculty, pupils file 'most urgent' plea vs. K-to-12
GMA News - ‎Feb 14, 2016‎
Teachers and students of the Manila Science High School (MSHS) have once again asked theSupreme Court to stop the implementation of the controversial "Kindergarten to Grade 12" or K to 12 program. In their fourth and "most extremely urgent motion" ...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

ACI Interview with Angel de Dios

The quality of content in ACI is due to the rigor of our selection process and to the incredible scholarship and credentials of scholarly bloggers publishing in their fields. Due to this selectivity in content and academic contributions, ACI is proud to highlight exceptional blog authors in order to showcase their work and inspire other scholarly blog authors… and today’s author spotlight is onDr. Angel de Dios.
Dr. de Dios has a PhD in Chemistry from the University of Illinois at Chicago and a BS in Chemistry from Ateneo de Manila University. He is currently an Associate Professor of Chemistry at Georgetown University. In his blog, Philippine Basic Education, he writes about various topics and issues related to education in the Philippines and the United States.

Philippine Basic Education     Visit the blog  |   View in ACI

Read on for ACI’s full interview with Dr. de Dios.

How did your blog, ‘Philippine Basic Education’, come about?
I started my blog after I became convinced that education policies are often drawn without evidence from research. For this reason, the blog draws from peer reviewed literature to engage the public into what should be done in education based on what we know and not based on what is fashionable.
Although your PhD and active professorship are in Chemistry, your interest in education mirrors those for whom education is the primary discipline. Have your interests in those two fields always been synergistic for your interests and life goals? Which came first – your passion for chemistry or education?
I have always had the passion for both, chemistry and teaching. That is why I am in a profession that does both. The two are definitely synergistic. Being active in my field is a necessary fuel for effectively teaching chemistry. My blog, I hope, likewise illustrates that for someone to be effective in basic education, one must never stop learning. One must continue to ask the important questions and find the answers in the right places regarding education.
How much have your experiences as an Associate Professor of chemistry at Georgetown, and/or your experiences of the behind-the-scenes working of the higher educational system, influenced the topics or issues you cover in your posts?
I teach so I have experiences with students. I was once an elementary and high school student. I do research in the physical sciences, publish in peer-reviewed literature, and serve as reviewer for proposals and papers so I have an idea of what a good research paper look like. I blend what I know firsthand from my own experiences and those I learn from published research findings to provide my own insight or perspective on a particular aspect of basic education.
In the post Impact of Technology on Learning  you mention walking around the classroom in order to keep students engaged on the lecture and discourage them from browsing on their smartphones. Considering the changes in, and accessibility to, technology within the last 15 years, are there concerns regarding students’ non-classroom study habits and possible impacts on the self-guided learning processes students engage in?
My students generally do not browse the internet or use their smartphones during my lectures since I do walk around the classroom but I have seen such activity in classes I have visited. I currently use technology outside the classroom for communicating with my students, homework, and review of material. I rely on technology for instructional continuity in cases when classes are suspended because of bad weather. Student learning outside the classroom will always compete with other activities. There is nothing abnormal about that. They key is for a student to recognize what works and what does not work. In chemistry, I strongly encourage my students to work on problems outside the classroom. Most of my students are strongly motivated so what really helps them is guidance.
In addition to receiving the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Development Award, you’ve also worked with some sought-after institutions, such as a postdoctoral fellowship with the American Heart Association and a Visiting Scientist with the National Institutes of Health. What were your research focuses during these periods?
As a graduate student, a postdoc, and now as a faculty member, I work with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy. I employ both experimental and theoretical methods to understand systems of interest. I try to elucidate how biologically relevant molecules, such as proteins, behave. For more than ten years now, I have been working on understanding at the molecular level how antimalarial drugs work.
How do you go about selecting topics for your posts?
My blog is primarily directed to teachers, parents and education policymakers in the Philippines so the topics I choose to post on my blog are generally in this area.
What would be the ideal response, or change in perspective, of your readership? In other words, if the “right” educators and policymakers were to read your blog, what would be the best possible outcome?
The blog is addressed to everyone who cares about basic education. The main message is to encourage the use of research-based evidence in drawing or designing reforms. Unfortunately, some educators and policymakers are making decisions based on hype and myths. With this in mind, it is perhaps too much to expect this blog to change people’s perspectives or opinions. What I hope is that the blog reaches those who are sincerely looking for answers to problems in basic education. There are teachers and principals who do. By engaging these readers with results from peer-reviewed research, the blog provides a bridge between those who sincerely seek solutions and those who work diligently to understand the challenges and find solutions. I am hoping that with the knowledge these teachers and principals acquire from this blog, these educators will become empowered in the future to make the necessary changes in Philippine basic education.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Equality, Equity and Reality

The following picture (which I copied from the Office of Equity and Human Rights, Portland, Oregon) has been circulating in social media for years now.

Andruid Weizman on Facebook recently shared a modified version:

Above copied from Andruid Weizman
The circumstances and disadvantages children inherit at birth and early childhood have a very strong impact on basic education. Substantial gaps already exist at the beginning. Not addressing these gaps only leads to a further widening, for education is cumulative. Thus, without paying attention to existing inequalities in the real world, an educational system can in fact exacerbate and not ameliorate the situation. 

At this point, it is perhaps worthwhile to review Diane Ravitch's main points in her book "Reign of Error". (Ravitch, Diane (2013-09-17). Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools (Kindle Locations 6029-6030). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.)

The following is a repost:

"Reign of Error" in Philippine Basic Education

This post provides an overview of several articles in this blog that relate Diane Ravitch's Reign of Error to problems and solutions in Philippine basic education. Reign of Error specifically refers to the US educational system, but there should be no doubt that there is likewise a reign of error over Philippine basic education. It is true that there are differences. Ravitch, for example, emphasizes that there have been significant progress in US basic education. Public schools in the states have indeed gone a long way and there are indeed programs that work. In the Philippines, there are isolated bright spots but the overall picture is dramatically bleaker. The United States is likewise so much richer in resources while the Philippines does not really have that much. The Philippines can not afford to waste both time and resources. It is therefore more important that the vision and reform to solve problems in basic education are both grounded on solid evidence. Ravitch's call is both timely and urgent in the United States, but it is of greater significance to the Philippines. Most of the issues raised in the Reign of Error are relevant to the Philippine condition. More importantly, most of the solutions proposed are equally applicable to the Philippines.

This post reviews solutions proposed by Ravitch to address problems in basic education in the United States. There is one article in this blog specific to the Philippine situation for each of the eleven solutions:

SOLUTION NO. 1 Provide good prenatal care for every pregnant woman.
Addressing Problems in Basic Education Inside the Womb

With this suggestion, Ravitch illustrates a perspective that places education as a goal and not as a means. This is a very useful frame of reference since it does make the objectives a lot clearer. Trying to solve education problems while aiming to use education as a means to solve other problems can be very confusing. Do we improve education to solve economic problems or should we address first the economic problems that lead to poor education? The latter approach is more likely to succeed simply because it attacks the problem at its root.

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SOLUTION NO. 2 Make high-quality early childhood education available to all children.

Quality Early Childhood Education

The kindergarten curriculum of Philippines is guided and inspired by recent research and findings on early childhood education. That is the good news. Unfortunately, this is not the entire story. The Philippines is currently unprepared for a proper implementation. A curriculum (how and what to teach) can only be as good as its implementation. Quality matters in early childhood education. In this area, just having something is not necessarily better than nothing. Simply endowed with the correct vision is not adequate for only realization can make the difference.

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SOLUTION NO. 3 Every school should have a full, balanced, and rich curriculum, including the arts, science, history, literature, civics, geography, foreign languages, mathematics, and physical education.

What Is a Good Education?

Basic education is so much more than turning children into college or career-ready individuals. Basic education is caring for the whole person. Basic education is the investment made by society for its future. As Ravitch describes, "A citizen of a democratic society must be able to read critically, listen carefully, evaluate competing claims, weigh evidence, and come to a thoughtful judgment." Without such skills, a democratic society is sending election ballots to people who are not equipped to make an informed decision. There is nothing wrong with teaching skills important in domestic services (cooking, cleaning, laundry) in high school. But there is something wrong if these become the primary subjects taught in high school.

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SOLUTION NO. 4 Reduce class sizes to improve student achievement and behavior.

The Classroom: Where Learning Is Supposed to Happen
To support learning, a conducive atmosphere is very helpful. Learning does not easily happen by just providing a curriculum. The environment plays an important role in the implementation of any curriculum. Without a favorable setting, learning can become very difficult, if not impossible. The physical infrastructure is important. As for shelter, a house in a slum is significantly different from a decent apartment. Still, with the resilience of the human spirit, people survive in houses made of cardboard. Children still can learn in classes held under a tree or a bridge. It is in the absence of supporting social and emotional structures that failure becomes a sure thing.

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SOLUTION NO. 5 Ban for-profit charters and charter chains and ensure that charter schools collaborate with public schools to support better education for all children.
Privatization of Basic Education Is Not a Solution

Schools can provide the illusion of being superior by controlling its enrollment. By being selective, requiring entrance exams and interviews, for example, so that only the students who have strong background can enroll, schools can indeed appear to be doing a good job in education. This is what business looks like, ensuring that an enterprise only gets the best of the starting material. Having only those who are strongly motivated right at the beginning, having only those who already have a good vocabulary as well as number skills, and having only those children who have parents who are equally engaged in their children's education certainly provide an atmosphere more conducive to a successful education. The big picture, however, is that this practice then forces public schools to work with a more challenging student population, not to mention the fact that private schools may only seem performing well because these have been limited to motivated students.

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SOLUTION NO. 6 Provide the medical and social services that poor children need to keep up with their advantaged peers.

Pork Barrel in Philippines Does Great Harm to Basic Education

The Philippines is likewise not endowed with unlimited public funds but poverty may come with some advantage when it forces the correct prioritization and decision to be made. On the other hand, poverty does exacerbate the ill effects of making the wrong choices or decisions. Poverty cannot tolerate wasteful spending but poverty should make obvious what interventions or social programs the government must take or make.

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SOLUTION NO. 7 Eliminate high-stakes standardized testing and rely instead on assessments that allow students to demonstrate what they know and can do.

Tests and Their Proper Use

Measuring learning outcomes is important. This, however, is not the only step in reforming education. These assessments must guide education reform. Prior to the above recommendations, the Philippines has been participating in international assessments. The Philippines also has its own set of national standardized exams. This blog has highlighted the results from these exams in various articles. These exams are given at various stages in basic education. There is one near the end of primary schooling, which basically gauges how much students have mastered arithmetic and reading. The results have been dismal for years. Not performing well in these exams at the early grades point to problems in the first few years of elementary education as well as in the early childhood education (preschool and kindergarten). Yet, DepEd K+12 adds two years at the end of high school. This is no different from prescribing an appendectomy procedure after seeing high levels of cholesterol. We must not only measure the knowledge and skills with care, but more importantly, respond accordingly to what the measures say.

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SOLUTION NO. 8 Insist that teachers, principals, and superintendents be professional educators.
Professionalism in Education

Professionalism does demand good salaries. Standards in teaching colleges can be set to a higher bar. Teaching exams can be made more difficult. Continuing teacher education can be imposed. But professionalism requires much more than these. It requires trust and respect. Teachers who are dictated exactly on what they should do inside the classroom are not being treated as professionals. We do not treat engineers, doctors and lawyers in the same way. Ravitch's solution number 8 is indeed a great challenge for it requires all of us to change.

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SOLUTION NO. 9 Public schools should be controlled by elected school boards or by boards in large cities appointed for a set term by more than one elected official.

The Past, Present and Future

What should not be lost in the above argument is the fact that opposition to a decentralization of education really has nothing to do with any harm decentralization can do to the learning of children. The arguments are really about communities in the Philippines not having what it takes to run a school. The arguments are about insecurity, personal interests, and turfism.

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SOLUTION NO. 10 Devise actionable strategies and specific goals to reduce racial segregation and poverty.

Poverty Crushes Education

High taxes plus a government so big that it controls almost every facet of life can surely stifle creativity, innovation and consequently, economic growth. A free market economy often brings out the motivation necessary for people to perform at their best. Unfortunately, a society driven solely by private enterprise without any government control assumes that each and every member of society is discerning enough to make the right choices. One additional assumption is that everyone has enough information and skills to become a successful entrepreneur.

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SOLUTION NO. 11 Recognize that public education is a public responsibility, not a consumer good.

Private Prisons Do Not Perform Better Neither Do Private Schools

Efficiency is usually touted when advocating privatization of government functions. The government is wasteful and oftentimes, not really accountable. Free market does have competition on its side. A business that does not keep up with its competitors, a business that does not reinvent itself every so often, a business that does not embrace disruptive innovation, will simply not survive. Not all enterprises succeed. Only half of new firms in the United States survive beyond four years (Business Information Tracking Series, US Census Bureau). Even big firms such as Lehman Brothers Holdings, Washington Mutual, WorldCom, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, have either permanently closed or filed for bankruptcy. Woolworth has been dethroned by WalMart. Borders has closed its doors. This is competition. This is truly the arena of disruptive innovation. Without doubt, there are government functions that can benefit from private entrepreneurship. Even public basic education can, just not in a way some people think. The production of learning materials such as textbooks can potentially add quality while reducing costs if this is assigned to the private sector. Even the food served in a school's cafeteria could be possibly better. One must not confuse these services or goods, however, to public responsibilities.

Monday, February 8, 2016

An Appeal to the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court of the Philippines

An Appeal to the Honorable Justices of the  Supreme Court of the Philippines

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,  ensure justice for those being crushed.
 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see they get justice.”
(Proverbs 31:8-9)

On March 12, 2015, the Council of Teachers and Staff of Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (CoTeSCUP), along with 15 labor organizations and four individuals, filed a petition for Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the implementation of Republic Act 10533, more commonly known as the K-12 Law.  The petitioners questioned the constitutionality of the said law, and underscored how it violated the labor rights of professors and staff, and the academic freedom of the teaching personnel of higher educational institutions (HEIs). The succeeding three months saw other affected education stakeholders file their respective petitions for TRO on other constitutional grounds. All petitioners are united in the conviction that the K-12 Law is fundamentally flawed, and its full implementation in June 2016 is expected to have disastrous results.

Since then, however, we witnessed the slow turn of the wheels of justice.  After the Supreme Court has released an order that all petitions are to be consolidated, the Aquino Government, led by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), very slowly worked on the government response to the petitions that caused delays in the proceedings.   In the meantime, many HEIs have used the opportunity to streamline their personnel by offering ‘voluntary’ separation packages; owners of private schools rush to prepare for senior high school; public school teachers continue to lament the lack of preparedness for K-12; government agencies hastily craft ‘safety nets’ and guidelines; and parents and students become burdened with the confusion generated by the K-12 Law.   All of these resulted from the manner by which the Aquino government stubbornly pushed for such a massive educational reform despite the lack of consultation with affected education stakeholders, lack of educational infrastructure, and low absorptive capacity of education agencies to implement the K-12 Law.  The past 11 months of waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on the petitions revealed the many gaps and loopholes in the K-12 Law and its ongoing implementation, with its dire consequences already affecting the lives and livelihood of education stakeholders.

For these reasons, we humbly appeal to the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court to rule on the merits of the petitions for TRO immediately. As the batch of Grade 10 students is at risk of being disenfranchised from earning a high school diploma and enrolling in tertiary education which they rightfully deserve, their parents are saddled with additional educational expenses, and HEI professors and staff are made to desperately cling to their jobs.  Time is of essence, and further delays in the ruling will only compound the confusion, agony, and anxieties already being experienced by those on the ground. We ask the Supreme Court to decide on the side of the teachers and staff, parents and students, who have been pushed to the margins by a law that purportedly honors international commitments, but victimizes citizens and violates the Constitution. We have much respect for the independence and prudence of this Supreme Court, and as our last resort, we look forward to a decision that favors the most disadvantaged stakeholders in the education sector --- teachers and staff, parents, and students.

Suspend K-12 NOW!

Manila, Philippines
06 February 2016

Contact: Prof. Rene Luis M. Tadle
Lead Convener, CoTeSCUP and Suspend K-12 Coalition rltadle@gmail.com / 0923-672-6069 / 0917-307-9697

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Report Card for the States

The second grading period ends today at Fairfax County schools. Tomorrow, students are not going to school as their teachers prepare report cards for the grading period. These cards attempt to summarize how a student has performed in school. Report cards are meant to evaluate, but more importantly, these marks are ways by which a teacher communicates with students and parents: This is how you are so far in school (for the student), or this is how your child is performing in school (for the parent). The Network for Public Education (NPE) has done something similar. However, in this case, NPE is evaluating the performance of each of the states in the US on public education. The grades are not at all flattering. The best grade is a C, most common is D, and there are a significant number receiving an F:

Above copied from Network for Public Education 50 State Report Card

Obviously, when grades are provided, especially when they are bad, it is only normal to ask how one has arrived at these marks. NPE uses the following categories:
  • No High Stakes Testing
  • Professionalization of Teaching 
  • Resistance to Privatization 
  • School Finance 
  • Spend Taxpayer Resources Wisely 
  • Chance for Success 
High stakes testing means students' scores in standardized tests become the sole basis for making important decisions regarding students (their promotion or retention), schools (closing and funding) and teachers (merit, salaries, promotion, dismissal). Professionalization of teaching looks at how states support teacher preparation, development and autonomy. Resistance to privatization considers how a state strengthens public schools without resorting to market-based approaches. School finance examines how a state funds schools in an equitable fashion. In the "Spend Taxpayers Resources Wisely" category, states are graded according to the choices they make, for example, on whether they are spending on extra efforts that have evidence from research. "Chance for Success" looks at the societal factors. Poverty is one. The socioeconomic status of a community can be partly traced to how a government functions so it is only natural that the effects of socioeconomic status on education be regarded as part of a state's role in public education. Since the overall grades are not good, it is not surprising that most states are likewise not doing well in each of these categories:
Above copied from Network for Public Education 50 State Report Card
A teachers' group in the Philippines have also been issuing a report card for the Aquino administration in the past few years. Here is one.

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

At first, this may be confusing, because it uses the letter grades introduced by the Philippines' Department of Education. In this scheme, "B" is in fact the failing grade. The subjects listed above are no different from the ones by NPE. "Sahod ng mga guro" (teachers' salaries) is obviously an important factor in the professionalization of teaching. "Implementasyon ng K-12 program" (implementation of the new K-12 curriculum) goes at the heart of asking whether a government is spending taxpayer resources wisely. "Kaukulang Badyet sa Edukasyon" (adequate funding of education) and "Kagamitan sa mga Paaralan" (providing schools with the necessary resources) are both under NPE's School Finance category. In other words, there is no doubt that the Aquino administration will likewise receive a failing grade based on NPE's criteria.

The academic performance of a student is well known to be affected by socio-economic status. Poor students tend to receive lower grades. The report cards issued for states, however, are different. The above grades are not expected to be tied to how poor or how rich a state is. The above grades are not asking how much resources are available. The above grades look instead at how a state prioritizes. A government needs not be rich to make the right choices.

Monday, February 1, 2016

If You Are a Boy and You Are Attending a Poor School....

"Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members -- the last, the least, the littlest."
- Cardinal Roger Mahony

We can evaluate educational systems by measuring learning outcomes. We can compare countries by using scores from international standardized exams. At a smaller scale, we can even compare schools. Yet, these comparisons can always be viewed as placing an apple and an orange side by side. Some schools have more resources. Excuses can be made. Thus, as we do in analytical chemistry, it is useful to have an internal standard. The above words of Cardinal Mahony provide guidance on the standard that may be employed.

In School Quality and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement, David Autor and coworkers have identified one measure that correlates with school quality: The gap in learning outcomes between boys and girls. This is shown in one of the graphs from their paper:

Above copied from
School Quality and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement
The above graph clearly shows how the gap widens as the school quality deteriorates. A previous post in this blog, In Adversity, Boys Suffer More, another paper from Autor and coworkers was highlighted. That paper demonstrated that race, poverty, broken homes, and low parental educational attainment led to larger differences between boys and girls. School Quality and the Gender Gap in Educational Achievement takes this study one notch higher. School factors can likewise affect the gender gap and schools of lower quality lead to greater gender differences. 

As in the previous post in this blog, the following data are once again shared:

Data from Annual Poverty Indicator Survey 2013 and DepEd, Philippines

The gaps above are quite substantial. Take, for instance, the difference in scores between boys and girls in the National Achievement Test. This difference is about four tenths of the standard deviation in the exam. Using the graph above, this gap is in fact off scale, which provides quite a sobering insight on the current status of Philippine basic education.