"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

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

"We Feel, Therefore We Learn"

A news article today on Rappler relates the sad and unfortunate displacement of over three thousand college workers due to DepEd's K to 12. It starts with a statement made by the Philippines' Commission on Higher Education (CHED) during a hearing in Congress: "The number of displacements is much lower than the initial projection". The callousness is truly remarkable.

Above copied from Rappler
Somehow, the commission seems to have mastered a perfect dichotomy between logic and feelings, between cognition and emotion. Perhaps, it is important that the commission takes into heart and mind results from neuroscience research that demonstrates the strong link between feeling and learning.

In an article published in the journal Mind Brain, and Education, We Feel, Therefore We Learn: The Relevance of Affective and Social Neuroscience to Education, Mary Helen Immordino-Yang and Antonio Damasio have laid out clearly what neuroscience research is telling us about emotion and cognition:
Recent advances in neuroscience are highlighting connections between emotion, social functioning, and decision making that have the potential to revolutionize our understanding of the role of affect in education. In particular, the neurobiological evidence suggests that the aspects of cognition that we recruit most heavily in schools, namely learning, attention, memory, decision making, and social functioning, are both profoundly affected by and subsumed within the processes of emotion; we call these aspects emotional thought. Moreover, the evidence from brain-damaged patients suggests the hypothesis that emotion-related processes are required for skills and knowledge to be transferred from the structured school environment to real-world decision making because they provide an emotional rudder to guide judgment and action. Taken together, the evidence we present sketches an account of the neurobiological underpinnings of morality, creativity, and culture, all topics of critical importance to education. Our hope is that a better understanding of the neurobiological relationships between these constructs will provide a new basis for innovation in the design of learning environments.
Feelings are important especially in the field of education. When we appear to lack empathy towards people losing jobs, we are compromising education.

The article from Immordino-Yang and Damasio may be too technical for us to comprehend fully but there is a school in the United States, Atlanta Speech School, that has provided a video that captures the essence of the strong link between emotion and cognition. Here it is and I strongly recommend watching it:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Parents Are Key to Improving Basic Education

Surprising results have been recently reported regarding the achievement gap in kindergarten in the United States. Sean F. Reardon and Ximena A. Portilla report in a study published in the journal AERA Open that the kindergarten school readiness gap between poor and rich children has narrowed significantly during the past decade. This is promising. It suggests a further decline in the achievement gap in the later years of basic education. It is surprising because income inequality has significantly widened during this time period and yet, the achievement gap has done the opposite. The actual cause still needs to be determined but the best guess at the moment is what parents are doing.

Above copied from
Recent Trends in Income, Racial, and Ethnic School Readiness Gaps at Kindergarten Entry
Sean F. Reardon, Ximena A. Portilla
AERA Open Aug 2016, 2 (3) 2332858416657343; DOI: 10.1177/2332858416657343
The 90-10 gap represents the difference between children from families belonging to 90th percentile and those that fall under the 10th percentile of the income distribution. The gap remains substantial, but the drop from 1998 to 2010 is clear.  These numbers come from a nationally representative data of tens of thousands of students. Various education reforms in the past decade have come in different flavors that it is quite unreasonable to pinpoint any one of these initiatives as the main factor in the above progress. Besides, the gaps shown above are for kindergarten. Therefore, the most likely contributor to the drop in the kindergarten readiness gap seen above is not the school but parents.

Interestingly, Reardon is a co-author of another study published in the same journal that looks at how activities parents do with their children have changed during the past decade. The results show that the activities' gap between rich and poor and children has likewise decreased.

Above copied from
Socioeconomic Gaps in Early Childhood Experiences
1998 to 2010
Daphna Bassok, Jenna E. Finch, RaeHyuck Lee, Sean F. Reardon, Jane Waldfogel
AERA Open Aug 2016, 2 (3) 2332858416653924; DOI: 10.1177/2332858416653924
The horizontal axis in the above graph is income percentile while the vertical axes are activities that may enhance a child's readiness for school. The broken yellow curve is from 1998 and one can see that in all three activities, this curve has a positive slope indicating that children from higher income families are more likely to participate in these visits. On the other hand, for 2010, the blue solid curve is closer to being flat suggesting that in recent times, poor children are equally likely to visit the library, the zoo or a museum as kids from affluent families.

Parents can indeed have an enormous impact on basic education. Ralph B. McNeal, Jr. writes in the journal Educational Research for Policy and Practice:
One major finding, or application, is that a “rising tide lifts all boats” when it comes to parent involvement. We need to find ways to increase involvement school-wide, not just for individual children or in specific cases. This is especially important in light of what I refer to as a “spillover effect.” One clear beneficiary is those students whose parents are not involved within the school or actively discussing school-related interests and activities with their children in the home. These students would reap rewards from the spillover effect where they benefit from the parent involvement of their peers. In other words, there is a school-level effect of parent involvement independent of any one individual’s level of parent involvement. To be more succinct, children in homes with non-involved or disengaged parents would benefit by simply being in a school with high rates of parental participation. This finding documents how widespread parent involvement’s effect can be beyond the individual and points us toward a clear policy direction moving forward.
A parent's engagement in the basic education of his or her child is contagious. There have been numerous comparisons made between schools in the US and those in Finland but only a few have taken notice of what Finland does for its parents. Jennifer Chait is one of the few:

Above copied from Inhabitots
Finland treats parents in a different way. Here is one example (copied from the European Platform for Investing in Children):
Universal child allowances are available to children under 17. The monthly payment in 2015 ranges from €95,75 for a single child to €174,27 for the fifth and each subsequent child. Single parents receive a supplement of €48.55 for each child.
With this support, a parent can indeed find more time to take his or her child to a zoo, a library, or a museum.

Monday, August 29, 2016

"Poor Children Have Smaller Brains"

It is a dangerous headline for it implies fate. It is harmful as it suggests intellectual inferiority on those who are born to poverty. Yet, a similar headline can be seen even from the news section of the science journal Nature: "Poverty shrinks brains from birth".

Above copied from Nature
The above headline is actually a lot more sensational than the headline employed by the research article described in the news article.

Above copied from Nature Neuroscience
Unfortunately, a lot of people often do not go beyond the headline. Obviously, people are even less expected to read the original article. One simply has to see one of the graphs in the research article to appreciate what the differences really are:

Above copied from
Noble, K. G. et alNature Neurosci. http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nn.3983 (2015).
Sadly, people probably would likewise fail to see and read the following paragraph from the research article:
"As a final point, our results should in no way imply that a child’s socioeconomic circumstances lead to an immutable trajectory of cognitive or brain development. Many other factors account for variance in brain morphometry; indeed, our data show marked variability in brain structure at all SES levels, including among the most disadvantaged children."
More than a year has passed since the publication of this study, Erika Hayasaki of Newsweek adds an important section to this discussion in her article,"How Poverty Affects the Brain":
The New Eugenics? 
The headlines around this emerging neurological research are startling and troubling—“How Poverty Stunts Kids’ Brain Development.” “Poverty Shrinks Brains From Birth.” “Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions.”
Shonkoff says this type of language is a “dangerous, slippery slope. It’s one thing to say, ‘We on average see less gray matter, less surface area.’ It’s another for people to conclude, ‘Oh, you’re brain damaged.…’ This unfairly stigmatizes people.” Without context, poverty-brain research could fuel misguided beliefs involving racial disparities in intelligence or the inherent inferiority of the poor. It could also be used to justify racism. 
“We run the risk of these findings becoming fodder for a nouveau eugenics movement,” says Matthew Hughey, associate professor of sociology at the University of Connecticut. “The easily dispensed adage that ‘the poor’s brains are different’ is an all-too-easy, scary and simply wrong-headed approach.”
Poverty is correlated with less gray matter, less surface area. This is true but the correlation in this case is not a clear-cut cause-effect relationship such that if a child is born to a poor family, the child is certain to have a smaller brain. The difference between the average surface area of a child growing up in poverty and that of a child born to affluent parents is easily dwarfed by the variability within any given income level. Poverty does not decide which children will do better in school. We do. If we continue not to provide quality care and basic education to poor children then we are the ones perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Surprising Results Regarding Retention

During my days of schooling and it is perhaps true up till now, retention is seen as bad. In a world where nobody is perfect and failure is inevitable, it is indeed surprising that retention is widely perceived as detrimental. A lot of research do show that retention may have negative effects. However, it should be clear that what is actually done with retention can significantly affect the outcome. ASCD's article, What Research Says About... / Grade Retention, ends with a wise statement, "Without early diagnosis and targeted intervention, struggling students are unlikely to catch up whether they are promoted or retained."

Above copied from Pinterest
Thus, studying the effects of retention must be carefully designed. A paper scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at the effects of retention by examining more than a hundred students that have been retained from a total sample of more than a thousand students in 42 secondary schools in Germany. The first sentence of its abstract reads:
Consistently with a priori predictions, school retention (repeating a year in school) had largely positive effects for a diverse range of 10 outcomes (e.g., math self-concept, self-efficacy, anxiety, relations with teachers, parents and peers, school grades, and standardized achievement test scores).
I think the outcome "relations with teachers, parents and peers" measures much more than the effect of retention. The fact that retained students in this study speaks positively of their relations with both teachers and parents speaks volume of what actually happens when a student is retained in these cases.

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status"

"Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status" is the theme of this year's World Teachers' Day, October 5, 2016. Of course, the status of the teaching profession can not be simply reduced to how much a teacher gets paid. Still, money talks. Teacher salaries do speak of how much we value our teachers. 

In the United States, the Economic Policy Institute has recently released a study that shows that teachers' pay is significantly lower than those of other college graduates.

And in the Philippines, the story is pretty much the same. Representative France Castro (Alliance of Concerned Teachers) says that public school teachers are only taking home about 3,500 to 6,000 pesos (75-130 US$) every month:
18 August 2016
Reference: Rep. France L. Castro
Rep. France Castro on DBM Sec. Diokno's anti-poor statement

Rep. France Castro of ACT Teachers Party-List denounced DBM Sec. Benjamin Diokno’s 'anti-poor statement’ when he said “there is no urgency” in giving salary increases to teachers and nurses, yesterday in an Anti-Poverty Summit in Davao. Castro is also dismayed after Sec. Diokno announced that only members of AFP and PNP will have a PhP 5,000 allowance and rice allowance every month starting September and assured that uniformed men’s salary increase be granted by January 2017.
“It’s really alarming that the secretary said this in an anti-poverty event considering that quality education and health services are components of the ‘war against poverty’ being waged by the current administration,” Castro said as she asserted that teachers and nurses play important roles in poverty alleviation.
Castro underscored the fact that teachers and nurses along with other government employees are burdened with the perennial increases of the price of basic commodities faced by cops and military.
The lawmaker emphasizes insufficiency of the PhP 19,077 current monthly salary of entry-level teachers amidst the rising cost of living. Researchers found that PhP 1,093 is required to support a family of 6 per day.
“Teachers only have PhP 3,500-6,000 to as net take home pay each month. This dire state of their financial capacity pushes them to get loans and even pawn their ATM accounts. Teachers had historically fallen trapped in this cycle of indebtedness,” Castro stressed.
Castro condemned this notion that the uniformed service ought to be first since all government employees are equally important in nation building.
The lawmaker also reminds Sec. Diokno of constitutional mandate Art. 14, Sec. 5, Par. 5 to “assign the highest budgetary priority to education and ensure that teaching will attract and retain its rightful share of the best available talents through adequate remuneration and other means of job satisfaction and fulfillment.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

How We Solve Arithmetic Problems - How We Solve Societal Problems

Multiplication and division involving either fractions or decimals that are less than one persist as major challenges in fifth grade classrooms. Punching these decimals into a calculator, provided that the correct buttons are pushed, can of course lead to the right answer. Knowing how to do these arithmetic operations by hand likewise can be successful, but the question of whether a child really understands the concept of multiplication and division involving fractions remains to be addressed. Without such understanding, a careless handling of a calculator or an error in computation by hand can easily happen and at the end, a child is completely unaware that his or her answer does not make sense. A recent study involving seventh graders from a public school near Pittsburgh shows that students continue to fail in this area.

The work, scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology, looks at how well a student answers an arithmetic problem involving decimals. The following are sample questions.

The results are quite revealing. Students do well with addition and subtraction problems presumably with the notion that adding leads to a bigger number while subtraction always reduces the number. The following table summarizes the findings:
Above copied from
Conceptual Knowledge of Decimal Arithmetic.
Lortie-Forgues, Hugues; Siegler, Robert S.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Aug 15 , 2016, No Pagination Specified. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000148
With multiplication and division, rules derived using numbers greater than one, such as multiplication leads to a larger number while division makes a number smaller, do not apply to decimals less than one. 5 multiplied by 0.29 is less than 5 and 5 divided by 0.29 is greater than 5. The study also examines the explanations behind the judgment made by the student and the following table shows that indeed, learning requires a great bit of unlearning.

Above copied from
Conceptual Knowledge of Decimal Arithmetic.
Lortie-Forgues, Hugues; Siegler, Robert S.
Journal of Educational Psychology, Aug 15 , 2016, No Pagination Specified. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/edu0000148

"Operation and operand" in the above table means that the student recognizes that not only the operation (either multiplication or division) but also the operand (whether these are less than or greater than one) decides if the answer will be larger or smaller. "Unconditional operation" refers to a student invoking the general rule that multiplication makes things bigger while division makes things smaller regardless of the operands. Surprisingly, those who try to estimate (Computational estimation) gets the wrong answer more than half the time.

These arithmetic problems mimic in so many ways how we, as adults, often struggle with problems society faces. We have strongly held preconceived notions that lead us to wrong conclusions. We are obstinate. We therefore hardly learn from our mistakes. The results shown here are from seventh grade students, not fifth grade. Surely, these children have seen multiplications and divisions involving fractions or decimals that are less than one. It therefore seems onerous to accept and digest something that goes beyond what we have known for so long. One thing the authors write that is worth repeating here is this: "Confidence is often a good thing, but misplaced confidence is not."

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

How We Treat Our Young Children

"In one study of extra-year programs, the biggest gains were not for the extra-year children but for the at-risk children who have received extra help in the regular classroom", noted Shepard and Smith in their paper, "Synthesis of Research on School Readiness and Kindergarten Retention". Shepard and Smith had long argued that schools should address the diversity of young children when they enter kindergarten and not focus on applying a common set of standards for all. Sadly, a list for kindergarten readiness, which includes the ability to "identify 30+ letters", is what parents see, for instance, from a county in Ohio.

Above copied from SheKnows
School readiness as well as school entry age are issues difficult to address in research since learning outcomes are often determined by factors other than these two. As a starter, context matters. In addition, how schools respond as Shepard and Smith had shown can easily sway the results simply based on a teacher's perception of what is normal and what is not. Thus, one way to dissect how the effects of school entry age on learning outcomes is to examine a database in which the differences are actually not options. Comparing countries afford this opportunity. In 2006, Suggate had used PISA scores on reading comprehension to see if there are effects of school entry age. In the paper, "School entry age and reading achievement in the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)", no correlation was found between reading scores and the age a child enters school. Yet, if one focuses on one of the countries that score high in this standardized test, one is tempted to arrive at a conclusion similar to the following:

Above copied from NPR
And in Denmark, an older school entry age is seen to correlate with a lower crime rate.

Above copied from The Economic Journal
Clearly, if there is really no association between school entry age and learning outcomes, then something else counts. And my guess is how society responds to diversity is what counts.

Bassok and coworkers, I believe, are sounding an alarm that requires our attention in their paper "Is Kindergarten the New First Grade?" We are taking the slippery slope of defining what should be normal and expected from our children.

Above copied from AERA
One simply has to combine the above observation with how parents are spending on their young to realize that there is a poisonous mix brewing in basic education.

Above copied from AERA
School entry age matters when we make it. If school is cast as a way to get an edge in life, and school readiness translates to an edge in school, it becomes doubly toxic. We inadvertently tell a significant number of children that they are not ready when in fact we might be the ones who do not understand how each child really grows and develops.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Parenting, Basic Education, and Drug Abuse

Parents can provide both support and control. Parenting styles according to Maccoby and Martin can be categorized into four types: authoritarian (demanding and unresponsive), authoritative (demanding but responsive), permissive (responsive but undemanding), and neglectful (unresponsive and undemanding). With Amy Chua's "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother", strict and harsh parenting has been suggested to lead to successful education outcomes. Research has shown that this is false. The data as nicely illustrated by Paul Tullis in Slate show that Tiger parenting leads only to lower achievement and greater depression.

Above copied from Paul Tullis at Slate
Cultural differences are often cited to explain different parenting styles. Thus, the success of an authoritative parenting style may just hold in Western societies, but not in general. What outcomes can be predicted from any given parenting style therefore need to be studied across cultures.

There is one study that involves parents and children in the Philippines. A paper by Rebecca Hock and coworkers in the International Journal of Culture and Health, looks at longitudinal data of nearly 2000 emerging adults in Cebu City. The abstract of the paper is shown below:

Parenting style is a potent and malleable influence on emerging adult substance use. Most of the parenting-substance use literature has been conducted in Western populations and it is unknown whether findings are generalizable to other cultures and contexts. We extended the parenting-substance use literature to a cohort of emerging adults in the Philippines using the Cebu Longitudinal Health and Nutrition Survey. We assessed associations between mothers’ and fathers’ parenting styles (authoritative, permissive, authoritarian, and neglectful) reported by offspring at age 18 and odds of offspring-reported drug use three years later, adjusted for a range of offspring- and parent/household-level characteristics. Females were dropped from analyses due to low prevalence of drug users. We found that many emerging adults in Cebu reported having used drugs, particularly methamphetamine—a dangerous drug with high abuse potential. Authoritative (warm, firm) mothering was significantly associated with sons’ reduced odds of drug use and neglectful fathering was related at a trend level with sons’ increased odds of having tried drugs. Findings underscore the relation of parenting styles to emerging adults’ drug use and add to the literature on cross-cultural variability in parenting styles.
Thus, it seems that the type of parenting associated with better outcomes in Cebu City is the authoritative one, no different from the findings in Western culture. This may not be a surprise but what is quite unexpected, especially with preconceived notions that Asian culture is often strict, is that the most prevalent parenting style seen in this study is the permissive type. And when it comes to drug abuse, parenting styles often regarded differently, authoritarian and neglectful, have outcomes similar to those of permissive parenting.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Crime Rate: Poverty, Wages, Deterrence, and Basic Education

A lot can be said regarding how people could use statistics to mislead. It is therefore important to evaluate the source of information as well as biases that may be present in both sampling and analysis of data. Data can indeed provide correlations but one must be cautious in drawing a cause and effect relationship. There is a considerable interest in finding what correlates with crime. A reduction in crime rate can be easily claimed as an accomplishment by either policy makers or law enforcers. If the crime rate has really gone down, it is indeed an accomplishment. Nevertheless, it is still necessary to identify what factors are really responsible or significant. For this analysis, the size of the data as well as the length of time are consequential. One study, covering the period 1970-2008, shows that the crime rate in the Philippines correlates with wage rate, labor participation rate, and per capita income. In contrast, deterrence does not seem to impact significantly crime rates.

Similar findings have been made by Miguel F. Gillado and Tina Tan-Cruz. In their 2004 paper, Panel Data Estimation of Crime Rates in the Philippines, the following factors are shown to correlate strongly with crime:

  • per capita gross regional domestic product; 
  • average income of the people in urban and rural; 
  • consumer price index; 
  • cohort survival rate in elementary education. 
Gillado and Tan-Cruz conclude, "The results show that the economic factors are the robust determinants of crime rates. This implies that generally, the more the stable the economy is, the lower the crime rates. Thus, it is recommended that policy makers should focus on the stabilization of the economy because it has a significant influence on the variation of crime rates." And similar to Patalinghug's study, no significant link between crime and deterrence is seen. 

The number of school dropouts also correlates with higher crime. In the Philippines, both poverty and child labor are known to be the primary causes of school leaving. Thus, poverty can influence crime rates in more than one way.

Friday, August 12, 2016

"Shooting First and Asking Questions Later"

A recent article from The Economist does not waste any subtlety in the message it wants to send to the Duterte administration: "The lesson of the drug wars in Latin America, and of previous dirty wars, is that extrajudicial violence resolves nothing and makes everything worse. Innocent people will be killed; and denunciations will also be used to settle scores and exploited by gangs to wipe out rivals. Filipinos’ desire for instant retribution will, surely, turn to horror, hatred and revenge. The rule of law will erode. Investors, who have made the Philippines one of globalisation’s winners in recent years, will flee. The only winners will be the still-lurking insurgents. Mr Duterte’s ill-conceived war on drugs will make the Philippines poorer and more violent."

Above copied from The Economist. To read the entire article, click here
The Philippines does sit in a precarious situation. One simply has to look at its stock market index:

Above copied from Trading Economics
With its stock index almost doubled in the past five years, one can easily predict that a correction is inevitable. A slippery slope, a track the Duterte administration seems to be following, may just be the trigger to bring light into what is currently the situation in the Philippines. Certain elements when brought together can indeed create a perfect storm. The basic education system is under huge stress. The number of school dropouts continues to pile up. Even without a careless president, things can easily get worse.

Perception matters. What the world thinks matters. What The Economist prints matters. Those of us who live on credit know what a credit score entails. And it is about perception. For the past ten years, the Philippines has greatly improved its rating.

Above copied from Arangkada Philippines
These ratings can easily go down, wiping out all the hard-earned gains from the previous decade. It takes a lot of effort to convince people that a country is headed in the right direction. It is far easier to make them see it otherwise.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Debunking Myths and the Drug War in the Philippines

In a Harvard Business Review article, Christopher Graves enumerates reasons why debunking myths is a very difficult task. Working from findings made by social scientists, Graves finds four major reasons:
  • Arguing the facts doesn’t help—in fact, it makes the situation worse.
  • Repeating the myth inadvertently popularizes it.
  • Affirmation works – but we rarely use it.
  • We consistently underestimate the power of narrative.
Above copied from Top Five Myths about Alcohol
Thus, with the above in mind, the previous post on this blog was really an exercise in futility.

So, below may be a more effective step. This is a narrative. It comes from the Kaibigan Foundation
Kaibigan Foundation (an NGO based in Manila) condemns the killing of Jefferson Bunuan, a 20 year old student beneficiary. Jefferson is a sponsored child of the foundation for eleven years. As described by Kaibigan staff, Jefferson is polite, soft-spoken, and has shown determination to finish his studies despite experiencing life difficulties. He was in fact a graduate of welding course last year and continued his studies in criminology. This is the reason why Kaibigan was so shocked upon hearing the news that he, along with other two suspected drug pushers, were killed in allegedly buy-bust operation in Sta. Ana, Manila.
As a child’s right advocate, we call to stop extra judicial killing and to follow due process and fair hearing on imposing anti-drug campaign.
Last Monday, July 18 at approximately 11 in the evening, three “suspected” drug pushers were killed in a “said” buy-bust operation in Raymundo St. Sta. Ana, Manila, namely Jomar “Totong” Manaois (20), Jefferson Bunuan (20) and his cousin Mark Anthony Bunuan (18). The police said that a gunfight ensued leading to the death of the three. According to Manila Police District Station 6 – Chief Superintendent Robert Domingo, their main target was Jomar but since Jefferson and Mark were there, they also shot them as they are Jomar’s “cohorts”.
One of the victims, Jefferson Bunuan is a scholar of Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation, Inc. (KEOFI) since he started his schooling. Jeff was the fourth of five children and became a fatherless at an early age. Jefferson perfectly understood the situation of their family that’s why he was very keen to finish his studies. As described by her mother, he is a diligent student. In fact, he sometimes goes to school even without an allowance.
For eleven years, he stayed as a beneficiary of Kaibigan. As a kid, he was very shy, but he participated actively in different activities of the foundation. Despite financial difficulties, he managed to graduate in elementary and high school. He also took up skills training course Shielded Metal Arc Welding (SMAW).
Jefferson’s childhood dream was to be a policeman because he wants to give justice to his father who was killed when he was young. He is a first year college student taking up BS Criminology in Eulogio "Amang" Rodriguez Institute of Science and Technology (EARIST). He is also a volunteer of Lambat Sibat, a PNP program which aims to prevent crimes in the country.
According to her sister Lovely, it was 10PM when the policemen conducted their zoning at Brgy. 770 when in fact, they (policemen) were waiting for Totong to go home for them to catch-on-act the suspected buy-bust operation. Unfortunately, Jeff and Mark were sleeping in Totong’s house that time. It was because there was no space in their house since Jeff’s sister just gave birth.
After almost an hour, Lovely, with her relatives, came to Totong’s house as they had throbbed that something wrong was happening. The policemen inhibited them to get nearer to the said house and told them that everything was fine. Unfortunately, a few minutes later, SOCO team came and got the dead bodies out of the house. Lovely firmly went to a proximate distance to see the bag and saw her brother and cousin both dead.
Lovely contradicted the statement of Police Superintendent Robert Domingo that the group was armed as they entered the door so they just protected themselves and immediately shot them. According to Lovely, she talked to the three girls who were inside the house before the incident occurred. She was told that Jeff and Mark were in fact sleeping at that very moment. Supt. Domingo also said that there was a gunfight, but the three girls said that they heard the Totong (being the only one awake that time) surrendered and told the policemen not to implicate his two friends.
The three girls also told Lovely that before the said buy-bust operation, the policemen ordered them to get out of the house because they will conduct an inside investigation. The girls followed their orders while Totong remained inside and the other two victims were still sleeping. Policemen immediately entered the house and in just a few seconds later, they heard Totong surrendering, followed by 7 gunshots.
The dead body position of Totong signifies that he probably fell down backwards when he was shot from his surrendering position. This is all contradicting to the statements of the policemen that the group initiated the gunfight and a buy-bust operation was happening.
Due to this, Kaibigan Foundation raises its voice to the authorities to investigate this “unjust” killing of innocent people. This is discrimination and a violation of the human rights. We are after justice and we don’t want these things to happen again as we advocate human (specifically children’s) rights protection.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Evidence, Drugs and Crime

I have seen emails from Philippine scientists in the US asking whether our community of scholars should say something as a group regarding the current war on drugs waged by the Duterte administration. In a country where most people shoot straight from the hip without any regard for what research says, opinions from academic scientists who have practiced in their own disciplines respect for data may be welcomed or may be not. As discussed in this blog so many times, research based evidence does not seem to guide basic education policies in the Philippines. Therefore, it is unlikely that a similar effort on drug policies will make a difference unless a unified voice from the community is made. Nonetheless, this blog will try. And as always, the first step is to destroy myths. For starters, alcohol is the most harmful drug to both users and society (at least, according to researchers in the UK):

Above copied from The Lancet
Second, the association between violent crimes and drug use is indeed true, but not for all drugs. The strong correlation between crime and drug use is especially true for alcohol and as Stephen Koppel states in an article published in the Journal of Civil and Legal Sciences, "the relationship between marijuana and violent crime is primarily negative and relatively strong. Also, the relationship between heroin and violent crime is weak and inconsistent." (Koppel JDS (2016) Evidence-based Drug Crime Policy: Looking beyond the Moral and Medical to a Multi-level Model of Addiction. J Civil Legal Sci 5: 175. doi:10.4172/2169-0170.1000175)

Third, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have enumerated the following unintended consequences of drug policies similar to those employed by the Duterte administration:

  • Black market: the creation of a lucrative and violent criminal black market for drugs of macroeconomic proportions.
  • Policy displacement from health to law enforcement, drawing public resources and political attention away from public health considerations towards law enforcement and security.
  • Geographical displacement as crackdowns on drug productionand trade push them, and with them, crime, violence, and destabilization, to new geographic areas.
  • Substance displacement: the unwitting creation of incentives for users to switch from heavily policed drugs to a drug with similar effects with less stringent controls, creating new patterns of drug use and markets.
  • Criminalization and marginalization of people who use drugs, often amplified through the use of the criminal justice system to address drug use and minor possession. Drug-related incarceration rates are, in many countries, highest amongst young, poor, marginalized populations, often having lifelong –or even, in some cases, multi-generational – consequences on human and social development.
The last one in the above list maybe the easiest to realize. We must simply ask ourselves the following questions: Who are being killed on the streets without trial? Who are being incarcerated? The war on drugs is oftentimes a war only against the poor, only against the oppressed, only against the defenseless.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Poor Kids Tend to Have a Fixed Mindset while Rich Kids Tend to Have a Growth Mindset

Whether skills are inborn or cultivated through practice may influence how much effort a child would exert in school. Dweck and coworkers at Stanford University have worked on studying this psychology factor. They recently published an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA. The study which takes advantage of data from more than a hundred thousand tenth graders in Chile demonstrates quite a strong correlation between the income of the family a child belongs to and the mindset, either fixed or growth, the child holds. In addition, learning outcomes as measured by standardized exams are also correlated with mindset. Average scores of students within any given income group are shown to correlate with a child believing that intelligence is not fixed, and can be developed through diligent work.

Above copied from
Susana Claro, David Paunesku, and Carol S. Dweck. Growth mindset tempers the effects of poverty on academic achievement. PNAS 2016 113 (31) 8664-8668; published ahead of print July 18, 2016, doi:10.1073/pnas.1608207113

Data also show that at the lowest income decile only about 10 percent believes in a growth mindset while more than sixty percent subscribes to a fixed one, and at the highest decile, the numbers are roughly equal between the two mindsets. A fixed mindset, of course, sounds the same as a "dead end". In societies where the wealthy becomes richer and the destitute becomes poorer, social mobility is often non existent. It is therefore not surprising that a mindset a child takes also correlates with socio-economic status. Opportunities are often drawn along social classes. Resources are likewise tilted to favor those who are already ahead. Thus, it only follows Markovnikov's rule: Those that have, get.  At first, it might look that the mindset alone determines learning outcomes. The graph, above, however, shows that the gap between the two mindsets is widening with poverty. There is a bigger gap among children who are poor. Mindsets obviously mirror only how our society really operates. It is something children likewise learn from schools where we often enshrine our strongly held beliefs of inequality and competition. It should be obvious that what is necessary is to address these inequalities. Simply teaching kids to have a growth mindset does not really tackle the problem at hand. A growth mindset, like any value, is caught not taught.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Teachers and Parents Are Crucial for a Successful Education Reform

"More than half of school reform efforts fail, many as a result of poor implementation. Without buy-in from critical actors such as teachers, administrators and parents, any reform effort – no matter how well-intentioned and conceived – is sunk.", wrote Courtnay Singer in "School by School Reform". With the Philippines' DepEd K to 12, opposition from parents and teachers may easily spell doom to the new curriculum even without the Supreme Court ruling on its constitutionality.

To appreciate the importance of a buy-in from critical actors, one can look at an example that is less controversial than DepEd's K to 12: Giving each student a laptop computer. The Shorenstein Center at Harvard provides a resource for research news and one of its recent articles written by David Trilling, Student learning with laptops: Measuring the effectiveness of laptops in American classrooms, points to a study published in the journal Review of Educational Research. This paper describes a meta-analysis of research on the use of laptops in basic education. It is a a careful and thoughtful examination of various studies that have been published in the area of how one-to-one student laptop programs have affected learning outcomes. The effects on various subjects, reading, writing, math, and science are found to be small yet significant. The most important takeaway, however, is that a teacher buy-in is critical. Trilling writes:
  • Teacher buy-in is critical. Technology alone does not improve students’ test scores. In Birmingham, Alabama, where the one-to-one program was introduced by the local government with “almost no funding or support for curriculum development … or teacher professional development” and little input from teachers, the program failed: Computers in classrooms went largely untouched, became unusable without IT support and the program was abandoned after three years. “Technical, curricular, and pedagogical support for laptop use is an important component of program success.”
  • When teachers are offered strong IT support and training, and when they are involved in decisions about how to roll out a one-on-one program, they become more engaged in the program and confident using the technology. In turn, students are more likely to thrive.
And we all know what happens to a three-legged stool with just one of its legs broken.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Years in High School and PhD

Defending DepEd's K to 12, education secretary Briones was recently quoted, "I know for a fact that if one is a PhD, for example, from the Philippines, you go to another country, you will not get the same kind of ranking that you will have in the Philippines because they will automatically count the number of years you have had in basic education as well as in your field of specialization..." The first part of the secretary's statement may indeed be factual but the second part, "because they will automatically count the number of years you have had in basic education", is outright false. At the doctorate level, one's transcripts or grades, or even being a summa cum laude are not considered. What counts is one's original contribution to human knowledge, as documented in publications in peer-reviewed journals. 

Above copied from Rappler
Why an education secretary would issue such a misleading statement is perplexing. Perhaps, it is simply an invitation for knowledgeable people to cite the real reason why PhD graduates from the Philippines receive a ranking which they could not get outside the country. Maybe, Secretary Briones merely wants the words of retired professor Flor Lacanilao rehashed:
...In these two examples of addressing problems -- poverty and basic education -- failure is easily predictable. But it takes properly trained and experienced natural and social scientists to make such assessment. Many international studies have shown this. Hence, putting such right people in charge, or directly involved, in reform initiatives is another basic prerequisite to successful programs. It is critical in improving higher education and science. 
The right people are those who have made major contributions to their respective fields of endeavor, as indicated by properly published works and citations. Important are papers in journals and citations listed in Science Citation Index or Social Sciences Citation Index. Such properly published authors have the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly. 
The lack of such expertise among the wrong people in charge explains why, even with the advice of respected natural and social scientists, the decisions of those in charge -- based largely on personal opinion and common sense -- often prevailed....
Does Secretary Briones really want to hear the reason why PhD graduates from the Philippines receive in the country recognition that they would have great difficulty obtaining in another country? Because I honestly do not think that she actually subscribes to the reason being the number of years in high school.

Monday, August 1, 2016

"Issues in Philippine Basic Education"

The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) from the Bicol Region in the Philippines shares a list of current concerns regarding education in the country. The list apparently came to the attention of the teacher group as a Facebook message. It is quite different from the one shared a couple of years ago by James Paglinawan from Central Mindanao University.

Above copied from James Paglinawan
The first item on the list criticizes the lack of emphasis on reading, writing and arithmetic, and fails to see the importance of other subjects such as music and health. Based on this, the list sounds as if it does not come from an actual classroom teacher. Most teachers now recognize the significance of these subjects in elementary school. It demonstrates a lack of awareness of what we now know about how music education facilitates "language development, literacy, numeracy, measures of intelligence, general attainment, creativity, fine motor co-ordination, concentration, self-confidence, emotional sensitivity, social skills, team work, self-discipline, and relaxation", as Hallam pointed out in "The power of music: Its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people".

The list mentions comic books as well. This, unlike the first one, is a good point. In fact, comic books are now often called "graphic novels". The rest of the list talks about resources that are generally lacking as well as the other numerous tasks added to the job of a teacher on top of teaching in the classroom. The list cites the lack of basic items such as blackboards and roofs but then digresses into preferring flat screen televisions over projectors. And at the end of the list, a full acceptance of DepEd's K to 12 would have been possible if everyone is prepared. DepEd's K to 12 is indeed ill-prepared, but its flaws go beyond preparation and resources. The K to 12 curriculum is bad for Philippine basic education even if it came with all the necessary resources.

Anyway, here is the list:

This is a message from inbox.

Dear ACT Bicol:

Greetings of peace and goodwill!


1. The primary grades from Kindergarten to Grade 3 is in need the full attention to learn the 3R’s namely, reading, writing and arithmetic. Our pupils are suffocated nowadays with so many subjects that are not yet needed like music, health etc. Music (simple songs) and Health (simple parts of the body) before are integrated in any lessons in Grade 1 and 2 even Kinder. The simple learning of how to read, write and count are now taken for granted because of lack of number of minutes.

2. In terms of reading, pupils are interested in colored drawings like the comics that we used to. The pupils of 70’s and 80’s are fond of reading comics with adventures, funny, actions that gave us more opportunity to learn more how to read because the dialogue are illustrated as well.

3. Government must produce more interesting reading materials that is suited to the learners. Pupils are instead go to their gadgets because it is more colorful and more interactive. DepEd must print also more and more charts in reading especially for elementary. Some of this are commercialized but how if the teacher cannot afford to buy those instructional materials that supposed to be free from the government. The simple picture of the parts of the body for grade 1 and a picture of a hammer for grade 6 must be bought by the teachers in a store.

4. Teachers have so many added activities and paperworks that most of the time are not included anymore in their duties and functions as teacher. Teachers in primary have 8-10 subjects to prepare, lesson plans, DLL and make an improvised teaching aids daily, if the teacher will make all of these in a half day instead of teaching, do we think we can give our pupils the quality of education we are expecting?

5. Most of the time newly hired teachers are given bare classrooms, don’t even have blackboards and roofing etc. The school will advise him to approach the homeroom PTA, that some also cannot afford to contribute. The teachers therefore will take a loan in some loan sharks just to augment the needs of his classroom so to make it conducive and inviting to learners.

6. I suggest that if the budget for a classroom must include the necessary amenities needed both by the teacher and the learner.

7. The 21st Century teachers must be equipped with an audio visual room to deliver all the new instructions and curriculum required by the K to 12 Program. They need Laptop and Printer, Internet connectivity, a Flat TV with USB connected in a sound system will do instead of expensive projectors that lasts only for 3 yrs the most. Many lesson presentations can be shown in a flat tv than in projectors. Less training is needed than in any complicated softwares.

8. The “Laptop for Teacher Program” will help, it was just opposed by one of the director in DepEd IT. We have the DCP in every school but the sustainability is hanged due to some Procurement Policies of the School MOOE.

9. The meager salary of teachers is trending nowadays knowing the fact that most the time, teachers only have their net take home pay of 3,500 monthly. It is because of so many loans that they are attending.

10. I also suggest the 15/30 salary system, this will help augment the very long span of salary arrival that tempts the teacher to loan just to sustain the family needs.

11. We are not against the Kto12 BEP, only that we should be prepared in terms of everything, the first batch of this program are the sacrificial lamb because their materials are distributed midyear and in most cases last quarter and none any. Teachers are just advised to download them from the internet, print and produce at cost. Some grade levels don’t have yet their learning materials.

Thank you very much.
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