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Showing posts from January, 2016

Corruption and Basic Education

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One can make comparisons between countries. With such exercise, one may find correlations. Here is one. Corruption and basic education seem to be strongly correlated. Countries where corruption is perceived to be low tend to have better educational systems.

Transparency Internationalprovides on an annual basis a Corruption Perception Index (CPI), a measure of the perceived level of public sector corruption for each country. The 2015 numbers are now available and the following lists the 40 least corrupt countries in the world.

RankCPI2015Country191Denmark290Finland389Sweden488New Zealand587Netherlands587Norway786Switzerland885Singapore983Canada1081Germany10

Impact of Technology on Learning

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Last night, my nine-year old son was using my smartphone. I thought he was checking on his current collection of football cards in the Topps Kick app. Then, I heard him talked on the phone, "Okay, Google, how old is Neymar, Junior? The phone answered, "Neymar is 23 years old." My son was using Google's Voice Search app on my phone. So I took the phone and asked, "Okay, Google, What is a hygrometer", since my son's fourth grade class was currently studying weather in their science class. The phone answered, "Hygrometer, an instrument for measuring the humidity of the air or a gas". To say the least, I made the excitement disappear.

It is truly amazing what digital devices can do. I can check on my smartphone on how my students are doing in their homework. The flipside is students can check on something else while they are listening to my lecture. I do walk around the classroom while I give the lecture so that probably discourages students from…

When Storms Interrupt Learning in Classrooms

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A post on this blog more than a year ago talked about Instructional Continuity. The article was in response to flooding brought by heavy rains in the capital region of Manila in the Philippines. This time, a blizzard just left a thick blanket of snow in our area in Virginia. Elementary, middle and high schools are all closed and so is Georgetown University. As a faculty, I am encouraged to take measures so as to minimize the interruption in instruction. So I have posted my slides with the transcribed lecture my students would miss. Here is one of the slides.


Last Friday, before the snow storm hit, I reminded my students of the importance of solving problems at the end of each chapter as well as distributed practice, as supported by evidence from cognitive and educational psychology. This, of course, likewise applies to basic education. Mason Crest Elementary School tries to address instructional continuity with the following video:

February 26, 2015 Snow Day Story Time!
Posted by Maso…

We Can Learn from a Child

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Over ten years ago, when elementary schools in Paete were given the opportunity to explore what the internet had to offer, students had the chance to see the four seasons through photographs from the United States. Today, of course, is an excellent opportunity to share with pupils in the Philippines how a blizzard looks like. More than a foot of snow has fallen in the Washington DC area and there is more to come.


We are quite eager to share our knowledge and experiences with young minds. Facebook reminds us of how much we like to share information with others. As teachers, however, we also need to be open to what our children maybe telling us. This morning, while I was browsing through Facebook, I came across this post shared by Troy Colmenares:


The post did not come with any information regarding the student who answered this exercise. It was a bit difficult to comprehend what the student wrote because of spelling and the use of more than one language. I had a brief conversation with…

Kindergarten Has Changed in the US

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With the realization of the importance of the early years in education, changes have occurred in the kindergarten curriculum in the United States. To gauge whether these changes are for better or worse, it is necessary to identify the changes first. Daphna Bassok, Scott Latham, and Anna Rorem from the University of Virginia have recently provided a systematic comparison between the state of kindergarten during the years 1998 and 2011, considering the following dimensions: (1) what teachers consider as important for school, (2) time spent on each subject, (3) how teachers manage their classroom, (4) teaching practices, and (5) how teachers measure learning outcomes. Their findings are published in the journal AERA Open.

By examining data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K:1998 and ECLS-K:2011), which includes thousands of kindergarten students and teachers, major changes in Kindergarten have been found across all dimensions. Especially worth noting is the difference se…

Socio-Economic Status and Education

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Paul Kiel in the New York Times writes: "The most recent federal survey in 2013 put the difference in net worth between the typical white and black family at $131,000. That’s a big number, but here’s an even more troubling statistic: About one-quarter of African-American families had less than $5 in reserve. Low-income whites had about $375."

There is race and there is income. Some even look at gender differences, but data on socio-economic status and education are clear: There is a widening gap between poor and rich children when it comes to education outcomes. Sean F. Reardon summarizes the findings on the "Income Achievement Gap" in an article published more than two years ago in Educational Leadership. Here are the important points:

1. The difference in academic achievement based on standardized test scores between poor and rich children has been increasing.

Above copied from Educational Leadership

While differences in test scores between a black child and a whi…

MLK on Education

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“... For most of the past decade the field of education has been a battleground in the freedom struggle. It was not fortuitous that education became embroiled in this conflict. Education is one of the vital tools the Negro needs in order to advance. And yet it has been denied him by devises of segregation and manipulations with quality. 
Historically, to keep Negroes in oppression they were deprived an education. In slave days it was illegal to teach a slave to read or write. With the ending of slavery and the emergence of quasi freedom, Negroes were only partially educated — sufficient to make their work efficient but insufficient to raise them to equality. 
The walling off of Negroes from equal education is part of the historical design to submerge him in second-class status. Therefore as Negroes have struggled to be free they have had to fight for the opportunity for a decent education.... 
...The richest nation on Earth has never allocated enough resources to build sufficient sch…

Tracking Promotes Inequity in Education

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"...In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all, offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one, and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids. And we have to make college affordable for every American...." The word "every" appears twice in the above two sentences of Obama's last State of the Union address. The word "every" speaks of equity, the most important principle in public education. Of course, equity is very difficult to achieve especially in a world where competition reigns supreme. Inequalities persist. Educational systems all over the world may claim efforts to promote equity yet cling on schemes that not only fail to support but also undermine such efforts.

The relationship between socio-economic status and educational attainment remains strong. Research is clear on one factor that increases the influence of poverty on educ…

School and Family

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"Families are the best anti-poverty measure ever invented. They are a welfare, education and counselling system all wrapped up into one." These are the words of David Cameron, Britain's Prime Minister, during his speech on life chances.



Cameron's speech highlights the importance of the family in addressing the challenges of poverty. When families fail, the prime minister is quick to point out that the next best thing a society could perhaps use is the school, but it is important that schools understand how poverty dramatically impacts education.

It is worth noting that Cameron cites evidence from research in promoting his agenda. The two points relevant to education are the following:
A knowledge-based curriculum is necessary. Citing the work of educational psychologists, Cameron emphasizes the fact that "the more information is stored in our long term memory the better our processing power – our working memory – can be employed."Character, especially persis…

Grandparents Count Too

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Although poverty profoundly makes education more challenging, it is widely believed that providing more opportunities for children of poor families to attend college is a good step in addressing social inequality and mobility. Poverty is often associated with parents of low educational attainment. Thus, in the US, most college admissions take into account if an applicant comes from a family whose parents never entered college. Recognizing the greater challenges faced by these first-generation students is necessary to ensure that they navigate through college with adequate support and guidance. Matthew Lawrence of Reed College, however, shows that one actually has to go beyond the parents, the educational attainment of the grandparents is part of the picture too.



In a paper published in the American Educational Research Journal, Lawrence, using longitudinal data involving about 10,000 students, shows that the educational attainment of the grandparents is correlated with the college des…

A "No Nonsense Classroom" Is Nonsense

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"One should not bother saying please. Just tell your students to do it for there are really no options." Imagine a teacher hearing this through a walkie-talkie from a coach standing behind the class. This happens while a teacher is being trained on a "no-nonsense nurturing" from the Center for Transformative Teacher Training. The center takes special note on their website that "Research studies indicate that our unique training methodology enables teachers to increase on task behavior by at least 55%". It is true that one must pay attention to outcomes. However, reaching a goal is not the only thing. In education, how one reaches that goal also matters. With a myriad of factors that can influence learning outcomes, it is possible that children could still learn not because of what we do, but in spite of what we have done.

NPRrecently had a piece on "non-nonsense nurturing". It came with a cartoon shown below. While the article talked about some p…

Students with Special Needs

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When a child is blind or deaf, the evidence is clear. In these situations, it is also straightforward to see what the child needs. Students with special needs, however, are not always straightforward to identify. One area concerns learning disabilities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Actin the US defines specific learning disabilities in the following manner:
Specific learning disability means a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. The identification and choice of interventions for specific learning disability, however, remain challenging. A significant number of approaches currently employed in school districts in the US fal…

How Can Technology Help in Education

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The social aspect of human life cannot be overstated. Thus, even education hinges on relationships. These relationships are between a parent and a child, and between a teacher and a pupil. It is through these connections that one may find technology enhancing basic education. In order to be useful, technology must facilitate, not replace, the engagement between a child and a parent, between a pupil and a teacher.

In a recent editorial published in JAMA Pediatrics, Radesky and Christakis write:
To be sure, it is important to understand that not all electronic toys—or for that matter apps—are the same, and content drives both the experience and the outcomes. For example, a randomized trial of Bedtime Math, an app that is intended to improve mathematical skills, showed benefits in first-grade students. Notably, the app is structured to promote parent-child interaction and provide a narrative with which to discuss simple mathematic problems. In other words, it drives triadic attention betw…