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Showing posts from March, 2017

DepEd's K to 12 Ensures Employment for Its Graduates?

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"The K to 12 basic education curriculum will be sufficient to prepare students for work." This is one of the promises of the Philippine DepEd K to 12 curriculum. With assumed school-industry partnerships, the techvoc tracks of the senior high school are expected "to allow students gain work experience while studying and offer the opportunity to be absorbed by the companies". Focusing on a school-work transition in high school may indeed yield employment benefits in the short-term, but sacrificing general education may also lead to a very early specialization that can easily hinder adaptability and therefore decrease employment in later life. With a rapidly changing job market, skills specific to a given occupation can become obsolete. Thus, vocational education in high school may be beneficial right away, but disadvantageous in the long term.

Determining the effects of either a vocational or general education on employment is not straightforward since tracking in h…

Numbers Are Significant

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In mathematics and the sciences, numbers are important. Our responses to numerical questions are marked wrong in an exam if our answers are incorrect. 12 times 12 is not equal to 143, regardless of whether or not we have an excellent lawyer to defend us. Obviously, numbers transcend mathematics for these also provide meaning. Thus, in real life, numbers are indeed significant. Stating "We are now looking at some very grim statistics: since July last year, more than 7,000 people have been killed in summary executions" is very different from "from July 1, 2016, to March 24, 2017, there were a total of 6,011 killings or “homicides” in the country. Of this number, 1,398 were confirmed to be drug-related while 828 were not drug related. The rest—3,785 cases—remained under investigation." The first statement is from the Vice President of the Philippines Leni Robredo while the second statement comes from Augusto Marquez Jr., head of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Di…

School Feeding Program

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Nongovernment organizations as well as the Department of Education in the Philippines are actively pursuing programs aimed at addressing severe malnutrition in young children. Data show that such programs are well managed although metrics such as child weights need to be accurately measured to assess the actual impact of these programs. Addressing malnutrition of school-aged children is obviously a good first step to alleviate the harmful effects of poverty on education. Unfortunately, before a child enters a school, proper nutrition is already crucial for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Poverty during these early years are now well known to correlate with both behavioral and academic gaps as early as when a child enrolls in kindergarten.
Johnson and Markowitz have recently published a paper in the journal Child Development:


Of course, one should note that the above study is from the United States where programs that respond to early childhood as well as maternal nutrition do exi…

Free Appropriate Public Education

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Providing every eligible child a "Free Appropriate Public Education" is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in the United States. The Supreme Court of the United States has just ruled unanimously that schools cannot settle for "minimum progress" specifically in the case of a child with disabilities. "When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all", according to the opinion issued by the Supreme Court. With this decision, the court clearly takes seriously what "Free Appropriate Public Education" means.

The case involves an autistic child whose parents have sued the Douglas County School District for not providing "Free Appropriate Public Education". With the IDEA act, a child with a disability such as autism is entitled to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP)…

How Much Do We Know About Learning?

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Most readers of this blog have gone through school. Naturally, I might be able to assume that readers of this blog have formed some opinions regarding education. After all, we have experiences. So we must have ideas of what is effective in teaching or learning. Perhaps, we should then check if our ideas are correct or not. Boser from the Center for American Progressrecently did such a survey in the United States and found that most people actually do not know what research-based evidence tells us regarding education.

So I am curious as to how readers of this blog compare to the respondents in Boser's survey. Boser used multiple choice items that he created to survey Americans on their beliefs regarding learning. The actual questions Boser used, however, are not listed in the report. Luckily, Anya Kamenetz of NPR composed a quiz that captures Boser's survey, and I am taking the liberty of using that quiz for this blog to find where readers of this blog stand.

Please complete th…

Why We Need Liberal Arts in College

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As an undergraduate student at the Ateneo de Manila University, I was required to take 5 courses in Theology, 4 courses in Philosophy, 2 courses in History, 4 courses in Spanish, 4 courses in English, 2 courses in Filipino, 2 courses in Economics, 1 course in Sociology/Anthroplogy, 1 course in Psychology, 1 course on the Philippine Constitution, and of course there was Citizen Military Training and Physical Education. These added to the required science courses of Calculus, Physics, General Chemistry, Quantitative Analysis, Organic Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Industrial Chemistry, and Analytical Chemistry and a couple of electives in Computer Science. I would agree that the curriculum I went through was indeed heavy. In order to graduate in four years, I had to carry a full load for three summer sessions. Perhaps, this was one extreme. The other extreme, I believe, was passed recently by the University of the Philippines Diliman University Counci…

"They're Supposed to Feed Them So They Do Better in School"

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Arguing that after-school and summer programs have not shown evidence of being effective, the Trump administration is now proposing to eliminate $1.2 billion in grants for these programs. Providing nutrition to needy children is obviously a benefit in itself. On the other side of the globe, Manila archbishop Tagle has called for Catholics to participate in Fast2Feed, a program that provides nutritious meals to thousands of poor children in the Philippines. The faithful are encouraged not just to fast but also exercise acts of charity during the current Lenten season.

For Trump's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, true compassion is not asking its citizens to pay taxes for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC), a program according to Mulvaney, "does not work". In justifying the elimination of this after-school program, Mulvaney said:
"Let's talk about after-school programs generally. They're supposed to be educational programs, right? And that's…

Why Do We Hold Onto Myths in Education

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In a post I made years ago on this blog, Hooray! No More Trigonometry,  I wrote:
"...The Philippines is one country that is enslaved by superstitions and pre-enlightenment religion. In 2006, a meeting was held between leading Philippine scientists, the Department of Science and Technology, and members of the House Committee on Science and Technology. In that meeting, one congressman related the story of how a relative was trying to find a cure for cancer. According to the congressman, even scientists at the National Institutes of Health in the US had given up, but it turned out that the cure for cancer was drinking one's urine early in the morning. Apparently, according to that congressman, the urine that built up during one's sleep contained the remedy for cancer. And there was no response from any of the attendees of that meeting...." Of course, I was among the attendees so I was likewise silent. I guessed I was shocked with what I heard that my mind basically f…

Why the Supreme Court in the Philippines Must Scrap K to 12

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Although opposition to DepEd's K to 12 largely centers on the two additional years, a better reason to scrap the new curriculum is its glaring lack of support from research-based evidence. The new curriculum has been based on myths and misinterpretations of pedagogical theories. One of these myths is teaching children according to their individual learning style. The Philippines does not have experts in neuroscience so it must listen to the voice of leading researchers from other countries in this field. One such voice comes from eminent scientists in the United Kingdom: "Teachers must ditch 'neuromyth' of learning styles."

Among those who signed the letter to The Guardian are scientist-educators in the United States:
Professor Steven Pinker, Johnstone family professor of psychology, Harvard UniversityProfessor Hal Pashler, Distinguished professor of psychology, UC San DiegoHarold Pashler in 2009 chaired a review commissioned by the American Psychology Association

What Do My Grades Really Mean?

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Going through school, we really have learned the ABC's. And I am not talking about the alphabet. I am talking about the letters commonly used for reporting our grades. Based on these grades, we are able to compare ourselves against each other. With grades, we leap into labeling each other as either "good" or "bad" student. We even go further by comparing grades we obtain in one subject against another subject. I got an 'A' in math but only a 'D' in reading so I must be 'smart' in mathematics. We have even gone to the far end of equating grades as requirements to either enter an exclusive school or getting a job. In reality, the letter grades do not really mean that much. An 'A' in math does not really tell us what a student has learned. Math is too broad of a category and unless we have access to the quizzes, exams, homework, and other tools that are incorporated in this final grade, we really cannot tell how much a student has l…

Streaming and Tracking in Basic Education

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I am an alumnus of Manila Science High School. To be admitted to this school, students take an entrance examination and must have a grade of at least 85% in Mathematics, Science, and English subjects, and a grade of at least 83% in all other subjects. Once enrolled, there is a star section in each year. Forty students with the highest grade point average for each class are assigned to these star sections. I was in the star sections of Bohr and Einstein during my last two years of high school. My high school education is an example of both school streaming and class tracking. Entrance is limited to students with above average academic performance thus students with similar academic performance are grouped in one school (school streaming). And within each class, the top students are placed within one classroom (class tracking). These two ways of grouping similar students can indeed benefit instruction in basic education since it allows for lessons to be customized. However, there is th…

I Miss Classes in College and My Parents Are to Be Blamed

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I taught at the Ateneo de Manila University for two years and during those years, I had only one student (out of more than 200) who missed class ten percent of the time. Attendance in the classes I taught, as well as in the courses I took when I was a student, was always close to being perfect. Missing lectures in higher education can have a huge impact on academic performance since for a course, there are usually only three lectures every week. It is thus only expected that attendance correlates strongly with grades. Back in 2009, Soto and Anand concluded "Our direct logistic regression showed that the most significant association for passing our Cell Biology course was perfect attendance." Attending a class of course is only the first step in taking responsibility for one's learning. Truancy therefore shows an immense lack of responsibility.

Basic education in the Philippines faces enormous challenges. One area is teacher quality. Thus, it is especially troubling to se…

A March for Science

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Scientists are not really in a privileged position to tell us what ought to be done. Science only reaches its conclusions by making careful observations and performing controlled experiments to test a hypothesis. Science works with data, not values. Evidence from science unfortunately is now increasingly either being ignored or even distorted by policy makers. A precarious situation is therefore unfolding across the globe in which we rationalize instead of reason. On April 22, 2017, a March for Science has been organized in various places to demonstrate what science really is and why we need to nurture and safeguard the scientific community.

 The march has been organized in various cities across the world.

However, there is no march scheduled in the Philippines. It is worth noting that chemists in the Philippines have been recently active in voicing out against a bill that has been approved in Congress.

The issue at hand are provisions in the bill that "equate dangerous  drugs wi…

It Is Not That Easy to Switch to a Growth Mindset

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Students are supposed to grow inside classrooms. This is what education means yet we often fail in instilling a growth mindset in our students. There maybe a simple reason: We continue to treat students according to what we perceive as their talents or abilities. We act as if we have a crystal ball and can predict who will excel and who will struggle in school, and then treat students accordingly. As a result, we actually force our predictions to happen. We talk about the importance of effort and strategies yet most of our actions often focus on what we can already see instead of what we can achieve. Our students are unable to develop a growth mindset simply because we keep treating them with a fixed mindset. We can easily talk about a growth mindset, but actually having a growth mindset guide our decision, our teaching, our action, is a different story. And if we do not change how we act in our classrooms and how we perceive and treat our students, "growth mindset" will sim…

A Day Without Women

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Today is International Women's Day. For some, it is "A Day Without Women". Schools in Alexandria City, Virginia are closed because 300 teachers have requested leave. At least, parents have been given notice a day in advance. Still, it is difficult for parents who have no access to instant childcare. Elementary schools are indeed the best places to feel what happens when women do not go to work. Almost ninety percent of primary school teachers in the United States are female.  The same holds true for the Philippines. The teachers I had when I was in elementary school are all women. I would not be going to class then if we had "A Day Without Women".

The first teacher I had who was male was in high school. I had male instructors for two subjects: physical education and practical arts. Of course, the contrast was really striking when I entered college. Most of the teachers I had at the Ateneo de Manila University were male. The situation in the United States is sim…

Outcome Based Education in Chemistry

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More than twenty years ago, Bruno Manno wrote in Outcome-Based Education. Has It Become More Affliction than Cure?, "Although having adopted, in general principle, a focus on results, many educators have proceeded to promote vague outcomes emphasizing values, attitudes and behaviors often reflecting quasi-political and ideologically correct positions -- rather than knowledge, skills and other cognitive academic outcomes." Outcome Based Education, of course, is another favorite catchphrase of both the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) in the Philippines. How closely Manno's comments apply as well to these education agencies in the Philippines is quite remarkable as seen in a paper in the Asia Pacific Journal of Multidisciplinary Research, a journal published by the Lyceum University in the Philippines. The paper lists competency, credibility, commitment and collaboration as learning outcomes. In this list, it is quite obvious that k…