"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, October 2, 2017

When Problems in Education Are "Not in Education"

The former principal in my children's elementary school wrote this note to me sometime last week, "I have been traveling a lot and talking to many wonderful educators and was speaking to a gentleman about his school and he was talking about how great the kids were but there were some challenges. I asked him about the discipline and he said it was not bad but there was an uptick. He said, 'Well, Mexicans are moving in', with no malice from his voice just as if it were a fact that Mexican equaled trouble. But he followed up with, 'There are some great kids'. I am not sure he realized what he said or how it may affect his interactions with some kids. Please read this post from that lens. Change starts with honest self reflection... In reflection I have been guilty of this not proudly shared regarding unconscious bias." In this note the principal was referring to a post made by Bill Ferriter, "Second Guessing My Kids of Color".

Education is indeed multifaceted. Various factors can influence what happens in a school and oftentimes, these factors are outside the curriculum. There are indeed times when how well our students perform depends not so much on what we teach them but on how we treat them. In the Philippines, there is the mother tongue issue which can make children who do not speak the preferred language at home feel like second class citizens in their own schools. And of course,  race may not be an important issue in the Philippines, but the fact that factors outside education such as poverty have a strong grip on learning outcomes remains true. Poverty can easily be misinterpreted as not complying with requirements in cases where a child cannot bring the necessary school supplies. Poverty can be translated into insubordination in cases where a child is unable to do what he or she is asked to do simply because he or she has an empty stomach. Poverty can easily be equated to tardiness in cases where a child is unable to reach school on time because of lack of transportation.

There are problems in education that are outside education. For this reason, it is important to look at schools in a holistic way. Poor learning outcomes are sometimes due to factors outside school and the necessary reforms in these cases can not be found inside the curriculum. A recent video from the Philippines captures this. To improve learning in school, we sometimes need to look at things that are outside the school. Perhaps, it is already difficult for our children simply to attend school as in the case of children who are risking their lives while crossing a makeshift bridge in Camarines Sur, Philippines:

Above copied from GMA News Online

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