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Showing posts from January, 2018

Opinions, Advertising, Propaganda, Entertainment and News

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The problem with "fake news" is that we do not know exactly what constitutes "fake news". In fact, we no longer know what news is. Ed Murrow warned us decades ago, "One of the basic troubles with radio and television news is that both instruments have grown up as an incompatible combination of show business, advertising and news." The recent hearing by the Philippines Senate on "fake news" unfortunately fails to see that what we often hear, see or read are really opinions. When the Washington Post published, "Another dictator lashes out at press freedom", that was a mere opinion and not news. Perhaps, it was easy to miss this distinction because after all, the word "opinion" is very small compared to the title.


The fact that opinions have been taking a lot more time and space in news broadcasts is nothing new. Back in 2013, the Pew Research Center reported that in cable news in the United States, opinions have already reached…

We Need to Be Both Credible and Likeable

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While the Senate in the Philippines spends time scrutinizing those who produce and post content on social media, not much attention is placed on those who read these posts. Misinformation obviously occurs only when the audience learns something that is incorrect or false. Misinformation can not happen with a knowledgeable reader. Misinformation can happen only when a reader is not equipped with the entire story. Misinformation therefore requires conditions similar to that of a classroom. There is a teacher in front, supposedly with the knowledge, and pupils, who are about to learn. How learning occurs in a classroom is useful in understanding how social media can inform or misinform the public. It is through the mind of a reader that we can perhaps grasp what makes social media effective in either informing or misinforming. When the Senate first held an investigation on fake news months ago, senators did recognize how effective one blogger was. This blogger was Mocha Uson.


There was o…

She Thought Mayon Volcano Was in Naga City, So What?

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In an interview with Jay Leno, Barack Obama stated, “If we don’t deepen our ports all along the Gulf — places like Charleston, South Carolina, or Savannah, Georgia, or Jacksonville, Florida — if we don’t do that, those ships are going to go someplace else. And we’ll lose jobs. Businesses won’t locate here.” Glenn Beck, of course, was quick to mock the US president for that mistake in geography. Recently, the Assistant Secretary for Social Media of the Presidential Communications Group in the Philippines, Mocha Uson, made the error of placing Mayon Volcano on Naga City. Even a facebook page supportive of former president Ferdinand Marcos was quick to mock Uson:


With the above picture, the page noted how lacking in knowledge Uson was and suggested that her millions of followers were probably equally ignorant in Philippine geography. Of course, Uson likewise received ridicule from supporters of the former Aquino administration. The blunder happened while Uson was trying to point out that…

"Is School the Best Route to Skills?"

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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. A previous post on this blog therefore raised the question, "DepEd's K to 12 Ensures Employment for Its Graduates?" A recent research article in the Journal of Development Studies,"Is School the Best Route to Skills? Returns to Vocational School and Vocational Skills in Egypt", shows that this is true only if the jobs are provided by the government. Otherwise, "young vocational secondary graduates earn no higher wages and are no more likely to be in a skilled job. Thus,‘investing’ in vocational secondary education appears to have no economic benefits." In the United States, Lanford and Maruco point out that "boundary spanners" are important for these programs to achieve. These spanners are those that maintain a good working relationship between industry and schools. In the…

News Media and Basic Education

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Trustworthy information is important to make the right decision. In fact, the very first step in solving a problem, understanding what the problem is, already requires reliable information. One good source of information regarding education is peer-reviewed research. Unfortunately, these papers are not that widely circulated and articles are often not light reading material over a cup of coffee. The public therefore get information on what does work and does not work in education from mass media. What the public knows about education therefore is generally shaped by what is reported on network news and printed sheets. There is nothing inherently wrong in this setup especially if peer-reviewed articles cannot be digested directly by the public. News media can therefore serve as a bridge between experts and the public. In real life, sadly, this does not happen. In the Philippines, for instance, news media would rather talk about someone's mistake on where Mayon Volcano is.

A study in…

Why Decentralization Matters

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A centralized system heavily relies on the competence of the few, fully ignores diversity, and often fails in cultivating local innovation. In the Philippines, the offices in Manila frequently make decisions for the rest of the country. One clear demonstration is its highly centralized and micromanaged education system. As a result, errors which are always likely to happen can easily spread and infect the entire nation. The obsession to control every part of basic education is, for instance, quite evident in the Department's prescribed curriculum in high school chemistry. A row in the curriculum on distinguishing between homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures lists "Laser Pointer, dual-function, with dry cells" as science equipment. Someone must be trying to sell as many laser pointers to schools in the Philippines. Indeed, a centralized system is either an effective way of spreading ignorance or favoring some "business transactions".


Years ago, Linda Darling-H…

Freedom and Responsibility

Freedom and Responsibility A Statement from Concerned Writers in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao on the issue of the SEC decision to revoke the license of Rappler We the undersigned, refuse to be distracted from the real issue of Constitutional violation committed by Rappler, a media entity that has misrepresented itself to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), yet prides itself on being composed of veteran journalists, and as such,members of mass media. Article XVI, Section 11 (1) of the Constitution provides that the ownership and management of mass media shall absolutely be limited to citizens of the Philippines. Rappler has accepted more than a million dollars in “donations” from foreign entities such as Omidyar Network and North Base Media. Rappler contradicts its claim to being independent as it has allowed Omidyar and North Base Media to interfere in its corporate affairs. We must ask: What is the deal? To say that these foreign entities will exert no control or influen…

Those Who Can, Should Teach

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Although factors outside the classroom greatly influence basic education, inside the classroom, the teacher still plays a major role. Improving basic education therefore entails better teacher preparation. Asking the question what makes a better teacher is therefore important in addressing the present challenges schools face. With this in mind, the following quote posted in MindShift and the Hechinger Report from Yoon Jeon Kim, a research scientist at the MIT Teaching Systems Lab, deserves our attention.

At the heart of the Teaching Systems Lab is the Woodrow Wilson Academy of Teaching and Learning where scientists and engineers are trained to become educators in their field. The academy clearly works on the principle that excellence in teaching comes from content knowledge, as stated in of its web pages.

Your STEM content knowledge is what will make you an excellent teacherThe WW Academy only focuses on the preparation of STEM teachers. We recognize the importance of STEM subjects an…

What Makes a School Successful

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Years ago, John Tierney wrote an article in the Atlanticthat criticized our obsession with national rankings of school districts. After all, as Tierney pointed out, very few could really afford to move from one state to another just for a "better school". This point becomes even more evident with international rankings. Rankings, however, putting aside vanity, could be somewhat useful if schools that did well were able to provide us with some information of what actually worked. EducationWeek tried to do this in its most recent Quality Counts 2018 report. Five traits were found to be common among the high-performing states:

Good economyHigh academic learning outcomesHigh spending per pupilHigh college participationGood early childhood education

Like a family that is in a good financial situation, a state that is doing well economically has much more time and energy to worry about things beyond the basic needs. High graduation rates and scores in standardized exams correlating…

Press Freedom Is Not a Freedom to Spread Lies

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Freedom of the press is granted for it comes with the huge responsibility of informing society. It is not a license to promote one's bias. On basic education, the record of Philippines' online mass media company Rappler already demonstrates a lack of adherence to truth. While the country is embarking on an ambitious new curriculum, Rappler has failed to inform the public of the gross unpreparedness of the government. Lack of resources is an exigent reason against DepEd's K to 12, yet Rappler has used its media presence to promote the fallacy that the department is meeting the demands of public schools.


There are not enough textbooks. In fact, the next years will show that there are no textbooks. This is clearly not a responsible exercise of the freedom of the press. It is a lie and Rappler is indeed a source of fake news.

Rappler's registration has been recently revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of the Philippines because of foreign ownership. In …

The Importance of the Fourth Estate

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Wikipedia defines the fourth estate as "a segment of society that wields an indirect but significant influence on society even though it is not a formally recognized part of the political system. The most commonly recognized part of the fourth estate is the news media, or press". The fourth estate is often deemed important in a democracy because of the requirement of an informed citizenry. The news media or press therefore serves a source of information. For example, when a new tax bill is passed, it is crucial that the public is made knowledgeable of the new law and its consequences. Correct and complete information is always necessary to arrive at the right conclusions. Reporting that prices of commodities are rising and attributing the rise solely to a new tax without considering that the prices of these commodities are also increasing in the global market is an example of incomplete information. There is indeed a huge difference between informing and misleading. Of cours…

How Do We Produce Innovators

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Innovation is important for progress. To be competitive, we need to become more efficient and make what we produce more valued. Breakthroughs are primarily driven by individuals who can innovate. But how exactly can a society increase its number of innovators. Researchers at the Equality of Opportunity Project have examined the lives of about a million inventors in the United States of America to tease out the necessary ingredients for a country to produce innovators. They find that inventors are more likely to come from those who score high in third grade math and from wealthy families.


The graph above reminds us of what mathematician Alfred North Whitehead said in The Aims of Education, and other essays:
"…inventive genius requires pleasurable mental activity as a condition for its vigorous exercise. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ is a silly proverb. ‘Necessity is the mother of futile dodges’ is much nearer the truth. The basis of the growth of modern invention is scien…

Raising the Salaries of Cops and Soldiers

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The Duterte administration recently increased the wages of policemen and soldiers in the Philippines. Lowest-rank uniformed personnel would nearly see a 100 percent increase in their base salary. Although the legislature cites the need to reward the men and women who have served faithfully and accomplished what they needed to do, Duterte has stated that the salary hike is meant to curb corruption in the police and armed forces. This is also apparently the reason why the hike for these civil servants needs to be prioritized. Surprisingly, this line of thinking is in fact supported by evidence-based research. Salaries are indeed negatively correlated with corruption.


Corruption in law enforcement and the armed forces is of course long known in the Philippines. This is partly the reason why there are numerous deaths associated with the drug war currently waged by the Duterte administration. The need to curb corruption among these civil servants is especially urgent especially when one re…

Against All Odds

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Imagine a place that sits at ground zero of a drug addiction crisis. As expected, it is a place where one out of ten working-age individuals is unemployed and nearly half of the families live below the poverty line. Only four out of five are able to finish high school. As a result, nearly half of its residents over the age of 25 do not have a high school diploma. In 2010, only 3 out of ten students are proficient in math and less than two out of ten are able to pass a standardized science test. These numbers are not from the Philippines but from a community in West Virginia in the United States, McDowell county.  For the Philippines, it maybe helpful to look at what this county is doing to address challenges in basic education. After all, the county has been showing a dramatic improvement in the past few years. And at the heart of this progress is a union, a union of teachers.

The turn around of McDowell county is largely attributed to a partnership between public and private groups c…

CHED's Passing the Buck: An Admission of Incompetence

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The Commission on Higher Education continues to use a Wordpress site to inform its teacher-scholars of the status of their allowances. There is a new "public tracker" now which seems to have the sole purpose of placing the blame of the outrageous delay of allowances on the scholars themselves. The table now even includes columns that suggest scholars have been deficient with the required forms. Indeed, on the surface, the tracker looks like a good deflection, but upon closer inspection, it is really a poor attempt to shift responsibility and is simply another demonstration of incompetence of the commission.



The tracker now has "Remarks" and "Action Steps" on which deficiencies on the part of the scholar are highlighted. Obviously, in the above figure, there are seven rows (seven scholars) in which these columns are empty. The public tracker is supposedly updated continuously so perhaps, these seven scholars have promply addressed their deficiencies during…

Business Class and "Scholar-Beggars"

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This blog received thousands of views from the Philippines this morning. A previous post on this blog, "When Scholarships Become Oppressive", apparently caught the attention of a representative in the Philippine Congress, Koko Nograles.


It is indeed good to see that the sad plight of teacher-scholars in the Philippines has finally reached the attention of someone in Congress. Whether this would amount to anything remains to be seen. CNN Philippines earlier noted a previous post by Congressman Nograles on the same Facebook page. The post was also about the Commission on Higher Education.



Below is one of the images shared in the above post:



The chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education in the Philippines apparently takes business class. The CNN Philippines article adds the following explanation:

Nograles also accused her of traveling expensively.
However, CHED International Affairs Staff Director Atty. Lily Frieda Milla said Licuanan has vertigo and clarified she'…