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PISA 2018 and Ability Grouping: A Case Against Advanced Academic Programs

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The "Standards Movement" in education works on the premise that schools are not performing well because we have not tested the students enough. It is obviously possible for schools to not perform well for reasons other than not having exams. However, the disdain for the "Standards Movement" should not be equated to a disdain of standardized exams. Standardized exams, after all, are assessment tools, and it is still possible to draw useful insights from the exam scores, if we know how to look for important clues. For example, there is an unfounded notion that ability grouping, which leads presumably to a much more homogeneous classroom, can produce better learning outcomes. One can check if this notion holds true by looking at an international standardized exam like PISA 2018. PISA 2018 shows that this is not true.

Since PISA 2018 data also include the school a student attends, it is possible to gauge whether a given country has more high performing students concent…

DepEd Will Also Fail in PISA Reading Comprehension, Math and Science Exams

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PISA assesses a student's ability to distinguish fact from opinion (reading comprehension), a student's ability to make sense out of numbers (mathematics), and a student's ability to make observations and draw conclusions (science). With the dismal performance of Philippines' students in the three PISA tests, the Philippines' Department of Education (DepEd) is demonstrating with their responses and comments that education policy makers and educators in the Philippines are likewise going to fail in these exams.

First, no one has really appreciated how sobering the results are. Although the country is last in reading comprehension, and second to last in both mathematics and science, the much more important point is what the scores are telling us. "Fewer than 1 in 5 students in the Philippines have the minimum level of reading skills for further education", according to PISA. Below is the grade distribution (All of the data and figures shown in this post are…

DepEd's K to 12 Is a Failure?

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House Representative France Castro equates the poor performance of Filipino students in PISA 2018 to a failure of the DepEd's K to 12 curriculum introduced in 2013. Back in 2012, I wrote "First Things First: A Commentary on K+12", where I stated, "The basic education system of the Philippines faces two major problems: (1) high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools, and (2) lack of mastery of specific skills and content as reflected in poor performance in standard tests for both Grade IV and Grade VIII (2nd year high school) students." PISA 2018 basically tells us the same story: Philippine students are at the bottom in these international standardized exams. Both Thailand and Indonesia outperformed the Philippines in TIMSS (the international standardized exam for math and science) back in 1999. PISA 2018 shows similar results. Whether DepEd's K to 12 exacerbated the problem is not clear, but what is obvious is that the new curriculum did not make t…

PISA 2018 Results: Philippines Ranks Lowest in Reading

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For the first time, since the adoption of the new K to 12 curriculum, the Philippines participated in an international assessment of basic education. The Programme for International Student Assessment or PISA is a triennial survey of 15-year-old students around the world in three subjects: reading, mathematics and science. The results are dismal for the Philippines. Students in the Philippines scored lowest in reading, and second lowest in both mathematics and science. 15-year old students are near the end of junior high school in the Philippines, demonstrating convincingly that Philippine basic education has serious problems in the early years.



The following are the key findings:

Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored lower in reading, mathematics and science than those in most of the countries and economies that participated in PISA 2018. Over 80% of students in the Philippines did not reach a minimum level of proficiency in reading, which is one of the largest shares of…

We Should Not Deny Teachers the Opportunity to Excel

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According to Barber and Phillips, high performance and rapid progress are possible only with a fusion of support and pressure. Both resources (support) and expectations (pressure) are necessary. What resources do we then provide teachers? And what are our expectations? We do not increase our expectations by providing less resources. Such is simply cruel. We do not increase resources by expecting less from our teachers. Such is utterly complacent. Sorting students according to what we perceive as their performance is an example of what not to do in education. We are attempting to make classrooms more homogeneous because in our mind, we think that will make teaching easier when in reality, we are lowering expectations. Effective teaching means having the student in mind first, meeting the needs and aspirations of each one, and aiming for the best for all. Advanced academic programs shove a label on each child, completely dismissing the fact that teachers can make a difference.


Our new r…

We Are in Big Trouble!

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Information nowadays is literally at our fingertips. Back in 1997, Jan Hawkins lamented the fact that schools were trailing behind in the internet revolution. She imagined all of the compelling opportunities for both students and teachers provided by advances in educational technology. She indeed saw technology only as a tool, reminding that we needed to use it intelligently, but she did not foresee how technology could be used to destroy truth and therefore society.

For several years, I worked in helping establish classrooms with computers and internet connectivity in elementary schools in the Philippines. At that time, I knew that it was important that these new avenues for both information and communication are vetted. Yet, what often caught the interest and time of both students and teachers are social sites and information sources that are hardly trustworthy. And fast forward to present days, the situation has become more dire.

Without the prohibitive cost of printing and watchfu…

Philippine Educators, The Real Question Is Do We Need Tulfo To Tell Us What Is Wrong

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There is a channel on YouTube, called "Raffy Tulfo in Action" that has millions of subscribers in the Philippines. The program often covers issues and activities that are of interest to the public. It goes without saying that the program has the same sensational flavor as a syndicated tabloid talk show like that of Jerry Springer in the United States. Recently, a video of Tulfo won the ire of so many. The episode garnering so much attention makes public a grandmother's complaint about how her grandchild was treated in school by a teacher.



One of the comments goes like this: "Let’s dislike this video as a form of protest. We shouldn’t let this slide. Let’s call everyone to dislike. Today’s kids have no discipline because of these kinds of parents. Your kids reflect the kind of discipline you show your kid."

The site Rachfeed had the following to say with regard to the reaction of the Philippine public:


The school is a place where our children learn. And children…