DepEd's Take on Math and Science

The following are excerpts from an interview of DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro by Philippine Graphic (The K+ 12 Basic Education Program: Helping Filipino Children Adapt to Ever-Changing World). The DepEd secretary states why changes in curriculum are necessary. In K to 12, he emphasizes that teaching in both math and sciences require a Filipino touch:
"... If we look at the old education system, a lot of the subjects included are very alien to Filipinos, especially the sciences and math. I think that’s why in the past several years, we have rated very low in those two subjects, science and math. I think the old curriculum was not really enmeshed with essential elements of the Filipino culture. We have to ask the question: How does a Filipino naturally think? That’s why the heart of the reform of the K+12 Program begins in kindergarten and Grade 1....

...It also involves developing a way of thinking, a way of speaking and a way of looking at reality. Let us take as an example the concept of the olfactory sense in English. Our dialects have a rich vocabulary for what in English is a foul smell. In Tagalog, we have mabantot, mabaho, mapanghi, etc. In English, it’s just a foul smell. And a foreigner told me this. This concept of smell is very critical to science. By using the mother tongue, we would help the children understand such concepts in a way that’s very familiar to them. In effect, the students learn a basic concept in a manner that is natural for them, not alien. The student will eventually understand science as part of his life. It would no longer be so alien that such a simple concept will have to be taken up in a laboratory....

...For those in senior high school, we developed a curriculum based on the Rice Terraces. What we did was embed the engineering concepts of the Ifugaos in the math and science subjects. The Ifugaos already had this engineering knowledge even before the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines. What we’re showing is that engineering is not a foreign concept for Filipinos. If early Filipinos didn’t understand engineering, then they couldn’t have built the Rice Terraces. These early Filipinos already have a hydro and agricultural system that has been preserved for the past 2,000 years. That’s my point when I say that the old curriculum is a little alien for Filipinos....

...Let’s face this fact: a curriculum needs to be periodically reviewed, about once every five years. A curriculum is a way of looking at and understanding the world. The world perpetually changes. If a curriculum remains static despite the changing world, then something is wrong. The key word then is “appropriateness.” We can learn a lot just by looking at our country. We also learn by looking at other countries. But we have to heed the lessons they’ve learned from their mistakes. And by adapting these lessons, we can better prepare the next generation of students to face the world they will live in."

Pasi Sahlberg, a reform expert from Finland's Ministry of Education, wrote an editorial months ago on the Washington Post (What the US can't learn from Finland). He cited three reasons why it would be difficult for the United States to emulate what Finland has accomplished in its basic education. And at the heart of these reasons is not a curriculum, not a teaching style, not the content or method of teaching. These are more attractive since these usually offer lucrative business opportunities, that is, production of new teaching materials, textbooks, hiring of consultants, etc. Instead, at the heart of education reform must be equity.

First, it begins with total commitment to the following: 
  • Funding of schools
  • Well-being of children
  • Education as a human right 
Education in Finland is free from preschool to university. By not providing adequate funds for education, the above will not be met.

Second, "school autonomy and teacher professionalism are often mentioned as the dominant factors explaining strong educational performance in Finland. The school is the main author of curricula. And the teacher is the sole authority monitoring the progress of students."
"Finland is home to such a coherent national system of teacher education. And unlike in the United States, teaching is one of the top career choices among young Finns. Teachers in Finland are highly regarded professionals — akin to medical doctors and lawyers. There are eight universities educating teachers in Finland, and all their programs have the same high academic standards. Furthermore, a research-based master’s degree is the minimum requirement to teach in Finland."
Third, teaching inside Finland's classrooms is no different from good and quality teaching in any other classroom in any other country. It is not so much about Finnish innovations in classroom instruction or state-of-the-art technology. There is conservatism in Finnish schools.

Reforms in education at the national level as described by Sahlberg talk more about equity and emphasize education as a basic human right. The Philippines DepEd, on the other hand, talks about something entirely different....

Canada, as the following table shows, looks up to Finland in its evaluation of its educational system....
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On the other hand, Canada regards a four year college education in the Philippines as equivalent to only two years of tertiary education.


  1. Arguing that Filipino thinking is somehow different from other thinking is
    pretty odd....

  2. English is a rich language - perhaps you can come up with several words that characterize the K-12 foul odor; the good Brother must have a limited vocabulary.
    I wish I had the reference for you where they showed all brains are the same and we all learn the same (male vs female was the focus in the study I think but what if a gringo said it?!)

  3. Do you mean this paper,

    The Essential Difference: the male and female brain
    By Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University

  4. Trouble with "foul odor" or "bad smell" is that he who stinks -- does not know that he stinks.


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