A blog that tackles issues on basic education (in the Philippines and the United States) including early childhood education, the teaching profession, math and science education, medium of instruction, poverty, and the role of research and higher education.
If It Ain't Broke, Don't Fix It
by Solita Collas-Monsod
Originally Posted on December 12, 2012 09:31:27 PM
What is the best high school in the country? The Philippine Science High School (PSHS) , or at the very least its main campus, which has been in existence since 1964 — there are now 10 other campuses in the PSHS System since 1998, I think. How do I know? Well, for one thing, from personal experience. Two of my children studied there, one of whom now has an MD and the other a Ph.D.
But that would be anecdotal evidence, which should not be acceptable. So how about some harder data: PSHS students, in the past six years, had passing rates of 95-99% in the University of the Philippines College Admission Tests, and even higher passing rates for other universities like Ateneo de Manila, and de La Salle. Plus, alumni from the PSHS Main Campus alone reported 25 cum laudes, 19 magna cum laudes, six summa cum laudes, and 10 board topnotchers — in 2010. For 2011, the figures were 44 cum laudes, 21 magna cum laudes, four summa cum laudes and 12 board topnotchers.
On top of that you have PSHS students competing regularly — and acquitting themselves honorably — in international math and science competitions, and some of their graduates being accepted on scholarships in some of the best universities abroad.
And what could be the reasons for these fantastic (no other word for it) achievements? Well, for one, admission into the PSHS system is based purely on passing an entrance exam — and only the topnotchers are accepted (with apparently the Main Campus getting the top of these topnotchers). For another (the reason for the exam), not only is tuition free, but so are books, plus of course the student has a stipend. A third reason is that student-teacher ratio for any class is a maximum of 30-1. And a fourth is that you have teachers — not all, but a large minority, who have masteral degrees and a sprinkling of PhD degrees.
In other words, the PSHS has the good fortune of having high quality students, high quality teachers, and an excellent student-teacher ratio. Quality inputs beget quality outputs/outcomes. Definitely not a garbage-in-garbage-out situation.
It is therefore clear that not only is PSHS the best high school in the country, but can compete with the best high schools anywhere in the world. Obviously, whoever thought of the PSHS came out with a winning recipe.
If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it, right? And the PSHS isn’t only not in any condition that needs repair, it can serve as a model anywhere.
So why all of a sudden, in spite of the fact that the PSHS is doing brilliantly, and isn’t even under the Department of Education, but under the Department of Science and Technology, has its Board of Trustees (BOT), without any discernible (or at least documented) justification other than that it is following the K to 12 program of the DepEd, decided to extend its high school course from the present four years to six years?
Because that is what they have done — starting from this academic year, in fact (2012-2013).
And apparently with no consultation at all — certainly not with the teachers, certainly not with the parents, and if there was any consultation with the DoST, I don’t see any sign of it, but I am willing to stand corrected, and include the DoST in my list of recipients of my “what-on-earth-possessed-you-to-do-this-stupid-thing” question.
And how do I know that there was no consultation with teachers or parents? Because I have in hand a position paper prepared by the “Teachers of the Philippine Science High School Main Campus” (I got the figures and information cited above about PSHS from this paper), as well as a letter signed by one Giovanni A. R. Claveria, president of the PSHS-Main Grade 7 PTA, addressed to the PSHS BOT. And both of these groups, although in a much more respectful and deliberate manner, are essentially asking the same question I ask above: What on earth possessed you to do this stupid thing?
Both parents and teachers are, at the very least, cautionary. They question the basis for adopting a six-year program without first finding out what was deficient about the four-year program in the first place. They question why PSHS is lumped with other schools, it is clearly of a different mold. And they also question the immediate implementation of such a shift, with the teachers, in particular, asking how this is to be funded, where the teachers are to come from, and pointing out that this lack of preparation and funding may have dire consequences for the quality of a PSHS education.
I have no idea what the reaction of the BOT was to the six-page position paper of the PSHS teachers, which ends with the following: “PSHS is a unique institution because government has given it the tools to succeed. If government is serious in reforming the educational system, it must give to public schools what it has given PSHS — a decent teacher-student ratio, well-trained specialists, adequate classrooms and facilities, and enough funding. Once these real issues have been addressed, only then should the country sit down once more and contemplate extending basic education.” In other words, the teachers to their credit, were thinking not only of PSHS, but of the country as a whole.
But I do know that the parents got very short shrift. Their two-page letter ends with a very reasonable request: “We trust that the BOT, who holds the sole authority to approve curricular changes, was presented with the information and justification mentioned above, otherwise the change could not have been implemented. We humbly request that these rationale and plans be shared with the PSHS community as soon as possible….”
And what was the answer? A slap in their face, or the equivalent thereof. In the form of a letter from Dr. Josette T. Biyo (excellent scientist, excellent teacher, one of my favorites), executive director of the PSHS System. Here it is in its entirety:
“This is to acknowledge your latter dated October 25, 2012 concerning your inquiries in relation to the K+12 program of the government. Your letter has been forwarded to the PSHS System Board of Trustees (BOT) for their information.
“Please be informed that the BOT has approved the implementation of the K+12 program in the PSHS System.
I don’t know who the BOT members are. But I sincerely hope DOST Secretary Mario Montejo takes cognizance of this very real problem, the excellent analyses of the PSHS teachers, and the very logical questions asked by the parents. And is not as autocratic as his subordinates.