Showing posts from January, 2013

Our Indigenous Schools Will Rise Above the Storm

by Sr. Ma. Famita N. Somogod, MSM
Originally Posted Wednesday, 23 January 2013 17:17 Reposted here with permission

Superstorm Pablo (international codename: Bopha) mercilessly whipped at the riverine Lumad communities in early December last year. The magnitude of the disaster violently squeezing through the eastern provinces of Mindanao towards the northern part of the island, then out to the Visayas area in a span of few hours is a phenomenon the Lumad never imagined all their lives. The wrath of mother nature over man’s abuse of the environment pounded like eternity resembling doomsday. And, in those critical hours, they turned to Magbabaya for help and beseeched His intercession.

For sparing every dear Lumad life, thanksgiving rites to Magbabaya (God) were offered after the storm.

Still, the Pablo aftermath left badly devastated farms, lowly dwellings – tribal schools i…

Asking the Right Question

Writing an exam always seems easy than taking one. Writing a good exam, however, is an entirely different story. Open-ended questions are usually not employed in math and science exams unless the ability to propose novel approaches or ideas are sought. Math and sciences therefore usually come with well-defined answer keys. Part of the nature of science is formulating the question. Defining a problem is sometimes one of the most difficult steps in the scientific method. Formulating the question that needs to be answered is already a significant part of scientific thinking. Experiments are designed carefully with the objective of focusing on one variable at a time, if possible. Stating a hypothesis that can be tested is the first step in science. The questions one may ask are only those in which there is a possibility of arriving empirically at the answer. Take, for example, the following figure which can be found in the General Chemistry Textbook, "Chemistry: The Central Science&q…

A Voice from the Past

I hope that most of us still find the time to recall, recollect and reflect. Like all mankind, we are often travelling forward in time so we must take the opportunity once in a while to look back. This is what photographs and memories are about. As I glanced back, I stumbled into the following old issue of Heights, Ateneo's literary and artistic publication:

This was the issue of Heights that came out at the same time Marcos' regime ended. I particularly liked the cover. Of course, this issue was special to me since I had a poem in it:

This was a poem that I wrote when I turned 20 years old. And yes, at that time, I was looking back. Even as I was climbing the stairs, I had my eyes on the steps I left behind.

Years ago, when I was in Paete, Laguna, trying to introduce online learning resources to elementary school teachers, I found one teacher who did not attend my lectures. Fortunately, I found a moment to spend with this teacher. Right at the very beginning of our conversati…

"Who the Hell Wants to Let Teachers Teach?"

I have not read the book "Trusting Teachers with School Success".

But Kim Farris-Berg, one of the authors, provided a preview in a recent guest post in the blog "EduWonk".  She wrote:
"“Who the hell wants to let teachers teach?” These policy makers want “innovation,” but their approach to education policy doesn’t encourage it – at least not from teachers. It doesn’t occur to most that trusting teachers, not controlling them, could be the key to school success. Instead we are stuck on the idea that the best and only means to K-12 improvement is to get better at holding teachers accountable for the results of a prescriptive, one-size-fits-all formula for K-12 teaching." Somehow, the above parallels what others have said (which have been quoted previously in this blog). A former teacher in the Philippines, who is now residing in the US, provided the following comment:
"In the Science K+12 Curriculum Guide, it is stated: 'Rather than relying solely…

Foreign Tongue Based - Multilingual Education

There seems to be something wrong with the title of this post.

A child in Los Angeles, California was asking his mother, “Mom, you don’t understand, I’m going into this classroom, but I’m supposed to be over there because that is where the English speaking kids are.” ( There are indeed a wide variety of opinions regarding what language should be used as medium of instruction in schools. Preserving and nurturing the mother tongue is, of course, a valid reason for why the native language must be taught in schools. The controversial part is the claim that children learn better with the mother tongue as the medium of instruction in the early years. This is where viewpoints and studies diverge. To find the correct answer to this question is challenging since the medium of instruction is only one of the many factors that can influence learning. High in the list of factors that affect learning is the teacher. A highly motivated teacher can really …

Poverty at Home or Poverty in Schools

There was one issue of Georgetown Magazine (about twenty years ago) that mentioned me:
"The odds that de Dios would become a chemistry professor at a prestigious US university were very slim. He was one of the few in his neighborhood to attend college. According to Georgetown's dean of science, Timothy Law Snyder, the chances "are simply staggering" that de Dios would make it out of the Philippines and achieve such success. "I can give you odds on just about everything in the universe", says Snyder, an expert in probability and statistics, "but I don't want to even hazard a guess with that one."" Indeed, there is no question that the place where a child grows up correlates with what that child might achieve in later life. Mine is an anecdote and most probably, a deviant. There is ample data that show that the future of children is a function of their neighborhood. For this reason, poverty has long been considered as an important factor in…

Preschool Education Only Benefits the Poor?

The municipality of Paete, Laguna provided a resolution that was meant as a guide for responsible parenthood and citizenship. Included in this code is a section that calls for collaboration between the town's Social Welfare and Development Office and other local officials in strengthening and widening preschool programs in the town. A daycare center has also been built in one of the upland communities of the town:
An article on daycare published recently in the Slate, "The Early Education Racket", starts by stating something quite provocative:

"If you are reading this article, your kid probably doesn’t need preschool."

First, the title, then comes the above statement. The article implies that early childhood education has a specific purpose. It is like a medicine that is prescribed for a given set of symptoms. Reading through the entire article, however, one gets the impression that the author is simply trying to advice parents not to worry so much about select…

Early Childhood Education

While there is no doubt that education in the early years is crucial, providing public education to young children is only the first step. Something is not necessarily better than nothing. Quality in early childhood education is a must. The important question to consider is what factors determine quality in preschool as well as in kindergarten and the early elementary years. 
Early childhood education not only introduces kids to schooling but also their parents. These are the years in which a parent learns first hand what it means to send a child to a school. It is at this point that a parent begins to share the rearing of a child with society. The relationship between teachers and parents begins at this time and so do relationships between parents of classmates. Preschool and kindergarten serve not only as a way to smooth the jump into formal schooling for the children, but also for parents. Quality in early childhood education should therefore include how well parents are introduce…

Solving Poor Learning Outcomes in Basic Education

Problems in basic education such as children not learning to read can be traced to the early years, the times at which these skills are taught. The same holds true for arithmetic or basic math skills. The third and fourth grades of basic education are pivotal. For this reason, exams and assessments are frequently made at this stage. Poor performance in these tests indicates problems in early education. These can not be addressed by adding two years at the end of high school. These need to be addressed at the primary level where the problems begin to arise. Poor performance in Grade IV as demonstrated below:
Among 25 countries that joined the study among fourth-grade students, we (Philippines) ranked 23rd in both Math and Science, again with scores more than 200 points lower than the first-ranked Singapore! - National Statistical Coordination Board, Philippines 
clearly demands solutions at the primary level of education. It is in fact quite tempting to focus on the early years of educa…

Philippine Senate Approves on Third Reading DepEd's K to 12

"Voting 14-0 the senate passed Senate Bill 3286, or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2012, sponsored by Sen. Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Committee on Education, Arts and Culture. With the passage of the bill, the fate of the measure now lies on the bicameral conference committee tasked to ratify it before President Benigno Aquino 3rd, sign it into law." - Manila Times, 22 January 2013 
There are currently 23 senators in the Philippines. On the same day, the president of the Senate, Juan Ponce Enrile, moved to remove himself from the position of Senate President. 
Eleven senators—Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, Assistant Majority Leader Gregorio Honasan, Franklin Drilon, Francis Escudero, Teofisto Guingona III, Panfilo Lacson, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Loren Legarda, Ralph Recto and Ramon Revilla Jr.—rejected Enrile’s motion to declare his post vacant.

The number was enough to overturn the yes votes of Senators Aquil…

Out-of-School Children in the Philippines

A significant fraction of Filipino children are currently not in school. Moreover, additional numbers are at great risk of dropping out of school. Meeting the goal of "education for all" obviously requires paying attention to out-of-school children, specifically, the underlying reasons why children are not entering school or dropping out before graduation at the secondary level. Jose Ramon G. Albert, Francis Mark A. Quimba, Andre Philippe E. Ramos, and Jocelyn P. Almeda of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) have provided useful insights regarding this challenge in their paper entitled, "Profile of Out-of-School Children in the Philippines". This is quite a lengthy report. It also highlights inconsistencies between different surveys. However, it is still possible to draw significant correlations that can guide future policies or reforms on education. For this purpose, I would like to focus on the following findings of the PIDS paper:

First, the…

The Purpose of Education

by Martin Luther King, Jr.
Morehouse College Student Paper, The Maroon Tiger, in 1947

As I engage in the so-called "bull sessions" around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the "brethren" think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.

It seems to me that education has a two-fold function to perform in the life of man and in society: the one is utility and the other is culture. Education must enable a man to become more efficient, to achieve with increasing facility the ligitimate goals of his life.

Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one's se…

An Essay from My Son


Gifted and Talented Students

Returning to my basic education days, I was not really enrolled in a special elementary class. I finished my grade school years in a small parochial school in Quiapo, Manila. In fact, I was a student there when the parish priest was murdered in a robbery of the church's money collections. My high school education was from Manila Science High School. Its campus sits at the corner of Taft and Faura. The school's curriculum had emphasis on math and science. I had a year of calculus and linear algebra, and a couple of years for both physics and chemistry. I was in the sections of "Bohr" and "Einstein", considered as the top sections for third and fourth year students, respectively. Students from these sections during my time won national competitions in mathematics:

They were champions. Me? I simply tagged along, hoping that "genius" was somehow contagious.

When equity is absent, education becomes an opportunity. Future doors that may open depend on w…

What Is So Special About Finland?

Students in science need to be trained not only in properly collecting data but as important, in correctly analyzing and drawing conclusions. Oftentimes, sweeping generalizations can be made haphazardly without examining closely the data and acknowledging complexities that may be present. This is especially a concern when it comes to basic education. There are a myriad of factors that influence learning outcomes. In this arena, it is very important to pay attention to details to avoid making exaggerated, oversimplified and misleading conclusions. One instance to which our attention is drawn is the average score of students in international standardized exams. A collaborative effort between Stanford's Graduate School of Education and the Economic Policy Institute recently produced an analysis, "What do international tests really show about US student performance?". The work demonstrates the danger of drawing conclusions simply from the average scores of students in intern…

Schools in Poor Neighborhoods

Poverty is indeed a crucial factor in education. It has significant impact on the environment and resources. To address problems in basic education, it is worthwhile to examine how exactly measures designed to ameliorate the conditions in poor schools address the challenges. To achieve this, it is necessary to exercise caution while sifting through data. Otherwise, data can mislead and the wrong conclusions could be drawn. One piece of data worth a second look is Exhibit 2.1 (TIMSS 2008 Distribution of Achievement in Advanced Mathematics) which can be also be found in a previous post on this blog "The Role of Higher Education":

The first obvious thing is that the Philippines is at the bottom of this list. On average, the Philippines scored the lowest. The students who took this exam are those who are enrolled in special programs. Thus, the students from the Philippines who took this particular exam are among the cream of the crop - those who are studying in elite private sch…