Showing posts from January, 2014

Some Highlights from the Education for All Global Monitoring 2013/14 Report

Here are some figures, tables and excerpts from 2013/14 UNESCO Education for All Global Monitoring 2013/14 Report. These are especially relevant to the Philippines since the country is mentioned in this presentation (unfortunately, not in a positive light). The report goes beyond simple access to education, it now begins to address the quality of education. The report ends with a hopeful list of what can be done to address the global learning crisis and this list places the teacher in front to help solve the challenges.

First, the Philippines lands in the list of countries with the highest out-of-school children:

Second, compared to Indonesia, the Philippines has shown smaller progress in achieving universal primary education.

Inequality in education is markedly greater in the Philippines and continues to be an insurmountable challenge. Poor children are not able to finish school. This, of course, is only a question of access. In terms of quality, the inequality is only expected to be…

Parents and Education

I think one could easily argue that parents have a great impact on a child's performance in school. In fact, some may even suggest that parents have greater influence than teachers do. How a parent influences a child's education occurs at different levels and in different areas. Thus, quantitatively assessing the effects of parents on a child's learning is extremely challenging. It is therefore wise to address this issue not in a broad or generalized manner so that one may pinpoint exactly which ways parental involvement makes a positive contribution. There are after all numerous avenues through which parents can participate in their child's education. What a parent does for a child's education is largely shaped by the parent's dream or aspiration. It was pretty obvious to me that for my mother going up the stage to place a medal on one of her children made her really proud and happy.

My father also made it clear to me that all he wanted was that we all finishe…

Do We Learn Online?

Of course, the answer is that some people do. The worldwide web can deliver as much content as any book does and with technology, it can be interactive, dynamic and almost limitless. This blog has been active for almost two years now. With more than 700 posts, this blog is certainly more than thousands of pages long. The blog covers topics under basic education emphasizing the role of evidence-based and peer-reviewed research in deciding what actions must be taken to address challenges and problems in schools in the Philippines and the United States. Currently, there have been more than 600,000 pageviews from about 350,000 visitors. Most of the pageviews and visits to this blog come from the Philippines. The important question then is whether readers from the Philippines are learning from the content provided by this blog. Four percent of 350,000 is 14,000. I grab the number four percent from findings reported by schools that provide courses online. Four percent is the fraction of reg…

When Should the School Year Begin and End?

The school year is currently under review in the Philippines. Moving the opening of school has been catalyzed by the expected integration of the Philippines with the other members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2015. The rationale is purely based on synchronizing with the rest of the region to enhance both student and teacher mobility among member countries.

I finished both basic and college education in the Philippines before heading to the US for graduate studies. Finishing the school year sometime in late March or early April means a slightly longer vacation since school starts in late August or early September in the US. School ends in late May or early June implies that someone coming to the US to study in the Philippines needs to settle with only a few weeks of summer vacation. With teacher training sessions, even with a lack of synchronization among countries, it is still however possible to find a week or two during which no country has school days.

When Non-educators Provide Answers

One would not ask a plumber to work on one's dental filling. One would not even request for a professional opinion from someone who works on pipes on what should be done with one's tooth. That would be stupid. Yet, in education, individuals who have no experience in teaching are not only quick to offer their opinion, but are even confident with their misguided suggestions. Take, for example, those who think that schools are run like prisons. These people try to malign school systems by stating that classrooms are nothing more than places where students can no longer question and must simply accept what is taught. These people have not even tried teaching in a classroom where pupils can not sit still or keep quiet. To suggest that order and discipline are unnecessary for teaching simply illustrates a complete lack of practical knowledge regarding classrooms. Still, these individuals think they hold the key to reforming education.
Another pervasive thought among non-educators i…

Expanded Learning Time in a Middle School in Massachusetts

Each hour is 60 minutes. 240 minutes add up to four hours. Devoting one hour for each subject means in a period of four hours, four subjects can be covered. These four subjects can be regarded as the core. Adding other subjects like physical education, recess, and lunch means that even if children begin their schooling as early as 7 in the morning, a school day cannot end before noon. This is one reason why multiple shifts in schools are not good for education. Classrooms are important and this school need must be met as soon as possible before any educational measure is implemented. 
Edutopia, What Works in Education, a site of the George Lucas Foundation has been highlighting a middle school in Boston, Massachusetts. The school, Clarence R. Edwards Middle School, ten years ago was facing the challenges of English language learners and low scores in the state's standard exams in math, English and science. Since 2006, the school added hours to its instructional time in the hope of…

American High Schools Are Taking More Advanced Courses in Science and Math

Caralee Adams in Education Week writes "High School Students Taking More Math and Science Courses": "High school students are being told to take more rigorous math and science courses if they want to be prepared for college and get lucrative jobs in STEM careers.New data from the National Center for Education Statistics suggest they are taking that advice." The data Adams is referring to is summarized in the graph below:

 To understand what the above numbers mean, the following pieces of information are important:

First, what is a Carnegie credit? The most widely used credit systems in U.S. secondary education are based on the Carnegie Unit system. Carnegie Units were proposed in 1906 as a basis for measuring school work. A unit would represent a single subject taught for one classroom period for five days a week.(Structure of the U.S. Education System: Credit Systems, U.S. Department of Education, 2008)

Second, what qualifies as an advanced course in math or sci…

What Principals Do That Works

What do principals exactly do? Well, as a student, I remember that being called to the principal's office is often not a good thing. I have this image that principals deal with trouble makers. Principals also spend time talking with parents. When I spent weeks over the summer inside elementary schools in Paete, Laguna, I saw that a large fraction of a principal's time is really spent on administrative and management tasks. Principals sit on the local school board and are right out there in front tackling infrastructure projects, literally begging politicians to build a classroom or two.

Principals do impact learning inside the classroom beyond their administrative tasks. Principals are, of course, the leaders of the teachers, the teacher of the teachers. Instructional leadership is obviously part of the job description of a principal. Republic Act 9155 enumerates the responsibilities of a principal:

Consistent with the national educational policies, plans and standards, the sch…

Long Term Trends in US Basic Education

The following graphs are from "The Condition of Education 2013", a report from the National Center for Education Statistics in the US. With reforms in education appearing and disappearing as fast as fashion styles, it is useful to look at trends that have stood for a longer time period. There may or may not be a correlation between these trends, but clearly in the past two decades, there are trends that seem to survive.

Preschool Education (Enrollment has been growing over the past three decades)

Skills and Everyday Life in the 21st Century

When we think about our thinking too often, we may in fact stop thinking. This is just my guess based on the fact that we all have limited working memory capacity. But it is true that when facing a task, if we spend so much time contemplating about the task instead of actually working and accomplishing such task, we end up finishing nothing. Metacognition is useful, but focusing on it at the wrong time and in a wrong way can be counterproductive. 
One skill an excellent teacher brings to any classroom is the ability to assess his or her students' knowledge and skills. It is called testing. These tests are not the standardized exams, but tools that a teacher uses to probe how much the students have learned in the class. It takes training and experience to write a good test. This is not too different from performing a technical procedure in which only those who have received adequate and proper training are expected to do the job correctly. With this in mind, let us take a look at …

Biology and Ecology Apps

Replacing a chalkboard with technology only makes sense if the new medium offers new possibilities. Colorful images invite attention and coupled with interactive features truly work together to engage a learner. This exercise is not identical to a teacher providing a lecture but it does provide learning opportunities similar to opening and reading a book.

The following are two examples of applications now available and are free to download. One does not really need an IPad or android to access the contents of these applications since the respective web sites likewise provide images and information to viewers. The only difference perhaps with the app is that one can easily access it anywhere and swipe from page to page.

The first example is appropriate for young learners. It is from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Its web site already provides a lot of information regarding endangered species, from tigers to whales. Each animal comes with an overview, why they matter, threats, what WWF …

Project PAG-ARAM

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) in coordination with other groups namely Bulig Visayas, Teachers Cooperative of Valenzuela City, Penson and Company, Inc. (P&CI) and Ating Guro Partylist has initiated the Project PAG-ARAM, An initiative to raise school supplies for children and materials for teachers in Yolanda-affected areas. The main objective of the project is to provide the school needs of students and teachers in typhoon Yolanda-affected areas of Eastern Visayas, Northern Cebu, Northern Panay and Northern Palawan. The project aims to collect as many donations as possible from schools, students, teachers, parents, individuals and organizations through the following schemes.

Needed donations. Notebooks, papers, pens, art and coloring materials, school uniforms, shoes or slippers, school bags, underwear for children. Chalk, eraser, Manila paper, cartolina, pentel pens or markers, lesson plan, record book, plywood and paint for improvised blackboard and other materials for te…

The Cost of Testing

Tests serve a very good purpose in education. Tests assess how much students have learned. Tests come in various kinds. There are take-home tests in which time is not a factor. These tests usually allow students to look up information. There are "open-book" exams given inside a classroom. These begin to be under time pressure and students need to seek information from the text readily and familiarity with the book is an advantage. There are essays. In math and science, there are numerical problems. There is also the multiple choice exam. Standardized tests are usually of this type since these are much easier to grade. Multiple choice exams do not give room to the subjectivity of a grader. Good multiple choice exams, however, are much more difficult to write. With regard to style and content, a test can be either tailored to assess how quickly a student could retrieve information and answer the question. These tests factor speed. On the other hand, exams can be written such t…

Improving Teacher Quality in the United States

Dan Goldhaber and Joe Walch wrote recently on EducationNext an article entitled, "Gains in Teacher Quality". It highlights an apparent improvement in academic scores over the past few decades of individuals joining the teaching force in the United States. One item Goldhaber and Walch noted is the higher score in the scholastic assessment test (SAT):

The above trend has been shown about six years ago by a study released by the Education Testing Service (ETS):
This ETS reports looks at the academic records of Praxis test takers. The Praxis Series ® assessments provide educational tests and other services that states use as part of their teaching licensing certification process. The ETS study also notes the increase in the academic performance (in terms of SAT and GPA) of Praxis test takers. The following figures are copied from "Teacher Quality in a Changing Policy Landscape: Improvements in the Teaching Pool":

Worth noting are the SAT scores of future teachers in ma…

To Be A Student For A Day

Now that I have been teaching for decades, it is not straightforward to imagine how it is to be a student inside a classroom once more. In a university setting, a professor does attend seminars. And in our department, every semester, each faculty member is assigned to sit and observe one lecture of another professor. Still, attending a lecture once or twice a week is still not identical to attending several lectures in different disciplines, one after another, within the span of one day, and do the same every day of the week for months. Of course, I can make the excuse that younger people have more energy and stamina. Nonetheless, the required engagement, attention and focus can be overwhelming. This covers only the academic part. Both high school and college life have a social dimension and this can be equally taxing. Hopefully, a student does not have to worry about preparing breakfast, lunch bags, and picking up their kids from school like I do now. The life of a student is indeed …

Does Knowledge Affect Learning?

A computer with an extremely fast processor is certainly powerful. But without memory or data to work with, such computer is not really that useful. In education, skills are one part, but there is also content. Standing in front of a classroom, a teacher may try to bring the lesson closer to what the students have already experienced. A good teacher often tries to bring the topic to a much more familiar territory. Learning can come easier if not everything is new. Lessons learned inside a classroom are usually not entirely from scratch. Formal basic education in a classroom does not begin in day one, the day a child is born. It starts years after. And every year inside a school builds on previous years. A child's knowledge affects how that child learns.

Esther Quintero of Shanker Blog recently wrote an article describing the research work of Tanya Kaefer (Lakehead University) Susan B. Neuman (New York University) and Ashley M. Pinkham (University of Michigan), "Pre-existing B…