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.
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What Do Numbers Really Tell Us?
Mark Twain popularized the statement, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics". In Truth, Damn Truth, and Statistics, Paul Velleman of Cornell University reminds us of a "world outside ourselves". There are facts that sometime do not seem to apply to what we experience. It is at this point that we must realize that each one of us may just be a single point in a larger picture. Statistics does provide a window that helps us see beyond ourselves, but we still need to be vigilant since we often view only what we would like to see. Tomorrow, schools open in the Philippines. Besides what each parent and child might experience, there would be stories, there would be numbers which some of us might be able to relate while some might paint an entirely different universe. There are those who attend elite schools and for these children, the classroom they would see tomorrow could be inviting. Yet, there are also schools that yet have to recover from a previous typhoon. It is important in our search for what is truly the state of Philippine basic education that we do not allow ourselves to deal with data from which we could freely choose. Statistics can help, but not when we already have our minds already set.
The additional years in high school are not yet scheduled to begin this coming school year, yet the shortages in both classrooms and teachers are huge according to this data compilation. If a parent sends a child to a school that is well-equipped and fully staffed, these numbers may seem phony. But these numbers speak of the larger picture. One should likewise take note that the current pupil:teacher ratio in Philippine schools is much higher than 30. Thus, the number of teachers needed shown above does make sense. The same applies to classrooms especially when one takes into account that classrooms are overcrowded and multiple shifts are still employed in some schools. It does seem that the above numbers are chosen to prove a point. One must keep in mind, however, that the point here is to show what is basically necessary to provide quality basic education.
There is a photo from a Facebook user named Raf M G Santillan:
The message here is clear. This is a picture of a classroom that requires attention and Santillan does hope that this classroom and others get fixed before school starts. It maybe an isolated case but it does not take away the fact that this particular school needs help. Numbers like the ones shown in the previous table as well as the above photograph help inform us. Some may point out that there is also a second purpose - that is, to demonstrate that the Department of Education in the Philippines is once again unprepared to meet the needs of schools in the Philippines. Whether one actually subscribes to that does not matter when facing the plain truth that some schools in the Philippines still require much-needed resources.
While the debate regarding the new curriculum continues, there are numbers that have recently shown up in the news. These numbers are from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). Some newspapers are quick to trumpet an assumed achievement of DepEd K to 12. Rappler, for example, reports with the headline, "Out-of-school kids bolstered by education reforms, CCTs". This conclusion is apparently based on the following data:
Across all income groups, it is indeed obvious that attendance rates have jumped up in 2013 compared to 2008. It is important to note, however, that the above are school attendance rates in kindergarten. With the Enhanced Basic Education Act, kindergarten is now compulsory so it should not be surprising that with the new law, parents are now sending their children to kindergarten. The more relevant piece of data to gauge universal education is not the attendance rate by 5-year old children, but the survival rate. This is likewise available in the PIDS report:
And here, it is obvious that it is really too early to assess how DepEd's K to 12 is affecting the rate of school leaving in the Philippines. Next year would be important since Grade 11 is going to be offered for the first time. One still has to wait and see, but with available data, one may still make a reasonable projection. Here is one, coming from the Kabataan partylist:
Numbers inform us. Whether the data strengthen our position in the debate on DepEd's K to 12 is really irrelevant especially when the numbers are simply telling us to please pay attention to the needs of Philippine basic education.
TANONG: ANO ANG KTO12 PROGRAM? SAGOT: Ang Kto12 Program ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas ay tumutukoy sa pagkakaroon ng mandatory o required na kindergarten at karagdagang 2 taon sa dating 10-year Basic Education Cycle. Kung noon, pagkatapos ng anim na taon sa elementarya at apat na taon sa hayskul (kabuuang 10 taon) ay maaari nang makapagkolehiyo ang mga estudyante. Sa ilalim ng Kto12, bago makapagkolehiyo, kailangan pa nilang dumaan sa karagdagang 2 taon pagkatapos ng apat na taong hayskul. Sa bagong sistema, tinatawag na senior high school o junior college ang karagdagang 2 tao…
In the General Chemistry class that I teach there is homework. I do find that homework is one place where technology can really help. My class currently subscribes to Sapling Learning. For each chapter, there is a set of about 20 problems and students generally have a week to finish these problems. The platform allows me to monitor each student's progress and anticipate difficulties students may be facing with the course material. The problems are not repetitive as each one has been chosen to focus on an important aspect or point within the chapter. The homework also offers an interactive learning experience as it provides hints and explanations. This can indeed benefit learning. After all, educational psychologists have demonstrated that practice problem solving and distributed practice are the most effective learning techniques.
For homework to be effective, it has to be done right. For instance, when students try to finish their homework an hour before the deadline, it defeats…
There is information to be gained from data. Tests in schools can be informative. Scores of students provide a quick glimpse of the current state of education. Thus, it is useful to have these numbers. These numbers may not tell everything in detail with high accuracy. Nevertheless, test results allow for a useful perspective. The National Achievement Test administered by the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines, a set of standardized tests addressing the major subjects taught in school, is an example. These tests are given to Grade 3 where students are assessed in both English and Filipino (These two subjects comprise two thirds of the exam) and Math and Science (These two account for the remaining one third). A different set of tests is given to Grade 6 pupils where each of the following 5 subjects is assigned 40 items: (Science, Math, English, Filipino and Social Studies). Another set is administered to fourth year high school students (This is currently the last year…