Showing posts from December, 2015

Another Year, Another Chance, Again....

This is a repost from 2013. It is disheartening that by simply updating the year, what this post says still sounds applicable.

The year 2015 is about to end. Another year has gone by. While it is usually the time to reflect on how to make things better, it is also en excellent opportunity to look back.

"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein 

“Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” - Brad Paisley

These two quotes crystallize the intersection between past and future. That point is always the day at hand, the present. This blog has gone through …

The Time to Change Course Is Now

"The bat has to get rid of the large tree by echolocation or else it will bump and hurt its head." This statement is one of the the 775 errors Antonio Calipjo Go, an academic supervisor at Marian School of Quezon City, has found in a learning material for Grade 4 science published by the Philippines' DepEd. The book which is about 300 pages long has more errors than pages. It comes at a cost of 82 million pesos (about 2 million US dollars). 

Reacting to Go's expose, Dean Bacobo posted the following onFacebook:

The Senior High School years of DepEd's K to 12 are scheduled to begin in about six months. Surely, producing a decent science book for Grade 4 is a much easier task than adding two years at the end of high school. Yet, the grade 4 Science Learning Material is a clear testament of the gross incompetence of the Philippines' Department of Education. 

Sadly, DepEd's K to 12 is not the only legacy of the Aquino administration. There is the never ending fig…

Keeping Our Eye on the Ball

As another year winds down, it is only timely to pause and reflect on what this past fifty weeks or so have shown and taught us. Remaining critical of an ill-thought curriculum tests our perseverance and commitment to good basic education. It is frustrating. It does not make sense. Our criticism, however, must remain within cogent arguments. One thing this past year and so many other years have been showing us is that addressing challenges in education involves much more than the curriculum. Poverty can not be ignored. The number of poor families in the Philippines remains high. About a quarter of Filipinos live on one dollar a day. How poverty is inversely related to education outcomes must be kept in our thoughts.

A recent report card from the state of Iowa tells of the same story. Iowa's Department of Education has rated its schools based on the following criteria:

Proficiency: The percentage of students scoring proficient or better on reading and mathematics assessments.College…

Christmas, Evolution and Creation

During the Christmas Eve mass I attended this year, the priest ended his homily with Linus' line: "That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." The priest highlighted in his homily what was unique about the Christian faith: "God is with us". Peanuts creator Charles Schulz deciding against the advise of the show's producer and lead animator made Linus quote straight from bible when asked by Charlie Brown about what Christmas is really about:

"Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."

There are indeed so many instances in Schulz' cartoon…

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all readers of this blog.

Duterte on Education, Politicians and Schools

Basic education is complex. Even those who are deep in education research readily acknowledge that multitude of factors affect education. A school principal is perhaps the administrator closest to the front line of learning. Richard DuFour and Mike Mattos write in "How Do Principals Really Improve Schools":
Today’s schools don’t need “instructional leaders” who attempt to ensure that teachers use the right moves. Instead, schools need learning leaders who create a schoolwide focus on learning both for students and the adults who serve them. Principals are obviously not equipped with all the knowledge necessary to improve learning outcomes in schools. Principals also do not have the time and expertise to upgrade student learning. The best effort a principal can therefore make is to help create an environment that is conducive to learning.

The above likewise applies to politicians. Politicians are even less qualified to design a curriculum, prescribe how teaching should be done…

"No More Algebra" - Says Presidential Candidate Duterte

Comedy Central has a collection of jokes on the internet. One of the jokes listed is about a premed student asking a physics professor why studying physics is important:
As a pre-med student at Washington University in St. Louis, I had to take a difficult class in physics. One day our professor was discussing a particularly complicated concept. A student rudely interrupted to ask, "Why do we have to learn this stuff?"
"To save lives." The professor responded quickly and continued the lecture.
A few minutes later, the same student spoke up again. "So how does physics save lives?" he persisted.
"It usually keeps the idiots like you out of medical school," replied the professor.
Recently, a candidate for president in the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, made the statement that Algebra be removed from the basic education curriculum.

However, near the end, the news article says:
Duterte said subjects such as Geometry and Physics would remain in the curriculu…

What Does the Climate Change Plan of the Philippines Teach Students?

I often ask the following question in a final exam in General Chemistry: "Why does natural gas (mostly methane, CH4) have the least amount of CO2 produced per energy content?". Carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the major greenhouse gases emitted as a result of human activity. As the amount of CO2 has reached the milestone of 400 ppm this year, countries have began making pledges called “intended nationally determined contributions” (INDC's).

There is a pledge tracker on the internet that displays what countries have promised so far. There is an entry from the Philippines made on October 2015:
A reduction in emissions of about 70% by 2030, relative to a business-as-usual scenario, on the condition of international support.  One can compare the above with what Thailand submitted:
An unconditional 20% reduction in emissions by 2030, compared to business-as-usual levels. This could increase to 25%, conditional upon the provision of international support.  Although the Philippines…

A Word Search in DepEd's K to 12 Learning Module

Whether word search puzzles have an educational value is not supported by evidence from research. Word search puzzles focus mainly on how words appear, doing nothing about what the words actually mean. In Through The Eyes of Students: High School Students' Perspectives on Character EducationMichael Romanowski highlights a thoughtful comment from a student:
"...They are teaching us how to be nice to people so they give us a word search. You don't learn how to be nice people by doing a word search...." Dr. Joanne Meier likewise addresses the question, "Are word searches a waste of instructional time?" in ReadingRockets:
We were recently told by an administrator that research shows that crossword puzzles and word search puzzles have no educational value. We have been forbidden to use them in our classes. As teacher of English Language Learners, we have found that both of these are valuable tools to use with our kids. Do you know of any research that …

Poverty Breeds Corruption

In the same way education is considered as a solution to poverty, it is common belief that removing corruption is a cure to poverty. In fact, the current president of the Philippines used the slogan, "Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap" (Without corrupt officials, there are no poor people). Now that elections are coming soon in the Philippines, the fight against corruption is once again a theme of choice by politicians and their supporters. On both national and local levels, candidates are measured on whether they have the right moral values. Competence is sometimes hardly mentioned.

I came across a debating site on the internet and found that someone already pointed out that poverty, for instance, in the continent of Africa was not due to poor governance, but to bad government policies.

Stijn Meijer wrote:
Many experts claim that poverty in Africa is caused by bad governance: implementation of development policies is simply impossible, because many political systems in Afri…

Why Rote Learning Is Important in Mathematics

More than a year ago, this blog shared findings reported by a group of researchers at Stanford University School of Medicine. The study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience talked about evidence from brain imaging that showed the transition from procedure-based to memory-based problem-solving strategies. More recently, Wendy Lecker at the Stamford Advocate pointed out that current reforms in math education were not in line with what brain science had been informing us.

The last sentence of the excerpt above is clearly stated. Rote learning and memorization at an early age are critical in developing math skills.

In the previous post of this blog, "How Do Children Learn Math", the following part of a figure from the paper in Nature was highlighted:

As children mature (in fact in a period of just about one year), brain imaging shows a significant transition from counting to memory retrieval as a strategy to solve addition problems. This trend continues into adolescence …

Christmas Is Around the Corner

With shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather (if you happen to live in the northern hemisphere), nature seems calling us to return home, giving us an opportunity to reflect and nurture our inner self. Decorations can surely lift our mood. Decked halls are meant to bring out that holiday spirit especially during a winter solstice. A giant inflatable Santa Claus standing on one of the roofs near Georgetown University is certainly a welcoming sight to see in the morning from the Key Bridge. It is Christmas.

Oliver Wainwright was perhaps not trying to outdo Scrooge when he wrote "Santa's real workshop: the town in China that makes the world's Christmas decorations" in the Guardian about a year ago. Nonetheless, the article did raise some questions regarding how to decorate for Christmas.

Since we are in a time conducive for reflection, we might as well think about Christmas decorations. One time, I spent the holiday season with my PhD mentor and her family. As I …

Adding Fractions and the Spiral Curriculum

Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division of fractions are inherently difficult. Hugues Lortie-Forgues, Jing Tian, and Robert S. Siegler explore the challenges of fractions in their recent review article, Why is learning fraction and decimal arithmetic so difficult?, in the journal Developmental Review. In a doctoral dissertation presented to the Educational Leadership Program of the College of Saint Elizabeth, Elissa Mains Scillieri seeks the answers to challenges in elementary school mathematics education from the teachers themselves. Among the findings from this survey by Scillieri is that grade school mathematics spirals thereby making it difficult for both students and teachers to focus and gain a deeper understanding.

The survey covers a school district in New Jersey. Scillieri draws her conclusion from the data she obtained from teachers about the curriculum. Scillieri presents these findings in the following graphs. The first one answers the question of whether fracti…

Education Does Not Cure Poverty

DepEd is quick to advertise its new curriculum in terms of being decongested, discovery based, holistic, and learner-centered. However, when it comes to employment, DepEd is in fact cautious in promoting K to 12. In one of DepEd's official pages on the internet, DepEd makes it clear that the "Senior High School cannot guarantee employment". Unlike sound bites, employment is something the public could easily relate. Employment is so tangible unlike other promises that require deeper examination and reflection. One either gets employed or not. It is straightforward.

Will SHS ensure employment for me?SHS cannot guarantee employment; but it creates the following opportunities:Standard requirements will be applied to make sure graduates know enough to be hirable.You will now be able to apply for TESDA Certificates of Competency (COCs) and National Certificates (NCs) to provide you with better work opportunities.Partnerships with different companies will be offered for technica…

Setting Priorities

When I was in fourth grade, one day in the month of October, I decided that I could start walking from school to home instead of taking public transportation. The cost then was twenty five centavos per ride. Thus, in eight weeks, I would be able to save ten pesos, which would be enough to buy a new pair of pants, just in time for the holiday season. That need seemed urgent to me at that time since I was just about to earn the nickname "baduy"(someone whose clothing is out of style or uncool) from the other kids in the neighborhood. And I did manage to reach my goal, but when Christmas came, my parents decided that what I was able to save could be used to answer more urgent needs, such as food on our table. I trusted my parent's wisdom in setting priorities. I did end up with "baduy", but my parents did spend the money I saved on more important things.

We often live with limited resources. Setting priorities is therefore inescapable. The need for making decision…