We often live with limited resources. Setting priorities is therefore inescapable. The need for making decisions not only happens within a family, but also in a much larger context such as a community. Local governments, for example, shoulder several responsibilities. Basic needs such as clean and drinking water, peace and order, and waste management are examples. In addition, local governments are often tasked to improve the community's economy. To encourage growth in economy, tourism is often promoted. Local leaders therefore choose to launch projects aimed to improve the image of their community. Festivals are held. These actions are clearly based on reasonable objectives. Problems arise however when there is a perception that the basic needs are not being met. Unlike a family unit, a local government unit is much bigger. In the case of clean and drinking water, shortages may not be affecting everyone. In this case, the need for good data is evident. The need for data regarding water supply is obvious but data that inform on the effectiveness of various programs aimed at boosting the economy are equally imperative. After all, any government action takes time, effort and money so it is equally necessary to see if these festivals and beautification are indeed bearing fruit. As a child, I could take my mother's word since I trust that she knew best and she did. But with a local government, evidence is a must.
Drawing education policies and reform requires no less. Correctly setting priorities is simply dictated by the fact that resources are not limitless. A government clearly must understand the problem at hand and find effective solutions. Philippine basic education suffers at the very early stages of basic education. The Philippines did not do well in international standardized exams given to fourth- and eight-grade (2nd year high school) pupils. This only means that there are serious problems in the early years of basic education. To address this, the Philippines' Department of Education chose to add two years at the end of high school in its new K to 12 curriculum. This action is clearly not supported by evidence. Education policy makers keep insisting that the new curriculum is necessary to meet international standards yet they fail to see that the additional years do not really matter if students are not even mastering basic literacy and math skills.
Actions taken often define priorities. How seriously and thoughtfully one acts demonstrates what really matters. Unfortunately, education policy makers in the Philippines often do not have children enrolled in public schools. Therefore, unlike my mother, these leaders are unable to see the correct priorities in their own homes. There is no excuse, however, since education research is rich with evidence-informed guidelines. Take, for instance, the results summarized in The Cost-Effectiveness of Inputs in Primary Education:Insights from the Literature and Recent Student Surveys for Sub-Saharan Africa by Sebastian Fehrler, Katharina Michaelowa, and Annika Wechtler. As the title suggests, factors that can influence primary education have been examined in this work, and the last sentence in the conclusion really captures most of the findings:
Nevertheless, traditional inputs like school books still appear to be promising options to improve school quality.Wall charts and teacher manuals have also been investigated but their effects are not as robust as the availability of textbooks.
|An elementary school pupil stands in front of a blackboard with wall charts serving as learning resources (Courtesy of Ibaba Elementary School)|
school district of Bukidnon, not delivering any of the promised second grade material for our children
to use in their classes....
a student cannot really tell which is grammatically correct: "Which set of numbers" or "Which set of number"....
incompetence and corruption within DepEd and the rallying cause of improving basic education,