Showing posts from March, 2016

What Can a Local Government Unit Do for Public Education in the Philippines?

Public school education in the Philippines is managed centrally by the Department of Education (DepEd). At the municipal level, there is a small unit called the Local School Board (LSB), which main task is to allocate a special education fund, collected from an additional 1 percent tax on real properties. The fund is intended to answer auxiliary needs of local schools. Unfortunately, as former Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo once stated, "Decision making has been confined to this eight-person board where most often, “educational priorities” are being defined by its two most powerful members: the local chief executive and the division superintendent".

Although the special education fund was designed to meet only supplementary needs of the local schools, there was a time in the small town of Paete, Laguna, during which a major portion of its fund was used to pay for the salaries of some of its public high school teachers. I have had the rare opportunity of witnessing several mee…

Why Do Boys from Poor Families Drop Out of School?

What do the states of Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Alabama share in common? These states are among the most unequal in terms of household income. The poor are so poor while the wealthy are so wealthy. These states are also marked with low intergenerational income mobility. The poor stays poor and the rich stays rich. But these states apparently share one more thing. The percentage of boys not finishing high school in four years are among the highest in these states across America.

Analyzing the data on graduation rates, income inequality, and intergenerational income persistence, Kearney and Levine have arrived at the conclusion that boys who did not finish high school in four years mostly have given up hope. They conclude:
Our analysis has demonstrated that a greater persistent gap between the bottom of the income distribution and the middle leads to lower rates of high school completion among economically disadvantaged youth, boys in particular. These findings…


Reasonableness means governed by or being in accordance with reason or sound thinking. That is according to the American Heritage Dictionary. Unfortunately, much of our thinking often neglect data and observations. In other words, our thinking is frequently guided by unfounded biases and even prejudices. It is therefore important that we understand and examine the assumptions we make.

A photo uploaded on imgur has gone viral:

The question above reads "Reasonableness: Marty ate 4/6 of his pizza and Luis ate 5/6 of his pizza. Marty ate more pizza than Luis. How is that possible?"

And the student answers, "Marty's pizza is bigger than Luis's pizza." The grader marks this answer wrong and writes, "That is not possible because 5/6 is greater than 4/6 so Luis ate more."
This is actually a moment when we need to examine the assumptions we are making. The grader obviously assumes that the pizzas are of the same size. The student ignores this assumption si…

DepEd's K to 12 and Mother Tongue Education

At first glance, we may be easily deceived that DepEd's K to 12 aims to promote the various indigenous cultures of the Philippines. After all, the new curriculum trumpets an education that is both rooted and responsive to culture. Unfortunately, these words are all empty for it is only in the implementation that we can see sincerity in purpose.

Learning materials provide us a way to evaluate a curriculum. Textbooks are read by teachers and pupils. Yet, as the Cordilleran Sun points out, one particular textbook received the following amount of attention:
it had one consultantit had three editorsit had thirteen (13) writersit was examined by two people The book is "Kultura ng mga Pangkat Etniko, Mahalagang Malaman" (The Culture of Ethnic Groups, Important to Know). The Cordillera Sun takes issue with a paragraph in this textbook:
"Tinatayang may humigit kumulang 180 pangkat etniko sa Pilipinas. sa Luzon, ilan sa mga kilala ang mga Aeta sa Mountain Province, Bikolano sa …

Body and Soul, Science and Religion

It was Holy Wednesday and here I was, giving a talk on antimalarial drugs at American University. In fact, I once gave a talk at the College of William and Mary on a Good Friday. This was certainly different from my experience growing up in the Philippines. Schools were closed during these days. Even the television made sure everyone felt that it was Holy Week.

The Christian faith does exert great influence on Philippine society. In some ways, this influence could be good especially if encourages people to pause and reflect. Unfortunately, religion at times can be used by people to impose on others what they think is good and right. In "Christians in Philippines Self-Flagellate in Bloody Holy Week Ritual", the Huffington Post writes:
Hundreds of barefoot Filipinos marched on roads, carrying heavy wooden crosses and whipping their backs until they bled on Thursday in an annual gory religious ritual as the mainly Catholic Philippines observed near the end of the Lenten season.M…

In High School Science, Students Are Somewhat Engaged But Not Challenged

Whenever I mention chemistry to other adults, most would remark on how difficult the subject was during their college years. Yet, in arguments that often require scientific thinking, adults would often exhibit remarkable confidence in their thinking. Equally astonishing is that the views, taken by the public on issues that involve science, are not as strongly correlated as one might predict with their level of education. This is one of the findings made by the Pew Research Center.

Scientific knowledge seems to play a major role only on the issues of building more nuclear power plants, safety in eating genetically modified foods, and the use of animals in research. In this survey, scientific knowledge is measured by a set of knowledge questions answered by the respondents. Thus, both scientific knowledge and educational attainment are not determined by the respondent's own perception. The remaining issues shown above, however, are often argued with passion that both sides seem to p…

3rd petition against K to 12 program filed in Supreme Court

byTroy Colmenares

If you are my friend, spare me this moment and read what i have prepared for you. If you are not my friend, unfriend and block me now.

Throwback Thursday pala ngayon. Pwede ba nating balikan kung saan tayo nagsimula? Kung bakit nga ba tayo napunta sa Korte Suprema?

At the time we filed the petition, many people were happy to see me on TV and read my name in the national paper. Sabi nung nakararami: "Congratulations, you did your part!", sabay handshake. Pero sa simula pa lang ay marami (sobrang dami!) nang nagsabi sa akin, quote: "There's nothing you can do!", end quote. Patapos magsalita.

Sinubukan kong lapitan ang lahat ng aking kakilala, kaibigan at pamilya. Marami sa kanila ang tumalikod dahil hindi nila nauunawaan ang dahilan kung bakit ayaw ko sa K12; yung iba gusto nila dahil nakabubuti raw ito. Yung dalangin ko umabot pa hanggang Baguio, at doon ko pa lang natagpuan ang isang tunay na tao'ng may malasakit sa bayan! Hindi niyo ba al…

Press Statement from CoTeSCUP and the Suspend K-12 Coalition

The Suspend K-12 Coalition and the Council of Teachers and Staff of Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (CoTeSCUP), the lead petitioner, are deeply saddened by the decision of the Supreme Court to deny the prayer for issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or writ of preliminary injunction against K-12 filed by six different groups representing the broad spectrum of education stakeholders. This development, which came at the heels of the first anniversary of the filing of the first petition on 12 March 2015, is most unwelcome, considering the real and present situation on the ground that demands the attention and concern of the Honorable Justices of the Supreme Court. Right as we speak, the constitutional rights of affected education stakeholders are being violated. College teachers and staff are systematically being dismissed from their jobs, parents and students are confused and burdened with the additional costs of enrolling for Senior High School, and public school…

A Reaction to the Philippines Supreme Court's Ruling on K to 12

Newspapers in the Philippines have reported that its Supreme Court had ruled against petitions to suspend DepEd's K to 12. My reading of this news is that there is no super majority among the justices who are currently inclined to rule against DepEd's K to 12. And perhaps, the court simply wants to wait and see what would happen when school starts in June before making the final decision on whether DepEd's K to 12 is constitutional or not.

I am posting on this blog a reaction to the recent Supreme Court ruling by one of the petitioners, Troy Colmenares (with his kind permission).

SC's PR DISASTER by Troy Colmenares INTERAKSYON: “The Court denied the prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and or writ of preliminary injunction,” SC Public Information Office Chief, lawyer Theodore Te said after the en banc session. ABS_CBN: "The Supreme Court will continue to weigh in on the case and rule on its merits." Rappler: "The Court denied the prayer fo…

Together Everyone Achieves More

When teachers work together, their objective is for all students to learn. In collaboration, everyone must benefit. When teachers compete against each other, one may think that students' learning outcomes can likewise improve. Unfortunately, in every contest, there is a winner and there is a loser. And winning can be simply based on having one's students outperform pupils of some other teachers. In basketball, soccer, or football, the fumbles of one team turn into trophies for the other team. For this reason, competition-based policies such as performance based bonuses can poison public basic education.

These are not just mere conjectures for there is evidence from research that when teachers collaborate, when teachers work as a team, students gain. A paper published in the American Educational Research Journal, "Teacher Collaboration in Instructional Teams and Student Achievement" looks at data obtained from over 9000 teachers in 300 Miami-Dade County public schools…

The Possible Detrimental Impacts of DepEd K to 12's TLE and TVL Tracks

In "The False Promise and Empty Threat of DepEd's K+12", data from countries all over the world are shared to show that "vocational education and training offers no guarantee as a solution to youth unemployment." Worse, a study from China now suggests that "vocational schooling as a substitute for academic schooling can have detrimental consequences for building human capital in developing countries such as China."

DepEd's K to 12 senior high school years are categorized into different tracks. Using projections made by DepEd on the number of teachers required, it is anticipated that a super majority of the students are expected to take the Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) and Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) tracks. And within the Academic track, most are expected to take either the Accountancy, Business and Management or the Humanities and the Social Sciences strands, but not Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. With th…

Bishop Writes Letter to Supreme Court Regarding DepEd's K to 12

We would not be lamenting the loss of employment of college instructors and staff. We would not be worrying about what is going to happen in the next few months. Inadequate resources in education are about to be stretched even further. Indeed, both government and parents in the Philippines are staring at a problem of our own creation. Education policy makers must draw their plans based on evidence from research. The problems are quite clear. Basic education is failing in the early years. Schools that are supposed to produce teachers in basic education are not performing well. Adding two years to basic education does not solve these problems. DepEd K to 12 would only make the problems of Philippine basic education worse.

How would we get out of this mess? Below is a letter written by the Auxiliary Bishop of Manila and is addressed to the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.

March 9, 2016

Chief Justice
Supreme Court of the Philippines

An Alternative to DepEd's K to 12

I was only six years old when my mother brought me to Centro Escolar University. It was registration day and my older sister was about to enroll in second grade. One teacher noticed me and asked if I was ready for school. I took an application form and completed it myself. Upon seeing that I could print my complete name and home address, the teacher told my mother that she should enroll me in first grade. I therefore skipped kindergarten.

In the early seventies, grade school in the Philippines started at the age seven. The entry age changed to six in 1999. Data on the official entrance age for primary education in various countries are provided by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. While most countries have moved to a younger entrance age, there are countries like Finland, Russia, Hungary and China which have maintained its entry age at seven.

Starting at age six with the former ten-year basic education program in the Philippines of course leads to high school graduates who are only…

Know the Students

In Personalized Learning, Theodore Sizer wrote:
 "We cannot teach students well if we do not know them well. At its heart, personalized learning requires profound shifts in our thinking about education and schooling."  A part of this quote is the opening line in the introduction of a paper published in the South African Journal of Education. The South African researchers, Nyna Amin and Renuka Vithal, arrive however at an entirely opposite conclusion. These authors state the following in their abstract:
"A surprise finding for successful teaching, in what may be considered difficult yet not uncommon conditions of schooling in South Africa, is that knowing about students can be dangerous, and that not knowing students can be useful for teachers." Back when I was in high school, I still remember when I was made aware by one of my teachers that he knew that I had only one pair of pants to wear to school. My first reaction was that my teacher simply had too much informa…