Showing posts from September, 2017

The "Wisdom" of the Philippine Congress

The House of Representatives in the Philippines just approved the national budget for 2018. It was nearly unanimous. The vote was 223 to 9. An appropriations bill encompasses so many issues and interests so it is not really straightforward to infer what is behind a representative's vote. However, the process does begin with a proposed budget from the executive branch. Therefore, how the approved bill differs from the proposed budget can shed some light on what the legislative branch is thinking. Congress did make changes to what was proposed and the Department of Education had the biggest cut, 30 billion pesos. 

The cut was made apparently to fund a law that Congress passed recently, R.A. 10931, the "Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act". This law provides free tuition to all students enrolled in state colleges and universities. Earlier, when questions were raised regarding this Tertiary Education Act, Senator Aquino provided an answer to a common concern …

Nurses Fail English Test

The Times is reporting that out of 59 nurses from the Philippines who have already been offered nursing positions in the United Kingdom, only 7 pass the IELTS, a high stakes English test used for study, work or migration. The UK’s Nursing and Midwifery Council requires a minimum score of 7.0 across all elements of reading, writing, listening and speaking.

This requirement is indeed stringent. According to IELTS data, only forty one percent of native English speakers achieve a score of 7 in all areas. Their average score is only 6.3, and worldwide only one out of four applicants (25 percent) would pass. However, a passing rate of only 12 percent for nurses in the Philippines is troublesome. Commenting on Facebook, Nigel Pope shares his experience as an IELTS tutor:

Nigel is basically describing what we often misconstrue in language. A considerable number of people, for instance, believe that it is easier to learn any language as a child than as an adult. A child talks like a child but …

Why a centralized Department of Education fails.

A centralized organization for public school education may sound more efficient but challenges in schools are often local. One example is teacher shortage in the United States. The National Council on Teacher Quality reports, "In some places in America, there are shortages--some of them quite severe. In other places, there are not. The biggest problems the nation faces are chronic shortages of some kinds of teachers (e.g. STEM, special education)." Clearly, to address such problems, solutions need not be at the national level but more at the local level. The Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines illustrates why a centralized system fails to meet local needs. The Philippine Senate recently scolded DepEd for failing to use tens of billions of pesos in its 2016 budget.

Affected by this unspent budget are teaching positions, textbooks, provision and maintenance of basic education facilities, and many more. Shortages in Philippine public schools are well known. This …

The Children Are in School, But Are They Learning?

There remains the serious concern that about 60 million children in the world are out of school. Both former and current secretaries of education in the Philippines have raised the importance of addressing out-of-school youth. There is, however, an equally serious plague in basic education. "More than 617 million children and adolescents are not achieving minimum proficiency levels (MPLs) in reading and mathematics, according to new estimates from the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS)." That is 6 out of 10 children who are in school and yet, are not learning. And in every region of the world, most children who are not learning are actually in school and not out of school.

There are about 75 million children from Eastern and South-Eastern Asia who fail to reach proficiency levels in math and reading. More than sixty percent of children in school in this region fail in math and reading. The Philippines belongs to this region. Since the Philippines falls behind most of the …

Should we send our children to a protest rally?

There is a reason why we attend schools - we need to learn. Obviously, we would like to learn not just what is true but also how to search for truth and discover knowledge. Carl Kohn, New York State United Teachers spokesperson once said, "If we want our young people to grow up to be adults who fully participate in democracy, the best time to begin that activism and that participation is when they are young." But William Gormley, a professor at Georgetown University, reminds us, "One disturbing possibility is that some students who are brought to a political rally as opposed to, let’s say, a public hearing, may be exposed to only one side of the debate, and that’s generally not good either for children’s cognitive development or the development of critical thinking skills or for the enhancement of civic readiness."

The above quotes are from an article, "The large, delicate role of children in New York activism", which discusses participation of youth in d…

Not just in text, but also on an exam

Three years ago, I shared on this blog an image I saw on social media. It was a question in an exam, which I translated into English:
Place a "check" mark if the activity is for males and a "cross" if it is for females:
______1. Plowing a field
______2. Cleaning the house
______3. Driving a jeepney (a public means of transportation in the Philippines)
______4. Washing and ironing clothes
______5. Market shopping There are numerous instances of errors in textbooks used in the Philippines. Furtunately, according to research, reading a text is not as effective as other means when it comes to retaining information. Unfortunately, tests do. Tests can better reinforce the storage of information in our minds.

I am returning to this topic since I saw this morning a similar post:

The above exam has been graded and the correct answers have been marked. A girl is expected to do laundry. A girl is expected to wash dishes. Someone who wears eyeglasses is probably older and shou…

"Of what good is democracy if it is not for the poor?"

These words were actually from the ousted dictator of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos, as he tried to paint the "New Society" as a "revolution from the center", or a "democraization of wealth", a revolution by the poor. Yet, Marcos' regime received global condemnation on human rights abuses, a great contradiction. The Inquirer just published a piece stating that Marcos was in fact the first to establish a commission on human rights in the Philippines.

Although it was obvious why Marcos created such a commission (to make his administration look good), it was still important that the creation of such a commission carried some credibility. After all, it had to be a good show. According to the Inquirer, this was how the Commission should be established:
Attached to the Office of the President, the commission was supposed to be a multisectoral group composed of representatives from government and the private sector, with the Vice President and the Prime …

"Democracy Can Not Survive Too Much Ignorance"

Former United States Supreme Court Justice David Souter once said in an interview, "What I worry about is…that an ignorant people can never remain a free people. Democracy cannot survive too much ignorance…. You can’t keep [a republic] in ignorance." More pressing than failing scores in standardized exams, declining government institutions and civic ignorance are truly troubling signs of a severely lacking basic educational system. One might point to the current state of politics in the US as an example, but a much more glaring illustration is the Philippines. In 2015, Aquino appointed Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon as the new chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Gascon was the vice president for Social Movements of the Aquino-led Liberal Party (LP) and a former LP director-general. CHR is supposed to be an independent body tasked to protect Filipinos' political and civil rights, both in and out of the country. It is perhaps due to either ignorance or arrogan…

How to Address Inequity in Schools

Standardized test scores do inform us of problems in basic education. One important piece is the achievement gap between the poor and the rich. We must, however, go a step further than looking at test scores. Only then would we see the gap in learning opportunities. A gap in achievement after all can be due to a gap in opportunities. The first step then is to commit ourselves to an "education for all", and all means all. Only with this commitment can we begin providing all students the resources and support they need. We can then challenge all of them to achieve the best they can be. Such task is not impossible.

The National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder has a project called "Schools of Opportunity", which recognizes public high schools that can serve as excellent models for equity in education. There is obviously not one solution to address achievement gaps. However, by looking at the various criteria used by "Schools of Opp…

Why Are There More Lawyers Than Chemists in the Philippines?

What major an entering college student chooses depends on several factors. Of course, a high school dropout can not even exercise such a choice. Even a high school graduate who is not lucky enough to have had received a quality basic education has limited options. On top of these, the career choice made by a child is often influenced by his or her parent's income or socioeconomic status. In "Who Had Richer Parents, Doctors or Artists?", Quoctrung Bui finds that those who chose law often come from households wealthier than those who chose a career in the physical sciences:

Recently, Cielito F. Habito wrote this on the Philippine Inquirer:

Habito, however, does not make any connection between the above problem and the current predicament of basic education in the Philippines. Instead, the dearth of chemists in the Philippines is blamed on the licensing requirement. Comparing the number of takers alone already shows the gigantic advantage of lawyers over chemists. This mean…

“We knew it was bad, but we didn’t know it was this bad.” - ACT

A measure of college readiness, ACT scores, shows just how much multiple doses of disadvantage can affect academic achievement. It really gets worse if a child comes from a poor household, if a child's parents did not go to college, and if a child comes from a minority group. A child who does not meet any of these conditions (54% college-ready) is six times more likely to be ready for college than a child who is poor, black, and whose parents did not go to college (9% college-ready). These results show that the major problem basic education in the United States faces is indeed inequity. The scores point to a serious and lingering problem in US schools: a well established disparity in quality and resources between schools that serve mostly poor and minority children and schools that do not.

The situation is worse if one considers readiness in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). A non-disadvantaged child is more than 15 times more likely to be prepared for STEM …

Finding a Home and School

List prices of homes in Fairfax county in Virginia depend a lot on the zip code. The median price in 22180 (Vienna, VA) is $1.4 million while in 22003 (Annandale, VA), it is $600 K (Data from Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.). Madison High School in Vienna has 9% of its students coming from low income families while Annandale High School has 52% of its students coming from poor households. What school a child attends is decided by the zone that child lives in. Salvatore Saporito of the College of William & Mary recently examined how the shape of a school zone relates to enrollment segregation by income. His paper published in the American Education Research Journal shows that "school districts with the most irregularly shaped zones have less income segregation than school districts with compact zones."

When something is irregularly shaped, it is usually a sign that someone has spent extra effort in drawing the boundary lines. Take, for instance, the Falcon…

Wait, It Gets Worse If You Are Poor And Black

In a previous post, "Double Dose of Disadvantage", the sad plight of poor children in public basic education is highlighted. Not only do poor children enter school less prepared, but once they start school, both resources and expectations are often limited. Now, there is apparently a third dose of disadvantage if the child belongs to a minority group. Recent research shows that Blacks, Hispanics, Native American, Asians, and children of mixed races are all less likely compared to Whites to be identified for special education services.

Special education, when done properly, addresses specific needs of a child with disabilities. A child with disabilities is entitled to an Individualized Education Program that comes with both accomodations and interventions that address a child's challenges. Making special education synonymous with lower expectations is simply wrong. The notion that minority children are often assigned to special education is likewise quite common. Indeed, p…