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 It Takes to Help Poor Children Learn in Schools
The statistics are widely known, a child growing up in a poor family has heard tens of million words less than a privileged child. This advantage translates to a poor child working his brain a lot harder just to keep up with his or her more fortunate classmates. The inequity sadly does not cease at the beginning of formal schooling. Children from poor families tend to enroll in the same school with income segregation of neighborhoods. Lacking resources and facing mounting challenges, schools that serve low income families are often unable to provide what these children desperately need to thrive in their classrooms. In addition, due to mounting pressure to perform well in standardized tests in reading and math, equally important subjects such as music, arts and physical education are often sacrificed. Such policy actually goes against what we now know from research in neuroscience. For example, "Music lessons may boost poor kids' brainpower, study suggests" by Linda Carroll on Today talks about research done at Northwestern University which now shows how the "sound of music is truly an invisible but powerful force that is central to everyday life".
I recently volunteered in my son's school, Poe Middle School, to help check attendance, check instruments and costumes an hour before their strings concert this winter. I was in one classroom and was expecting about four scores of children showing up to perform. And close to a hundred percent did. The number of instruments in that room was staggering especially if one considered that a used violin would cost anywhere between $1500 to $3000. The boys and girls also looked proud with their costumes. There was definitely a lot of noise in the air but one could not miss an aura of excitement and joy. It was simply amazing to see how these children were given the opportunity to learn and play a musical instrument.
Katherine Augustine teaches Orchestra at Poe Middle School
Watching the kids rehearse before the concert was already an eye-opener, but listening to these middle schoolers was certainly witnessing a miracle. This is why.
Two out of three children attending Poe Middle School come from low-income families. That is a huge percentage especially if one compares this against another middle school in the county, Cooper Middle School. Cooper Middle School is rated 10 while Poe Middle School is rated in 3 in GreatSchools.
Of course, the above is really a comparison between apples and oranges. Only 2 percent of Cooper students come from poor families:
Poe Middle School, as mentioned previously, is 67% low-income.
Students that do not come from low-income families at Poe are doing just fine. The average for all students is obviously going to be lower at Poe simply because of the much larger number of disadvantaged students enrolled in the school.
It is only within this context that one can fully appreciate what the musical director at Poe, Katherine Augustine, is doing for her students. With that one hour I spent with a fraction of her students, I could only imagine the patience, hardwork and commitment she provides. And that night is indeed memorable.
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…
People have strong opinions about almost anything and the issue of education is no exception. How these opinions have been formed needs to be examined. This is what good research does. It informs and guides. A myriad of factors influence education and oftentimes, these factors are not independent from each other. Factors interact, sometimes these add, and other times, these subtract. General notions therefore need to be carefully drawn. Writing articles on education can also be quite challenging. When problems in basic education involve an inability to think critically, it is difficult to reach the audience and convey the correct message. Oftentimes, sarcasm is lost so such style of writing needs to be avoided. For people who are convinced of their wisdom and understanding of how education works, profound messages from basic research can be often easily lost.
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…