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Showing posts from 2018

Wrong Track in Senior High School?

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With the new K to 12 curriculum in the Philippines, various tracks are now offered in the last two years of basic education. The various options available obviously make it possible for students to find themselves later unprepared for the courses they decide to take in college. A student, for instance, who finishes the accounting business management (ABM) strand in the senior high school academic track, is now required to take additional courses if the student chooses to enroll in a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) major in college. These additional courses which are now called "bridging programs" are either taken during the first year of college or over several weeks in the summer before college starts.


There are bridging programs in the United States, but these are different from the ones that are now appearing in colleges in the Philippines. In Coldwater High School in Michigan, for example, the "bridging program" is an option for students…

Chalkboards versus Interactive Whiteboards

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Chalkboards are disappearing. I no longer have one in the lecture hall where I teach General Chemistry. A couple of years ago, Kim Kankiewicz wrote in the Atlantic: "At a cost of up to $5,000 per classroom, schools invest far more in installing interactive whiteboards than in training teachers to use them." The training is necessary since an interactive whiteboard is supposedly so much more than just a white board on which we could use markers with different colors. Yes, we can project images on it. And with various software, make it interactive. Unfortunately, studies show that "interactive whiteboards have not raised the levels of pupils’ achievement and do not necessarily impact the quality of classroom learning."


While the rest of the world are replacing blackboards with whiteboards, a 2017 dissertation notes that teachers in Japan are still using chalkboards. Back in 2015, it is estimated that three out of four classrooms in Japan are still delivering content …

Pepederalismo and DepEd's K to 12

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While the current administration is trying to campaign for major changes in the country's constitution, Mocha Uson manages to create a viral video that has captured the public's attention on the proposed federal form of government. The video echoes what I have heard recently from a professor at the Ateneo regarding how the consitutional reform is being sold to the public. Not any bit more profound than Uson's video, the public is being told in these campaigns that in federalism, any family is guaranteed to eat three meals a day. To woo customers, advertisements need to be simple and it must appeal to our gullibility. And in the case of politics, the objective becomes even more focused; Fire up the base. After all, we now live in a world where knowing less means greater confidence.


The campaign for federalism is actually no different from how K to 12 has been promoted by the previous administration. During the initial implementation of the new curriculum, banners that equat…

What Do Filipinos Really Think About DepEd's K to 12?

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"If majority of those who will be in the review are those who support the program from the very beginning, this is a futile task. Involve teachers, students and most especially parents in the review," says Revenendo R. Vargas, founder of the Parents Advocacy for Children Education and an instructor at the Institute of Religion at the University of Santo Tomas in the Philippines, as he comments on a recent announcement made by the Department of Education regarding its plan to review the K-12 curriculum. Well, if you ask the teachers, this is one of their recent calls: "Prevent Depression and Suicide, Liberate Teachers from Clerical Tasks".


I can actually relate to this call. During the limited time I have spent with some elementary school teachers in the Philippines, I find that clerical work really consumes the time, attention and energy of school personnel. For instance, I can see the importance of a school working on an action plan (Here is an example from 2006) …

"The Top Philippines Education Blog on the Planet"

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This morning this blog was mentioned on a Facebook post by Feedspot Blog Reader. This blog has been rated as the "top Philippines education blog on the planet" based on Google reputation and Google search ranking, influence and popularity on social media sites, quality and consistency of posts, and Feedspot's editorial review. To all the readers of this blog, thank you.



The number of Facebook members that have liked this page is only 453. This is dramatically smaller than the number of Facebook fans that the other sites have. Edukasyon.ph, number 3 on the list, for instance, has more than 200,000 Facebook fans. The Commission on Higher Education, number 4 on the list has nearly 1 million followers on Twitter. This blog does not even have a Twitter account. So I guess what brought up this blog into a high spot is its Google reputation and Google search ranking.

Now, on its seventh year, I could only hope that I continue to be able to provide readers of this blog quality i…

What Should DepEd's First Priority Be?

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Low scores in standardized tests are known to correlate with the level of poverty in a community. In the Philippines, where most pupils enrolled in public elementary schools come from poor families, the question is whether schools near slums perform worse than schools in less indigent neighborhoods. In the case of Quezon City in the Philippines, this is apparently true. A study published in GeoJournalfinds that schools that lie closer to hot spots of poverty in the city score 3 points lower in the national math test than schools in less impoverished areas. This is not surprising. However, the study finds another factor that strongly correlate with math scores so much more than the number of squatters near the school. This factor is the presence or absence of a clinic inside a school. With a recent tweet from the Department of Education in the Philippines, the government may just have hit a good target for improving basic education in the Philippines.



The researchers from the Universit…

How Is Deped's K-12? Ask a Chemistry Teacher

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It has been six years since I started commenting on basic education in the Philippines. In that first piece I wrote in the Philippine Star, "First things first: A commentary on K+12", I highlighted the serious challenge introduced by a spiral curriculum in the sciences: "A spiral curriculum in high school will require teachers with knowledge in all these areas at a sufficient level. These required teachers are not going to be available in numbers so this program will be poorly implemented." Fast forward to 2018, we are now hearing from Chemistry teachers in the Philippines. An article recently published in the Australian Journal of Teacher Education reports, "...teachers revealed their disappointment as they narrated their participation in the spiral progression of chemistry instruction in the K-12 framework that it is not concentrated, extensive, and challenges instruction. Most of the respondents of this study reported how the curriculum does not spiral, des…

Are We Meeting the Needs of Students in Special Education

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Detroit News reports that Michigan is the only state identified by the United States Departement of Education as needing intervention in special education. As mentioned in a previous post in this blog, "Access to Literacy Is a Fundamental Right", a district court judge in Michigan also ruled months ago that basic education is not a right guaranteed explicitly by the United States Constitution. News regarding basic education from Michigan do appear dismal but one must note that compliance dictated by the Federal government is truly a low bar to meet and that other states still need to address the needs of students with disabilities. In this aspect, for instance, the state of Virginia, although looking good (it is purple in the map below) is no exception.


Most states need assistance while Virginia is among the score of states that apparently meet the requirements of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The graduation rate among special education students in …

Advanced Academics: Aspiring for Both Equity and Excellence

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I have been asked to serve in Fairfax County's Advanced Academic Program (AAP) Advisory Committee. In 2013, an external review of this program noted that "Overwhelmingly, parents and students believe that AAP is positive, important, and effective." In our neighborhood, my impression is that every parent wishes their child to be in an advanced academic program, and the children generally take pride when they are chosen to take classes that are advanced compared to those taken by their peers. Of course, all children should be provided an opportunity to acquire the greatest learning in their classroom. Equity is important. Placing students in an advanced academic program is, unfortunately, only the first step. Equally important to access is the effectiveness of the program. Sadly, in the case of the Advanced Placement (AP) program across high schools in the United States, greater access correlates with poorer learning outcomes. This is one of the major findings of a study p…

The Draft Constitution Fails to Address Problems in Basic Education

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Decentralization may indeed be beneficial for the Philippines as the individual regions are freed from an Imperial Manila. Unfortunately, The draft constitution, with all its attempts to decentralize the administration, keeps basic education under the proposed federal government. The mere fact that one Department is responsible for nearly 30 million pupils, about 1 million teachers, and one hundred thousand schools is truly daunting. While analyzing how education reforms in Thailand have failed to materialize, Fry and Bi use the Philippines as an example to explain what is happening in Thailand: "Problems in implementing reform in the Philippines mirror those in Thailand. The implementation of reform in the Philippines has been adversely affected by a large bureaucratic highly centralized hierarchical Department of Education resistant to change." Most successful educational systems in the world demonstrate a diffusion of leadership from the center to local levels. After all,…

Teachers Are Stressed

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Nearly two thirds of educators surveyed by the American Federation of Teachers in the United States report poor mental health for seven or more of the past thirty days. Nearly half say they experience stress on a daily basis according to researchers from Pennsylvania State University. Stress of course negatively impacts the health, sleep, and quality of life of teachers. But research is also unequivocal on one more important aspect of teacher stress: "Teachers in the high stress, high burnout, and low coping class were associated with the poorest student outcomes." Although we are often bombarded by fake news on social media, there is nothing fake about the series of rants we are now seeing from teachers in the Philippines. In less than 24 hours, an open letter written by a retired teacher has already garnered 10000 comments and has been shared more than 50000 times on Facebook.


Teachers' stress is a problem for all of us. It is a real crisis and we need to act to help p…

"Justice for Teacher Emylou"

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News of a newly hired school teacher at Lapaz Elementary School in the Philippines committing suicide has gone viral on social media. The 21-year old teacher, Emylou Malate, is supposedly suffering from depression mainly brought by stress from her heavy teaching workload. A recent study from Morocco finds that indeed, heavy workload among teachers is the primary cause of stress, which is nothing new, as this have been known for sometime. An example is a study from Canada. The workload of a teacher becomes onerous when resources and support are lacking. Teaching conditions become even more untenable when respect is lacking.

The viral post comes with a "rant, an awareness and a call for help" (See below), explaining the circumstances of Emylou's working conditions. Although a novice, Emylou apparently has been assigned to a multi-grade classroom and is expected to submit more than 20 lesson plans everyday. And with all the burden, Emily has no one to receive support from, …

Servants Make Things Happen

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When the situation is not good, change is needed. Oftentimes, we focus too much on changing what is outside and not what is inside ourselves. Energy project CEO Tony Schwartz sums this up in his article on Harvard Business Review: "...the most effective transformation begins with what’s going on inside people — and especially the most senior leaders, given their disproportionate authority and influence.  Their challenge is to deliberately turn attention inward in order to begin noticing the fixed patterns in their thinking, how they’re feeling in any given moment, and how quickly the instinct for self-preservation can overwhelm rationality and a longer term perspective, especially when the stakes are high." I think the following tweet from the Philippine Inquirer illustrates why a change in mindset is important. The tweet has been shared on social media by superintendents and principals. Some even cite it as a prime example of servant leadership. It is indeed a demonstration…

Making Sense Out of Numbers

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Numbers like words have meaning. We use numbers to quantify what we see in our world. Their significance is often attached to who we are. A year of kindergarten appears like eternity to a five-year old, but as we age and reach midlife, that one year becomes a small fraction. To a poor family, one thousand is a big number especially if the number is associated with money. To a struggling household, even a hundred is huge. On the other hand, to a well-to-do family in the Philippines that is used to spending daily at least a thousand pesos (20 US dollars), one hundred pesos appear miniscule. Number sense is indeed linked to who we are. Thus, when the vice president of the Philippines makes the mistake of multiplying 40 by 4, it speaks volume not so much about her arithmetic skills but more on who she is.


Leni Robredo, in her attempt to discredit the Duterte administration, is simply trying to make the economic situation in the country appear especially dire. With inflation, prices of bas…

"Nosebleed, Don't English Me, I'm Panic"

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It is not easy to be multilingual. While it is important that young children are encouraged to maintain and develop their mother tongue, neglecting the learning of English can have serious ramifications in the future. GetRealPhilippines has several recent posts on this topic of language, all of which are pointing to the current sad state of communication in the Philippines. Competency in English, however, is not just a matter of will. It is now becoming clear that English comprehension, if not attained on time, is extremely challenging to address even with the best interventions.


A research article scheduled to be published in the Journal of Educational Psychology reports that it is exceedingly difficult to improve English reading comprehension among students who spoke a language other than English at home and had underdeveloped vocabulary in English by the time they enter secondary school. A two-year intensive reading intervention designed for adolescents is found not to have any sig…

Lessons in Math for Young Filipinos

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A teacher at Diliman preparatory school, Errol John Gumogda, recently wrote an article in the Education Digest of the online resource site Squeeze. The title of the article (translated to English) is "A Shameless K-12 Textbook". It comes with the following picture of a page taken from a textbook called Hiyas ng Lahi (Jewel of a Race) that talks about the past president Benigno Aquino III, citing that he is single, has no children, and therefore has no First Lady. It adds the fact that he is the first one born in the month of February to become president of the Philippines and the only one with the suffix "III" in his name. And he is also the second president who comes from the province of Tarlac. The page is supposedly a part of an "additional knowledge" section. Gumogda raises the question of whether this page responds to the cognitive needs of young Filipinos. Of course, the obvious answer is 'No'.


What is interesting in Gumogda's article is…

Access to Literacy Is a Fundamental Right

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Society has laws for five basic reasons: preventing people from harming others, preventing people from harming themselves, promoting morality, granting goods or services to those in need, and protecting the government. Laws are, of course, often imperfect and end up being misinterpreted and even abused. It is therefore quite dangerous to use existing laws to define what is right and what is wrong. The ninth amendment of the United States Constitution recognizes its own limitations: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." A Federal District Court judge in Michigan should probably have taken note of this when deciding whether access to literacy is a fundamental right or not.


Access to literacy is obviously a fundamental right. How can basic education be compulsory if access to basic education is not a right?


Judge Murphy III is correct that the US Constitution does not specifically sta…

"It Is More Important to Be Kind Than to Be Right"

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We want our schools to teach our children critical thinking. We also demand that schools promote good manners and right conduct. With all the things we desire, do we clearly understand what we are asking for? Do we simply want critics? Or do we want thinkers? Do we also want blind obedience? One thing I know about learning is that it requires, first of all, an openness. It starts with some degree of trust. And, as with any gift, it is a fruit of kindness. Critical thinking requires if not kindness, at least, respect. In our pursuit for knowledge, our objective is to find the best ideas. It should never be about knocking another person down. Philippines president Duterte recently attached the word "stupid" to Catholic doctrines. Where he comes from actually is logically sound but, unfortunately, the way it has been delivered is a long way from being considerate. The response from the other side is equally laced with abomination.

As discussed in the previous post, character ed…

What Not To Do in Character Education

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Back in my grade school years, there was a subject called "Character Education". It was often the subject that had my lowest grade. While my grades in math, language, science and social studies were in the nineties, I usually ended with seventies in "Character Education". Apparently, I did not appear to my teachers as someone who would comply always with rules and demonstrate good manners and right conduct. Perhaps, I was indeed causing trouble. After all, my parents were called once because I exhibited vocal opposition to home economics projects that I thought were simply being used as opportunities to take money from us. I probably did not appreciate the importance of just saying, "I am fine" when asked "How are you?" because I wanted to have a real conversation. While we were being fed with outward signs of politeness, I did not feel acceptance nor even a slight accommodation for being poor and athletically challenged. The current curriculum …