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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The Importance of the Fourth Estate
Wikipedia defines the fourth estate as "a segment of society that wields an indirect but significant influence on society even though it is not a formally recognized part of the political system. The most commonly recognized part of the fourth estate is the news media, or press". The fourth estate is often deemed important in a democracy because of the requirement of an informed citizenry. The news media or press therefore serves a source of information. For example, when a new tax bill is passed, it is crucial that the public is made knowledgeable of the new law and its consequences. Correct and complete information is always necessary to arrive at the right conclusions. Reporting that prices of commodities are rising and attributing the rise solely to a new tax without considering that the prices of these commodities are also increasing in the global market is an example of incomplete information. There is indeed a huge difference between informing and misleading. Of course, there is likewise a distinction between being selective and being comprehensive. There is truly a huge responsibility that rests on the shoulders of a fourth estate. For this reason, it must remain free for it is only with freedom can responsibility exist.
Information that is vital often involves conflicting interests. Otherwise, conclusions are not really that consequential. The need to know frequently coincides with what is right and what is wrong. And it is really in these cases that information matters most. Local newspapers are very useful for these usually cover situations or issues that are very relevant to a community. This morning, in the midst of two big stories in the Philippines, the resignation of the chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education and the news media Rappler being ordered to shut down by the Securities and Exchange Commission, I happened to read a commentary on MindaNews, a news cooperative from the Southern Philippines. The commentary, Why Tagakolu children can barely read or write despite attending school, was written by Joey Evangelista. It spoke about the current struggles of children from the Tagakolu tribes of Davao.
The commentary, as seen from above, started with the fact that because of the new tax law, teachers in public schools would be seeing a larger take home pay. What is excruciating is what follows. Here are additional excerpts:
In these remote places, children are apparently condemned to a life of illiteracy. Teachers even believe that the brains of Tagakolu children are simply not built for learning. This is truly a disgrace.
When one sees news like this that describes what has been going on for so many years now, one can only ask, "Where is the fourth estate?"
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…