Showing posts from May, 2018

What Schools in the Philippines Really Need

Just before the start of a new school year, communities are again helping out in preparing the classrooms. Of course, some politicians take this as photo opportunities. After all, being photographed while applying fresh paint on a wall may bring the message that something is being done to help basic education in the Philippines. Yes, walls with fresh paint may seem inviting but the challenges faced by students in schools in the Philippines should be addressed with solutions that actually understand and address their problems. The prevalence of poverty, the fact that a significant number of parents are working overseas, and the various tracks now available for senior high school should make it obvious that students in schools need a individual who would offer a listening ear and provide guidance. Students in the Philippines, like students in other countries, need counseling. Yet, the country remains short in the number of guidance counselors. Earlier this year, ABS-CBN News reported, &…

Reading and Visualization

Learning to read is very important in basic education. Reading and listening are ways by which we can receive information and build knowledge. How we process what we hear or read and derive meaning is comprehension. How well an individual can visualize the text is important in both engagement and comprehension especially with children who are just beginning to learn to read. Experiments performed decades ago by Brooks decades ago have shown "a conflict between reading verbal messages and imagining the spatial relations described by those messages." Clearly, connecting reading and imagination does not occur readily. Like other children, my son and daughter like seeing pictures in the books that they read. I likewise enjoy reading cartoon strips. Who doesn't? Illustrations help. With the internet and television, these illustrations can be animated. That makes it even more attractive. Recent research, however, shows that with regard to helping children with language process…

Parents, Turn Off Your Smartphone

We worry a lot about how much kids these days let their time pass by playing a game, posting on instagram, texting, or watching a video on YouTube. We fear that our children may turn into addicts, as they get used to instant gratification while in front of these devices. We are afraid that our young may drop other activities that are good for their social, emotional and physical growth as they start spending every waking hour on social media. Yet, we lose sight of our own addiction to our smart phones. And it is ironic that the technology that is supposed to keep us connected takes us away from those who are actually physically around us. We, as parents, have actually allowed our smartphones to impair our social connection with some of the most important people in our lives.

A study recently published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships shows that parents who use their smartphones while they are with their children feel less meaningful connections with their kids.


A Double Whammy

I am currently a professor in a university in the United States and I am originally from the Philippines. Although I finished my basic education and bachelor of science degree in the Philippines, I did spend eight years as a doctoral and postdoctoral student in Illinois. I know of other Filipinos who have chosen the same career path as I have. Filipinos are likewise found in K-12 classrooms across the US. In the past years, schools in the US have been increasingly hiring teachers from other countries to fill shortages that are often in high poverty and more challenging districts. In the Clark County district alone, eighty one teachers have been recently hired from the Philippines to solve the county's special education teacher shortage.

Public schools are able to recruit these teachers based on a "culture exchange" program. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers' union in the US, regards this recruitment as an abuse o…

"How Can We Lose When We're So Sincere?"

I had a chemistry professor in Ateneo who taught me not just chemistry but also some nuggets of wisdom. Back then, rallies against the Marcos administration were widespread. This professor reminded me that sincerity was never enough. Competence was equally necessary. Sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity were dangerous. With this reminder, he also cited a strip from Charlie Brown, "How can we lose when we're so sincere?" Aquino obviously had made serious errors during his administration. Without careful vetting, Aquino appointed a Chief Justice to the Supreme Court that later would be ousted by a quo warranto petition. Aquino also rushed a mass vaccination program against Dengue, disregarding the proper protocols and ignoring the advice of experts. And in basic education, Aquino plunged the nation into a new K-12 curriculum without careful preparation and analysis and with total disregard for the resources necessary.

One glaring example of Aquino's incompete…

Helping Students Learn in the Sciences

Students often struggle in the physical sciences. Not only does one have to be proficient in mathematics. A pupil also needs to understand concepts and some of these are quite challenging. There are indeed instances in which a student is clearly capable given his or her aptitude in math and reading and yet, still finds either chemistry or physics as tough subjects in school. It is therefore necessary to look at ways that can help students overcome difficulties. As Susan Carey has pointed out, "All good teachers have always realized that one must start “where the student is”... ...Now we understand that the main barrier to learning the curricular materials we so painstakingly developed is not what the student lacks, but what the student has, namely, alternative conceptual frameworks for understanding the phenomena covered by the theories we are trying to teach."

There is nothing inherently wrong with how young children understand their physical world. After all, scientists al…

It Often Takes Time to Learn an Important Lesson

Felipe Villamor reports on the recent ouster of the Philippines Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the New York Times with the following headline, "Philippine Court Removes Chief Justice, a Critic of Duterte". Michael Gonchar once enumerated in an article also published in the New York Timesfifty ways by which students could learn from current events. The fifty ways obviously paint one overarching theme when it comes to learning from current events, the importance of practice, for it really takes time to learn important lessons. One reason it takes time is that current events are frequently relayed already with a bias, which makes it difficult to distill what the real lesson is. In this recent event, the Supreme Court in the Philippines is crystal clear in its opinion when it ousted its Chief Justice. The decision is even unanimous with regard to the question of whether Justice Sereno violated the Constitution for her failure to file Statements of Assets, Li…

Today's Students Are Digital Natives: A Myth

It was Marc Prensky who first made this bold statement in 2001:

Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach... ...It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today‟s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors... ...What should we call these “new” students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet....

To this, George Couros provides us something to think about, "“Kids are sooooo much better with technology than adults are”? Yes, many kids have never known anything BUT a world with iPhones and YouTube, but the same adults have lived in that world the same amount of time k…

Is Cheating Ever Good?

Of course, the answer is no. Nonetheless, cheating does occur. There seems no ambiguity when the case involves a person cheating and that same person benefits from his or her cheating. We are always quick to look down on individual cheating. However, the line gets somewhat murky when we can point to a higher good, when cheating occurs collectively, and when circumstances can be used to justify dishonesty. It is election time again in the Philippines. This time is for community (barangay) officials. These contests are oftentimes very heated involving families, relatives and friends. And accusations of not playing by the rules are common. Fairness frequently takes a backseat in favor of loyalty. Underneath the disguise of some sort of goodwill, cheating more often than not always advances one's personal interests. For this reason, it is important that schools starting from the early years emphasize to students that there is no such thing as "good cheating".

A recent study

Catholic Schools Are Better?

Terence Jeffrey, editor-in-chief of the conservative website CNSNews, recently wrote a commentary suggesting that we should abandon public schools in favor of vouchers since students from private Catholic schools are performing a lot better than students from public schools in the United States National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. Of course, Jeffrey is correct in citing that scores of students from Catholic schools are higher than those students from public schools. Unfortunately, jumping to the conclusion that public schools are not performing up to their task is really not supported even by the scores in the NAEP exams. It is not necessarily true that the high scores of students from private Catholic schools is directly a result of how Catholic schools educate their students. It is equally incorrect, for instance, to claim that Ateneo de Manila, a private Catholic school in the Philippines, educates its high school students better than a public high school simpl…

Making Our Presentations More Appealing

The effectiveness of a lecture presentation needs to take into account the audience. It is very helpful for an instructor to know beforehand the prior knowledge his or her students have. This is apparently important not only in deciding the pace and content of the lecture, but also in adding embellishment to visual aids or slides, which are known to enhance learning by heightened engagement. Obviously, when the intellectual curiosity or motivation of the audience is not in question, as in the case of an "expert" audience, unnecessary decorations can be detrimental. However, within basic education, increasing the engagement of students by using enticing images can be facilitative. One way to engage young learners, for instance, is to use human like or anthropomorphic images. After all, it seems natural for us to add a human touch to objects. Of course, we may likewise cause distraction so one important question to ask is how much is too much.

There is a recent study scheduled…