Showing posts from July, 2018

"The Top Philippines Education Blog on the Planet"

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., 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?

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

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

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

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

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

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"

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

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

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"

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

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

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…