Showing posts from June, 2019

"That Little Girl Was Me."

During the presidential debate of the Democratic Party, Kamala Harris threw a knock-out punch at Joe Biden, "That little girl was me." Commentators quickly recognized that the former vice president was slammed on his trivial attitude toward school segregation. In my opinion, however, the more important statement that Harris made was this, "We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly." Harris is right. For so many decades, schools in most districts in the United States have remained segregated. In some states, it is called "gifted programs" while in other districts, like Fairfax county, it is called "advanced academic program". Brian Wright and coworkers noted in a paper published in Gifted Students of Color, "that to be indifferent to this persistent lack of equitable access and opportunity to gifted education is to engage in an active and conscious state of aloofness and inattention in order to maintain the status quo." It is…

A World of Problems We Only Promise to Address

Gifted or advanced classes exemplify the absence of equity. The segregation of neighborhoods represents the epitome of income inequality. Climate change is caused by the way we live. These issues are now part of our social consciousness. In the recent primary elections in Virginia, candidates may have touched on one if not all of these concerns. Our future leaders have no choice since the world seems to agree that these are indeed the pressing issues of our times.

Mentioning the issue is one thing. Doing something about it is another. Each one of these huge problems has a solution and yet, we often end with undelivered promises for the actions required truly entail a change of heart, an overhaul of one's mindset.

Abandoning advanced or gifted class is definitely an alluringly simple answer to addressing inequity in education. After all, research has shown convincingly that "expert performance is predominantly mediated by acquired complex skills and physiological adaptations&q…

A New Way of Recognizing Students

This morning, the administration of Poe Middle School gave excellence awards to its seventh grade students. Unlike previous years, the awards this year were not described in the usual terms of scores in exams or grades in courses. It was nonetheless a recognition and its message was clear. Yes, the students got good grades but the awards were about the student's journey into learning. The awards ceremony I witnessed took Carol Dweck's advice of "Praise Children for Effort, Not Intelligence" to a palpable level. The administration at Poe Middle School described the awards as "aligned with Fairfax County's Portrait of a Graduate and International Baccalaureate Learner Profile Traits.

Fairfax County schools provide the following profile for an IB learner:

IB Learner Profile The aim of the IB programs are to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better and more peaceful…

How Do Children Learn Math

Similar to constructing a house that starts with a foundation, the mathematical skills and knowledge of a sixth grader are influenced by what this sixth grader knew or learned during preschool and the early elementary years. Grade six pupils in the Philippines average less than 35% in the 2017 National Achievement Test. With this poor performance, it is useful to examine the relationship, if there is one, between early math knowledge in kindergarten and first grade, and later math achievement at the end of elementary school. Such a relationship, called a "math trajectory", can be useful in pinpointing which items in early math are highly predictive of math performance in sixth grade. Bethany Rittle-Johnson and coworkers have recently mapped a "math trajectory" for low-income children by following the progress in math of over 500 children in Tennessee from ages 4 to 11. Since these children come from a disadvantaged background, their path in math is likely to be sim…

Comfort Rooms versus Faculty Offices

Due to plumbing and other required fixtures, comfort rooms are more expensive to build than regular offices. Back in 2015, Figueroa and coworkers find that while 50 out of 75 provinces in the Philippines satisfy the recommended number of pupils per classroom only 7 meet the number of toilets necessary for schools. The recent move made by teachers of converting comfort rooms into faculty offices, characterized by the secretary of education as dramatic and touching, seems to illustrate both a lack of awareness of how important comfort rooms are for students in schools and the uniqueness of these rooms when it comes to plumbing and fixtures.

There is no question regarding how much the government is playing catch-up with resources required in basic education. Even with funding, providing these facilities still requires actual construction, and the Philippines simply lacks the capacity to achieve this with a highly centralized bureaucratic system. All of these will therefore take time.


The Dismal State of Philippine Basic Education Is Aquino's Legacy

When the new DepEd K to 12 curriculum was introduced, it was clear that the government would not be able to deliver what it promised. Shortages were already widespread as the number of school-aged children had expanded considerably. Both addition of kindergarten and two years of senior high school were expected to exacerbate the problems in Philippine schools since the government was still catching up to the needs of the old 10-year curriculum. Yet, despite these extravagant revision, the new curriculum was ill-planned and foolishly implemented. This could no longer be denied as illustrated in the poor performance of students across the board on the national achievement tests. This is Aquino's legacy. The Duterte administration with its education secretary Leonor Briones are now tasked to save a sinking ship.

To illustrate what the government must do to rescue its failing education system, we should look with a healthy dose of realism at the following post on secretary Briones'…

A Propaganda Can Backfire

Angela Phillips can find support for her assertion in the recently concluded senate elections in the Philippines. She writes in a chapter in the book Political Communication in Britain, "... a campaign that relies mainly on attacking the opposition, without also providing positive reasons to vote, often backfires...." There is a fine line separating propaganda from evidence-based research. Propaganda often has a negative connotation. In the Philippines, the problems plaguing basic education require our attention. As members of the academic community, we must insist on pursuing the truth. Education, however, falls within the social sciences. Raising our children is shaped by our values. Addressing these problems, without doubt, likewise falls inside a political arena. We must be thoughtful then and work hard to ensure that we are not already starting with an answer to the problem and are simply relying on picking evidence that supports our predetermined conclusion.

Recently, …

Why Philippine Schools Are Failing

It is likely that there is more than one factor behind the dramatic drop in scores in all subjects in the National Achievement Test taken by six grade students in the Philippines. Still, it is also possible that there is one dominant factor. There is the notion that drills are boring and schools must jump right away into whole language,  critical thinking, and discovery-based learning. In reading, for instance, there is an emphasis on developing "literacy", instead of first simply honing skills. Schools are making the wrong assumption that these skills are innate. As another example, in mathematics, while addition maybe intrinsic, multiplication is definitely not. And with literacy, it has long been known that learning to read is not a natural process. Our brains are simply not wired for both reading and multiplying. And we already know this from research yet we insist on skipping this important stage.

In a post on this blog three years ago, Learning to Read: One of DepEd…