Why Students from the Philippines Perform Poorly in PISA 2018

Education certainly depends on many factors, so finding one reason why students from the Philippines perform poorly in PISA 2018 is possibly a wrong approach. Except in this case, the performance is poor across the board (reading, math and science) and the distribution is narrow although there is clearly a substantial inequity in education. Even students from high income families who are attending well-equipped schools are failing in these tests. Thus, there is clearly something in Philippine schools that is causing this failure to be widespread. It cannot be the curriculum because this is usually implemented non-uniformly across schools. It cannot be resources because even advantaged students are scoring low. The answer is going to hurt, but we cannot solve our problems without facing them first. The clue lies in looking at Indonesia whose students have always been scoring low in PISA. Argina and coworkers have traced Indonesia's scores in PISA to one factor: Teacher Quality. Back in 2015, teachers in Indonesia fail to pass competency exams in content and pedagogy. In 2010, the Philippines did a similar study with the following findings: "If 75 percent was the benchmark for minimum amount of actual learning, math majors achieved an average mean of 51.59 percent; English,  51.67 percent; and biology, 37.86 percent." In higher education, the future even looks dimmer since professors in institutions that prepare teachers may have advanced degrees in education but are in no way competent in subjects that need to be taught, like math and science, in basic education. 


The Philippines' education system fails in both reading performance and equity.


The Philippines also demonstrates very low variability, demonstrating that students (rich or poor, privileged or underprivileged) are uniformly poor in performance

The following is something I posted on this blog seven years ago, and it still holds:

The test scores of teachers mirror the scores of students in basic education. Higher education faces the same problem and the data above show that mastery of subjects is lacking. Teachers not only need to learn how to teach, but as important,what to teach. Learning new styles of teaching, getting introduced to curricular reforms may be achieved in a series of workshops or seminars. Unfortunately, mastery of the subjects to be taught can not. This takes years and Finland took decades. But this is where a possibly successful reform in basic education should begin. The proposed K to 12 misses the places where reforms should be focused: The early years and higher education. (And not at the end of high school). As Finland has demonstrated, working with primary education to attain education for all, while at the same time, promoting quality in higher education, is much cheaper. Higher education reforms mean doing the best, selecting the capable, and providing a few with excellent training. And this is required to solve the problems in basic education.

Back then, the reports show:
"Future grade school math teachers “were very incompetent” in whole numbers and decimals, fractions, ratio and proportion, geometry and measurement.
The future high school teachers did badly in variation, quadratic equations, sequences and progressions, systems of linear equations and inequalities, among others."
We should not be surprised to see how bad Philippine students perform in PISA 2018.

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