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Showing posts from 2021

Echoes from the Past

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Roughly fifteen years ago, an event was held at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC . The event was a discussion on a gloomy outlook on the current state of the Philippines then. Philippines president Arroyo just survived "Hello, Garci" with her allies in Congress succeeding in stopping her impeachment. A commentator for the event, Hazel McPerson, a professor of political science at George Mason University, stated that one of the reasons the Philippines finds itself in a quandary was a weak public educational system. Basic education in the Philippines has failed miserably that most poor children would miss out on benefits of a good government. That failure in education is so evident that we do not even know our history well enough to understand who we are and what we need to do in the present for future generations. History has a lot to tell us about the Philippines today. Unfortunately, we often look at Philippine history in segments and therefore miss the overarching lesson

Philippines' Basic Education Problems: COVID-19 and Beyond

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I still teach my class remotely. With a large class of more than a hundred students, it is very difficult to implement contact tracing in case a student in my class does test positive for the coronavirus. I do not like teaching remotely. I am not able to receive instant feedback by simply observing the expressions on my students' faces. The pandemic does bring some new challenges in both teaching and learning. The situation in the Philippines, however, is different. What the current pandemic has magnified are the same persistent problems basic education in the Philippines faces. With schools not having adequate restrooms or wash stations, it is not really easy to attend to the necessary hygiene measures. With crowded classrooms and high pupil to teacher ratios, it is not really possible to keep an eye on each student and maintain social distance. The lack of resources (school facilities and learning materials) exists even before the pandemic. And as important, children not finding

Schools Remain Closed in the Philippines

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While most K-12 schools in the United States have reopened to in-person classes this school year, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) tells us that about 140 million children are still waiting for their first day to attend school. Among countries that have not reopened schools is the Philippines. The country is currently facing a surge in COVID cases and vaccination has only reached seventeen percent of the population. Above copied from PhilStar A teacher's group in the Philippines, Teachers' Dignity Coalition , recently criticized the plans of the Department of Education to hold webinars for teachers: Most schools were closed last year and we do have plenty of lessons to learn regarding what is important in both teaching and learning. In an article, " Adapting and Enduring: Lessons Learned from International School Educators During COVID-19 ", published in the Journal of Research in International Education, these lessons are summarized: Technology Access

Are We Ready for School?

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This school year is different from most years. Being ready for school is much more than just having the necessary school supplies and clothing. The COVID pandemic is still very much upon all of us. Without herd immunity, the spread of the coronavirus as schools reopen is highly likely. There are measures like requiring masks indoors but contingency plans are urgent as well. "What if?" is certainly an important question to consider. How we do things now tells a bit of how prepared we really are. Yesterday was the kickoff/open house at my son's high school and it happened with crowded corridors. My daughter's middle school also had an open house, but only for sixth grade students, thus, unlike in the high school, parents and students were not elbow to elbow. I am still scheduled to teach online at Georgetown University, as it is not possible to keep track of all students in a more than 100 person class in case contract tracing becomes necessary.  My son helping the Pare

Wearing Masks Is All We Need For Our Schools

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More than 1500 have signed a petition requesting Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) to offer an option for virtual learning. The course I am scheduled to teach in a couple of weeks at Georgetown University is still tentatively on a remote platform. With FCPS parents, there are two reasons behind asking for online learning. Children younger than 12 years old are not vaccinated, and with full capacity, social distancing is not possible. Why I still have to teach online in a university stands on only one reason, lack of social distancing in a class of more than 100 students. There is in fact data that can help address how to keep students and instructors safe from the coronavirus. Data from more than a million students and more than a hundred thousand staff show that "With masking in place, full, in-person instruction – is appropriate for all grades and all schools" . Above copied from Change.org Data that indicate the effectiveness of wearing masks in schools have been provi

Get the Vaccine and Keep Wearing a Mask

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They say, "It takes a village to raise a child". With the coronavirus pandemic, it takes the entire world to extinguish COVID cases. We are now just weeks before school starts and another wave of cases is imminent. Children have already missed more than a year of in-person schooling. The risk of school closures is once again with us in so many places in this world. It takes time to learn how we should address challenges. However, plenty of time have already passed and there is now clarity in what we must do. There are vaccines that are effective against this virus. We also know that wearing masks greatly curbs its transmission. Unfortunately, that is not the difficult part. What appears insurmountable is the fact that we all have to do our part. Above copied from MITMedical   The longer it takes for us to rise to this challenge, the greater the opportunity for the virus to mutate into a variant that can thrive even with vaccines. That, of course, brings us to an even more pre

"80% of Filipino children do not know what they should know"

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A failing basic educational system in the Philippines is no secret. International assessments clearly demonstrate this dire situation. Even the Philippines own national achievement test points to the fact that the educational system has worsened. A report from the World Bank is not really necessary to highlight this predicament. What is plainly imperative is for the Philippines administration to admit its dismal performance. Above copied from the Manila Times An educational system should be guided by science, by research, by assessments. Unfortunately, as in other fields of endeavor, there are charlatans. In addition, there are interests. The delivery of basic education, after all, is a giant enterprise. Thus, even when facts are clear, considerations outside of research become paramount. Thus, after the World Bank reports that "80% of Filipino children do not know what they should know", we see the following: Above copied from the World Bank Honestly, there are really no add

A Champion for Our Youth and Education

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"At sa pagdating ng aking paglisan, maaaring malimutan ng lahat ang aking mga ginawa, masama man o mabuti, subalit kung sa akin, ang aking mga nagawa para sa aking bayan ay mananatiling matamis na alaala." (After my time is over, people will forget what I've done, both the good and bad. This will not matter anyhow; but if only to myself, I will cherish the sweet memories of the things I've done for my town and my people.) -Emmanuel Cadayona COVID has taken so many lives. COVID has forced us to close schools. And today, I lost a dear friend to COVID. Emmanuel Cadayona, known to many as "Ka Noel", served his hometown as mayor for several terms. More than a decade ago, Ka Noel told me, "After my time is over, people will forget what I've done, both the good and the bad. This will not matter anyhow, but if only to myself, I will cherish the sweet memories of the things I've done for my town and my people. He inspired me to reach out to the elementar

We Cannot Thank Enough Our Hadworking Teachers

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It is Teacher Appreciation Week. During normal times, we are definitely and extremely grateful to all teachers who have committed their best hours for the development and growth of our children. In these very challenging times, our hardworking teachers have done so much more. They continue to help feed children from low income families. They turn their classrooms into something virtual on a moment's notice. And when in-person instruction returns, teachers are asked to do the impossible, concurrent teaching, where some students are inside the classroom, while others choose to stay home. This week is our opportunity to show how much we appreciate these public servants. We cannot thank enough our hardworking teachers. As a token of appreciation, my spouse, with the school's parents and teachers association, provided breakfast to the teachers in the middle school my daughter attends. It is a small token for the outstanding effort our teachers have been giving during these times.  T

Should We Raise Athletes Or Should We Raise Children?

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My son participates in a recreational soccer league and last week, his coach asked this question to the player's parents: "Do we want to win or do we just want to play and have fun?" Actually, if one strictly follows the rules of the recreational league, parents do not have such an option. Our recreational soccer league specifically states, "All players in good standing must play at least 50 percent of the game." Clearly, all players must be given the opportunity to play regardless of the player's skills. Yet, our team even bothers to ask whether it is acceptable to keep on the bench players deemed not to be at the level necessary to win a game. While some parents did express their desire to win, one parent says that we should treat this situation like how we treat children in their classrooms. We are teaching every child in a classroom regardless of what ability we perceive a child has. Every child deserves an education. The same should hold true in recreat

"Gifted Programs Provide Little to No Academic Boost"

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Five years ago, research has shown us convincingly that Black and Hispanic children are underrepresented in advanced academic programs. It has been long argued that schools need to respond to the needs of gifted children. Unfortunately, for such programs to succeed, it is required that students be properly identified. This area has always been challenging. Studies have pointed out time and again that selections have been disproportionate on the basis of race, ethnicity and family income.  Above copied from Grissom, Jason A., and Christopher Redding. 2016. “Discretion and Disproportionality: Explaining the Underrepresentation of High-Achieving Students of Color in Gifted Programs.”  AERA Open  2(1): 1-25 Now, research has something else to say: Above copied from the Hechinger Report This new study is scheduled to be published in May 2021 in the journal of Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, but authors of the study have provided us with a preview. The following summarizes the fi

What We Need to Learn from this Pandemic

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It is heartbreaking to see that cases of coronavirus are surging in the Philippines. Cases are likewise exploding in India. We are also clearly not out of the woods yet here in the United States. Nonetheless, there are signs and talks about returning to normal. One area that has witnessed a great impact from the pandemic is education. Yet, we still seemed to be obsessed with deadlines, tests, competitions and submissions. Schools remain a place where success simply means being able to jump through hoops. Children and their educators are only expected to satisfy requirements, requirements that have become eternal even amidst a pandemic. The coronavirus has changed our lives in so many ways, but what seems to be impervious is our "standards of learning", a set of rules that me must comply with, no matter what the circumstances are. If there is one good thing that this pandemic can teach us, it is the reality that our schools must be communities where we all grow to become more

Structured Literacy: The Teaching Approach to Reading that Science Recommends

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 A new spotlight from Education Week  is now available and it is about the Science of Reading . A registration form is required to access the above spotlight. It has been several decades yet schools are still not tuned to what science suggests regarding how we should teach reading to young children. Schools often exert effort on encouraging children to read books that they find interesting. Parents are asked to read to their children. Unfortunately, there is no focus on the method science tells us is most effective. Even here in Fairfax county, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) recently wrote to the school superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS): "Literacy is a human right. Without it, we are condemned to a life of greater struggle and fewer opportunities. We have waited long enough, and we refuse to wait even one more day." The NAACP provided a litany that shows how FCPS has neglected black children for the past 14 ye

We Have Our Worries

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Ned was one little lucky boy. He had a friend named Lily who was there to stand by him. I was just reading a short story entitled " Nervous Ned " by educator Sarah Wysocki . Ned was a young boy who was constantly bombarded by anxious thoughts. His anxiety was so much that it took a lot of of his energy and time. Ned received plenty of encouraging and reassuring words from his parents, but it took another child, a young girl named Lily, for Ned to see that everything was indeed alright. These stories do help young minds gain hope and comfort in the scary world we live in. I wish we had something for everyone who feel hated and discriminated in our society. Unlike the little boy Ned, minority children do have real reasons to be anxious. And so do the parents of these children. Melinda Anderson at Mother Jones captures a sample of this "grounded on reality" anxiety in her recent piece, " Why Black Parents Aren’t Joining the Push to Reopen Schools ".  Anderson

We Are Asking So Much From Our Teachers

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Blended learning aims to combine the best of two worlds: face-to-face and online instruction. It is never about doing both at the same time. Doing face-to-face and distance education at the same time is hybrid learning, and this could easily be the worst of two worlds. Yet, here we are. We have teachers who meet face-to-face a group of students on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, a different set of students on Thursdays and Fridays, while at the same time, broadcasting the lesson to another class of students who have opted to stay virtual all week. It is true that a teacher has one pair of eyes to see and one pair of eyes to listen, but a teacher has only one heart. Back in September, Julie Mason at WeAreTeachers  described this predicament quite vividly, "She wears an earbud in one ear so she can hear her kids online and her face-to-face learners at the same time." Of course, there are some who claim they could help teachers with this dilemma: Above copied from Dyknow The challenges

The Covid Pandemic and Inequity in Education

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Years ago, my daughter was invited to transfer to another elementary school for an advanced academic program. The principal at her current school then, Brian Butler, convinced me to have my daughter stay in the same school. Butler is one principal I knew who would give my daughter the opportunity and tools to realize her potential. It is not a special treatment. It is just the way Butler treats each student. This month marks the return to in-person schooling in Fairfax county, but we do have the choice of keeping our children in a virtual setting. There is considerable demand for in-person classes and with mitigation strategies, not every child can go in-person. My children have been thriving in an online environment and I am currently holding all my classes and office hours virtual so I am quite available to serve as a monitor to my children at home. Thus, we chose our children to stay virtual, hoping that the opportunity will be made to two other children out there who need face-to-f

COVID Situation in Fairfax County

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If you do not read past the headline, you may get comfortable with the idea that we are no longer under the threat of coronavirus. The governor of Virginia has just relaxed restrictions and Fairfax county public schools are scheduled to return to in-person classes next week. The introductory paragraph of the governor's new executive order, however, tells a sobering picture:  "Even though case counts are decreasing, there is still a cause for concern and a need for continued restrictions. Virginia’s seven-day moving average of new COVID19 cases is still more than 2,000 per day, which is higher than at any point in the first nine months of the pandemic. Virginia’s seven-day PCR percent test positivity rate is 8.3 percent. The statewide rate of COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations (3.8 per 100,000) is still above the threshold of concern (3.5 per 100,000)." We are not yet in a position that is better than either March or September last year when schools have gone virtual. There is

Instructional Continuity - COVID and Snow Days

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My son woke up today during the usual time so he could attend his virtual classes. I told him that there were no classes today because of snow. He gave me this blank stare and said, "But we are virtual". Well, this apparently is not the case in Fairfax county. Both in-person and virtual classes had been canceled. For Georgetown University, Main and Medical Campuses are closed but with Instructional Continuity. We use virtual classes, which we are currently using this semester due to the pandemic, because we believe in the importance of instructional continuity. "Classes will continue virtually as scheduled." ___________________________________________________________ Here is an old post from this blog on instructional continuity. When Storms Interrupt Learning in Classrooms January 25, 2016 A post on this blog more than a year ago talked about  Instructional Continuity . The article was in response to flooding brought by heavy rains in the capital region of Manila i