Philippines' Poor Performance in Math and Science Is Much More Than Just A Language Problem

With the dismal performance of students in the Philippines in the 2019 TIMSS, it is timely to reflect on why basic education in the Philippines is failing. Surely, there are factors that correlate with low scores in math and science. These are parental education, number of books available at home, availability of computers and internet, and the general attitude of students toward mathematics. These factors indeed require an Herculean effort to overcome for any educational system. Developing skills in math and science requires support from home, but this cannot be used as an excuse for the failure of a school system. One must not disregard, for instance, the fact that teachers in the Philippines themselves do not do well in exams in mathematics. There is likewise a tendency to find fault in the testing itself. Language is one excuse. When reasons are too obvious, it is not really helpful to look further. When students from the Philippines took the exam in their language, they actually scored lower in all content areas in mathematics:

Above copied from
Nillas, Leah. (2021). Does language make a difference? A TIMSS-R Analysis. The Mathematics Educator 2002, Vol. 6, No.2, 95-112 

Pointing at language may actually be on target, if one is talking about the "language of science and math", the way of thinking both math and science require. How we incorporate math and science in our everyday life is consequential. How we make observations helps us in developing math and science skills. How we understand a problem and then find solutions is a good exercise in math and science. Holding on facts instead of wishful thinking obviously is an essential prerequisite. 

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