Showing posts from September, 2021

National Merit Scholarship Semifinalists: Not Even One Student from Mason District Schools

In a recent newsletter, Mason District School Board Member Ricardy Anderson commented on the news of 214 high school students in Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) being recognized as semifinalists for the National Merit Scholarship. Dr. Anderson wrote, "...I am concerned that none are from the comprehensive high schools in the Mason district. It’s imperative that staff identify the barriers that hinder performance and create a plan to promote more equitable representation from Falls Church, Justice and Annandale High Schools." Before questions regarding equity can be raised, it is useful to look at what is required to be recognized as a semifinalist in the National Merit Scholarship. The requirement is straightforward, to score in the top one percent on a test called PSAT. PSAT is a standardized test on reading, writing and language, and math. To become a semifinalist, one therefore has to be good at taking standardized tests. It is not a test for aptitude, intelligence or

Echoes from the Past

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

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