Wednesday, October 31, 2012

If K to 12 is ok, why need a survey to say so?

EDITORIAL - If K to 12 is ok, why need a survey to say so?
(The Freeman) Updated October 31, 2012 12:00 AM 

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The Department of Education has come out with the results of a Social Weather Stations survey that reportedly indicated more and more people have been convinced about the merits of the K to 12 program that it has rammed down the throats of Filipinos.

According to the survey (reports did not indicate who commissioned the exercise but it would surprise no one if it comes out that the DepEd itself did the commissioning), a whooping 72 percent of Filipinos have embraced K to 12.

Either the survey is a big lie (because most people you ask, rich or poor, young or old, hate the K to 12 to their guts) or a big letdown — why only 72 percent, considering that people have no choice but to accept it? It was forced down their throats and is now in force, remember?


Inquiry-Based Teaching Practices and Student's Science Achievement

Discovery-based approaches to science education in primary and secondary schools are now widespread across the globe. It is now possible to assess the impact of these programs on learning outcomes. Such exercise may not provide crystal clear cause-effect relationships since proper controls are not present, but a good statistical analysis of current data may still furnish useful correlations. Although discovery-based learning may seem a precise philosophy of education, it is in fact a spectrum of approaches and techniques. There is a range of how much support a student receives in a discovery-based classroom.

Kevin Gee and Kenneth Wong of Brown University have recently published a paper in the International Journal of Education Research in which the performance of students from eight countries (US, Mexico, Japan, Finland, Australia, Canada, Spain and Italy) in the science section of the 2006 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) has been closely examined in the light of various inquiry-based approaches to science education. The abstract and the first two figures from the paper are posted here with kind permission from the authors.
The above investigation looks at four distinct approaches that have been commonly employed in discovery-based learning:
  • Use of models or applications (coded as APPLICATIONS) - explaining what students learn in science inside the classroom relates to the outside world.
  • Laboratory (hands-on) activities (coded as HANDS_ON) - doing experiments to explore a concept in science.
  • Interaction (coded as INTERACTION) - classroom activities that allow for debate and discussion among the students
  • Independent Investigation (coded as INVESTIGATIONS) - students are asked to design their own experiments and test their own ideas.
The results are displayed vividly in the following graphs:

First, only one index positively correlates with science achievement: APPLICATIONS. This is the only approach that seems transferable from one country to the next. This approach requires teachers who can capably highlight the relevance of science to society. For HANDS_ON, three countries, Australia, Mexico and Italy show a negative correlation. Australia differs from the other two with its students scoring above the average of 500. This index, without doubt, requires resources (laboratories and equipment) which probably play as a major factor. The INTERACTION index perhaps demonstrates the risk of students learning the wrong things if students are left to learn from each other. Finally and most importantly, the last graph (PISA 2006 Science Scores versus INVESTIGATIONS index) shows a very significant correlation that exists across all countries in the study. Gee and Wong write in their discussion/conclusion:
...the evidence seems to strongly suggest that students who independently select and carry out such investigations tend to have lowered science achievement....
The take home message from this study is that learning in science benefits from teaching within the context of world issues, current events, and everyday lives, but as other educators in the field have forewarned, a purely discovery-based approach which does not provide adequate support or guidance may do harm to science education.

Monday, October 29, 2012

A vote for science: More tips to improve Aquino's report card

by Flor Lacanilao

An editorial of the journal Nature (25 October 2012) is A vote for science  This is In support and recognition of Obama's concerns for science and environmental issues. It also says, it gives Obama a clear advantage over Mitt Romney. 

Earlier supports for Obama's science programs were also expressed by voters in Obama’s science report card (Scientist, October 1, 2012 ), and by 68 Nobel Prize winners in Obama Picks Up Nobel Endorsements (ScienceInsider, 18 October 2012).

Voters gave Obama grades for Environment (B+), Health (A), Science Education (A), and Energy (B). The laureates wrote in their letter, “President Obama understands the key role science has played in building a prosperous America.” 

Of course Obama's men and women in charge of his science-related programs -- and the over 20 in the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology -- are top scientists and Nobel laureates. In previous posts, I showed that so many Chinese leaders and some Indian Presidents & Prime Ministers have been/are trained scientists. Such selected people are also found managing science programs in fast developing neighbor countries like Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea.

On the other hand, President Aquino would need more scientists in his cabinet -- urgently in need are in science and higher education -- if we are to catch up with some neighbor countries. They will strengthen the two scientist Secretaries he has now in his cabinet -- Arsenio Balisacan of NEDA and Enrique Ona of DOH.
Reviewing performance to improve Aquino's report card

In Crucial role of S&T, education in dev’t  (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 21 July 2011), I describe how to assess/select people to put in charge, using the established indicators, like peer-reviewed international journals, as minimum requirement. For some reasons, we have been ignoring it, and this to blame for the poor state of Philippine science and education, the root cause why we have been unable to sustain progress.  

For instance, in 2005, after nearly 50 years of our S&T agency (DOST) and nearly 30 years of our science academy (NAST), the total scientific publications of the Philippines were only 178. Whereas those of tiny Singapore, smaller Taiwan, and South Korea were, respectively, over 3,600, 10,800, and 16,400 (Data from WK Cummings, courtesy of Dr. Lawrence M. Liao, Filipino scientist at Hiroshima University). 

The Asian Development Bank has cited the Philippines as one of the few exceptional cases in terms of economic expansion, raising its growth outlook for the country from 4.8 to 5.5 percent for 2012 while it scaled down its forecasts for other developing countries in the region.
Meanwhile, Neeraj Jain, ADB country director for the Philippines, said, “Despite growth, poverty incidence in the Philippines rose from 2003 to 2009. That is a cause for concern,” Poverty rate stood at 24.9 % in 2003 and 26.5 % in 2009. 

2) PH ranking in doing business slips (PDI, 24 Oct 2012)
While positive developments have been happening to the country since the Aquino administration took over in 2010, the Philippines slipped two notches in the global rankings of the ease in doing business -- to 138th from 136th. This is due to the absence of significant reforms in dealings with various government agencies.
The “Doing Business 2013” report of the World Bank, released Tuesday, showed that the Philippines registered slightly poorer rankings in almost all categories of the ease in doing business in June 2011 to June 2012, compared with those recorded in the previous one-year. Other Asean countries show better ratings.

This can be seen in his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) -- whether his programs and claimed achievements are sustainable, whether the programs are guided by the accepted basic prerequisites of growth, and whether the progress is measured by indicators of equitable well-being.
The two internationally proven prerequisites of sustainable prosperity are higher education and science. Measuring progress with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has proven to be faulty in some developed countries. It has not benefited our poor communities. How then would you rate the SONA along these lines?

4) Problems with media and scientists (The Philippine Star, July 27, 2006)   
The public will remain uninformed and uneducated in science until the media professionals decide otherwise, until they stop quoting charlatans and quacks, and until respected scientists speak up. –-  Scientist, 16 April 1990. 
Also posted at,

I hasten to say that science is not the only way of knowing things. Through religion, through literature, reflection, meditation, and any number of other approaches, we gain understanding and knowledge of our world. But the most reliable knowledge—that can be applied societally, to an entire community or country—is knowledge that has been tested empirically, that is based on the leveling effect of evidence. Evidence shouldn't depend on one’s socioeconomic status or one’s political affiliation. Evidence has a democratizing effect that is healthy for our country. It’s the most politically useful way of knowing things. (Rush Holt, Mixing Science and Politics)

Flor Lacanilao
Retired professor of marine science
University of the Philippines Diliman

Sunday, October 28, 2012

How Does One Lure Back Much Needed Talent and Expertise

The US likewise looks at other countries to find ways to improve its educational system. For example, an article in the Washington Post was published several months ago describing South Korea. Here is a paragraph worth our attention:
...South Koreans who had gone abroad to study were lured back with handsome salaries to teach. And the best students in the country were recruited with the promise of free tuition and an exemption from mandatory military service, in return for a promise to work in a government lab for three years after graduation. Over the years, Kaist graduates have filled government research institutes and top jobs at companies like Samsung and Hyundai....
Recently, I received an invitation to teach during the summer in China. The Sinoway International Summer School Program currently involves the following universities:  East China Normal University, Shanghai, Nanjing University, Nanjing. Beijing Normal University, Beijing, University of International Business and Economics, Beijing Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou. The package includes:
Salary: $6,000 USD per course session taught (after-tax).Typically each Visiting Professor teaches between two to three course sessions and therefore receives $12,000 - $18,000 in the salary component.
Welfare: Free hotel accommodation during the term of teaching, Up to 2,000USD reimbursement for an international round-trip economy class air ticket between the U.S. or Canada and destined SIE host university, for both you and one close family member; Accident insurance coverage for you and your family member; Reimbursement of RMB 1,000 for transportation or communication expenses incurred during the Employment Term. Total value of all welfare is around $7,200.
Other Benefits: One assigned teaching assistant to help with academic affairs; One assigned welfare assistant to help with your daily living needs in China.
Whether this is attractive enough is one question but the fact is that there is considerable and reasonable effort to make it attractive. Another example is Brazil, as reported by the Public Radio International
"The government has more than tripled the budget for the Ministry of Science in the last ten years."
Margarida Fontes published a paper in Science and Public Policy entitled "Scientific Mobility Policies: How Portuguese Scientists Envisage the Return Home". In this article she stated:

Thus a substantial number, especially among the younger generation, express the desire to return and to “make some contribution”, but only if more favourable conditions are found at home. Their behaviour reflects some pragmatism, but their comments often express sadness or frustration with the impossibility of returning under reasonable conditions and with the waste of resources their situation epitomises, given the high investment made in them.
The Philippines needs to look closely at this issue as well. Scientific mobility, if completely unbalanced, which aptly describes the Philippine situation (outflow of talent greatly exceeds inflow), has profound implications on a country's development or progress. Patrick Gaulé points out this imbalance in his article, "Do highly skilled migrants return permanently to their home countries?":
Brain drain can be a good thing for the source country; one benefit is that some skilled workers eventually return. Unfortunately, there is little evidence on the incidence and nature of such return migration. This column presents new data on the return-migration decisions of foreign faculty based in US chemistry departments.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Finding What Works in Education

Pasi Sahlberg wrote the following sometime ago in the Washington Post:
"...many education visitors to Finland expect to find schools filled with Finnish pedagogical innovation and state-of-the-art technology. Instead, they see teachers teaching and pupils learning as they would in any typical good school in the United States. Some observers call this “pedagogical conservatism” or “informal and relaxed” because there does not appear to be much going on in classrooms. 
The irony of Finnish educational success is that it derives heavily from classroom innovation and school improvement research in the United States. Cooperative learning and portfolio assessment are examples of American classroom-based innovations that have been implemented in large scale in the Finnish school system."
The above quote is echoed in the following initiative launched recently in the Unites States:

And here are some examples the program has seen so far:

Rethinking Classroom Structure
New American Academy
Posted on October 24, 2012 by Michelle Healy
In a time when educational budgets are crunched around the country, the topics of classroom size and teacher to student ratio are highly debated topics in the educational and political spheres. What number is best for the students and the teachers in the room? 
At The New American Academy in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, school leader Shimon Waronker and the faculty have designed a new approach to class structure: 60 kids, 4 teachers, and one large, open classroom. 
The four teachers are generally made up of one master teacher, two partner teachers, and one associate teacher. Master teachers have often been curriculum coordinators or coaches before, and act as the senior mentor in the group. Partner teachers have a couple years of teaching experience, and associates are generally first or second year teachers. This structure was designed to provide an in-classroom career ladder and as well as daily chances for mentoring, feedback, reflection and collaboration between the master teacher, partner teachers, and associate teacher....
Moving Mountains Through Strong, Trusting Relationships
Crockett Elementary School
Posted on October 22, 2012 by Todd Sutler

David Crockett Elementary School is a public school in the Balsz District in Phoenix, Arizona. Crockett serves approximately 500 students from diverse backgrounds in kindergarten through 6th grade. Over 95% of the students at Crockett qualify for free lunch, and all students have access to fresh fruits and vegetables through a federal grant. Principal Jarret Sharp is leading his “crew” toward a curriculum that is relevant and rigorous for all students. The Balsz District has added an additional 20 days of instruction to their school year, which leads to an additional year of instructional time by 8th grade. 
“You can make the most impact through relationships. Knowing the details with parents, the kids and the staff makes all the difference in the world. It is a lever to move heavy duty things on a campus. If you can build strong, trusting relationships, you can move mountains.” Principal Jarrett Sharp has taken the practice of building relationships within his school community to another level. He uses the “details” he knows about the different stakeholders to help them make the learning experience as positive and productive as possible for his students....


Posted on October 4, 2012 by Michelle Healy

Lighthouse Community Charter School is a K-12 public school in Oakland, California. The mission is “to prepare a diverse, K-12th grade student population for college and the career of their choice by equipping each child and youth with the skills, knowledge, and tools to become a self-motivated, competent, lifelong learner.” Lighthouse is designed around five principles: High expectations for all students, a rigorous curriculum, serving the whole child, family involvement, and creating a professional learning community. In addition to being rigorous, the curricular approach is also authentic, hands-on and inquiry-driven. All students at Lighthouse are taught to advocate for themselves and are able to articulate their strengths and learning goals. 
When Laura Kretshmar of Lighthouse Community Charter School in Oakland, California, told her sixth graders that they were going to have a number talk, smiles, claps, and “Yessss!” were heard from the students as they waited in anticipation. Laura invited students to share expectations for number talks and move closer and sit on the carpet if they needed to.
In Laura’s classroom, number talks are short, strategic conversations that focus on flexible mental problem solving as well as strategy sharing and critiquing. Strings of related equations are used to help students see patterns and help them transfer strategies from one equation to the next....
And there are many more examples.

And as Pasi Sahlberg from the best educational system in the world had shown, there maybe a lot to learn from these....

Friday, October 26, 2012

Science Lessons Forum for elementary and secondary schools

The following is an article I wrote for the Philippine Star in 2006. The article is also included in the book, Selected Essays on Science and Technology forSecuring a Better Philippines. C.A. Saloma, E.A. Padlan and G.P. Padilla Concepcion, editors, University of the Philippines Press, Manila (2009).

STAR SCIENCE By Angel C. De Dios, PhD
The Philippine STAR 11/23/2006

The computer classroom, like any classroom, is a place, first and foremost, for learning and not teaching. This is a simple but nonetheless an important point. When we focus on learning, we provide an environment that is rich in opportunities for discovery and inquiry. On the other hand, an emphasis on teaching may carry the detrimental scars of negative experiences adults have had acquired in the past as well as our own limitations. Learning requires facilitation. It begins with resources and continues with guidance. Students, especially children, are generally visual, sensing, active and sequential learners. It is within this premise that the Science Lessons Forum has been assembled.

The Science Lessons Forum contains learning resources for teachers, students and parents. Each lesson starts with a news article. The forum can therefore be regarded as learning science as a current event-based subject. The news article (obtained from press releases from universities and articles provided by,,, and other science news sources) is usually a text explaining in layman or popular language a recent scientific discovery. These articles are generally short as they are only meant to arouse one’s quest for knowledge. The bulk of the science lessons lies in the exploratory questions found at the end of the news article. These questions are asked and answered by links to websites that have been chosen for their clarity, correctness and style. Efforts were made to arrange the questions in some useful pedagogical order. Most of these websites are chosen for their visual content. Some of these websites are dynamic. Some are interactive. Some carry audio material. And each lesson ends with interactive games relevant to the topic to attract further the interest of the learners.

For example, in one of the topics, the leading news article relates the story of the recent Guimaras oil spill. This article is then followed by the basic question as to why one should be concerned with oil spills. The answer to this question is provided by a link to a site called "oil and water don’t mix" made by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, which provides a highly interactive cartoon-based presentation on the immiscibility of oil and water and its harmful environmental consequences. (A screen shot has been added here as an illustration)

The Science Lessons Forum is based on a philosophy that incorporates what we know about learning into teaching. The forum does not recommend that we abandon the traditional lecture-based classroom. Instead, the suggestion is to tailor the lectures with a style that takes into account the preferences of young learners. With these in mind, one can see the rationale behind the structure of each lesson.

As a summary, the Science Lessons Forum provides resources that hopefully will facilitate the learning in the classrooms. These, unfortunately, are just resources. These simply embody a starting point. To make the forum work, it requires participation. The forums will only facilitate learning if there are facilitators. And this is the call for all parents and teachers. Reading and examining the contents of the forum is the first important step.

One of the important features of the Science Lessons Forum lies in its outline, in which learners are guided on how to explore concepts, ideas and phenomena. It is expected that the time spent on these lessons will translate into developments in the areas of reading, mathematics and reasoning. Thus, it is projected to have an impact on almost every aspect of education. The placement of the science lessons in a forum creates an atmosphere of feedback. Messages and queries can be posted. Conversations on various topics can be cultivated. These pages are dynamic and they could become interactive with our participation. Although the webmasters could access the statistics of the forum and determine how frequent the science lessons are being used, what is more significant is the fact that the readers – students, teachers and parents – can post. It is this aspect that makes the Science Lessons Forum unique. And at this early stage of the forum, we hope that this interactive capability, which is built on the framework of the Science Lessons Forum, will grow with time. The Science Lessons Forum currently has 300 topics with thousands of links, and can be found in:

The Science Lessons Forum is part of the Alay Computer project of Paete, Laguna. Some of the topics have already inspired the local leaders of Paete, Laguna while they search for better ways of protecting their environment and for more sustainable means of livelihood. In this year’s National Achievement Exam, the schools of Paete obtained mean percentage scores in the upper 60s and mid-70s, a marked improvement from a couple of years ago when their scores were in the 25-35 range.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Episode 411: Why Preschool Can Save The World

The following is a link to an episode of the program "This American Life", one of the radio stories of Planet Money of National Public Radio in the United States.

"On today's show, we meet a self-described robber baron who decided to spend his billions on finger paint and changing tables. We revisit decades-long studies that found preschool made a huge difference in the lives of poor children. And we talk to a Nobel prize-winning economist who says that spending public money on preschool produces a huge return on investment."

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Practice That Increases Student's Engagement Without High Costs

When learning resources are quite limited, there are practices that can be employed to enhance student's participation in lecture-based classroom. To help students keep their attention during the instruction, previously prepared notes with missing items can be given to students. These notes follow the flow of the lecture but are incomplete. Students are then required to fill in the blanks as the lecture progresses. In this fashion, the student maintains specific goals throughout the lecture. The guided notes serve basically as a list of questions to which students must respond, and the answers or the missing pieces are in the lecture. Moira Konrad, Laurice M. Joseph and Elisha Eveleigh of Ohio State University have performed an analysis of how effective guided notes are in enhancing student learning:
Guided notes basically achieve two goals. First, it provides students with a good template for taking notes. By seeing concrete examples of notes, students are more likely to develop good note-taking skills. Second, by enhancing a student's engagement and attention during lecture, guided notes enhance learning outcomes. The above study pertains specifically to upper elementary and secondary schools. And as the above authors cite:
Guided notes are a low-cost and efficient way to help teachers promote active engagement during their lectures. Heward (in Guided notes: Improving the effectiveness of your lectures. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Partnership Grant for Improving the Quality of Education for Students with Disabilities, 2001) recommends the following steps for creating guided notes. First, teachers should create an outline of the lecture to be presented to students, focusing on the most salient concepts that students need to master. This outline can be created using presentation software (e.g., Power-Point) or overhead transparencies, which the teacher will use to guide the lecture. Next, teachers should create a handout for the students, strategically omitting important information from the outline, leaving blanks for students to fill in as they listen to the lecture. Though students should not need to write lengthy responses, an adequate number of blanks must be distributed throughout the handout to encourage active attending and engagement. Also, there should enough space at each blank so students can record all information provided during the lecture....
Lectures will be part of instruction for many more years to come. Guided notes are simple additions that can make these lectures more effective.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Teachers Want More Funds to Education

NEWS RELEASE October 23, 2012

Teachers Dignity Coalition

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) on Monday hails the declaration from the Budget Department that it has released the funds amounting to P2.68 billion allotted for the construction of school buildings and water and sanitation facilities for public schools. The group believes that such amount could augment the needs of public schools for the improvement of physical facilities.

“While it is quite late, because we are in the final quarter, construction and repair of school buildings, classrooms and toilets could really enhance the learning environment of our children. A place conducive for learning yields better performance.” Said Benjo Basas, a Caloocan City teacher and the group’s national chairperson.

Basas however criticized the government for allotting very little funds for education sector in 2012 and in the proposed 2013 national budget.

“If the government is sincere in its “globally competitive” programs like K-12, there should be more money for education sector. The kindergarten program should have been prioritized.” Basas said.

Basas cited the implementation of the K-12 program which for his group’s belief lacks integral support especially in resources.

“The government is focused on curricular reform, yet the shortage in teachers has reached its historic high. We need basic necessities to attain the ambitious goals of K-12 program, the Aquino government’s flagship program in education.” Basas continued.

While the group appreciates the efforts of the DepEd in improving education performance, it is still critical to implementation of the K-12 program. Last week, House’s education committee overwhelmingly approved the K-12 proposal.

“If we expect the best output, we should also be providing the best input.” Basas ended

Another Letter from a Teacher to a President

"Campaign for Our Public Schools" in the United States launched a call for teachers, parents, students, and concerned citizens to write letters to the government starting with the White House:
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Most of these letters criticize the "Race to the Top" program of the current US administration. Although these letters deal with public school education in the United States, the thoughts expressed in some of these letters are relevant to the Philippines. As an example, I have taken liberty to extract a couple of paragraphs from a letter written by an eight grade language arts teacher in Illinois, Diana Rogers. These sections, in my opinion, apply to the Philippine situation. The people who currently influence Philippine basic education, I think, need to hear and take these thoughts seriously:
...resources have been taken away from public schools and funneled into privately run charter schools that have not been shown to be more successful. Resources that were not available to support public schools suddenly and mysteriously became available to support these corporate enterprises.
People say that throwing money at a problem does not solve it. However, taking money away does exacerbate problems, even if money is not the only thing needed to solve them. The task of educating children takes considerable resources. As a nation it is not only our duty, but it is in our best interests to provide the considerable resources necessary to give all children the opportunity of a good educations. That is why it is a matter of priorities....
...Instead of addressing the many complex problems that contribute to our national education crisis, the problems in education are being blamed on “bad” teachers, while it is said that what we need are “great teachers.” But great teachers and potential great teachers will no longer be willing to serve in the teaching profession if they continue to face the mistreatment and lack of backing that educators are currently experiencing. If you really believe that great teachers can make all the difference, then the government should do all in its power to attract and support great teachers. It should provide them with the aides, resources, class sizes, technology, in-service education, and all other assistance necessary to help them do their job. And it should pay them like the professionals that they are. It should accord teachers respect rather than heaping abuse on them....
Philippine teachers have been saying these. And some students as well. The League of Filipino Students (LFS) recently issued a statement regarding the railroading of K to 12 in the Philippines' House of Representatives. Here are some excerpts:
...The real impetus behind the educational reforms is the interest of giant financial corporations such as Asian Development Bank and World Bank in exchange for loans. This has been cited by Carol Almeda, former president of ACT (Alliance of Concerned Teachers) in a statement denouncing RBEC. DepEd’s thrust for K-12 includes Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) as a main proponent for bringing in private corporations and business into social services, while borrowing money from the ADB... 
...It is indicated under sections 8-10 of the bill that DepEd can allow educators that have not taken formal units in teaching and education, and who are not licensed, provided that they pass LET after five years of initial teaching. Is this a risk we’re willing to take? This move can only prove economical for DepEd as volunteer educators’ wages are a lot cheaper than licensed teachers. Ultimately, this program makes our teachers susceptible to unjust wages, and unjust labor practices. This has been proven with the implementation of the Universal Kindergarten where the grade 1 teachers are compelled to also teach Kinder (due to the lack of teachers) but their salaries remain pinned down to below minimum....
Unfortunately, their calls are ignored:
I don't think the Philippines public school teachers are of the sorriest lot among our country's professionals. Soldiers and policemen who are required to give off their lives in battlefields and most adverse circumstances are paid much less. And so are midwives and nurses who are more physically burdened. The private school teachers are even most disadvantaged: very few have tenures, many extend teaching hours and related work without overtime pay, and I know of some teaching in ma-pormang schools whose salaries and benefits are lower than the janitors, drivers and messengers of my former office. But they make less noise and their dedicated work shows greater internal efficiency. With higher salaries, allowances and other fringe benefits provided by both local and national government, they are the envy of private school teachers and hence, their heavy exodus to the public schools. Based on the patterns of salary increases and rate of radical politicization, public school teachers will continue to complain and cry of poverty even if you increase their salaries five times more. 
-An Education Leader in the Philippine Government

Monday, October 22, 2012

Points of View on the Budget

Here are three views. The first one comes from the Alliance of Concerned Teachers followed by the opinion of the Kabataan (Youth) party list. These two are capped with a brief exchange of views I had on Facebook with someone in the Philippine government.

Explanation of “no” vote on House Bill 6455 
I vote “no” to House Bill 6455, the 2013 General Appropriations Bill, for the following reasons:
Antonio L. Tinio, Representative, ACT TEACHERS Party-List
1. HB 6455 continues the decades’ long trend of prioritizing debt servicing over education, health and sanitation, housing, and other social services. A total of P360.4 billion is allocated to the debt burden, comprising 17.9% of the P2.006 trillion proposed budget. That’s larger than the combined budget for education and health.  The priority given to debt servicing continues to be the main reason for the gross underfunding of social services by government, resulting in the deprivation of basic services to generations of Filipinos.
Even the Department of Education budget, which has the biggest budget among all line agencies at P292 billion, will not be able to provide for the needs, particularly of K to 12, touted as the banner education reform program of this administration.  A mere P1.6 billion is allocated for the universal kindergarten program, which means that the Department of Education will continue to employ over 23,900 volunteer kindergarten teachers with a monthly pay of only P3,000 to P6,000 per month.  How can this administration countenance such gross exploitation of teachers?
2. HB 6455 perpetuates the underdevelopment of domestic industry and agriculture. The Aquino administration continues to look to foreign investment and the overseas labor market as the main drivers of employment. Nowhere is this more evident than in the pitifully inadequate budget of the Department of Trade and Industry, particularly the allocation for Micro-, Small, and Medium Enterprises.  MSMEs account for over 60 percent of jobs generated by the economy annually.  Yet compare the allocation of a measly P1.2 billion for MSME support to the massive P44.3 billion allocation for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program.  Clearly, this administration prefers short-term dole outs over long-term employment and the strengthening of the domestic economy.
3. HB 6455 infringes upon the rights of public sector employees, including teachers and non-teaching personnel, to decent salaries, job security, and collective bargaining.
a. HB 6455 does not provide for a salary increase in 2013. Historically, government has, since the initial implementation of the Salary Standardization Law in 1989, imposed a freeze on salary increases right after the implementation of a round of pay hikes (typically lasting 3 to 4 years but as long as 6 years in the case of the Arroyo administration).  This is unlike the private sector, where the minimum wage is reviewed annually.  We are concerned that the Aquino administration will continue this pattern, resulting in the erosion of salaries and decline in living standards of public sector employees.
b. HB 6455 perpetuates the large-scale contractualization of government personnel providing essential and front-line services. The proposed budget does not provide for the regularization of hundreds of thousands of contractual positions in the bureaucracy.  In the public education sector alone, for instance, there are over 49,000 contractual teachers employed by Local Government Units; over 23,900 volunteer kindergarten teachers employed by the Department of Education, and over 16,000 contractual faculty employed by SUCs.  The Department of Health intends to deploy 22,500 contractual nurses.  In short, over 111,400 contractuals in public education and health alone. The vast majority are grossly underpaid and have no employer-employee relationship with government and are thus deprived of basic benefits.
Hand in hand with contractualization, the proposed budget also maintains a freeze on the hiring of new personnel in many agencies in the name of rationalization.
Notable in this regard is the lack of new plantilla positions for non-teaching personnel in the Department of Education, despite the fact that it will hire 61,510 new teachers next year.
c. HB 6455 further undermines the public sector’s right to unionize and to collective negotiation. Not only does HB 6455 not have a provision on the funding of Collective Negotiation Agreement Incentives, but it also signals the Aquino administration’s intent to, as the President put it, “move away from across-the-board incentives” through the introduction of Performance-Based Incentives, for which P9.97 billion is allocated.  This introduces a competitive model that lets agencies and employees vie against each other for one-time cash incentives.  This is intended to undermine the model of collective negotiation based on solidarity of interests upon which public sector unionism is based.
4. HB 6455 does not have adequate safeguards for the protection of human rights and the ending of impunity enjoyed by human rights violators. The budget can be a powerful tool for influencing policies and behavior in government institutions.  For the past two years, this representation has advocated that the release of certain operational funds of front line units of the Armed Forces of the Philippines be tied to their human rights record.  HB 6455 contains no such provision along these lines.
5. HB 6455 contains lump sum funds at the disposal of the Office of the President. Despite Malacañang’s declared aversion for lump sum funds, the Office of the President has reserved for itself a number of lump sum allocations. A notable example of this would be the P5.0 billion PAMANA fund, a Presidential pork barrel tucked into the budgets of eight agencies, to be dispensed at the discretion of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. 
Official statement of Kabataan Partylist on the passage of the 2013 General Appropriations Bill on third reading in the House of Representatives

A campus journalist once wrote, “Sa ating bayan, tatlo ang panahon – tag-ulan, tag-init, at eleksyon.”
And the election fever has indeed pervaded even the pages of one of the most important pieces of legislation that Congress passes annually – the General Appropriations Bill.
No less than the Aquino administration has branded the P2-trillion national budget for 2013 as an “empowerment budget” that will benefit the people, supposedly targeting the poor and the marginalized.
Yet, as discussions in Congress have revealed, the budget that was passed on third reading today is loaded with more pork, dole-outs, and fat bonuses. It would even be more appropriate to call it an “election budget” which will benefit P-Noy’s coterie of political butterflies, especially those in the ruling Liberal party.
The Department of Education, as expected, will receive the biggest share in the budget among all government agencies. The agency’s P292.7 billion allocation, however, is way below the P334 billion proposed budget that is required for the successful implementation of the K-12 program in the next school year.
The Department of Public Works and Highways will receive the second biggest allocation in the government budget after DepEd, with a total of P152.9 billion. The government dubbed DPWH as the overall agency in charge of all government infrastructure projects, a suspicious move especially as the national elections fast approaches.
At first glance, one might not see anything sinister in this categorization. But we want to ask – did the government centralize all infrastructure projects to one agency to make it more convenient for its cohorts to receive kickbacks from overpriced and anomalous projects? Instead of talking to various line agencies, politicians will now only deal with DPWH.  One agency for the spoils, one-stop-shop for corruption deals.
And it goes more blatant from here. The budget that we are about to pass will allow a “nationwide hiring spree,” as it includes over P60 billion to fund the hiring of over 160,000 new state workers. This only means that, despite the Palace’s repeated denials, the government did unnecessary underspending in the past two years and now has the funds for a hiring binge in time for the elections.
The government doesn’t stop here. The Aquino regime will try to win the people’s votes with additional funds for the Conditional Cash Transfer program. Instead of directly investing in social service programs, the government has decided to expand the CCT dole-out by increasing its allocation in the 2013 budget from P39 billion to P44 billion.
Meanwhile, the PAMANA peace and development program, which is the other less controversial CCT of the government in remote villages, was given a budget of P5 billion compared to this year’s P1.7 billion budget.  While the budget for PAMANA was included in the allocation for several other government agencies, the P5-billion fund remains to be under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process’ control. When we asked OPAPP what is the extent of their role in handling these funds, they said that they will only monitor and provide oversight. Yet the departments with PAMANA allocation are not sure where to use these funds, making it appear that OPAPP will directly control this budget.
The Aquino regime should not brag about this so-called “empowerment budget.” This holds true, even for the budget of state universities and colleges.
Malacanang and DBM should not brag the reported increase in the SUCs budget. The P37.1 billion proposed budget is still grossly insufficient if we consider the total proposal of SUCs for 2013, which adds up to P54.6 billion. What’s more, the P37.1 billion proposed budget is still grossly insufficient if we consider the total proposal of SUCs for 2013, which adds up to P54.6 billion.
The DBM-proposed budget for SUCs is only 67.98 percent of the total requirement of 110 SUCs. DBM data also reveal that the P37.1 billion DBM-approved budget for SUCs next year is actually P17.5 billion less than the actual need of SUCs.
The Commission on Higher Education itself admitted that the budget for SUCs is still insufficient. In a statement released on August 17, CHED Chair Patricia Licuanan said, “The 2013 SUCs budget may not be enough. But it is a substantial increase and is good for now.”
The 2013 national budget marks the height of Aquino’s deception. Padding the budget in a manner which does not address the needs of the poor and the marginalized is not what the youth demanded.
The youth will not accept this cover-up budget. The youth will not accept this electioneering scam. Even with the passage of the 2013 General Appropriations Bill, we will continue the fight for sufficient state subsidy – from the august halls of Congress up to the streets.

A Conversation I had on Facebook

Angel de Dios: In my perspective, education reform cannot take place if we do not address first the plight of teachers. When teachers are preoccupied with fighting for just salaries, I do not think any reform would work at all. No changes in curriculum will help if teachers are unable to support their families. The second point is that curricular reform in basic education requires leadership and direction from higher education. This will not take place without an increase in research productivity. Research must always involve peer review so that the data that will be used to form education reform measures are reliable.

Anonymous: I don't think the Philippines public school teachers are of the sorriest lot among our country's professionals. Soldiers and policemen who are required to give off their lives in battlefields and most adverse circumstances are paid much less. And so are midwives and nurses who are more physically burdened. The private school teachers are even most disadvantaged: very few have tenures, many extend teaching hours and related work without overtime pay, and I know of some teaching in ma-pormang schools whose salaries and benefits are lower than the janitors, drivers and messengers of my former office. But they make less noise and their dedicated work shows greater internal efficiency. With higher salaries, allowances and other fringe benefits provided by both local and national government, they are the envy of private school teachers and hence, their heavy exodus to the public schools. Based on the patterns of salary increases and rate of radical politicization, public school teachers will continue to complain and cry of poverty even if you increase their salaries five times more.

Angel de Dios: Your comment highlights the need for research and data. You and I can provide anecdotes that support our own notions. If we are willing to compare Philippine basic education against those of other countries - we must do the same with teachers' salaries and working conditions.

Anonymous: Oh yes, we have the comparative data not only the pay scale but also the progress towards more bearable working conditions. But we must also understand the fiscal position of our government and the competing priorities which are too many. WE cannot make everyone happy, certainly.

Angel de Dios: The costs of a failed basic education program are serious. It leads to great social inequity. Addressing the education problems is within reach. But the longer the government ignores the right solutions, the worse the problems become. It becomes even more expensive.

Anonymous: I fully concur, Angel. I think the current government is a reforming government that wishes to address that.The K-12 is one such massive and intertwined solution to economic, employment and other social problems. That's why we have decided to invest in it even as we are simultaneously attending to the other problems of basic education. But as much as we would like to move that fast, we cannot due to fiscal and other constraints.

Angel de Dios: As pilot cases, efforts are worthwhile. On a national scale, however, the situation is markedly different. Effort is not enough. The wrong reform will cause serious damage and remediation is close to impossible. Mistakes will make the predicament more costly. Education should not be used as a political football. It must come from the ground, initiated by the teachers, and not dictated by politicians.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Teacher Writes to President Obama

"Living in Dialogue" of Education Week posted a series of letters addressed to the White House that were written by public school teachers. I would like to share in this blog one of those letters. I think the thoughts expressed in this letter are important to consider. A good majority of pupils in the Philippines would easily fit the description of students who have major concerns that are far beyond just learning in the classroom. Thus, it is a must that we listen to our teachers, who are the ones living closest to these poor children.

How Can One Teacher be Both the Best and the Worst? A Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama,
I am a 7th grade writing teacher. I love my school, my job, and my students. Summers are torture to me because I'm out of the classroom. I truly feel I was put on this earth to teach middle school. My job is me and I am my job; the two cannot be separated. After twenty-five years of teaching, walking into my classroom each morning still produces little sparks of excitement within me. I am a lucky, lucky person.
I teach six classes a day in a former-rural-now-bedroom-community near Seattle. My students cross all socioeconomic lines. Some children in my school come from wealthy families and some children in my school are living in cars. Some kids have never known want or need. Some get two of their meals, their supplies, and their clothes, for free, at school.
When I teach my honors class, made up of kids who are gifted and talented, I am the most amazing teacher in the world! The kids hang on my every word. They laugh at my (pathetic) jokes. They pay close attention in lessons, apply their learning directly to their own writing, and ask writerly questions. They strike up conversations about books they've read or movies they've seen. When I ask them questions, like, "What did you do over the weekend?" they give answers about museums, stage productions, sporting events (both their own and professional), music recitals, restaurants, travel, family activities, and events within their well-connected and well-supported social stratum. My job as a teacher is easy and very natural.
In another class, I am the worst teacher on the planet. The kids from that hour are distracted and disengaged. It would appear they've never been in a classroom. They are rude to each other, profess no need for adults like me, and they do not complete their work. Attentions are short. Stories are only funny if it involves someone getting hurt or humiliated. Many have been in fights, been suspended, and have seen the inside of the principal's and counselor's offices many times already this year. If I ask about their weekends, they say they did, "nuthin'." If I refer to a piece of art or a musical or a book, I get blank stares in return. Many spend their lives outside of school unsupervised, so imagine their reactions when they enter a structured environment, like a school, or worse yet, Mrs. Barker's class. My job as a teacher is strained, difficult, and emotionally exhausting.
So what gives? Same teacher, same twenty-five years of teaching experience. Kids from the same town, attending the same school.
Obviously, the variable is the vast differences in my students' lives. We cannot ignore the fact that some kids come to us programmed to learn. They've had amazing experiences in their short lives. They have parents who support their endeavors, be they academic, artistic, or athletic. They do not come to school hungry and they do not go to bed scared. They travel during school breaks. Their houses are warm and their many pairs of shoes fit. My students who live in poverty do not have their basic needs met. In addition to lacking food, shelter, water, and clothing, many live in chaos. Violence, missing parents, low wages, drug use, loss of employment...the list goes on. How can a child focus on crafting a good title or writing an engaging lead when so many forces, out of her control, take center stage in her brain and her psyche? I'm positive you studied Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in your academic years. NOTHING that propels growth can happen in a person's life until those very basic needs are met.
Here's the kicker: none of this is ever an excuse and I'll continue to work one hundred times harder for my students who struggle and live in poverty. I'll go toe-to-toe with them to demand they finish their work, and finish it well. I'll call them in at lunchtime so they can work and eat at the same time. I'll stand strong as they unload the burdens of their brains and hearts, offer them hugs, and then keep pushing because I know education is their only way out. I'll continue to strive to be that adult who is the example, knowing that sometimes all it takes to pull a kid from the cycle is one single grownup who cares.
Truth told, I live for these kids. Most times, I never know where they end up because of the transient nature of their lives. But in those moments, when a 25 year old man knocks on my classroom door and tentatively says, "I'm sure you don't remember me..." and proceeds to apologize for being a little "s--t" in my class and then tells me that he's been accepted to the State Patrol Academy and that he's on his way to having his life in order, I am rewarded. I cry in those moments. I'm sure you understand why.
Ending poverty will end many problems in public education. We are by no means perfect, but when our mission is to take in anyone, no matter their conditions, how could we be? Our great nation has the wealth to make sure kids don't go hungry. We have the money to support struggling families. We put our resources and energy into the things that matter most to us. By today's standards, the United States does not value the well-being and education of all its children.
Proof is in actions, not words or plans to test the life out of children.
Please, be a democrat in the best possible definition. Please return to your idea of hope; it is why I voted for you. Your plan for education runs frighteningly close to that of Governor Romney's and does not allow me to cast my vote for you this time around. You still have time to turn this freighter. All it takes is some honesty and commitment from you, the only one who can reject Race to the Top, the testing culture, the privatization of public schools, and the eventual collapse of what makes our nation greater than any other: a free education for all.
With all the sincerity I can muster,
Shelley BarkerSnohomish, WA

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Congress Railroads K+12 Bill Even As DepEd Admits Lack of Preparation

MANILA – The House of Representatives is at it again.
ACT Teachers party-list Representative Antonio Tinio denounced the House of Representatives for approving House Bill 6643 or the Revised Basic Education Reform Act of 2012 on second reading and without amendments even as several lawmakers were protesting against what they said as the Aquino government’s lack of preparation and commitment to fully fund the kindergarten to grade 12 (K+12) program.
Tinio revealed that during committee and plenary deliberations, the bill’s proponents failed to prove that the Department of Education (DepEd) is ready to effectively implement the entire program. The lawmaker pointed out that the DepEd failed to give acceptable or convincing answers to concerns raised, particularly those involving the perennial problems of teacher/ classroom/ textbook, and other resource shortages.
“For the K to 12 reform program to significantly improve the quality of basic education, it must first solve existing shortages. Sadly, there is no indication anywhere in the bill of the intention to do so,” Tinio said. “With the creation of 61,510 teacher items, the Aquino administration will halve the current teacher shortage but K to 12 proponents failed to show that this en masse hiring will be sustained in the coming years. And how about the other critical resources?”
Tinio argued that the DepEd has not yet fully developed and tested the new curriculum for all the grade levels, including kinder and the additional two years of high school.
During plenary debates on Tuesday, October 16, Tinio argued that the bill’s appropriations clause, a standard provision usually cut-copy-pasted by lawmakers in drafting bills, is insufficient to bind the Aquino and succeeding administrations into fully funding the program.
Tinio said the opposite was the case: the bill’s provisions reveal the intention to let the private sector fill up the gaps in the public education system. He said that more students would be forced to enrol in private schools because public schools would continue to have bloated class sizes, and suffer from a lack of teachers. The government-run schools will also “incentivize” their admission through subsidies such as the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE) program and the voucher system.
Classrooms, on the other hand, will be built through private-public partnership schemes, which have been proven in other countries to be more expensive than public funding in the long run.
“Reliance on these forms of privatization reveals Aquino’s plan to use the K to 12 program to privatize education, make it more prohibitive for majority of Filipino children, and deprive them of their right to accessible education,” Tinio warned.
Tinio feared the K to 12 bill’s hasty approval on final reading once session resumes in two weeks, as its proponents did not consider the valid points he and other lawmakers raised during committee and plenary debates.
Another lawmaker, Kabataan Partylist Rep. Raymond Palatino said the K+12 scheme inherently has “dangers.”
During Palatino’s interpellation in the plenary in October 17, he was able to secure responses from the main proponents of the K+12 bill wherein they admitted that the DepEd is still pilot-testing the curricular reforms for the program.
“My point is this: Why is Congress rushing to pass this bill instead of waiting for the assessment of the pilot-testing?” Palatino said.
Mai Uichanco, secretary general of the League of Filipino Students (LFS), reiterated concerns on the readiness of the government to implement the K-12 program. “There are still issues that need to be resolved — the issues of ample budgeting, issues pertaining to the curriculum, and the overall readiness of the government to jumpstart K+12,” she said. “Rushing the implementation of this program would have dire effects on students. DepEd has yet to address and fill the shortages in the basic education sector, and now they want K+12 to push through even if schools, teachers, and DepEd itself are far from being prepared.”
Several LFS members protested inside the plenary yesterday as Congress was passing the bill via viva voce voting.
For her part, National Union of Students of the Philippines secretary general Issa Baguisi charged that the underlying motive of K+12 was to feed the global need for cheap labor.
“DepEd needs to review the K-12 curriculum. It’s quite possible that the integration of technical vocational courses in high school – instead of teaching students basic subjects they need to contribute to national development – is a move of the government to push more Filipinos to work outside the country as cheap migrant labor,” she said.
Under the K-12 curriculum, students will be taught four preparatory technical vocational courses in Grades 7 and 8. In Grades 9-12, students can choose their specialization, similar to courses offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), which includes aquaculture, tailoring, carpentry, caregiving, and household services, among others.
Palatino argued that curricular reforms are not enough to resolve the high drop-out rates in the high school level.
“The DepEd already decongested the basic education curriculum under the Revised Basic Education Curriculum (RBEC) over a decade ago. Yet, we still have high drop-out rates,” Palatino explained. “If we implement the K+12 program, can we promise those who will graduate under it that they will have jobs immediately after? No, the government cannot promise that. Even college graduates now find it hard to find suitable and good-paying jobs,” he said.
The youth solon said legislators should reconsider their position on the K+12 bill during the third reading, which is expected to take place in November when Congress resumes.
“Adding two more years to basic education translates to added burdens, both on part of the government and the families of students. Two more years of education is tantamount to two more years of torture,” Palatino said. (