mary’s blog

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Who Loses In DepEd’s New Curriculum?

The grade 1 and 2 students?

Why? Because they will be “losing out” on how much fun science is?

This is how science was taught in my school:

  1. The teacher tapes sheets of manila papers full of terms and definitions to the board.
  2. The students scramble for their pencils and start a mad race to see who can finish copying the whole thing first. (If you didn’t do that with your friends, then I’m sorry, but you missed the whole point of being in 1st grade.)
  3. The teacher leads the class in reading and memorizing the list.

After each lesson, I can recite the types of clouds, the five senses, and the six primary colors all in one breath – but ask me to define them in my own words and I’ll be spacing out and wondering what to buy for recess.

You’re probably enraged right now: How dare I belittle science, mindlessly memorizing things! What is this, History class?

Science is special! It’s everywhere! It’s about making and breaking things. Building robots. Mixing colors. Predicting the weather…

And I agree, science is important. But you can only reach this conclusion in hindsight, once you can understand what the words in the manila paper meant.

Young Filipinos don’t have hindsight. They only have a foreign textbook full of foreign words taught by an overworked teacher who thinks that if she can get her students to memorize a list of living vs non-living things, she’s golden.

The DepEd was right in saying that students are bored and nahihirapan with science. Not because Filipinos are stupid or lack curiosity, but because the material is written in a language our kids haven’t even mastered yet.

How can we expect them to appreciate something they don’t understand? Are we hoping our kids would just believe what’s written in the textbook and apply it in their lives?

Thus spake the meteorologist: cirrus clouds bringeth good weather. Nimbus clouds bringeth rain. And whosoever believeth in this shalt not worry about being caught unawares by cloudless rainfall.

— Science Is Fun, Chapter 2 verse 24.

That sounds dangerously close to a religion. I thought science was less about faith and more about verifiable fact?

If you think this kabisote environment will foster “discovery” or “creativity” or whatever romantic notion you’ve attached to science, then you must’ve been from one of those good schools where microscopes weren’t locked behind glass cases and the highlight of your year wasn’t that one time when the teacher got sick and made you watch Sineskwela episodes. (Which, coincidentally were taught in Filipino.)

As for me, I completely understand why DepEd would want to fix the gap between the teaching material and the student’s ability to absorb said material.

Is it the best solution? No. Probably not. They could’ve opted to allow lower grade science to be taught using Filipino, Tagalog, or whatever common language the class can understand (yes, even j3j3m0n). They could’ve reprinted the textbooks. They could’ve replaced normal science with a lab class or nature appreciation class…

Other brilliant and critical minds are probably coming up with good arguments for and against the new curriculum, but if you’re just complaining: “Tinanggal niyo yung science eh ang saya saya nun, napaka-useful nun para sa mga bata, favorite ko nga yun e!” without trying to study the situation, then you’re exactly the kind of person who would’ve benefited from a better understanding of how science works.

And you’re the only one losing out because the new curriculum came too late for you.

Ω

This tall tale is filed under Opinion.

There are 7 reactions to this story, leave yours below?

  1. JC on February 27, 2013

    Removing Science from the curriculum was the wrong thing to do. Leaving things as they were would also have been the wrong thing to do. Currently the public school system sucks and if nothing else this change to the curriculum is a distraction from taking steps that would actually make the school system better.

    I think what the public school system needs is more and better teachers, more and better classrooms and more and better books. Teachers need to be paid more and respected as ones who play an important role in shaping the future of society. Classes need to be taught in the language that the students understand. And care should be taken that students learn and not just get high grades.

    This, I think, is closer to the ideal anyway, short of a total redoing of the whole system. The curriculum change doesn’t address any real problem in education. But I don’t think the Department of Education has the budget to affect the real changes needed anyway. So it should start with actually valuing education in order to make it better.

    • Mary on February 27, 2013

      That’s the easiest answer. Of course “hire better teachers” and “make better teaching materials” and basically “throw money at the problem” is the obvious answer. But is it the most plausible one?

      I think DepEd decided to work with what they have right now, which isn’t nearly enough. Should they fight for greater state subsidy? Yes. But while they’re fighting for the budget for better teachers (good luck competing with offers from private schools), grade 1-2 students are lounging in classrooms failing to appreciate science.

      Much of the success will depend on the execution. Story-telling can be an effective and very low-cost way to break down complex concepts and appeal to a kid’s imagination. If they can integrate science into the english and reading classes well, then it sure beats memorizing things without understanding them. And it sure beats waiting for years for financial support that we all know wouldn’t come.

      I know it offends most of my friends’ sensibilities that science is being treated this way, but most of the opinions so far come from people who have had the advantage of a good education, a good household, or a rich family (or all three). And I bet DepEd wasn’t thinking of you when they changed the curriculum. They’re thinking of the million other students squeezed into 3 shifts and 80:1 student to teacher ratio. They’re thinking of the kids who have to go home after class and help earn money for the family.

      These are the kids who are suffering from the lack of action or change in the system.

      Everyone else can afford a better school or watch cool science videos on the internet.

      But the thing you said about respecting teachers and placing emphasis on education is of course very important and sorely lacking in our government. Sadly, this is not something you can enforce via law. So I also don’t know how that will work.

      • JC on February 28, 2013

        Maybe I should have made it clear that of course I recognize my privilege of having been private schooled in the beginning and of having an Internet connection besides to learn much more from. That has never been far from my mind when thinking about any social issue. My point is that I don’t think removing early Science helps at all. Science, History, and Math are all important subjects but are too easily reduced to rote memorization. I don’t think shuffling the memorization around in the curriculum is any solution.

        Storytelling is better: then turn the Science period into a Nature or Earth Science class. Just stories about animal and plant life diversity, about the one continent and how it broke apart and why there are earthquakes and volcanoes. Removing the dedicated Science period I think is a step in the wrong direction that results in not enough Science exposure. If you think that the revised curriculum can effectively integrate the Science concepts into the other subjects then they could have just fleshed out that integration and turned that into the Science period. If the problem is the memorization then the solution is removing the memorization, not the subject.

        When the people value education more, more funds would have to be allocated for it. I don’t know how effective it could be but a Dept Ed sponsored pro-Education propaganda push could be a way to drive the people to that end. Regularly release news about successful research juxtaposed with poor education conditions. Something like that.

        • Mary on March 1, 2013

          I don’t think shuffling the memorization around in the curriculum is any solution.

          Kids are resorting to memorization because they don’t understand the material.

          Actually, this goes for people of all ages. Not just kids.

          Once you understand what you’re reading, it’s no longer plain memorization. You’re now processing what you read. You might forget the exact terms, but you’ll still be able to remember the concepts and apply them in life.

          Here’s an example. If I asked you to memorize this laboratory rule: “Always add acid to water. Not the other way around.”

          Are you going to remember that five, ten years from now?

          But what if you could be made to understand the why? (1) If water splashes out of the container, it’s safer than if acid splashed on the table/you. (2) The reaction of some strong acids with water can produce a huge amount of energy (ie heat). The excess of water in the receiving container can absorb some of this heat since water has a large heat capacity.

          If you don’t or can’t understand (1) and (2), then you’re going to have to memorize the acid-to-water rule year after year after year until you cause an accident or something.

          This is what DepEd is trying to prevent with our students. They don’t want kids to go to school just to memorize things. They want kids to take classes they can understand and appreciate. So instead of forcing science on unsuspecting grade 1 and 2 students, they plan to sneak it in using stories.

          If the problem is the memorization then the solution is removing the memorization, not the subject.

          The problem is people think that removing the “science” subject means there’s no other way for kids to learn science concepts. But if you listen closely to what DepEd is saying, they actually want to incorporate science concepts in the reading classes.

          So instead of stories about “Bow-wow The Dog” who just chases his tail and says “bow-wow” every other page, the kids will now read stories similar to Munting Patak-Ulan. (If you’ve been hospitalized at the Philippine Children’s Medical Center, you’ll know what I’m talking about.)

          Munting Patak-Ulan is the story of a (prodigal?) raindrop who left his home in the clouds and started on an initially fun, then scary, then lonely journey through rivers, the ground, and trees… until he finally floated back up and found his home again. It’s like a telenovela version of the water cycle. (Which is why I loved it and tired my mom who had to push my wheelchair around the hospital so I can finish the story painted on the walls. Haha)

          If the reading material for grades 1 and 2 will use great stories like MPU, then this is a brilliant move for DepEd. Because in effect, they created a subject that removes the pressure on kids to memorize things AND allows the teacher to sneak in some science concepts.

          —-

          As I’ve said before, DepEd’s solution is not perfect. I also wish they left a science lab “experiential” part, even if it’s just once a week where students can play with mud or grow bean sprouts in a plastic cup without worrying if it’s a monocotyledon or dicotyledon.

          But my point is that the move is not entirely senseless, and I wish some people would see this.

          —-

          Regularly release news about successful research juxtaposed with poor education conditions. Something like that.

          I’m going to bet* that a simple Google search for DepEd research will net you a lot of press releases on advances/experiments in teaching methods. Most government agencies are regularly publishing news. The problem is people (and the media) simply aren’t interested in that kind of information. I guess they can get the DepEd’s Secretary to dance like what DOH’s is doing?

          (*Ok, that bet was sort of a dud. I already knew about the press releases because I came across lots of them while researching for this blog post. :D)

          Also, bati pa rin tayo ah?

          • JC on March 2, 2013

            What you’re saying makes sense to me because you’re actually explaining it clearly and in detail. In comparison, the most that I could find that Dep Ed has said about the matter is We will be integrating topics in other subjects to make the new curriculum more child-friendly. And while you’re basically saying the same thing, Dep Ed just seems to be saying “Science is not child-friendly, we’re removing it”.

            However, given your explanation, I can now see how well it could work at least on paper. A lot of what you’re saying depends on execution though and I can’t find any more elaboration on exactly what Dep Ed is going to do. It looks like the K – 12 site has been updated but still doesn’t mention anything about any Science integration. Also, I just spotted this under the budget FAQ: All input shortages will be wiped out before the end of 2013. A 1:1 ratio for student-to-textbook and student-to-seat will be achieved within the year. Shortages in classrooms, teachers, and toilets will be fully addressed next year.

            I just read that as poof, Gandalf fixes everything.

            Anyway, your explanation has softened my position from “this is completely stupid” to “I really hope they know what they’re doing”. That is, I now think that in theory it could work as you say but in actuality it still depends on many practical things that I don’t think we know about yet.

            About the press releases, I’m sure they do a lot of those but it’s kind of passive in the sense that it’s just hoped that the media picks up on any of it. I’m thinking more of active engagement with the media, negotiating with them and convincing them to help in influencing the public opinion on education. That’s vague, I don’t know exactly what to do there either but it’s something more proactive than publishing press releases.

            Pero siyempre naman bati tayo 🙂

  2. I agree with DepEd’s idea here. Grade 1&2 students will just need to know whats and whys and that can be carried by the non-Science subjects. Teachers can have students write observations about nature or technology during English or Filipino instead of making students construct sentences about Coco Martin. In a way, that’s sort of teaching kids to talk about science rather than showbiz.

    • Mary on March 13, 2013

      Kuya Jerome, I value your opinion so much (kahit nung PRC VP ka pa lang) so I’m glad to know that you agree with the replace-nonsense-topics-with-science-stories part. 🙂

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