Jose Carillo's Forum


Open Forum: The state of education and teaching

This open forum aims to help find ways to develop a better-taught, much better-educated citizenry. You are invited to freely post here your opinions, perceptions, ideas, observations, suggestions, and experiences about education and teaching in the Philippines and in other parts of the world. Of course, you are also most welcome to post a response to any of the postings.

Photo by Luis Liwanag, The International Herald Tribune

Please confine your postings largely to your own views, knowledge, and experience. If you need to cite long references or background material on the web, just send the links to us and the Forum webmaster will take care of setting up the links with the sites you have indicated.

A critique of some commentaries on the Philippine K-12 program
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Note that in my critiques below, the comments of scientists (1 to 3) on the Philippine K-12 program are supported by properly published studies or authorities, whereas those by nonscientists (4 to 8) are not. Note further that the nonscientist authors and cited authorities include prominent people in education, and that these nonscientist authors and cited authorities enjoy wide media coverage. I think this situation explains the present state of Philippine education.  [My comments are in brackets]

A. Views of Filipino academic scientists 

[By definition, academic scientists are defined as those who have made a major contribution or contributions to one’s field as shown by publications in peer-reviewed international journals; that is, in journals covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). You can find that out with Google Scholar.] 

1.  The basic education system of the Philippines faces two major problems: (1) high dropout rates in primary and secondary schools, and (2) lack of mastery of specific skills and content as reflected in poor performance in standard tests for both Grade IV and Grade VIII (2nd year high school) students. Unfortunately, the proposed K+12 curriculum does not directly address these problems. 

Click this link to read the full text: “First things first: A commentary on K+12”

2.  The Philippines has embarked on an enormous P150-billion project—the K to 12—that is set to add as part of the basic education a mandatory kindergarten and an additional two years to the high school. The mandatory kindergarten is not contentious because there is empirical evidence that it does improve learning outcomes. It is the learning outcomes that should concern us here. I still have to see evidence (perhaps I did not look hard enough) that the additional two years of high school will improve learning performance.

Click this link to read the full text: “K to 12: Wasteland”

3.  The controversial K-12 (kindergarten to grade 12) is not really controversial. All commentaries I have read by Filipino academic scientists are not in favor of the new K-12 program (For example,  Science and K+12, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 6 Feb 2012). On the other hand, Filipino authors supporting it are not natural or social scientists (without valid publications or properly published work), regardless of their position (e.g., Group launches program to save RP education , Philippine Daily Inquirer, 28 Jan 2010).

Click this link to read the full text: “K+12 most likely to fail” 

B. Views of nonscientist Filipino educators and cited authors  

[By definition, nonscientist Filipino educators and cited authors are those without any major contribution to one’s field as shown by lack of publications in peer-reviewed international journals; that is, in journals covered in Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI). You can check this with Google Scholar.] 

4.  The central feature of the K to 12 Program is the upgrading of the basic education curriculum to ensure that learners acquire the relevant knowledge and skills they will need to become productive members of society… With the participation of the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the program has the capability of offering professionally designed classes and apprenticeships in sports, the arts, middle-level skills, entrepreneurship, and applied math and sciences. [Note that officials of CHED and TESDA are not academic scientists.]

Click this link to read the full text: “The K to 12 curriculum: Our first step to recovery”

5.  Meanwhile, Brother Armin remains upbeat, saying “Genuine reform needs at least a generation to take root. We’ll just have to be happy with being part of planting the seed.” [Commentaries by academic scientists, however, show that this planted seed will either not grow or has been planted in infertile soil.]

Click this link to read the full text: “Building a literate society”

6.  The delay (referring to the implementation of the K-12 system) has already caused considerable damage. The truncated basic education cycle exerted a perverse effect on the entire educational system… Filipino students, while studying more, were learning less because they were not getting enough time to master basic concepts. 
[The above claims, however, are not supported by properly published studies or authors.] 

Click this link to read the full text: “Returns on higher education”

7.  Adding two years to the present 10-year basic education cycle is “an absolutely essential reform” to put the country’s public education system at par with the rest of the world, an international education expert said on Wednesday… “I actually don’t see how people can disagree with it,” said Shaeffer before an audience of top Philippine education officials and representatives from various schools. 
[This so-called international expert has only 2 SSCI published paper; none in SCI. He did not cite any properly published study or author, just like others who have made commentaries supporting the Philippine K-12.] 

Click this link to read the full text: “K+12 program ‘absolutely essential,’ says expert”

8.  Department Order No. 74, issued in 2009, institutionalized mother tongue-based multilingual education (MTBMLE) as a fundamental policy in our formal and non-formal education… the Department of Education has decided to use the L1 as medium of instruction in all kindergarten and Grade 1 classes nationwide effective June 2012 under the new K-12 curriculum… This is precisely what the 2nd Philippine Conference-Workshop on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education aims to inculcate in us… The keynote speakers are international literacy consultant Dr. Kimmo Kosonen and our very own Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo. 

[The keynote speaker has only 2 SSCI and no SCI published papers; the other speaker has none. See also commentary 1.]

Click this link to read the full text: “A sense of where we are” 

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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Uncrowding the college curriculum
By Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer

One of my pet peeves about tertiary education in the Philippines, and this includes the most prestigious private schools, is the combination of paternalism and the one-size-fits-all approach that results in a severely overcrowded curriculum. I’m all for general education and well-rounded graduates, but the intent is not matched by the results. It’s hard to be substantially well-rounded if you spend far more time listening to lectures than poring over an intensive reading list. In advanced countries, four courses a semester is a full load, and five is crowded. In the Philippines, six or seven per semester is the rule.

The K+12 educational reform should help address the problem somewhat by removing the need for remedial courses in the first two years, for otherwise most Philippine colleges offer the equivalent of a high school diploma in an advanced country plus the lower tier of disciplinary requirements in foreign universities. But even the elite private schools with students who have the equivalent of foreign high school preparation have diluted curricula due to the emphasis on superficial comprehensiveness over depth and substance. One solution to this is to insist on a high minimum standard of skills, but to give students more flexibility in how they demonstrate competence. Areas of competence should include:

(1) rigorous language and writing skills
(2) mathematical analysis
(3) historical analysis and cultural awareness
(4) scientific literacy

The student should be able to demonstrate any of these by passing a competency exam with or without taking courses, so as to exploit individual strengths obtained either by initiative or from prior experience. If a student feels weak in any of these areas, then he or she should be able to select a course tailored to his or her interests that conveys the necessary information and skills. This would then allow deeper treatment of fewer subjects in actual course work, including longer and richer reading lists in the humanities and more advanced material in scientific and engineering courses.

Follow-through by Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer (March 28, 2012):

As a follow-up to my previous post, I thought I’d qualify what I wrote by stating that I never went to college in the Philippines, so I lack a first-hand perspective on the situation. When I graduated from high school in Manila back in 1976, I had two full scholarships to go to a local university, but I was also offered a scholarship to a technical university in the U.S. and so I opted to go abroad instead. However, I do recall intensively comparing the course catalogues of several schools both in the Philippines and abroad, and drew my conclusions from that experience. I also spent one U.S. summer teaching half a semester at the Ateneo, and also touring different institutions in the University Belt (including sitting in on various classes) together with two of my faculty colleagues. Over the years, I have continued to look with interest upon the Philippine education scene, with the help of the Internet.

An issue that I did not address in my original post in this discussion thread is the high cost of books in the Philippines relative to incomes, especially those not printed on cheap newsprint by local publishers. Perhaps this is a major obstacle to raising the quality of Filipino college curricula, as it may be very expensive for students to purchase large batches of reading material as is done at foreign universities, especially in intermediate courses in the humanities. Maybe this is why institutions would rather rely on more classes with lectures than fewer courses with more reading and small group discussion.

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A guide to the research process and to a career in academia

Shared by Peter Harris, new Forum member (March 30, 2012):

The dissemination of research results and findings is an integral part of both the research process and the career in academia. For more details just check this pdf:

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Lone scientist in DOST has resigned
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Pagasa chief retires early
(Philippine Star, March 15, 2012) 

Undersecretary Graciano Yumul has opted for early retirement from public service, effective March 12, an official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) announced yesterday.  The reason for the resignation was not clear.

Retirement, resignation?  At 52 years old?  I hope Jun Yumul is in good health.   

Amid such pleasant news as the following, 

“Philippines seen to finally make investment grade” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mar 28, 2012), 
“Philippines used Japan aid well, says envoy” (Philippine Star, Mar 28, 2012), and 
“Historic first: Tourist arrivals hit 400K in January” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, Mar 28, 2012), 

it was really sad to hear that the only scientist in the country’s S&T department had to resign. 

When Usec Yumul resigned, he was the only properly published of the DOST’s seven top officials. The rest have not made any contributions to their respective fields; that is, no valid published works. This statement can be verified with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge, or with the freely accessible Google Scholar and Science Citation Index (SCI) or Social Sciences Citation Index.

Jun Yumul has 51 ISI-indexed publications, 27 as lead or first author, in 15 different journal titles. They include 24 SCI-indexed papers, 11 as sole or first author, in 9 journal titles. 

He is easily one of the best published in the entire University of the Philippines. I hope he would return to UP Diliman, train more future Filipino scientists, and continue promoting public understanding of science. This social responsibility of scientists is urgently needed by our government leaders, media people, and general public.  

His replacement as undersecretary for research and development at DOST is UP’s Dr. Amelia Guevara. Although with less published papers, she is now the only scientist among senior officials of our S&T department. 

On 1 Aug 2010, I posted in PhilScience, “How the President can fulfill the Philippine dream.”  It said in part, “If the current crisis is to yield… enviable models for scientifically driven economic advance, scientists with research experience and applicable ideas must speak out so the new administration can hear.”

Click the indicated link to read more of that post as excerpted in “Cory, Ninoy and Noynoy” by Domini Torrevillas (Philippine Star, August 03, 2010).

I don’t tire repeating, “Scientists who mute their voices to avoid irritating colleagues do not help the overall science program.” (Dan Koshland Jr., Editor-in-Chief emeritus, Science 259:1379, 1993)

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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Philippine science: “Time for a fresh start”
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

This week’s Nature editorial (“A Russian renaissance?”) gives some ideas on how to reform Philippine science. Think of the Philippines while reading it:

“Vladimir Putin’s promise to increase research spending is welcome — but his country’s scientific system needs a complete overhaul.

“If science is to have a constructive role in shaping Russia’s future, Putin must tackle these problems as forcefully as possible. Economists say that a key test of his leadership will be how far he is prepared to go to reform the economy; his agenda should also include kick-starting overdue scientific reform. Rather than relying on the advice of an exclusive inner circle of buddies and dignitaries, as he has in the past, Putin should set up a truly independent scientific advisory council, ideally involving foreign scientists, to guide him through the necessary changes. Russia’s partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, which will help to set up a new research university in Skolkovo, near Moscow, is a first step in that direction. The creation of a well-funded granting agency for university research, with transparent and fair procedures, would be a perfect sequel.” (Full text at Nature 15 March 2012)

In 2007, another editorial in Nature (4 Oct 2007, “Time for a fresh start”) describes the state of science in Russia. Reading it reminds one of the state of science in the Philippines. I paraphrased the editorial—inserting Philippine conditions where appropriate—and wrote a piece to describe the state and problems of science in the country. It was posted as “Philippine science: Time for a fresh start” in 2008.   

Fifty years after putting up an S&T agency (DOST) and 30 years after putting up a national science academy (NAST), the Philippines has yet to find a scientific system that is anything close to meeting its twenty-first century needs.

The academy’s measurable scientific output is in decline, and yet many (perhaps most) of its members are stubbornly opposing all proposals for reform, whether they emanate from the academy itself or from outside. For example, the publications data of Filipino biologists in the attached table shows a clear picture of the serious problem (at links above).

Getting scientific papers published in international journals, for example, is essential for researchers from Boston to Beijing. But at most government science agencies and organizations they don’t care about publication lists and impact factors, and many researchers regard as impertinent the idea that research careers should depend on papers in “foreign” journals. The very notion of international peer review is still not accepted by the old guard.

All this must change. The academy needs to make sure that the limited funds are allocated, in a competitive and transparent way, to the best groups and projects in each field. This is even more important that public research spending is increasing. And with the absence of stringent quality-management, the extra money is likely to dissolve in nepotism and ill-reviewed projects.

A thorough evaluation of the entire science enterprise, to be done by respected scientists from here (many of them are listed in the table) and abroad, would be the best way to commence modernization. Further neglect of reform will cement only the academy’s decline into mediocrity or obsolescence, and foster yet more emigration of young talent. 

See full text and table of Filipino scientists in biological sciences at links given above. Out of the 53 scientists that made the cutoff in biological sciences in 2008, 25 were from SEAFDEC Philippines and 11 from UP Marine Science Institute.  Nine National Scientists in biological and related fields did not make it to the list. (March 16, 2012)

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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Climate change: What more can science organizations do?
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

From global terrorism and the spread of disease to the dangers of global warming, we are increasingly facing the sorts of threats for which governments everywhere will need to turn to their scientists.—“The scientific impact of nations,” Nature, 15 July 2004 

Perhaps no other problem in this century threatens us more, in magnitude of destruction and death, than climate change. From the impacts of climate change alone—e.g., typhoons, floods, landslides—we have seen manifestations of their increasing frequency and damage, with the government still unprepared. And to think that yet to come are its impacts on food production systems (agriculture and fisheries), communicable diseases, displacement, migration, etc. Our underdevelopment, persistent poverty, and archipelagic conditions make the Philippines even more vulnerable. 

The scientists referred to are the researchers—in natural and social sciences, engineering, technology, and math—who produce information, which can be useful information in the form of knowledge if research is done properly; hence, the importance of doing research properly (see Fig. 1 in a talk of mine on “Doing research for development”).

In addition to producing information/knowledge, scientists also have the social responsibility to disseminate useful information (through community service), and to use it for development programs, education, policy-making, etc. Together with research, they are what we call R&D (Fig. 2 in “Doing research for development”).

An important role of science organizations is promoting R&D. Consider research first. In their annual scientific meetings or conferences, most of our science organizations are unaware that study results are presented for two reasons: (1) to inform the audience, and (2) to invite respected scientists in the audience to comment on the presented paper (preliminary peer review). 

Comments improve the manuscript before submission to a chosen primary journal. This crucial step—submitting research manuscript to peer-reviewed international journal—ensures proper publication. Such journals have two important features: adequate peer review of the manuscript and wide accessibility for peer verification of published results. 

Otherwise, research is not completed; or, if published elsewhere—e.g., conference proceedings, Philippine journals, institutional reports, or newsletters—and are not adequately peer reviewed, the research output is just gray literature (as seen in Fig.1). This is the kind of research paper that’s largely published in the country (see my paper on “Continuing problems with gray literature”).

Science or professional organizations also have an important role in disseminating and using scientific information, the second part of R&D or development phase (seen in Fig.2). An example is promoting public understanding of science or of climate change.  Program success will be easier the better the research track record of the organization’s membership; that is, whether the majority of the members are properly published.       

Recently, concerned members of The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service (TOWNS) launched an “information caravan” on climate change to deliver relevant scientific information to local government units. Among our top scientists in the group are Helen Yap of UP Diliman Marine Science Institute and Jurgenne Primavera of SEAFDEC in Iloilo. (Rina Jimenez-David reported on this in “A compact for growth” in the March 7, 2012 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.) 

My only concern is that in many group activities in the country, a common practice is making group decision by majority rule to settle opposing views (“Democratic governance impedes academic reform”).

A likely problem arises on how to agree with research and science issues, when the properly published scientists in the group are a minority. But confronted with the increasing threats of devastation from changing climate, I think it is possible for such a group discussing such issues to come to a useful conclusion—and ensure program success. I trust Jurgenne, Helen, and the rest of TOWNS will see this through. And show the government leaders and media people the need to turn to scientists when dealing with important national problems.  

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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Propagating errors, Perpetuating Mediocrity
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Our problem with errors in basic education textbooks is just one of the problems of basic education, which are still getting worse. The reason: they are just effects -- symptoms -- of the poor state of higher education.  This has been shown in many studies abroad on education reform, and posted in this forum. Let me show an example of a higher education problem, also with books,

Recently, my attention was called to an article by professor Michael Tan, a dean in UP Diliman and Inquirer columnist, about Filipino books (Inquirer, 25 Nov 2011). He says in part: “Paging professor emeritus and marine scientist Flor Lacanilao and his e-group, which has been complaining about the lack of scientific journal publications. I think something has to be done as well about writing natural science books for the public. Look at the awards given out for this category in recent years. In 2003 there was “Fishes of the Philippines” by Genevieve Broad. (It took a British Volunteer to produce that much-needed book.)  No awards were given in 2004 and 2005. In 2006 the winners were “A Guide to Families of Common Flowering Plants in the Philippines” and  ”Introduction to Complementary and Alternative Medicine.” In 2007 it was “Living with Nature in Our Times” and in 2008 it was “Diabetes is BitterSweet.” After two years without awards, Grace Reyes’ “Watersheds Sheltering Life” made it this year.”

Further, Michael Tan says, that in medicine, “so far, only three books have received awards:  
“The Healing Cut: Filipino Surgeons Write about Human Drama” edited by Maria Socorro Naguit (2000), “The Truth About Coconut Oil” by Conrado Dayrit (2005), and “Bone Tumors in Filipinos” by Edward Wang and Ariel Vergel de Dios (2007).  There have been no National Book Awards for medicine since then.”

First, I am not a professor emeritus.  

Second, the problem pointed out is the lack of science books rather than their poor quality. 
Third, we can’t promote “writing natural science books for the public” when there is “the lack of scientific journal publications” by our academics -- in the same way, “It is doubtful that great progress can be made at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at the post-secondary level.” (Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate in physics.)

Fourth, the poor quality of the books says a lot about the authors and the award panels. 

Fifth, book awards in science should be decided by a panel of academic scientists, following internationally accepted criteria. 

Now, examine the 9 award-winning books. 
First, the British Volunteer author of the first book mentioned does not have any valid published work in SCI-indexed journals. 

Second, among the Filipino authors and editor of the remaining 8 books, you will hardly find anyone published in at least 3 different SCI-indexed journals, as sole and first author.

Third, only Edward Wang (University of Illinois, etc.), the lead author of “Bone Tumors in Filipinos” is well published. 

Finally, with Google Scholar or PubMed, find out the truth about the much-publicized virgin coconut oil, featured in Conrado Dayrit's book, ”The Truth About Coconut Oil” (read, Assessing the reliability of herbal products  and  Research on medicinal plants). 

The problems with Philippine science books are reflections of the country's system of higher education. In Reforming Philippines Science, we say: A culture has developed wherein improper practices are accepted as the norm. The CHED and DOST give grants to non-publishing researchers and do not expect peer-reviewed publications from them. Without significant track-records in research and proper publication, they train future scientists, evaluate research proposals, sit in awards committees, and become higher education and science administrators.

We also noted in the book that there are notable exceptions—individuals who have done world-class research and published books. They are from our leading R&D and academic institutions, in which research and proper publication have become part of the cultural norm. To us, it is not a triumph but a tragedy that they are so few.  Below are examples.

Field guide and atlas of the seaweed resources of the Philippines: Volume 2, (2004). 261 p. Gavino Trono of the UP Mar Sci Inst

Handbook of the Mangroves of the Philippines – Panay (2004). 106 p.  Jurgenne H Primavera et al. of SEAFDEC Iloilo.

Nutrition in Tropical Aquaculture, (2002). 221 p.  Oseni Millamena et al., (eds.) of SEADEC Iloilo.

Selected Essays on Science and Technology for Securing a Better Philippines, (2008). Gisella Concepcion, Eduardo Padlan, and Caesar Saloma (eds.) of UP MSI and UP Nat'l Inst Phys.

There are many more science books by well-published scientists from SEAFDEC Iloilo and MSI (site unavailable now). 

The quality and integrity of a science book depends on the authors track record in research. They also depend on the quality of the bibliography added to the book. Hence, a book or article by unpublished or poorly published author(s), and citing largely gray literature and unpublished papers/reports, are propagating errors rather than reliable information (see Continuing problems with gray literature). 

Information produced from research is disseminated by academics to students and the public; and by the media people and the internet. The quality and validity of the information decide the state of education, public literacy, development programs, and policy-making—all of which in turn will determine the country’s development, or underdevelopment, through propagating errors and perpetuating mediocrity. (See also, Problems with media and scientists  or at,

Hence, the collaborative role of academic scientists and science-literate media people is crucial in promoting public understanding of science and reforming Philippine education system. 

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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The Ant and the Eagle: Rizal and Philippine Education
By Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer

Some time ago, my son gifted me a book on Philippine history that rekindled my interest in the national hero, Jose Rizal. And so, for the first time since high school, I read both the Noli Me Tangere and its sequel, El Filibusterismo. I did so with entirely new eyes, the eyes of one who, like Rizal, had been educated abroad, published books and scientific articles, and learned the histories and languages of foreign countries. What a revelation it was to read Rizal after so many years! The version I read was the classic English translation by Charles Derbyshire, complete with historical preface—a preface that I found illuminating despite having to filter out Derbyshire’s self-serving tendency to see in Rizal a justification for the brutal pacification of the Philippines by the United States. 

When I first encountered Rizal’s novels, I was required to read them in a literary Tagalog vastly different from the familiar language of the streets. In retrospect, I doubt whether I and my cohort of then teenagers were equipped to appreciate the biting sarcasm of Rizal, let alone the various literary, cultural, and historical allusions that permeated his works. Although Rizal was the foremost of Filipino nationalists, he wrote his novels from a transnational perspective that transcended the limited world of the Filipino village. It is precisely because he wrote in Spanish, a language with a firm literary tradition and historical consciousness, that he could express reality on the scale of civilization, unfettered by parochialism. It was fascinating for me to discover that Rizal even chose English as the medium of instruction for the school he founded while in exile in Dapitan. This from the man who said, “Ang hindi nagmamahal sa sariling wika ay masahol pa sa malansang isda (He who does not love his native language is worse than a rotting fish).”

This brings me to the main lesson of my reencounter with Rizal. Filipino education, as I have experienced and observed it, tends to view things from the perspective of the ant, whereas Rizal saw things from the perspective of the eagle. We Filipinos tend to collect knowledge in the same way we build our barung-barongs—haphazardly, like so much loose change. For example, Filipino college curricula are overcrowded with cafeteria-style survey courses without depth or organizing worldview. I remember a visit to the University of Santo Tomas that was arranged for me by my scientific colleagues, wherein I witnessed circumstances not vastly different from those described in El Filibusterismo, specifically the chapter entitled, “The Class in Physics.”

If we are to progress as a nation, we need to go beyond the temporal and spatial scales of the village to the scales that mark civilization. Let us by all means develop Filipino as our national language. But let us also recognize that the Filipino, like his model Rizal, is at his best when he is also a citizen of the world. (December 31, 2011)

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The need for information caravan on climate-change vulnerabilities

Forum member Dr. Flor Lacanilao furnished the Forum a copy of this letter from Prof. Helen T. Yap of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute to her fellow scientists and colleagues regarding the country’s need for a no-nonsense information campaign on climate change, vulnerability of human settlements, and adaptation:

December 21, 2011

Dear TOWNS* sisters and colleagues in science,

As one thinks beyond the immediate urgency of the current situation in northern Mindanao and parts of the Visayas, it is really high time to put long-term measures in place.

During casual conversations with colleagues at the Marine Science Institute, it has already been clear for a long time that certain geographic areas in our country are/were “disasters just waiting to happen.” One that was specifically mentioned, in fact, was Cagayan de Oro.

I know for a fact that my colleagues in the sciences have been very unselfish and untiring in their information campaigns by holding seminars, not only with fellow academics but also local government officials and other sectoral representatives.

Now that major, even unthinkable disasters have ravaged the whole length of our archipelago, from north to south, it is really high time for all citizens, especially those in high places and who are well-connected, to get together and put long-term measures in place. One question that begs an answer is, How come the warnings of our scientists habitually go unheeded? What is wrong, really? (What is wrong with our government, our government departments?)

An immediate project that TOWNS can embark on is an information “caravan” that will target strategic destinations in the archipelago, particularly those that have suffered from natural disasters combined with the inadequacies of our system—e.g., Isabela, Central Luzon, the Marikina Valley, the Bicol Region, Panay Island, and now Northern Mindanao, just to name a few. Not only the local officials should be engaged but also the citizens on the ground, because it is they who are most affected (as we are sadly witnessing, yet again).

Among highly qualified TOWNS sisters active in this area are Laura David, Alyssa Alampay, Hilly Roa Quiaoit (the latter, I understand, is now acting President of Xavier University and is leading the relief effort there).

Just a small addendum: One can talk about relocating people who live in vulnerable areas, but they need help in this—they need new settlements, new sources of livelihood.

On this rather sad note, may I wish everyone the best for this season, however one can manage.


*TOWNS is the acronym for The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service, awards presented every three years to Filipina women ages 21 to 45 for excellence in their respective lines of work and “who have contributed positively to strengthening national capability and in shaping the nation’s future.”

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Report on higher education’s role in adapting to a changing climate

In response to the call of Prof. Helen T. Yap of the University of the Philippines’ Marine Science Institute for greater climate change awareness among Filipinos (“The need for an information caravan on our climate-change vulnerabilities),” Dr. Flor Lacanilao would like to share this March 2011 report on the climate commitment of the American College & University Presidents. 

Here’s the introduction and executive summary of that report:


Executive Summary

Climate change poses serious threats to human civilization, yet it offers opportunities to create a better future. Colleges and universities face clear and growing risks from climate disruption, and it is critical that presidents, trustees and those with fiduciary responsibility for these institutions be aware of these risks. Addressing these risks can provide the opportunity to recreate institutions of higher education for the 21st century, equipping them to be safe and secure in the face of change, more actively engaged in solving real-world problems, and reorganized to better provide the education and research needed to create and maintain a sustainable society.

This report, prepared by the Higher Education Climate Adaptation Committee — a group of experts and institutional leaders convened and coordinated by Second Nature in support of the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) — finds that higher education institutions:

1. Have a critical role to play in preparing society to adapt to the impacts of climate disruption by providing research and education around adaptation strategies and science.

2. Need to increase their curricular offerings on climate adaptation, both through mainstreaming the information in core courses and offering electives that specialize in the topic.

3. Face direct risks to their operations and infrastructure from the impacts of climate disruption.

4. Have the unique opportunity to role-model solutions in their own operations.

5. Can serve as “hubs” in their local communities for creating, testing, and disseminating knowledge about regional climate projections and adaptation strategies, and should work directly with their local communities to explain the science and implement solutions.

6. Should acknowledge the inequitable distribution of climate impacts across populations, with low income and communities of color being in most need.

7. Should aim to identify adaptation strategies that also contribute to mitigation efforts.

8. As a whole, have not focused on adaptation sufficiently to date.

Higher education has taken a leadership role in climate mitigation — that is, preventing climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It now must take the lead in climate adaptation — that is, preparing for and responding to impacts of climate change.

Updates to curricula across a diverse range of disciplines will be key to addressing climate adaptation to ensure professionals understand the impacts of climate change and the best practices for responding to them.

By providing cutting-edge scientific and social scientific research, higher education has already made fundamental contributions to climate adaptation efforts by identifying the most pressing climate impacts — but there is still a large, and growing, need for additional research, especially related to (a) very localized questions regarding specific ecosystems and (b) specific communities, especially in relation to the most vulnerable populations in our society.

Campus operations and infrastructure are vulnerable to climate disruption and senior administrators, trustees, planners, and facilities professionals need to be familiar with the financial and safety risks posed. Institutions have opportunities for experimenting and role-modeling adaptation solutions for the rest of society in campus operations.

Colleges and universities have begun collaborating with local communities on climate adaptation efforts providing expertise and additional capacity. They have the opportunity to serve as “hubs” in their communities on adaptation issues and help their regions prepare for the impacts brought on by climate disruption.

Examples of how institutions are approaching climate adaptation in each of these four areas — curriculum, research, operations and risk management, and community engagement — are provided below.

The report recommends that college and university presidents, trustees and other senior administrators, particularly business officers, take a proactive approach to climate change adaptation, including the following actions:

1. Understand the expected impacts of climate disruption in their region.

2. Conduct an analysis of what financial and human health and safety risks these impacts pose to the institution.

3. Identify and prioritize strategies for reducing these risks that whenever possible also contribute to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions, and integrate those strategies and actions into the institution’s climate action plans and campus master plan.

4. Evaluate academic offerings on climate adaptation and expand as needed to ensure all graduates have a sufficient understanding of the risks and how to address them in their personal and professional lives.

5. If applicable, evaluate research activities and pursue opportunities for generating new knowledge that will help society adapt to climate disruption.

6. Engage leaders in local communities in a dialogue to identify opportunities for the institution to provide education, research, and pilot projects on adaptation; and for larger projects that can be pursued in collaboration to improve the resiliency of the region’s infrastructure, energy systems, water system, food systems, and transportation systems.

7. Take leadership in assuring that communities in the institution’s region have access to credible, informative science, and that access is extended particularly to communities that are likely to be most impacted by the effective of climate change.

Given the scale and urgency of the threats posed by climate change to every aspect of our society we issue a call to action for all colleges and universities in the country to address the challenges of climate adaptation by explicitly recognizing the need to adapt to the changing climate and taking steps to prepare society to do so through education, research, operations, and community engagement efforts.

Click this link for the Full Text of the Report

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Put the right people in charge of Philippine higher education
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao, PhD

This is a review of some issues I have discussed related to higher education. Although some have asked why I often repeat what is already said, I remind those in science that I repeat only what is important, for emphasis, like in a scientific article. Here, the principal result is often mentioned five times. It is usually made the Title of the article, stated in the Abstract, Introduction, and Results sections, and explained in the Discussion

My concern is the ignored issues in Philippine education reform, which should start with higher education. Studies have shown that “It is doubtful that great progress can be made at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at the post-secondary level.” 

Key to any reform is to put on top position the right person: in the CHED, universities, colleges, departments, and graduate programs. Violation of this widely accepted practice is prevalent in the country. 

In a previous post, I mentioned that in the University of the Philippines-Diliman, the country's premier university, only 2 of its 22 deans are adequately published in leading ISI-indexed journals; 12 have no such publications, so too are the five top officials of CHED.

Of the seven autonomous universities of the UP System, only chancellor Caesar Saloma of UP Diliman is well published, with over 100 SCI-indexed papers. Three chancellors have each only 1 or 2 such publications, and the three others have no published papers indexed in SCI, SSCI, or AHCI (defined below).

Only those who have made major contributions to one’s field deserve top academic positions. To assess if one has such a record, search with Google Scholar for a list of published works and number of citations (which measure their quality and impact). Count only the papers published in respected ISI-indexed journals -- that is, those covered in Science Citation IndexSocial Sciences Citation Index, or Arts & Humanities Citation Index.

You can get the same data easier and faster with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge, but this requires subscription. This database gives already-selected journal papers as described above. 

Such journals are accepted worldwide as sources of reliable information. They contain valid publications or properly published studies, which define the persons to trust for academic and other functions. 

Failure to observe a performance-based evaluation process is the reason for the deteriorating condition of our educational system. I have reviewed the problems in Philippine higher education (Google search or click Basic problems in Philippine science and higher education), and they can be summarized thus: 

Putting in more money has been the usual answer to address problems. A review, however, does not point to the lack of funding as the reason. It is the failure to attend to the basic causes and needs—like putting the right people in charge.

Data show that, whereas billions of pesos were spent on various “innovative” programs and to increase the country’s researchers to 7,500 in the last 3 decades, the overall research output has become worse—increased number but lower quality. The programs also produced increasing number of poor mentors and decreasing overall quality of graduates. 

What can be done with the present situation?

(a) Review Democratic governance

This is based on the idea that two heads are better than one. But in research, for example, only a minority of researchers are properly published and fully understand how research affects human development. It is therefore advisable for published researchers to spend part of their professional time and effort to reading and thinking about the benefits of research.

Such extra effort would enable them to be more convincing in discussions and influence group decisions for academic reform. Further, it would also make them more confident to use their expertise in debates on national issues. 

As it is, debates on science-related issues and education in the country have been dominated by nonscientists who give personal opinion rather than study-based comments—and usually without any useful conclusions. 

All these partly explain why increasing number of neighbor countries have been leaving us behind, in education, S&T, and national progress.

(b) A related concern is to focus on Problems preventing academic reforms

“America’s huge economic success comes from innovation, which is fueled by its research enterprise. And this in turn is driven by graduate education.” This reminds us of a university’s role in social and economic transformations.

It is important for properly published faculty members to have majority control of decision-making bodies. Opposition to this kind of change will come largely from those unpublished in ISI-indexed journals. Such resistance has reduced the gains in some activities and has delayed overall reform,

Strong, visionary leadership and bold actions will decide UP’s development into a research university, to live up to its name as the National University, and to assert its leadership in producing new knowledge, reforming education in the country, and building a nation. 

UP can still aim to be in the top 100 universities in Asia and the world’s top 500 (see Academic Ranking of World Universities). And we can hope to hear again that Centennial catchphrase, this time not as propaganda, but as an honest, well-deserved acknowledgment from the entire nation—UP, ang galing mo!

Dr. Flor Lacanilao obtained both his BS and MS in Zoology from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and his PhD, with specialization in comparative endocrinology, from the University of California at Berkeley. He served as professor and chairman of the Zoology Department at UP Diliman and chancellor of UP Visayas. He made pioneering discoveries in neuroendocrinology and led the research group that achieved the first spontaneous breeding of milkfish in captivity.

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In the beginning in this Forum...

Below are the postings previously being discussed in the Forum. You are most welcome to respond to any of the postings made so far or to post an entirely new topic of your own. Do share with us your thoughts on how honest-to-goodness education and teaching reforms might be achieved in our country.

Tonybau, a medical doctor and former PTA president, paints a bleak scenario of overcrowding, teacher overload and lack of qualified teachers, lack of basic facilities like clean water and libraries, and malnutrition among pupils in his city’s public high school. He then advocates a total overhaul of the educational system that “continues to churn out students, majority of [whom] are products of an environment where teachers are there only to earn their keep.”

Florlaca, a retired university professor and department head with a master’s in zoology and a doctorate in comparative endocrinology, vigorously proposes that improving research performance is essential to real academic reform. He says that publications that meet internationally accepted criteria are the best indicator of research performance and of competence to do other academic work as well. We still have to hear a response to this from academe or from education officials.

Arvin Ortiz, a student-writer, points out that while some professors consider Wikipedia as an unreliable source for students’ research papers and theses, some PhDs in the Philippines have actually cited Wikipedia as a source for the textbooks they have written. What gives?

Penmanila, creative writing institute director and English professor at the University of the Philippines, notes that teachers of English in the Philippines have such a weak command of the English language themselves, and wonders how their English can be improved. He asks: Do seminars and things of that sort really help?

Madgirl109, who describes herself as “just another struggling Filipino worker in Japan,” gives a first-hand view of the problems and opportunities of Filipinos working in Japan. For them to improve their job and income prospects in Japan, she says, they need to become more proficient not only in English but in Nihongo as well.

Meikah, who used to be a university instructor but now works as a web education professional, believes that education and teaching in the country have gotten from bad to worse. She says college students lack comprehension skills because their teachers in grade school and high school had made no effort at all to help them understand or teach them how to understand their lessons.

Maudionisio says that to foist the myth of “one nation, one language,” the Philippine government massively brainwashed elementary pupils in the 1960s to think that the national language was Pilipino, and that the other languages spoken by Filipinos in the other regions were simply dialects. He contends that this brainwashing has not been undone, so some of those pupils—now grown up—still erroneously refer to the various Philippine languages as “dialects.”

Click to read the complete individual postings and to post your response


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