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.

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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The need for performance-based funding for research programs
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao, PhD

Two articles on higher education show our failures in addressing persistent problems in Philippine education. One is the “World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Report” (Putting Higher Education to Work: Skills and Research for Growth in East Asia__Overview_2011).

The other is “Returns on higher education,” by Edilberto C. de Jesus (Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12 Nov 2011), a commentary on the World Bank Report. Dr. de Jesus is president of the Asian Institute of Management and a former Secretary of the Philippine Department of Education.

The World Bank Report stresses two development approaches established by developed countries:

(a) That higher education should provide the skills and research to apply current technologies and to assimilate, adapt, and develop new technologies, two drivers of productivity and growth.  

(b) Some developing countries, like the Philippines, should focus on improving the quality of graduates and building research capacity in a few universities. These should have higher funding support that is performance-based. 

Dr. de Jesus’ article does not discuss the importance of research and research universities in promoting workers’ productivity and national growth. He overlooks performance-based funding, which needs indicators to evaluate performance and to monitor progress. Further, he fails to see which—basic or higher education—is the culprit in the disconnect problem (identified by the World Bank) between the two education levels. He blames the 10-year basic education.

But studies have shown that poor higher education is the cause of poor basic education and the educational system. As Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate in physics, says, “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.” (“Reinventing science education”)

Wieman, in his article in the journal Science in 2009 (“Galvanizing Science Departments”) discusses innovative teaching methods in universities that improve student learning. It focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

De Jesus says, “The delay (referring to the implementation of the K-12 system) has already caused considerable damage.” He says further: “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.” 

On the above claims, he does not give any valid support—from specialists or verified studies. These refer to those published in peer-reviewed international journals (which are covered in ISI's major indexes—Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index). They insure that study results have been verified (or verifiable), which is indicated by number of citations; these in turn measure the quality and impact of one’s works (one’s list of publications and number of citations are freely accessible by Google Scholar). 

They are internationally established criteria and measures of selection and performance (e.g., for appointment and funding), respectively.

Many have blamed the 10-year basic education system as the cause of our poor basic education. And that the K-12—just because this is the system in some other countries—is the solution. 

On the other hand, the studies of the husband-and-wife team of Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido, academic scientists who are the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for education, have shown that basic education reform is achievable under the 10-year system, even amid scarcity (“Poverty and scarcity are no barriers to quality education,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 Sept 2010). 

They report, “We have seen marked increase in proficiency levels of our students, especially in Science, Math and Reading Comprehension. This is seen from their performance in college admissions tests and the National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE).”

Among the innovative changes they have introduced to our basic education are the following: (a) only one copy of textbook per class is needed, (b) no need for expensive lab equipment, (c) only 1/4 of the allotted class period is required for teaching, and (d) students are not given homework.

The above results of the well-published Bernidos team of physicists illustrate how to solve problems: (a) knowing what is wrong or the cause, (b) which of them takes an expert or specialist to find out, and (c) which also needs experts or specialists to fix. 

There are easy ways to assess if one is an expert—or has made any major contributions to one’s field. Examples are the selection criteria mentioned above and below. Another is the ISI database called Web of Knowledge(“Putting the right people in charge of science and education”; see also Everyday Practice of Science by Frederick Grinnell, Oxford, 2009).

De Jesus’ concluding statement says, “The World Bank’s timely report validates the agenda that education reform advocates in the Philippines have been pursuing. Finally, the government appears to be listening and responding.” 

I don’t think so. The World Bank Report stresses improving research, including higher funding, which should be performance-based. The two key requirements to get them done are (as I explain above): 

(a) Internationally-accepted selection criteria (for choosing people to manage programs).
(b) Internationally-accepted indicators (to evaluate performance and monitor progress). 

Both have been ignored in de Jesus’ commentary and the government’s education program. Hence, education reform in the Philippines remains elusive.

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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Why hold a thesis/dissertation workshop?
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Just saw this announcement in the September 2011 issue of the UP Newsletter:

Thesis/Dissertation workshop in October

The UP College of Mass Communication Foundation, Inc. (UPCMCFI) will conduct a Thesis/Dissertation Seminar-Workshop on October 21 and 22 at the College of Mass Communication, UP Diliman.

Teachers, researchers, graduate students, government workers and private sector employees who need to know more about writing a thesis and dissertation will greatly benefit from the workshop.

Faculty members of the UP CMC Department of Communication Research will facilitate the workshop.

For more details, please call Kat Ramos of UPCMCFI at (02) 981-8500 local 2678. You may also send an email to and join UPCMCFI’s Facebook group.

Now my question is: Why a “thesis/dissertation workshop?”  Why not a workshop on “How to write and publish a research paper” instead?

What is the sense of writing a thesis, then rewriting it for publication? I think this practice is the main reason why most of our graduate students think that the end of graduate training is the thesis, or that the end of research is the conference paper. And also the reason why most of them have an unpublished PhD thesis.

There are good books (in each field) on how to write research papers (ignore the chapter on writing thesis). Graduate students should learn from them. Then when they are ready to write the manuscript, they should strictly follow the “Instruction to Authors” of the chosen journal (ISI-indexed). They should at the same time refer to an article or two from the chosen journal; they should, for example, observe the details in writing the cited references in the text and at the end, like the use of the comma and period.

This should be a good start to reform the research practice in the country, where UP can lead.

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Idea for environment monitoring, modeling of eco-industrial parks

Suggestion by Eduardo (Jay) Olaguer, new Forum member (September 25, 2011):

Hi, Folks!

I am new to this Forum, which deals with some interesting issues. I belong to the Filipino diaspora and want to add my two centavos' worth to the topic at hand (“PNoy’s science policy insults scientists”). I agree that environmental monitoring is a key component of S&T development, and to this I would add environmental modeling. This is for two reasons: (1) We need to develop a green manufacturing capability that promotes sustainability locally; and ( 2) We need to learn how to manufacture products that meet increasingly stringent international environmental standards and promote sustainability globally. 

I was just discussing an idea with Fr. Jett Villarin, my former Ateneo high school classmate, about building an environmental monitoring and modeling capability on a neighborhood scale that can be used in eco-industrial parks in the Philippines, including the marriage of external monitoring with industrial process control and simulation. As the Director of Air Quality Research at the Houston Advanced Research Center, I am involved in patenting a new Emission Monitoring and Attribution System that can measure industrial emissions from outside facility fence lines using a combination of DOAS (imaging and multi-axis) remote sensing, real-time in situ monitoring, and inverse modeling. I am likewise developing a new 3D neighborhood air quality model with its own chemical mechanism as well as standard transport algorithms that can be run in both forward and adjoint (inverse) mode. I have also just now published a paper in Atmospheric Environment on a new method for performing air quality Computer Aided Tomography based on long path DOAS measurements.

I would love to hook up with other Filipino scientists to promote this idea.

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Dr. Lacanilao rests his case on this debate

Rejoinder of Dr. Flor Lacanilao (July 30, 2011):

Hindi na ako sasagot [I won’t reply anymore], can’t see any sense to do so.


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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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