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.

US universities using hand-held clickers to engage students in class

A growing number of universities in the United States—among them Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, Harvard University, the University of Arizona, and Vanderbilt University—are now using “clickers,” a palm-size, wireless device that looks like a TV remote, so teachers can monitor and engage students more intensively in class.

As reported in Jacques Steinberg in the November 15, 2010 issue of The New York Times, every student in the class is assigned a clicker. The student then uses it to automatically clock in as “present” as he or she walks into class, to answer questions by the professor during class, to answer multiple-choice quizzes that count for nearly 20 percent of his or her grade, and, if he or she is confused by the day’s lesson, to signal this to the teacher without raising a hand.

According to the report, more than a half-million students are now using the clickers in several thousand college campuses in the US, making it harder for the students to sleep during class and respond to text messages, e-mail, and other distractions.

Some students have expressed resentment over the potential Big Brother aspect of the clickers, but others actually welcome it. “I actually kind of like it,” Steinberg quoted one of the students. “It does make you read. It makes you pay attention. It reinforces what you’re supposed to be doing as a student.”

Read Jacques Steinberg’s “More Professors Give Out Hand-Held Devices to Monitor Students and Engage Them” in The New York Times now!

In “Revisit politics and English language,” an essay written for the November 17, 23010 issue of Volante, the student newspaper of the University of South Dakota, opinion columnist Thomas Emanuel warns—as George Orwell did in his seminal essay “Politics & the English Language” written in 1946—that by using muddy, unthoughtful language, people become muddy, unthoughtful thinkers, making it all too easy for others to use language to manipulate and dominate us. “When we force ourselves to write well, on the other hand,” he argues, “we force ourselves to really think about what we want to say. We become not just better potential employees (although that we do become), but better citizens and better people as well.”

Read Thomas Emanuel’s “Revisit politics and English language” in Volante now!

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Some mistakes to avoid when writing a dissertation
By Flor Lacanilao

Let me first point out that the graduate thesis (masters or doctoral) is meant as training for research. And research is not completed until published properly. Hence, the graduate thesis work should have publication as its main objective. Below are some pointers to improve the training of graduate students, particularly in science. They are useful not only for the graduate faculty and students but also to those involved in R&D work.

Choosing a research problem

Our funding agencies usually dictate the areas of research to support and often leave grant applicants no choice but to work on problems out of their main interest. Output quality would then be below that of the research problem of their choice. Also, grant recipients would lose the chance to sustain their creativity and develop competitive ability

Another problem is about the type of research, whether to go basic or applied. Poor countries are more on applied research, whereas basic studies are common in developed countries. In applied research, time for benefit is short, predictability is high, payoff is small, and scope of applicability is narrow. But in basic research, time for benefit is long, predictability is low, payoff is big, and scope of applicability is wide. These differences perhaps explain why rich nations get richer, whereas poor countries find it hard to develop.

Many of our researchers often ignore basic knowledge when doing applied research. Although relevant studies are available in the journal literature, they are seldom cited in most grant proposals and published papers. Hence, results from applied research often fail in field applications. Developed nations have shown that the greater the needs for applied research, the more important basic studies become.

The big payoff and wide scope of applicability of basic research deserve more comment. Great scientific discoveries that changed our ways of life were not intended. This serendipitous nature of basic research has given us wonder drugs, lasers, computers, biotechnology, and many others. Every scientist who contributed to the development of biotechnology, for example, did not have biotechnology in mind. This emphasizes the point of leaving the choice of problems to researchers. As the Nobel Laureate Joshua Lederberg once said in connection with the development of biotechnology, “It would have been tragic were any industry to have had a veto in deciding what would truly be of greatest industrial consequence.”

Literature search

A major cause of poor research performance is the failure to search the journal literature. A common complaint is the lack of journals in the library. No library in a poor country can afford to subscribe to the journal needs of researchers. But references can be accessed through indexes that cover important journals. Recently, the Google Scholar has added a speedy way of accessing literature.

Whereas literature review should be exhaustive, literature citation should be selective. Choosing journals and articles for references will improve the quality of the data gathering and the publication arising from it. An indicator of article quality is the reference list. The integrity and quality of an article depend on the quality of the bibliography added to it. If the reference list of an article is more than 75 percent gray literature, and if you are a researcher, don’t waste time reading the article.

Data gathering

Data-gathering is the first main part of research; the second is proper publication. It is important to think of publication as an objective when gathering data. This improves data gathering as one thinks of peer review, references and methods, adequacy of data, controls, replicates, etc.

The best time to develop proper work habits is during the data gathering part of training. One work habit that should be corrected early in graduate training is sloppiness. Errors are caused by careless handling of data. If they leaked through the peer review, errors are propagated and can result in serious damage to the scientific literature. The other cause of errors is fraud. Sloppiness gives rise to unintentional errors; fraud, to intentional errors. Their damaging effects on science are the same. But we are often more concerned about fraud than sloppiness, even if sloppiness is actually much more prevalent than fraud. And sloppiness is easier to correct during graduate training, but the tendency to fraud can be hereditary.

Manuscript and publication

Normally, the first experience of publication comes from the thesis. The master’s thesis or a chapter of the doctoral thesis should therefore be a scientific manuscript, written following a “Guide for Authors” of a chosen peer-reviewed journal. A master’s program may require only such publishable manuscript. But a PhD degree should require at least a published chapter of the thesis. There is no sense in writing the thesis differently, only to rewrite it for publication.

Three guides will be needed in preparing a manuscript: (a) a good book on scientific writing and publishing, (b) a “Guide for Authors” of a chosen journal, and (c) sample articles from the journal. A good book on scientific writing and publishing will show how to prepare the manuscript—stating the Title, writing the Abstract, Introduction, Materials and Methods, etc., and preparing Tables and Illustrations. A “Guide for Authors” and sample articles will show the details. You should follow them strictly.

Presenting a paper orally

The purpose of oral presentation is to inform the audience and to improve the manuscript before publication. Scientists in the audience, by their questions and comments, can improve the paper. Some are helpful to young researchers, particularly to those who are serious with their work, which can be seen in how they make the presentation. It is then important for one to learn the basic rules of presenting a paper orally. These are described in a good book on writing and publishing scientific papers.

Presentation should cover main points only. Tables and figures need to show results clearly and briefly. Summary tables and figures should be prepared from those selected in the manuscript. For example, reducing the number of columns and rows of tables will allow bigger prints. Avoid presenting tables and figures as they appear in the manuscript. Unlike in the written paper, projected images are seen only briefly. Well-prepared and properly sequenced slides will allow smooth presentation, with you talking less and just letting the slides convey the message. Some speakers read everything printed on the slide, forgetting that everyone in the audience can also read.

Mechanisms of quality control

A manuscript usually undergoes a preliminary or informal peer review. Reading of a manuscript by a professor or colleague is an example. Another is presenting a paper in a seminar or scientific meeting, as mentioned above.

Then the manuscript goes through the standard device for quality control—the review. For the peer review of a manuscript to be adequate, good journals normally have three referees active in research on the same specific subject. We do not have enough such reviewers in the country to adequately review manuscripts, which is one reason why researchers should publish in international journals.

Training graduate students

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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Not enough science in current discussions of contraceptive issue
By Flor Lacanilao

I noticed that with the way our discussions on contraceptives have been going, some scientists give conflicting views or opinions without science/scientific support. The public could hardly tell whether some views are from scientists or not. Such discussions may not be useful for the public or government leaders, which need scientific information for education or policy decisions. Most of such decisions will not be useful without scientific inputs.

The above problems are common complaints of our politicians when they invite scientists to congressional hearings or for round table consultation. They say, scientists have conflicting ideas; often don’t agree with each other. I think these problems should be an important concern of science forums and science organizations, if these are to contribute to national progress. They might discuss how to reach a scientific consensus on what to tell the public or politicians about scientific advances when there is debate on controversial national issues.

“This is not to say that scientists should dominate the government decision-making process. It is the business of the politicians, not the scientists, to consider the relative costs and benefits of the options before them, weighing them as they see fit in reaching their conclusions. But many such judgments will be poor ones without effective scientific inputs.” (Bruce Alberts, former president of the US National Academy of Sciences and present editor in chief of Science)

The above reminder is the reason for my 10 Oct comment quoting a concluding statement from the report about Human Reproductive Cloning: “The study panel did not address the issue of whether human reproductive cloning, even if it were found to be medically safe, would be or would not be acceptable to individuals or society.” I think this is for the public or policy makers to decide.

Under the present state of Philippine science—with continued silence of most senior Filipino scientists—the problems with widespread science illiteracy will remain, and lasting solutions to most national problems will yet have to wait. The next generations of Filipino scientists are our best hope. And they should take the challenge. The two Science editorials below will help in preparing them for their social responsibility. They are helpful guides on how to become a scientist and how to be a literate scientist. As a noted physicist says, “How can we promote science literacy without literate scientists.”

(1) “On Becoming a Scientist”  (Science 326:916, 2009)

“One normally becomes a scientist through a series of apprenticeships, pursuing research in laboratories directed by established scientists…learned not only technical skills but also how to think and function as a scientist.”

“…finding the best place for learning how to push forward the frontier of knowledge as an independent investigator.”

(2) “Bridging Science and Society” (Science 327:921, 2010)

“Virtually every major issue now confronting society has a science and technology component, and this means that the need for general scientific understanding by the public has never been larger, and the penalty for scientific illiteracy never harsher.”

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 education reform under poverty and scarcity
By Flor Lacanilao

The problems of basic education in the country have become worse despite various reform programs of past administrations. For example, one of them is the teacher problem—a shortage due to migration to developed countries. The usual remedy is massive training programs. But their number has even deceased because the training itself made them more qualified for working abroad. Hence, we have been training teachers to serve other countries.

These are among the observations of the husband-and-wife team of academic scientists Christopher and Ma.Victoria Bernido, this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for education. As published physicists, they have shown that “Poverty and scarcity are no barriers to quality education.” Click this link to read the full text of their paper.

For example, they have shown that innovative teaching methods in basic education resulted in improved performance: “For our school, we have seen a 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 introduced are in the following areas:
1. Teacher problem – Bypassing the need for qualified teachers.
2. Textbook – Only one copy per class is needed.
3. Laboratory – No need for expensive lab equipment.
4. Teaching – Only 1/4 of the allotted class period.
5. Students – Not given homework.

With their continuing research work, the Bernidos foresee this: “We are expecting a profound transformation of educational systems and institutions within the early part of the present century.”

That statement, of course, assumes that academic scientists—that is, scientists who, like the Bernidos, are published in peer-reviewed international journals—are appointed to educational and science institutions in the Philippines. At present, none of these institutions have such leadership. Since these are basic institutions for development, President Benigno Aquino III can be the first Philippine president to start real national progress if he thinks about that conditional prediction seriously. Having the trust by many Filipinos who pin their last hope in him, he must not fail.

The government’s proposed reforms in basic education are not based in properly done studies. As in all previous reform programs in the country by academic nonscientists, the failure of the proposed program is easily predictable.

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. As chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Iloilo, Philippines, he encouraged publication in peer-reviewed international journals, providing incentives that propelled the output of the center’s 50 all-Filipino research staff to world-class level. After retirement from the Marine Science Institute at UP Diliman, Dr. Lacanilao went on a crusade to improve Philippine research publications in science.

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Tips for selecting experts or specialists
By Flor Lacanilao

We often read of hear about “expert opinion” sought or given in connection with decisions; specially on matters of national importance or crisis proportion. How is the so-called expert or specialist selected?
Cell biologist Fred Grinnell in his book Everyday Practice of Science says: 

“The easiest way to assess whether someone has made any major contributions to cell biology (or many other research fields) is with the ISI data base called Web of Knowledge. You can use that data base to learn the number of publications by a researcher and whether the published work has been cited by others. If you do not have access to the Web of Knowledge data base, then you can get similar information—albeit not quite as complete—from Google Scholar:

“Learn more about citations and their meaning in Chapter 3 of my book. The first half of my book will (help) you understand practice of science. The second half discusses current controversial issues in science in light of that understanding.”

These indicators are widely used in selecting examples of excellent performance (as have been shared in these forums) and in giving recognitions (promotions, awards, etc.). If one only has the Google Scholar to use, you will need the Science Citation Index or the Social Sciences Citation Index to choose the publications in high impact journals.

Google Scholar and these indexes will also give the number and sequence of authorship, which can suggest some information about a coauthor’s contribution or seniority. A sole authorship, for example, shows one’s capability for doing research independently, which can satisfy also the minimum requirement for other academic functions and giving expert opinion.

In view of its importance in solving our national problems, I think this issue on assessing expertise should be a major concern of our natural and social scientists.

Yesterday’s police bungling with a hostage crisis, shown over international networks, has caused national shame for the Philippines. It has affected the entire nation and has worried nearly all government agencies, beyond that I have seen with past handling of natural disasters. And that hostage crisis concerns only our national image.

We are yet to face more devastating global problems, because poor countries like the Philippines will be most vulnerable. “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 (King DA. 2004. The scientific impact of nations. Nature 430:311-316.).

It is the responsibility of every Filipino scientist, whether in the natural and social sciences, to keep on reminding and educating the government leaders, media people, and the general public of the inevitable problems facing us versus our technical capability to survive them. We have already seen preliminary samples of those global threats, and we have miserably failed in handling them. Sometimes, as in yesterday’s hostage crisis, resulting in the government and the media blaming each other.

The above tips in assessing expertise will be important in selecting those whom we will trust in preparing for and overcoming the three frightening threats expected within this century—global terrorism, spread of disease, and the dangers of global warming. Are the officials appointed in science-based and science-related agencies—like those under the S&T, education, health, agriculture, environment, defense, energy, etc.—have the necessary expertise to plan and save the nation?

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. As chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Iloilo, Philippines, he encouraged publication in peer-reviewed international journals, providing incentives that propelled the output of the center’s 50 all-Filipino research staff to world-class level. After retirement from the Marine Science Institute at UP Diliman, Dr. Lacanilao went on a crusade to improve Philippine research publications in science.

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The need for the public to understand science
By Flor Lacanilao, PhD

(I am posting the article below in reply to the comments of Forum member Tonybau to my response to Dr. Isagani R. Cruz’s column about the state of academic research in the Philippines. It was originally published in two parts in the May 19 and 26, 2005 issues of the Philippine Star.)

“Development goals that do not recognize the importance of science and technology in economic transformation are likely to fail, especially those aimed at reducing poverty and raising income levels” (Harvard Report: Meeting the needs of developing countries, 2001). Science in the Philippines, however, has hardly progressed to enable us to produce or adapt useful technologies for sustained development, and research is the culprit.

1. Research & development process

One way to improve the situation is to know first the R&D process. This consists of information production (research), information dissemination (extension work), and the use of information (development). Development depends on the quality of disseminated information, which relies on the way research is done. To do research properly, study results must be published in a research journal adequately peer-reviewed and accessible for international verification.

In science, the normal way of publishing results is the international refereed journal. Such published study is known as a scientific paper or valid publication. This is the scientist’s primary output, and is the source of information for the growth of scientific knowledge or science. The paper has to pass through adequate peer review before publication. It has to be accessible through indexes and normal library channels to enable international experts to do follow-up studies and verify the results. The scientific method requires this. But we have limited experts in various fields to do adequate peer review and verification studies. Still, most of our research papers are published locally. Therefore, they have doubtful validity and hardly contribute to the growth of science. These are the basic problems of research in the Philippines, the reasons we cannot sustain development.

The next phase of R&D is information dissemination. This usually starts with review articles, which are authored by respected scientists. Scientists are researchers who have published their studies in international journals. Those who have published enough papers on a given subject in such journals write review articles by gathering reliable information from important journals. From review articles, information is disseminated to the general public and the other users through various means – newspapers and magazines, newsletters, textbooks and manuals, radio and television, and the Internet.

Whatever is the means, the success of extension work depends on the information quality. This is the reason why doing research properly – including publication in adequately peer-reviewed and accessible journals – is important.

Writing review articles, and to some extent extension materials, is the scientist’s second role in R&D. They are addressed to the general public and the other users of information. This function differs from the scientist’s primary role of producing scientific papers, which are addressed mainly to other scientists for verification. Many fail to distinguish these two roles of scientists. They say, for instance, that research papers should be published locally to make them available to users. Since we do not have enough scientists in a given field to adequately review manuscripts, most locally published data are of poor quality, and using them for development programs is the common cause of R&D problems in the country.

Another use of information is for generating technologies. Some review articles are on technology production using scientific papers. As noted earlier, these contain the useful information that forms the raw material for the growth of science. Hence, science is the source of information for generating technologies. To be useful, technologies should also be made by scientists, who should not be mistaken with those who have published only in newsletters, institutional publications, and conference proceedings. Papers in these publications are not taken seriously, and they don’t count when assessing the science and technology (S&T) performance of nations.

If desired development continues to elude the Philippines, blame the technologies we claim to have. They used largely poor quality information from publications other than international journals. This information did not contribute to the growth of science. And no amount of extension effort will fully satisfy users of technologies made from information of doubtful validity.

The relation between R&D and S&T can then be illustrated as follows: RESEARCH to SCIENCE to TECHNOLOGY to DEVELOPMENT.

Development depends on technology, which depends on science, and ultimately on research. Thus, the basic component is research. If the country has development problems, one can predict a major cause if he or she knows the role of each component in the series. It can also be seen that development will hardly follow even if the funding or number of Ph.Ds is increased without the correct research output. This is evident in the Philippines.

Funding is a necessary but not sufficient precondition for research and development. It will only improve research if every funded study ends up with a scientific paper. The prescribed increase in R&D budget for developing nations assumes that, like in developed countries, research is done properly. This is what leads to national progress, which can support more research for more progress, and so on.

2. R&D problems in the Philippines

As noted above, problems holding back the growth of science in the Philippines are rooted in wrong research practices, not funding as is commonly thought of. Poor graduate training is a major cause. Or is it an effect?

An important requirement for an advanced degree in science is the thesis, which is meant to be training in research. And research is not completed until results are published. But in the country’s graduate schools, except some in UP, the end of graduate training is the bound thesis, rather than its publication. Hence, most holders of graduate degrees in the country don’t think of proper publication as part of research.

Many in the graduate faculty who avoid international publication failed to develop the needed research capability. Hence, they are unable to exploit scientific advances and to equip the country’s future researchers and technologists with useful skills. Unpublished faculty members produce unpublished Ph.Ds, who, in turn, become graduate faculty members and repeat the process.

Many of our Ph.Ds in science who got their degrees abroad did not publish their theses, knowing their home institutions would recognize the degrees even without publications. Whereas new Ph.Ds without publication experience in international journals don’t get faculty positions or research grants in developed countries, in the Philippines they are given automatic promotions. They include those in the graduate faculty, industry, and science administration.

Promotions, even to full professor, are given without justifiable indication of contributions to knowledge or consideration of valid publications. The common practice is to give more importance to promise (graduate degree) than performance (useful publications).

A research paper published without adequate peer review and not accessible through indexes and normal library channels, is gray literature. Examples are research papers in newsletters, institutional publications, and most conference proceedings. Production of papers continues for such publications because they entitle the authors to promotions, honoraria, or even awards. But as has been shown elsewhere, such publications hardly contribute to the growth of science and technology and do not count in ranking nations based on S&T performance. Most of our science administrators and researchers forget that publication in international journals can improve our capability to advance local science and technology.

We publish research journals without enough qualified researchers to manage them and adequately review manuscripts. We should review the intentions of Philippine journals. Obviously in their present state, they are not promoting Philippine science. And science organizations should stop giving awards to papers published in them (except the few that are now ISI journals).

A worse practice is to use unpublished data for policy-making, development programs and other purposes. This is common in the local implementation of projects. The practice is prevalent because of contractual demands from the government and international funding agencies, totally ignoring the established procedures of scientific research. It is an outcome of failure to make publication as the purpose of data gathering. Even those seeking high positions include in their achievements a long list of "unpublished research."

There were large increases in the budget of the Department of Science and Technology, particularly in 1991-1996. Increases in the DOST budget during this period had a yearly mean of 36 percent or from P854 million to P3.4 billion. But research output, extension materials, and other publications consisted largely of project reports, institutional publications, and other gray literature, which did not count in S&T assessments. They made up more than 95 percent of the total number of papers produced. Only 249 papers were published in international journals in 1995, half of which was from the International Rice Research Institute in Los Baños and other international R&D organizations in the country, and about a fourth was from the University of the Philippines.

Further, among seven nations in the region, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, the Philippines had the least progress in S&T between 1981 and 1995. Whereas its Asian neighbors had 37 to 300 percent increases in the number of international journal publications (the standard measure of S&T performance), that of the Philippines increased by only seven percent, and this was contributed largely by international R&D organizations in the country.

Nations with more productive scientists were ahead of the Philippines in economic growth. Smaller Taiwan had 23 times and tiny Singapore, six times more accredited publications in science than the Philippines in 1994-1995.

By 2000, the Philippines was still behind the seven countries. It has, however, made significant progress. And this is expected to continue since a few leading universities have been giving cash incentives for articles published in international journals. For instance, since 1999, the University of the Philippines has been giving an award of P50,000 (later raised to P55,000) for every paper published in an international journal (defined as journal covered in the indexes of the Institute for Scientific Information, or ISI journal). By 2003, the number of such publications from UP increased twofold, to 182. Although we still have a long way to go (China’s total publications were 58 times that of the Philippines in 2000; Japan’s, 160 times), we are on the right track.

Contrary to common claims and practices in the country, we have hardly generated, fully adapted, or transferred useful technologies. We should have realized this by now. When our agricultural products are refused by importing countries for contaminants or diseases, we are unable to take remedial action for scientific inability. As a former director of graduate studies in physics at Princeton said, "You need to know how to do research properly before you can begin to think about commercializing discoveries."

In local extension work, the quality of information is often ignored. Most extension materials contain information from project reports, newsletters, institutional publications, and conference proceedings. These are evident in the appended list of references. They are prepared largely by well-meaning but unqualified people forced to do a scientist’s job. Hence, the materials are of doubtful integrity.

Most users of information, like decision-makers, teachers, or the general public, rely on the information reaching them. They may not be able to judge the quality. If most of the information they get is substandard, as what often happens in the Philippines and other poor countries, errors are propagated and people hardly learn something useful. As a former chairperson of the US Atomic Energy Commission observed, "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."

3. Needed changes

The above problems are perpetuated by the indifference to reform so entrenched at all levels of research administration in the country. The vicious cause-and-effect cycle must be broken. It has wasted much time and resources. R&D funds have been spent to produce unpublished papers (graduate theses, project reports, lectures, etc.) and gray literature with the thought that the job has been done. While the practice has benefited the authors (promotions, honoraria, awards), it has hardly contributed to institutional growth and national progress in science and technology.

There is too much talk about technology and development, when attention should focus on changing our research practices. Evaluation should be in accordance with the established tradition of scientific publication and accepted measures of performance. International indicators of science and technology development, not publicity and claims of achievements, should be the standard measure of S&T performance in the country.

To continue the steps taken by some universities in improving research, nationwide changes are needed in graduate training, research practices, and performance evaluation. A simple way to speed up the development of science is to publish study results in ISI journals (see ISI website: Publications in such journals should be required in (a) the granting of the Ph.D. degree, (b) appointing members of the graduate faculty and journal editorial boards, (c) giving research grants, promotions, and awards, and (d) appointing research managers and science administrators. We must build up the competence at all levels of our research endeavor. This will enable us to develop the needed competitive ability.

Researchers should publish their studies, even if the funding agency wants only a final report. This applies also to the graduate thesis, even if the program requires only a bound thesis. To serve as training for writing and publishing research papers, the graduate thesis should be written as a publishable manuscript, ready for submission to an ISI journal. A master’s degree may require only a publishable manuscript, but a Ph.D. degree should require at least one publication from the Ph.D. thesis. The researcher’s contribution to the development of science and education will come from such publications.

Three guides in writing a manuscript are: (a) a good book on scientific writing and publishing, (b) a guide for authors of an ISI journal, and (c) sample articles from the journal. Robert Day’s How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 5th edition (1998), is an excellent book. The three writing guides improve chances of a manuscript in getting accepted in a good journal. Select journals that do not have page charges (there are enough of them in your field) if you don’t have funds for publication.

Changing the criteria for appointments, promotions, and awards will not be easy. The usual problems with incumbents, politics, and mediocrity have defied past attempts. For instance, graduate faculty often voted against changes because members are already enjoying benefits with only progress reports, and most of them don’t have publications in international journals. Eventually, however, only respected scientists will dominate positions in all ranks of our research enterprise. This is the situation that had facilitated advancement of science and technology in nations that achieved sustained economic growth and improved human condition.

Note that most of the proposed changes will not need added cost. And if a part of the DOST budget is used as cash incentives for research publications like what the UP is doing, we will see the dawn of scientific revolution in the country. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Science and Technology must be more active in policy debates related to science-based initiatives. It should play a major role in our economic reform and social transformation. Among its members are literate scientists who can promote science literacy, especially among government and industry leaders, and ensure that scientific research is incorporated into all of the country’s development strategies. There is no better alternative for industrialization than advanced science and technology.

Flor Lacanilao, Ph.D., is a retired professor of Marine Science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon city, and a former director of SEAFDEC (Southeast Asia Fisheries Development Center).

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Money: common denominator for academic research, education
By Tonybau

Forum member Tonybau posted the response below to the different viewpoints of Dr. Isagani R. Cruz and Dr. Flor Lacanilao about the state of academic research in the Philippines, as presented in the Forum last week (“Two viewpoints about academic research in the Philippines”).

“Money is the root of all evil.” This shortened version supposedly had its roots from Jesus, quoted by the apostle Paul. It ran, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” Of course, I disagree with the first.

Whether or not we subscribe to this saying, despite the negative association, money is necessary, important and is the common denominator for academic research, education, and progress. If inadequate, we spiral down to nothingness.

Why money?

Decent research in any field, in order to be pursued fully, must have adequate funding. Funds are needed for references and other paraphernalia. References are expensive. To equip a university library with recent publications or international journals in various disciplines, is a major funding problem for those that aspire to provide current and new knowledge. Both cash-strapped but truly learning universities and those whose interests are in just making a business out of education (for education is big business), will find this an expensive project to pursue, let alone maintain.

Can the lack of references be solved by Internet connectivity? Having an Internet connection will allow access to many free scientific articles but will not assure a researcher access to the most recent and relevant publications. He or she must pay for access. It is not enough nor acceptable to just cut and paste a citation. One must read and digest the contents of the manuscript to determine its relevance to a study. Costs can easily pile up for a credible bibliography of citations.

Decent research is further hampered by the paucity of sponsors and difficulty in finding a willing one, unless one succumbs to being forever beholden to the sponsor. Poor Juan de la Cruz has no one to turn to, not even the government. If he wrangles some sponsorship from a politico, any benefits arising from the research must, by “default,” also benefit the sponsor.

The same is true when one’s sponsor is Big Pharma or big pharmaceutical companies. We know that Big Pharma sponsors many researchers and researches that will benefit them in the long run. Big Pharma does this primarily for profit, secondarily for social benefits, and many times at the expense of society. We know that some researchers have disclosed their financial interests as major stockholders of companies and their research promotes the use of a patented product. The lucky guys can have their cake and eat it, too! Ah, but they had the funding and they got published!

As for education? Hmmm! How much of our national budget will be for education, according to P-noy? 5%? This will probably just cover the backlog in school buildings and chairs. No safe water facilities nor toilets. Forget about the additional backlog of teachers and books. Will this be enough to cover all levels, most especially funding for research at the tertiary level where it counts the most? Most definitely not! We have a fairly good idea where the state of education in this country lies.

While we bewail the lack of accepted or acceptable publications in noteworthy and credible international journals, shouldn’t we be thinking of credible boards in various disciplines that will serve as overseers for candidate publications? This board should have an international representation that includes well-known and published authors recognized in their fields of specialty. How many universities have this? Or should we just be dreaming of this status?

What about progress? Progress will not come easily. It will involve a lot of sacrifice, hard work and dedication by everyone working for common national goals. That means a dedicated government. Progress means credibility and acceptance in the international community. Progress allows the possibility of funding more and more relevant research that will benefit the nation and fuel more progress. It will also allow us to collaborate with international researchers that will further upgrade the quality of our researches. Progress means money. Lots of it.

To my simple mind, then, money is not evil. It is necessary for academic research, education and progress to go hand-in-hand in an upward spiral, or hopefully, in a shorter, straight and upward trajectory.

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Two viewpoints on academic research in the Philippines

By Dr. Isagani R. Cruz

In “Academic research,” an article he wrote for his column in the June 24, 2010 issue of the Philippine Star, noted Filipino educator Isagani R. Cruz emphasized the need for Philippine universities to improve the journals they publish. In his column, he summarized the points he discussed in a paper he presented during the Philippine Association of Institutions for Research (PAIR)’s National Conference for Quality Assurance in International Journal Publications and Sustainable Research Management that was held recently at Our Lady of Fatima University in Valenzuela City, Metro Manila.

Dr. Cruz said: “Because we live in an academic world of learned journals (more than a third of which are now online, by the way), we have to follow the standards required of the 16,000 journals listed by Thomson Reuters ISI or the 18,000 journals listed by Scopus. Otherwise, we will belong to the 25,000 other journals not taken seriously enough by scholars around the world to read them, much less cite them.”

Aside from strongly urging Philippine universities to follow these internationally accepted standards for research, Dr. Cruz recommended that they take the following actions to “get into the mainstream of international knowledge production”: (1) Put a link to Philippine E-Journals or Philippine Journals Online on their websites, (2) Ask their faculty members, not just the journal editors, to e-mail their colleagues outside the country about a journal issue when it comes out, and (3) Ask their journal editors to start a blog about the journal that focuses on the articles in the latest issue.

“Universities must step up and join the online world community of learned journals,” Dr. Cruz said.

Read Dr. Isagani Cruz’s “Academic research” in full in the Philippine Star now!

Dr. Flor Lacanilao, retired professor of marine science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, sent to the Forum the following article in response to the above column of Dr. Isagani R. Cruz.

By Dr. Flor Lacanilao 

“There is nothing wrong with wanting heroes in science, but we should understand the criteria used to select those whom we are asked to revere.”—Robert Marc Friedman, professor of the history of science at the University of Oslo

Dr. Isagani R. Cruz discusses improving academic journals, saying these need scholars and specialists to manage and that we have some of the brilliant minds. He missed the importance of internationally accepted criteria in evaluating performance and deciding institutional leadership or assigning functions. Our usual practice is to rely on known personalities that we often refer to as scholars and specialists.

For example, he speaks of how to promote research by improving academic journals through (a) following international editing practices, (b) observing declared schedule of issues, (c) editorial board of scholars, who regularly attend conferences abroad and with history of publication citations, etc. 

But Cruz fails to give the useful criteria to qualify for such functions. 
Further, he supports his above views with, “We have some of the most brilliant minds on the planet. Just think of Conrado Dayrit, who wrote in The Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine in 1992 about the benefits of virgin coconut oil. Because that journal had a very limited circulation, Dayrit was not credited worldwide with this discovery.” 

Will these claims stand the test of established international standards, or simply the accepted measures of performance?

The absence of clear performance indicators, and the doubtful validity of proof, will just lead to another failed program. It takes properly published researchers to manage academic journals and review manuscripts. We don’t have enough of them in various major fields and specific disciplines. The best way to produce them is to publish in peer-reviewed international, journals, covered in widely-used indexes like Thomson ISI’s major indexes. They are the Science Citation Index (SCI), Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), and Arts and Humanities Citation Index (AHCI). (High-cited journals are covered here. The other ISI indexing products cover also low-impact journals, which make up most of ISI-indexed journals, like our Philippine Agricultural Scientist.)  

The validity of the claimed proofs to support views can be verified through the number of publications and citations listed in such indexes. These have been widely used indicators for evaluating research and S&T performance when ranking nations, universities, and individuals. The results have been published in scholarly journals like the leading Science and Nature

We are yet to catch up on the basics of how to improve academic research. We have first to learn how to publish properly; that is, adequate peer review of manuscripts and wide accessibility of published results for international verification. We don’t have enough capability for both. Hence, with their present state, we cannot rely on RP journals in learning how to write and publish valid papers. Only a few RP journals meet the criteria for coverage in the most respected indexes—none in SCI (with 3776 journals covered), only a few in SSCI (2876), and none that I know of in AHCI (1551). 

The Philippine Journal of Internal Medicine mentioned above is not covered in SCI. Hence, the published paper on virgin coconut oil, which Cruz refers to above, is gray literature—not adequately peer reviewed, poorly accessible, hardly verifiable, and not taken seriously. How then can the discovery be credited worldwide? (The medical journal PJIM was dropped from SCI coverage in the early 1980s, and no Philippine journal has since met the coverage standard of SCI.) 

Under Philippine condition of unpublished researchers, why do we have hundreds of academic journals? Why is CHED still promoting publication of new journals and encouraging researchers to publish in them? How can such managed journals help our researchers do research properly, teach better, and improve education in the country? 

Note that based on education reform studies in developed countries, Nobel laureate in physics Carl Wieman 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 tertiary level.”

Are the CHED officials familiar of this?

If you want to know the real score, find out by Google Scholar search, and know who among our journal editors, academic leaders, research and science administrators, and our “brilliant minds” have valid research publications. You will be disappointed to find not many of them, past and present. 

The picture presented here shows the real crisis in our education and research, and explains why it has gotten worse. I think it is the social responsibility of every natural and social scientist to help overcome this crisis that’s largely in leadership. As Steven Wiley said in his article “Mind Your Manners” in, “Asking for manners is probably not the most effective way, even though the call may seem warranted in some cases.”


Dr. Isagani R. Cruz is a multi-awarded and prolific poet, playwright, short-story writer, critic, educator, publisher, and advocate of the Filipino language. A former Philippine undersecretary of education, he is currently professor emeritus, university fellow, and academic publications executive publisher of De La Salle University and director of the Teachers Academy of Far Eastern University. He has a BS in Physics from the University of the Philippines in Diliman, an MA in English Literature from the Ateneo de Manila University, and  a PhD in English Literature from the University of Maryland. Recognized for his outstanding contributions to Philippine literature, he has written more than 30 books. He became a member of the Hall of Fame of the Palanca Awards for Literature in 2004 for his award-winning plays, essays, and short stories in Filipino and English.

In a previous paper entitled “Challenging ISI Thomson Scientific’s Journal Citation Reports: Deconstructing ‘Objective,’ ‘Impact,’ and ‘Global’” published in the Portal: Libraries and the Academy (Volume 8, Number 1, January 2008), Dr. Cruz has argued that publication in Thomson’s ISI is wrong as a crucial determinant of the quality of faculty and research.*
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. As chief of the Aquaculture Department of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center in Iloilo, Philippines, he encouraged publication in peer-reviewed international journals, providing incentives that propelled the output of the center’s 50 all-Filipino research staff to world-class level. After retirement from the Marine Science Institute at UP Diliman, Dr. Lacanilao went on a crusade to improve Philippine research publications in science.

*Isagani R. Cruz - Challenging ISI Thomson Scientific's Journal Citation Reports: Deconstructing “Objective,” “Impact,” and “Global” - portal: Libraries and the Academy 8:1 portal: Libraries and the Academy 8.1 (2008) 7-13 Muse Search Journals This Journal Contents Challenging ISI Thomson Scientific’s Journal Citation Reports: Deconstructing "Objective," "Impact," and "Global" Isagani R. Cruz The Thomson Scientific Database, still commonly and conveniently—though inaccurately—known by its former name ISI (short for Institute for Scientific Information), is generally considered the top arbiter of the quality of learned journals. Academics all over the world find it prestigious to have their articles published in the journals included in the master journal list of the ISI Web of Knowledge. Publishers of non-ISI journals often make it their objective to have their journals listed in ISI, not only because of the prestige but also because librarians usually make decisions on subscriptions based on ISI. International surveys of universities, such as the Times Higher Education Supplement World University Rankings 2006, have taken ISI data as crucial determinants of the quality of faculty and research. In order to be ranked internationally and, thus, to attract both students and funding, universities urge their researchers to publish in ISI journals and to have their works cited by scholars writing in ISI journals. Intellectually and financially,...

Click this link to the Project Muse website for access details to Dr. Isagani R. Cruz’s full paper

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Two diametrically opposed views on teaching good English writing

Let’s listen to two diametrically opposed views on correcting writing errors in English composition—one from a Belmont, Boston-based English teacher who believes in ruthlessly correcting them and not worrying about the writer’s feelings, and the other from a U.S. newspaper language columnist who cautions against hypercorrection and advocates gentler, less severe ways of promoting the writing of good English prose.

The Belmont-based English teacher, Jeffrey Miner, is dismayed that some of his fellow teachers seem to advocate only partial attention to errors. “At every level I correct students’ errors,” he says. “I let them know ahead of time that I will focus not only on what they say but how they say it. Form is integral to content. Ideas that are well-written are accessible to understanding.”

Read “Best way to teach writing? Let those corrections mount,” Jeffrey Miner’s rejoinder to an Op-Ed article in the Boston Globe now!

On the other hand, Jan Freeman, who writes the language column “The Word” in the Boston Globe, argues that the zero-tolerance approach to correcting writing betrays a misunderstanding of language learning as well as a dim view of human nature. “Toddlers don’t need to be rudely corrected whenever they brave a new construction,” she says. “[Eventually,] ‘The dog runned away’ will become ‘ran away,’ the ‘mouses’ will turn into ‘mice,’ and they’ll end up talking like their friends and families.”

Read Jan Freeman’s language column, “Redlined: Correction isn’t the most important thing,” in the Boston Globe now!

I would like to thank Forum member Ben Sanchez for bringing the second article to my attention.

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Conversations: Close encounters with highly atrocious English

With the permission of the writers concerned, we are delighted to share with Forum members excerpts from very interesting and highly instructive e-mail conversations between two Filipino professors about English usage and English teaching in the Philippines. This very recent correspondence is between former De La Salle University professor Conrado Sanchez, Jr., and De La Salle MBA professor Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.

Conrado Sanchez, nickname Ben, studied in De La Salle from kindergarten all the way to college and taught there for three years after graduation; he later earned graduate degrees in Economics from the University of Notre Dame and Yale University. Oscar Lagman, Jr., nickname Oscar, also a product of the La Salle grade school and high school departments and  of its Liberal Arts-Commerce program, is an MBA from the University of San Francisco; he has been an MBA professor for many years and writes the column “To Take a Stand” for BusinessWorld.

The two have not met; they communicate with each other by e-mail. Ben registered as a member of the Forum recently.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:33:00 AM:

Dear Oscar,

You are, I believe, teaching students in the Graduate School of Business. Are they able to write clear, cogent sentences?

I employed a U.S.T. graduate once as my secretary. He couldn’t speak English fluently, much less write in the language.

Ben Sanchez


Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:47 AM:


Funny you should bring this up because that is an issue with me. As someone who speaks Tagalog, I am able to discern the meaning of sentences using English words but constructed the Tagalog way. So, they are cogent to me in a way. But what is atrocious is my students’ grammar: verb agreements, tenses (mostly present tense), wrong use of present perfect and past perfect verbs, wrong word as in “decease” for “desist,” an “s” in equipment, etc. And this is true of La Salle college graduates, too. When I check their papers, I correct their grammar. So, students enrolled in the MBA program say that they not only learn Marketing from me but English grammar as well. I always tell them to write out “through” in reports…

In 1996, a trade mission composed of US franchisors came to Manila. As I was in charge of the consulting practice on Franchising at SGV [a leading accounting firm in the Philippines], the US Embassy commercial attache invited me as one of the resource persons. George Yang of McDonald’s told the delegation that the Philippines is the third largest English-speaking country. I corrected his statement saying that most Filipinos understand English but cannot speak it. The Berlitz man in the delegation said, “That’s good enough for me.”


Thursday, May 27, 2010 5:08:36 AM:

Dear Oscar,

You are a good storyteller. Let me make a request. Why don’t you write a column on how your students fracture the English language?

I had my own experiences with night students in an educational institution located in the University Belt [in Manila]. After I returned from studies in the U.S., I decided to teach Basic Economics to first year college students so they will be well-grounded in the science.

Came the first semester’s final exam and the first question was, naturally, “What is Economics?” The answer I got: “Economics is the social science that studies WOMAN wants and their satisfaction.” In the margin of his test paper I wrote: “This is the sexiest definition of economics I have ever read.”

Remember that there’s a lot of traffic in the University Belt and classrooms were not yet air-conditioned. I had said that economics addresses “HUMAN wants.” Goes to show that this guy took down notes of what he had heard without processing it in his mind. He just committed to memory what he wrote down in his notes.

On the same exam, I asked a question on the location of economic activity: “In the Sampaloc district of Manila, why do you find a sari-sari store in almost every corner?” The answer I got: “Sari-sari store located in corners because you see, sir, there plenty people istamby.” Never mind his English; I gave the student an “A.”

The next school year, I entered the classroom to give another final exam. Professors in that university were required to bring their own chalk and blackboard eraser. Why? Because they were frequently stolen!

I found a small piece of chalk but I had left the eraser in my car. Needing to write some notes on the board, I asked the ladies if they had Kleenex tissue. One pretty lady in front opened her bag, took out a brown envelope, and slowly pulled out…a sanitary napkin! I quickly snatched it from her hand, hid it in the palm of my large hand, and started erasing the board Ariston Estrada1 style. Then I quickly pocketed the darn thing. Whew!

The final exam proceeded without incident and afterwards, I started correcting exam papers. Again, a question was asked about the location of an economic activity: “Why was the Maria Cristina Fertilizer Plant located in Lanao? [Answer: proximity to the source of power.] This is the answer I got in one test paper: “Because, you see sir, in Lanao there are plenty farms. And in the farms there are plenty carabaos. That is why fertilizer plant located in Lanao.”

The next semester, I quit teaching Economics in that university. In fact, I quit teaching for good.

Ben Sanchez


Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:49:00 AM:


If I ever write about fractured English, it would not be about my students’ English but about ranking public officials’ and military generals’ carabao English. In fact, part of a column of mine was about it. 

Here are excerpts of that column [in the BusinessWorld] about the House of Representatives’ hearing on drugs:

When finally the hearing was opened, with Ablan having difficulty in finding the appropriate words for calling the meeting to order, Cuenco called attention to the resolution of the DoJ Prosecutor John Resado, commenting that the grammar of the resolution was atrocious. He pointed out that there should not have been a “d” in “surmise” as used in a sentence in the resolution. He also said there should have been a hyphen or no space between the words “warrant” and “less.” Viewers of the Sitcom can surmise that a bill would soon be introduced in the Lower House about the teaching of English grammar in all schools, especially in law schools.   
Resado also pronounced the word “read” the same way, regardless of whether he used it in the past tense or present tense. As Cuenco’s and Zialcita’s pronunciation and diction are exemplary, we can also surmise the two Committee vice chairmen would include phonetics in their bill on the teaching of English.        

Making the episode more hilarious was the badly fractured English of Congressmen and resource persons, with Cuenco totally undisturbed by the clumsy attempt to speak English. There was Dumpit’s “How did it came to know…”, Barzaga’s “Did you brought…” (he immediately corrected himself), NBI Director Mantaring’s “The internal investigation the Secretary is telling…” and Dangerous Drug Board chairman Tito Sotto’s awkward “When I was not yet the chair of the Board…”, and Prosecutor Philip Kimpo’s struggles to express himself in English…



Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 1:06:00 PM:


You made my day! My doctor says that I should have a good laugh at least once a day and you brought it about. I told you once and I’ll tell you again: “You may not change the world, but at least you embarrass the guilty.” That’s what I also told my very good friend, columnist Tony Abaya2, before he had a stroke.

Ben Sanchez

Friday, May 28, 2010 at 5:26 AM:


I was listening to the deliberations of the joint session of the two Congress committees on the canvassing of the votes this afternoon when I thought of you because of the terrible diction of the senators and Congressmen. Really bad is that Romualdo of Camiguin. He sounds like Mike Velarde. I thought Aquilino Pimentel could do better than saying “to torn over the ballot boxes.” Maybe it is old age, but Johnny Ponce Enrile was constantly groping for the right word. 

I also listened to the valedictory of Chief Justice Puno. I wondered how the professors at UC Berkeley, Southern Methodist, and Illinois where he took up graduate studies understood him. I guess they based their grade on his written reports, not on his participation in class discussions and debates. No, he didn’t speak with a Visayan accent; he spoke like a University Belt college student. He didn’t pronounce any “F” sound, “handcuffed” coming out as “handcup,” “chief” as “chip.” He interchanged the long “O” sounds and the short “O” sounds, as in “lows of the lun” and “nuting to shaw por it.” 

He had no dragged “A” sound like “wots your buck,” nor a long “E” sound like “dim proper.”  The “au” as in “authorized” came out as “owtorize.” That is right, no “TH” sound came out of his lips. “Those” came out as “dos,” and “them” as “dem.”

The Pampango native Art Panganiban, from FEU Law, was not that bad. Oh, I was not impressed with through-and-through Atenean Renato Corona. His English lacks the elegance of Teofisto Guingona’s almost oratorical pronouncements. Maybe Corona studied in Ateneo when only James Reuter3 among the American Jesuits was still around…

[At one time, when] we were in Grade Six [at De La Salle], we were made to stay after class and write “I will  always do my assignment” 100 times.

Bro. Bernardine, newly arrived then from the New York Province of the Christian Brothers, was the proctor. He asked a classmate [of mine] why he was detained. Here’s how the conversation went:

Bro. Bernardine: Why were you asked to stay after class?
My Classmate: I didn’t bring a mop to class, Brrr.
Brother: Why were you told to bring a mop, did you wet the floor?
My Classmate: No, Brrr. It was our assignment.
Brother: All of you were told to bring a mop to class? What were you supposed to do with them?   
My Classmate: To study where the states are. Where New York is, where California is. 
Brother: Ooooohhh, a maaaaaaap!       


1Ariston J. Estrada, Sr., is a De La Salle University faculty member, honorary doctor of literature, and professor emeritus of philosophy.
2Antonio C. Abaya is a veteran journalist who currently writes a column for the Manila Standard Today.
3Rev. Fr. James Reuter, S.J., is an academician, theater writer, director and producer in the Philippines whose ministry includes work in the theater, radio, print and film.

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Science in 100 years of UP biology
By Flor Lacanilao

Flor Lacanilao is a retired professor of marine science at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City. This is a summary of a retrospective he wrote when asked by the president of the UP Institute of Biology Alumni Association to write about the UP zoology class of 1960, of which he was a member. A link to a PDF file of the full-length retrospective is provided at the end of this summary.

When asked by the president of the UP Institute of Biology Alumni Association to write about our zoology class of 1960, I got my Philippinensian, the UP’s yearbook of graduates then. We are the jubilarians on this year’s centennial of Biology in UP. I put together the 38 pictures of the 1960 graduates of the then botany and zoology departments for them to reminisce.

What surprised me to see in a university yearbook—with 27 messages to graduates—is the absence of any statement on UP’s role in national progress through research or science. There was hardly anything to remind the 1960 graduates that economic development and social transformation must rely on science and technology.

My idea of observing anniversaries is to send a clear message about achievements. These can use valid proofs or indicators showing academic progress and institutional growth. The Institute of Biology can showcase faculty and alumni who have achieved outstanding research performance; and can set an example of a meaningful observance of anniversaries of academic institutions.

I made an assessment of such performance of the former botany and zoology departments and their merged Institute of Biology (IB). Below is a summary:

Yes, Rizal, the glory hour has begun.

For the first time in 100 years of biology in UP, the most important academic function of modern universities—research—has finally come in the Institute of Biology in UP Diliman. This is shown by the well-published members who joined its faculty during the last decade. The transformation can be reproduced UP wide by removing entrenched policies that still prevent the needed changes. With adequate institutional support and proper mentoring by these new scientists in the faculty, IB is on it way to attracting and developing more of their kind.

There was a lack of properly published American faculty in the first two decades of botany and zoology. That situation had not provided the needed research mentors to train Filipino pioneers who took over, and these in turn similarly failed the next generations of faculty members.

That situation lasted until the departments’ final years, when there was still lack of research mentors for young faculty members. Further, even foreign-trained PhDs were hardly able to do research for lack of institutional support. However, former botany and zoology faculty members who moved to other institutions—like MSI, SEAFDEC, and IRRI—became productive scientists, when given adequate institutional support and proper research mentoring.

But the lack of these two requirements should not prevent serious and determined students in becoming future scientists. One can achieve scientist status, through resolved interest and determination, in UP conditions. Other examples of such successful Filipino scientists have been produced under frustrating conditions in the country.

The data show that it normally takes three conditions to make productive researchers—faculty mentor, institution support, and student determination. And predominantly important are the faculty mentor and the institution support.

For example, why do some graduates of UP botany, zoology, or biology become productive researchers in other institutions here and abroad, but not when they remained in the Institute of Biology? This means IB—when celebrating the centennial of biology in UP—cannot claim performance or institutional credit for its graduates who became published scientists elsewhere.

The Institute of Biology, however, is now on the road to join the top research institutes in UP and in the country. If this is sustained, IB can look forward to showcasing institutional growth and academic excellence in a meaningful observance of its next anniversary.

Other indicators and methods of research evaluation are also subjects of concern. The number of times a paper is cited is another objective indicator, which is widely used to measure quality. A study on this will give added basis for evaluating research performance. And this will show who among the pioneer Filipino researchers should be properly recognized. They include those who started the basic taxonomic work in Philippine biology. (May 2010)

Please click this link for the full text of the article in PDF.

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The great need to recognize excellence
By Tonybau

I had the opportunity last November 13 to be with a panel interviewing candidates for the Group Study Exchange for the Netherlands, a popular Rotary International project sponsored by The Rotary Foundation. The project is a vocational, cultural, and fellowship opportunity designed to foster peace, goodwill and international understanding, and among the young professionals we interviewed were three outstanding teachers and a medical doctor.

What struck me about the three teachers was that being with the Dep Ed with its myriad resource problems did not prove to be a hindrance to their performance and success as a teacher or administrator. (One was transferring from a higher-pay position in a private institution in Manila and relocating to Bataan, and another was a young, energetic principal in Sta. Cruz, Zambales.) Creativity and innovation allowed them to surmount those limitations, and they utilized their resourcefulness to involve all the stakeholders in the community. They have touched and changed the lives of their students and their fellow teachers, and have gone beyond them into the communities where they serve. Their personal stories are refreshing rays of light in the darkness that is the DepEd.

For the lone doctor we interviewed (she also happens to be a nurse, having taken up nursing during the mad diaspora of physicians getting out of the country to look for greener pastures), she had abandoned her plans to leave for abroad. Instead, she decided to stay in the country where she could serve better as a physician in her own specialty, choosing to serve in government because poor patients gravitate to government hospitals.

What does this tell me? It’s not always the money. It’s the satisfaction of being able to render service in the best way one can, the challenges notwithstanding. The four professionals we interviewed believe that obstacles can be solved with a little bit more ingenuity and out-of-the-box thinking.

This kind of thinking by a few will hopefully ripple out to more teachers and students and end up as a tsunami of sizable proportions that could help institute changes in the educational system. I know there are many more out there who have made outstanding contributions to education in their own small ways. Their voices have neither been heard nor noticed. They need to be recognized. Recognition of excellence has a way of stimulating the honoree to aim for higher levels, and it improves self-esteem, affirms one’s dedication to strive for the best, and serves as a stimulus for others to aim for excellence as well.

Our Rotary Club has been doing that for the last five years. We are now into our 6th year of honoring outstanding teachers in government high schools and elementary schools in the Baguio Division. To be among Baguio's Exemplary School Teachers (B.E.S.T.) has become a coveted distinction and honor. Indeed, one of those who had topped the high school category of B.E.S.T., Mr. Warren Ambat of the Baguio City National High School, was later nationally honored as one of the Lingkod Bayan awardees about two years ago. This has served as a stimulus for change and excellence, bringing Baguio from several rungs below all the way up to second place in overall ranking among DepEd schools in the country, according to the DepEd division. On another vein, it has also served as a basis for promotion among teachers, some of whom have become principals as a result.

I agree with Florlaca in his postings in this Forum that reforms are much needed in academic research, and that high-quality researches should be a major criteria for promotion and recognition, not number of years of service. My little experience with B.E.S.T. has shown the need to upgrade the quality of research studies. So-called researches/theses submitted for masteral or even doctorate degrees leave much to be desired and are probably not scrutinized and evaluated very well by “qualified” educators. I fear that the evaluators and advisers themselves suffer from the “good enough syndrome” that allows teachers to become Masters or Doctors of Education without true, rigorous academic research evaluation and quality researches. Truly, the enemy of the best is “good enough.”

Quality research should be done for its value and impact in upgrading education, not as a mere formality in the pursuit of a title. The latter has no place in an environment of true reform. Only academic excellence can and will stand on its own and goad others to be the best.

So for the DepEd, there is nowhere to go but up.

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Adapting to climate change through research and education
By Flor Lacanilao

Flor Lacanilao, retired professor of marine science, University of the Philippines-Diliman, delivered the following plenary lecture at the CHED National Conference on Research in Higher Education held in Davao City from November 12 to 13, 2009: 

The devastation expected from climate change within this century is on top of every country’s agenda. In the Philippines, it will dwarf the combined fury of the recent typhoons that caught the country unprepared. Some climate scientists believe that with the greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, global warming will continue even if carbon emission is cut to currently-proposed levels.
Among verified results of global warming are extreme weather events and record temperature rise, receding glaciers, and rising sea levels — together known as climate change. This will impact on biodiversity, agriculture, fisheries, diseases, human settlements, and cause more public misery in poor countries. High population density (limited land area), archipelagic condition (many coastal communities), and widespread poverty make the Philippines even more vulnerable.
Climate change & poverty are “The two defining challenges of this century.” The world is concerned with two things: mitigation and adaptive measures.  Both require political will and technological know-how. The poor condition of these two is the main cause of poverty in the country. There is hardly anything the Philippines can do to prevent climate change. But we can increase our chances of survival by reducing poverty through improvements in research and education.

RP’s poor adaptive potential

The ability of the Philippines to adapt to the impacts of climate change can be shown by its S&T performance and state of economic progress. The established measure of S&T performance is the number of papers published in peer-reviewed international journals — scientific or valid publications.  Only such publications are used in international rating of S&T or academic performance when ranking nations or universities. The state of national progress can be measured by the UNDP’s Human Development Index or HDI based on economic and social indicators. 

For example, Katherine Bagarinao has shown, with data from Science Citation Index Expanded, that Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia (since mid 1990s), and Vietnam (since 2004) have passed the Philippines in number of valid publications per year. Smaller Taiwan had 30 times and tiny Singapore had 10 times more such publications than the Philippines in 2006.

In assessing national progress, I used data from the UNDP’s Human Development Index Trends for 1980-2008, and plotted the HDI trends of the countries above to visualize their growth trends. The publication performance of the countries above matches or corresponds with their performance in development as measured by HDI. The Philippines, with its lowest scientific productivity and growth rate, had also the lowest national development and growth rate. 

UNDP’s Human Development Reports show the nations’ relative development or ranking. In the last 10 years, the Philippines’ rank has gone down from no. 77 in 1997-98, to an average 84 in 2000-04, 90 in 2005, 102 in 2006, and 105 in 2007. Further, Mahar Mangahas of Social Weather Station says (Inquirer, 7 Nov 2009), RP’s poverty level has not improved in the last 23 years (despite a roller-coater trend) between 55% in 1983 to 53% in 2009, which “are statistically the same.”
The Philippines performance in education has also been poor. A recent UNESCO report, for example, has shown that the Philippines ranked 74th in terms of the Education Development Index, below Vietnam (65th) and Indonesia (58th). And in university rankings using objective academic indicators — like research performance in terms of number of valid publications and publication citations — no Philippine university since a 2003 ranking has yet made the first 100 in the Asia Pacific or the world’s top 500. 
The above review of the Philippines poor performance in S&T, national progress, and education shows that we are hardly prepared for climate change adaptation. It shows a sad picture of the magnitude of groundwork we have to do, but it can also be a useful guide to direct the various actions needed for our goal.    
Improving research and education

Our best bet to survive the impacts of climate change is to reduce poverty. This is best done by changing our ways of doing research to advance S&T and to improve education. It means, a "transition from a crisis/symptom mode to a prevention/cure mode" of problem solving. Our Asian neighbors, following developed countries, have adopted these approaches earlier; and some African countries have been pursuing the same way out of poverty. These are indications that some African countries are headed to follow Indonesia and Vietnam in leaving the Philippines behind.

Improving research performance

The established process of research has undergone over 3 centuries of development, since the publication of the first two scientific journals in London and Paris in 1665. It requires publication in a research journal that is adequately peer-reviewed and accessible for international verification of results. The review and verification processes help guarantee and safeguard the integrity of the published paper. 

Many studies in the Philippines end as a project report or graduate thesis. These are the widely accepted points of completion of research or graduate training in the country. If published, in most cases the outcome is gray literature — published papers without adequate peer review. Examples are papers in newsletters, institutional reports, most conference proceedings, and nearly all local journals. They have doubtful validity, are not taken seriously, and don’t count in international ranking of nations, universities, and evaluation of researchers. Such practices that waste time, energy and money should stop.

Personal judgment or peer review by those without valid publications is prevalent; and it is the main cause of the poor state of research and education. The use of reputable or prestigious journal without a useful definition of “reputable” or “prestigious” is just as bad. These evaluation practices should stop. Instead, only those with valid publications are really qualified for research grants; and only valid publications are given merit points for promotion, recognition, or awards. There is no sense in going through an elaborate evaluation process with a guideline that doesn’t guaranty the desired result for reform or excellence. The simplest and most reliable way is to make valid publication the criterion — for the evaluator to do the job, for the proponent to get research grant, for the researcher to get a promotion or recognition, for the grad student to get a doctoral degree, etc.

In a developing country, an effective way of improving research performance is to give incentives for valid publications. This has been shown in some Latin American countries, by giving increased salaries or research scholarship abroad.  At the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) in Iloilo and at the University of Philippines, the requirement of valid publication for cash incentive — 50% of annual salary and P55,000, respectively — has increased the number of publications. 

Reforming education

Educational reform can be done in two ways. First, by recognizing the observation of Nobel laureate in physics, Carl Wieman, that it is doubtful great progress can be made at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of learning is set at the tertiary level. The second way is by developing some leading universities in the country into research universities.

New teaching methods have already been ongoing in the US for an innovative teaching of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) at the university level.  In this reform of STEM teaching, “a majority of the faculty in a given university department must become collectively engaged in implementing new curricula and teaching methods. In other words, an entire department must be the unit of change.” This has shown improved learning and can ultimately replace the traditional lecture model.

In the EU, the inquiry-based science education at the primary and secondary levels is gaining popular support. The method encourages students of 5-16 years old to “develop a sense of wonder, observation, and logical reasoning.” The program includes interactions with scientists and periodic assessment of progress. As a result, teachers gain confidence and a better understanding of science as a process, rather than as a collection of facts.

The e-textbook is revolutionizing the online teaching and learning throughout the world at all levels of education. The textbook boundaries have been stretching for some time now. Many books already come with a CD, or they include links to a website where updates can be found. “The printed textbook will not vanish anytime soon — but a generation from now; it could be just a memory.”

Developing some research universities will be needed to accelerate changes in research and teaching practices. It will also be important in training the faculty of other universities, which in turn will provide better prepared teachers at the secondary and primary levels. 

The concept of research and teaching under one roof was envisioned by the Philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt, who founded the University of Berlin in 1810. The university quickly became a renowned institution, which attracted many internationally influential thinkers and scientists. The relationship between research productivity and teaching effectiveness has led to the development of research universities. And studies from this development have shown that (a) the two are positively correlated — teaching effectiveness benefits from research productivity, (b) research and teaching as complementary activities is central to the idea of the modern university, and (c) these two activities are so mutually reinforcing that they must coexist in the same institutions.

The University of the Philippines has recently been mandated as the National University. This is timely in view of the significant improvement in its research performance in recent years. And to truly function as such, it has to develop into a research university, the first to become one in the country. This would require some changes in faculty recruitment, in performance evaluation, and in academic programs. The principal criterion of faculty recruitment and promotion is research. Valid publication is the main basis of rating qualification and performance rather than possession of an advanced degree by the applicant or the personal judgment of unpublished members of search committees. Emphasis of the university is graduate education, where at least one valid publication is the requirement for a doctoral degree. 

Final conditions for successful adaptation

The frightening impacts of climate change, particularly on agriculture, spread of diseases, and biodiversity are likely to be the most crucial for us. Fortunately, many studies on them are available; climate-related ones are being intensified in many countries. Our scientists can make follow-up studies and research on how technologies can be adapted to minimize the harmful climate effects. Graduate students will have many thesis topics relevant to climate change. This is also true for social scientists. It is important for all studies to be published properly, as valid publication; that is, in peer-reviewed international journals to insure verification of published results. Educators at all levels will have to implement the needed curricular changes and innovative teaching methods. 

We should not just wait for a new technology from another country. We have to develop the ability to adapt and implement it. And we can only do these with changed research practice and improved S&T performance. Developed countries have been advised: "You don't just go and helicopter-drop a new technology into a country. You need that country to have developed the ability to have identified the technology they need, to adopt it, and to implement it." This explains why we have not been able to move forward even after decades of implementing foreign technologies.

We must maximize our technical know-how, continue our development, and use our limited resources in preparing and implementing climate-adaptation programs. These include stopping the ill-advised actions related to carbon emission, like the biofuel programs (which, some studies have shown, do more harm than good); and attending international meetings to campaign for a fair deal on carbon emission (rich countries don’t listen to us anyway). Our best bet to survive climate change is to use a combination of all available energy sources while focusing on our development to reduce poverty. It is ironic for poor countries that have contributed the least to climate change to suffer the most from its impacts. But let us do our part and replant our forests because they absorb carbon dioxide we produce in the course of our economic development.

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“It’s not just Taglish that’s peppered with foreign words”

A lively discussion on the matter of Taglish vs. English has perked up the Special Forum on Education. Taglish defender maudionisio has been joined by shaoley, Sky, and apiong, a new member based in the United States. Check out apiong’s impressive disquisition on the evolution of Taglish in the Philippines since pre-Hispanic times, and maudionisio’s rejoinder to it where he points out that it’s not only Tagalog that’s peppered with foreign words but also English and Spanish—so, he argues, why single out Taglish for this linguistic feature if indeed it’s objectionable?

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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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