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.

Clear writing campaign guidelines of the European Commission

By Gerry T. Galacio

(Note: To learn more about Clear Writing, you can use my free 400-plus interactive exercises with time limit and automatic scoring at)

"The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the EU treaties and managing the day-to-day business of the EU." (Wikipedia)

(1) "EU targets jargon with clear writing campaign"


The European Union can seem impenetrable to outsiders. But in the past few years, the EU has taken a number of active steps to improve transparency. They’ve started by tackling the issue of jargon-heavy language. 

There are 23 official languages of the European Union. But due to time and budgetary constraints, only official documents are translated into every language. For the most part, English has become the main day-to-day language of communication for the tens of thousands of civil servants working in Brussels.

For Paul Strickland, head of editing at the European Commission’s translation department, that poses a challenge.

"More and more documents in the Commission are being drafted in English by people for whom English is not their mother tongue," Strickland explains. "And this is the number one source of the Commission's communication issues."

(2) "Working on clarity at the European Commission"

Excerpt: "Practical steps in the Clear Writing campaign currently include: a booklet and online resources including a helpline that offers a response within the hour, 30 minutes for each new joiner telling them about the available resource, and training for the people responsible for specific documents or groups of documents."

(3) Clear Writing resources/guidelines from the European Commission

"How to write clearly" for legislation, technical report, minutes, press release, or speech (free PDF)

"Claire's clear writing tips" practical tips in English and French, 2014 (free PDF)

"English Style Guide" or direct link

Note: Other terms for Clear Writing are Plain English and Plain Language.

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Symposium to bring simplicity, clarity to business and government

By Gerry T. Galacio

The “Call For Clarity Conference” is a simplicity symposium organized by Alan Siegel and Irene Etzkorn, pioneers of bringing simplicity to business and government. It’s a conference for experts and advocates serious about conquering the crisis of complexity to improve business and society.

Besides Siegel and Etzkorn, other conference speakers include Simon Collinson, Dean of Birmingham Business School, and John Thiel, Head of Merrill Lynch.

“(The conference) showcases the work of nine unique Simplification Innovators. They were chosen from hundreds of entries and dozens of disciplines. They’re accomplishing unpredictable, unheard of things to overcome complexity in finance, healthcare, criminal justice and more.

“Their lessons can improve your business, your health, your finances and society in general. You’ll walk away from this one-of-a-kind conference with a new perspective and solid insights, fully motivated to address and overcome the crisis of complexity.”

(1) Conference founder Alan Siegel is CEO of Siegelvision, a New York City-based consulting firm that helps Fortune companies, nonprofit institutions and government agencies achieve clarity of purpose, expression and experience. Siegelvision has worked with some of the nation’s premier organizations, including National Geographic, NPR, Univision, AeroVironment, United Technologies, College Board, New York University, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Urban Institute, NYU Langone Medical Center, Dayco, Canada Revenue Agency and Cornell College of Engineering.)

(2) “Let’s simplify legal jargon!” by Alan Siegel, TED 2010

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Plain English for corporate executives and business leaders
By Gerry T. Galacio

(1) “Want to Be a Great Communicator? Use Plain English” from CBS News Money Watch, 2010 by Steve Tobak

“And if you work with and listen to enough successful executives and other business leaders, you'll find that, with rare exception, they use plain English and cut to the chase. That means no jargon, no beating around the bush, and no flowery or big words.”

Steve Tobak is a management consultant, columnist, former senior executive and author of  ”Real Leaders Don't Follow: Being Extraordinary in the Age of the Entrepreneur.”

Another article by Tobak: “Why Can’t Silicon Valley Use Plain English?”

“It’s sort of surprising how many of the tech elite can’t communicate with regular folk outside the Silicon Valley bubble. Which is ironic because, now more than ever, they have our attention. People really are into this stuff in a big way but they shouldn’t need a decoder ring to interpret what they’re hearing.”

(2) “Do you make your English teacher cringe?” by Michelle Cubas, founder of Positive Potentials, an advanced enterprise coaching, training, consulting and publishing company, at

“Remember when you thought using big words would make you sound smarter or you would have a verbal duel with someone to upstage that person? Those days of bloated language are finished.

“Today’s business standard is plain English. It means direct communication and emphasizes clarity and brevity, not industry jargon or technical language. This style is the standard for people writing for a general audience, including white papers, speeches, manuals and instructions, presentations and spoken language.”

(3) “Cut the drivel – plain English for internal communications” 

“Putting content on your site or intranet usually means a box has been ticked, and a job done. But is that content going to be read and understood or even result in action being taken? If the language used for much of the content is, well, dull and uninspiring, what happens?  Nothing.  If people don’t read it in the first place, that’s a fail. If they do try to read it and can’t understand it, that’s also a fail.”

(4) “Using plain English to share ideas”

“Do you ever feel like you’re in a strange world where everyone speaks a confusing language? Just attend a meeting at an organization near you. Between the industry-specific jargon and general office-speak, clarity of communication is nearly extinct. Not at Molson Coors, where 'core competencies' are now referred to as 'things we do well,' according to a recent blog posted by Miri Zena McDonald on SmartBlog on Workforce. The CEO of Molson Coors isn’t tossing around 10-pound reports anymore either, preferring a conversational video. Let’s all drink to that! (In moderation, of course.)

“The real problem here is that using the buzz word of the hour is bad communication strategy. You risk the listener not understanding you at all or misconstruing your message. How can you avoid the trap of using jargon or fuzzy terminology?”

(5) “7 communication tips for millennial leaders” by Lindsey Pollak

“Communication is not about asserting yourself; it’s about getting your message across.”

“In the academic environments where you’ve spent most of your lives, you’ve learned to write long sentences using flowery, complicated language because that’s what your teachers rewarded and it helped you hit the mandatory word counts on assignments (or maybe that was just me …). Now that you’re in the business world, you need to learn to do the exact opposite.

“I hear so many employers and workers from other generations complain about millennials writing really long e-mails with too much detail. Whether you’re writing an e-mail, a report or some other business document, you should make every effort to be concise and use short sentences and bullet points to convey your message. My mantra: When in doubt, edit it out!”

(6) “Singapore firms are turning to plain English”

“As the demand for transparency grows, banks and financial institutions in Singapore abandon the practice of using jargon and twisted English phrases.”

(7) Prudential President and CEO Lori Fouche advocates Plain English

From “The 3 words that guide Prudential's CEO — Business Management Daily”

“Lori Fouche is one of the most powerful women in business. The 47-year-old credits her success in part to her ability to describe her leadership style succinctly.

“Effective leaders can summarize their philosophy 'in one or two sentences,' she says. That’s better than overcomplicating their approach.

“She urges leaders to communicate their leadership strategy in plain English to their staff. Ideally, employees should be able to understand their leader’s style right away—without guessing what the leader expects.”


“Lori Dickerson Fouché is president and chief operating officer of Group Insurance at Prudential Financial, Inc. The 20-year industry veteran is responsible for the life, disability and voluntary product offerings, sales and account management, and service delivery and marketing.

“Prior to this appointment, Fouché served as president and CEO of Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company. Before joining Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company, Fouché worked for Chubb for several years in various roles, rising to the rank of senior vice president in Chubb Specialty Insurance.”

(9) “CEOs want information, not just words: so ... write smart, simple and short.” by Richard Neff

“Senior managers everywhere today view 'Time Management' as a key strategic issue. Yet in many companies, the writing process is a major time-waster that has gone unnoticed. Some large corporations spend 20 to 40 percent of their time just in writing. This writing process should be a tool for productivity, but is often a blockage: Writers waste too much time producing texts that waste even more time for readers.”

Neff's article discusses the Plain English initiatives of (a) Chairman Martin Kallen of Monsanto Europe, (b) Malcolm Baldrige, former CEO of Scovill, Inc., in Waterbury, Conn., and U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President Reagan, and (c) NatWest chairman, Lord Alexander of Weedon.

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Suggested steps in learning to write and edit using Plain English

Posted by Gerry T. Galacio, Forum member (October 26, 2015):

(1) Study the free online courses that I have listed; they’re in the right-hand column of my website at

(2) Watch the video “Good news: clarity’s a- coming” at (You’ll learn the Plain English guidelines through song).

(3) Download and print out the PDF files like “15 Top tips in Plain English writing”; post the printouts in a bulletin board or near your work desk, use them as your mouse pad, etc.

I recommend that you print out and study all the materials offered by (While these materials discuss how to write for the Internet, they are actually Plain English guidelines that can be used for print writing).

(4) Study the flashcards I have created. For example, start with the Plain English guidelines from the Asian Development Bank (listed in the left-hand column). I have several other flashcards from various sources. The flashcards do not have time limit or automatic scoring.

(5) For the matching-type quizzes, start with those that do not have time limit. Then, work on those exercises with time limit of 1 to 3 minutes. Lastly, work on the exercises with extreme time limit.

(6) The most comprehensive, free resource on Plain English writing is “Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective” from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. This resource is 700-plus pages and over 50 megabytes. While this material deals with health literacy, you can learn and transfer the writing guidelines discussed to other fields.

(7) Try using the “Hemingway app” at (The last time I checked, the app is still free).

One good and free program is “Drivel Defence” from the Plain English Campaign at (This program identifies your long sentences and suggests simpler words).

Try using also the free program called Rewordify at (While the program aims at improving vocabulary and reading comprehension, it can be used as an editing tool).

The best Plain English software commercially available is StyleWriter 4; it is used in government offices, newspapers, banks, law offices, etc. It has US, UK, and Australian English versions. It can check 10,000 words in 12 seconds for thousands of style and English usage issues like passive voice, nominalization, jargon, spelling, wordy, complex, and long sentences, etc.

Learn more about StyleWriter 4 and how it can help you become better writers or editors at

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Alternatives to LEAP: Hot potatoes, spoken English learned quickly

Posted by Gerry T. Galacio, Forum member and good English advocate (May 11 and 17, 2015):

“Learning English Application for Pinoys” (LEAP) is a joint project currently being undertaken by the Unversity of the Philippines-Diliman and the Department of Science and Technology to bolster the government and the BPO industry’s drive to make the Philippines the premier BPO destination in the world. Once completed, LEAP will be distributed free to Philippine schools nationwide. It was originally scheduled for release to the public in June 2013, but it is still in closed beta testing at this time.

While awaiting its release, stakeholders like the BPO industry and English teachers and students can already take up measures to improve their English proficiency.

You can use the freeware Hot Potatoes v. to create interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises. Here’s the link to the Hot Potatoes Home Page.

Hot Potatoes can create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering, and gap-fill (cloze) exercises for the World Wide Web.

I suggest the following English proficiency self-development program:

1. For interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises, use freeware Hot Potatoes

LEAP has grammar and vocabulary modules that feature interactive exercises with graphic elements. But the Internet already has hundreds of thousands of this kind of exercises. Anyone can simply go online and use these exercises. My website at “Better English for Everyone” has thousands of links to interactive grammar and vocabulary exercises.

Also, if you’re an English teacher, you can create your own interactive exercises using Hot Potatoes version, a freeware from the University of Victoria in Alberta, Canada. With Hot Potatoes, you can create cloze tests, flashcards, matching-type quizzes with time limit and automatic scoring, etc. You can incorporate graphics, sounds, and videos into these exercises. The exercises can then be stored and used offline. They can also be stored and shared online by uploading them to Dropbox or Google Drive.

(Using Hot Potatoes, I have created more than 190 quizzes and flashcards on Plain English at my “Better English for Everyone” website, which is hosted on Google Drive.)

2. Speech and pronunciation: Rosetta Stone and ABA English’s Listen, Record, Compare

LEAP has a speech and pronunciation module that’s designed to correct common errors in English pronunciation by Filipinos. This module is exceptional because, based on my research, there are only two commercially available programs similar to it. These are Rosetta Stone and ABA English’s “Listen, Record, Compare.” Perhaps, the BPO industry can make these software programs available to colleges and universities nationwide. (Rosetta Stone is available online on subscription basis, in CD, or as a download. ABA English LRC is only available online on monthly subscription basis.)

3. Spoken English Learned Quickly: The best way to learn to speak English and to learn grammar at the same time is to listen to and speak grammatically correct sentences.

I stand to be corrected, but it seems that LEAP is following the theory that learning vocabulary and grammar leads automatically to proficiency in spoken English. This theory is simply not true. The majority of Filipino college students today cannot speak English proficiently, and yet, they have studied grammar since their grade school days.

(Back in the early 1980s, I taught a grammar review subject in a private high school in San Mateo, Rizal. But despite mastering the rules of grammar and being able to diagram sentences, my students couldn’t speak English fluently in complete sentences. Also, millions of Filipino college students from the 1960s to the 1980s took 12 units of Spanish. But because Spanish professors focused on teaching grammar, only very few Filipinos learned to speak Spanish, even conversationally.)

Even if Filipinos learn to speak English words and phrases fluently through LEAP’s speech module, this does not guarantee that they can construct and speak coherent, grammatically correct English sentences. People do not learn to speak English by studying vocabulary and the rules of grammar. The best way in learning to speak English fluently and to learn grammar at the same time is by listening to and speaking grammatically-correct sentences.

Part of my website is “Spoken English Learned Quickly” hosted on Dropbox. The SELQ materials were all developed by Dr. Lynn Lundquist. SELQ uses what is called “Proprioceptive Language Learning Method” or simply “Feedback Training Method.” This method emphasizes the simultaneous training of the mind, ears, vocal cords, lips, tongue, jaw, and facial muscles in learning a language.

SELQ emphasizes five rules of learning how to speak English fluently, three of which are as follows:

1. To learn how to speak English correctly, you must speak English aloud.
2.  To learn how to speak English fluently, you must think in English.
3. The more you speak English aloud, the more quickly you will learn to speak it fluently.

By using the “Spoken English Learned Quickly” materials, a person can learn to speak fluent conversational English in less than nine months. The materials, which can all be downloaded free from my website, include a 450-page Student Workbook (PDF) and 150-plus hours of MP3 lessons in British and American accents. (You can also download a 48-page booklet “Learning Spoken English” explaining what “Proprioceptive Language Learning Method” is all about.

Note: Lest I be misunderstood, I want to say that I’m eagerly waiting for LEAP’s release so I can use it in my English proficiency seminars. As soon as I can get corporate sponsors, I will be conducting free English proficiency seminars in speaking, reading, and writing.

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DOST LEAP and other English-proficiency improvement initiatives
Postings by Gerry T. Galacio, Forum member

Free interactive English grammar exercises for Filipino students
(Posted December 2, 2014)

The call center industry in the Philippines wants to have 1.6 million employees by 2016. The industry has now reached 1.3 million employees and is pinning its hopes for more English-proficient Filipinos on the DOST LEAP (Learning English Application for Pinoys) Project. The LEAP is a standalone software that will be distributed free of charge to high school and college students. Its website is

I’m waiting for LEAP’s release so I can use it in my English proficiency seminars. But, in my opinion, the problems with the LEAP are:

1. Its release seems to be delayed for one reason or another. It was supposed to be released June 2013 but up to now, it’s still in closed beta testing stage.

2. Part of LEAP is the interactive grammar exercises. But thousands upon thousands of this kind of exercises are already freely available on the Internet. For example, I use materials, which are created by ESL teachers. Perhaps, what could set LEAP apart is if its exercises are based on Filipino culture or situations.

3. A unique feature of LEAP is its speech component (listening and speaking skills) that will address common errors by Filipinos in English pronunciation. From what I’ve read, the student using LEAP will pronounce certain words or phrases, and the software will record and grade the student’s pronunciation. (As far as I know, there are only two commercially available programs like LEAP’s speech component. These are from ABA English and Rosetta Stone.)

I stand to be corrected but I think if LEAP’s speech component is limited only to pronunciation of English words and phrases, then the program will fail in reaching its goal. Shouldn’t the program also train students on how to create and speak grammatically correct English sentences?

Call-center program, House bills, DepEd initiatives for English proficiency
(Posted December 13, 2014)

[1] From “IGM (I-Google Mo) and SMP” by Penny Sicangco-Bongato, Philippine Daily Inquirer, December 6, 2014:

“The Service Management Program (SMP) Specialization Track is the IT-BPM industry’s way of integrating its competency requirements into the school curriculum.” The SMP consists of “15 units of classroom electives and 600 hours of internship.” This semester, schools like PUP, Negros Oriental State University, and Laguna State Polytechnic University have some 600 students doing on-the-job training. Next year, “there will be seven or more state universities and colleges with around 2,000 student-interns.”

[2] Several years ago, the “English is Cool Coalition” organized “English camps” in schools like FEU. But I can’t find any information now about this coalition on the Internet.

PGMA’s administration had its “National English Proficiency Program” that reportedly had a budget of PhP500 million for training several thousand teachers nationwide. These teachers were then supposed to train other teachers in their respective schools.

At present, the DepEd has its “Language Competency Benchmark” as the official guideline for the standard competency requirements of all its personnel. The DepEd has also conducted seminars on “Communicative Language Teaching.” But I can’t find enough information on the Internet about this benchmark and about the CLT seminars. 

[3] The House of Representatives has four pending bills related to English. These are:

(i) HB 0311 – “An Act to Strengthen and Enhance the Use of English as the Medium of Instruction in Philippine Schools” (filed by Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)

(ii) HB 0366 – “An Act to Strengthen and Enhance the Use of English as the Medium of Instruction in Philippine Schools” (filed by Rep. Raul Del Mar)

(iii) HB 1339 – “An Act to Strengthen and Enhance the Use of English as the Medium of Instruction in Philippine Schools” (filed by Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas)

(iv) HB 3702 – “An Act Strengthening the Use of the English Language as Medium of Instruction in Grade School, High School, College and Vocational Education” (filed by Rep. Eric Olivarez)

The bills filed by Reps. Arroyo, Gullas, and Del Mar all encourage the use of English as the language of interaction in schools through the organization of English clubs in book, oratorical, debating, etc.

But as one media report pointed out, English proficiency will not improve by using it as the medium of instruction. Rather, the report said, proficiency will be achieved by strengthening the study of EFL (English as a Foreign Language).

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How things in the Universe compare in size

U.S.-based Forum member Angel Casillan sent in this link to this very illuminating YouTube video about the relative sizes of things in the Universe. View it now by clicking the link below—and banish forever the notion that our Earth with humankind on it is the center of the universe.

The Relative Sizes of Things in the Universe

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Adapting to a warmer world: How resilient is the Philippines?
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Are we doing the right preparations for the worst problems facing our nation? Three articles from the leading journals Science and Nature during the last few days give some help and strategies we need to address them.

First is a brief on the Warming and Melting from Science (30 Nov 2012): “Mass loss from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica account for a large fraction of global sea-level rise. Part of this loss is because of the effects of warmer air temperatures, and another because of the rising ocean temperatures to which they are being exposed. Joughin et al. (“Ice-Sheet Response to Oceanic Forcing,” page 1172)  review how ocean-ice interactions are impacting ice sheets… Shepherd et al. (“A Reconciled Estimate of Ice-Sheet Mass Balance,” page 1183)  combined data sets produced by satellite altimetry, interferometry, and gravimetry to construct a more robust ice-sheet mass balance for the period between 1992 and 2011. All major regions of the two ice sheets appear to be losing mass, except for East Antarctica. All told, mass loss from the polar ice sheets is contributing about 0.6 millimeters per year (roughly 20% of the total) to the current rate of global sea-level rise.”
Second is Adapting to a warmer world from Nature (29 Nov 2012): “With developed nations doing little to slow climate change, some people  and private sector in underdeveloped and developed countries are building ramps, sea walls, dams, and other measures to adapt to the inevitable devastation.  See what success and failure from them the Philippines can learn. And how to balance short-term adaptation and long-term development efforts.” A solely top-down approach to adaptation —focusing on heavy investment in engineering and infrastructure — will not work as it is expensive and impractical.”

And third is How resilient is your country?, also from Nature (22 Nov 2012): “Extreme events are on the rise. Governments must implement national and integrated risk-management strategies.” Economic losses from natural disasters, worldwide, rose from $528 billion in 1981–1990 to $1,213 billion during 2001–2010.  It is clear from experience, and this paper says that the regular use of scientific evidence by the government leaders and the media people is what led to more effective crisis management. Increasing number of heads of states want to make resilience in climate adaptation a priority, but are unsure of the first step. “Good practice demands a combination of quantitative knowledge and leadership at the top.” The author recommends that governments appoint “cabinet-level national-risk officers” like what is done for “enterprise-wide risk management” in the private sector. 

The discussions in the above articles show how success of adaptation programs depended on scientific information, and on properly published studies and experts. President Aquino’s cabinet has two such experts who can use such studies to implement their respective programs. They are economist Arsenio Balisacan of NEDA and medical doctor Enrique Ona of DOH. But to insure useful cabinet decisions, more of Aquino’s secretaries should be the kind of Balisacan and Ona. That is, they should also have made major contributions to one's field, as a minimum requirement for the job (“Energy crisis and climate change,” Philippine Daily Inquirer).

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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Concern raised over ill-conceived climate-change adaptation ideas
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

Regarding the work of scientists and media in climate disasters, the typical news report in the Philippines on climate-related issues often lacks evidence-based information, which means properly published experts or studies. For example, the news report “Reclaiming land seen as measure to deal with climate change” (Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 1, 2012) mentioned a department secretary, a bureau director, an architect, a government reclamation agency, and the University of the Philippines National Institute of Geological Science or NIGS (“Key role of scientists & media in climate disasters,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, November 8, 2012). But no scientist or properly published study was cited at all. And the report failed to mention the well-published NIGS geologist Dr. Alfredo Mahar Lagmay.
Here is another example of a news report in a recent issue of the journal Nature, showing how scientists and engineer scientists discuss plans on climate adaptation: 

Malcolm Bowman (who specializes in storm-surge modeling at Stony Brook University in New York) has “advocated a system of sea barriers or dykes,” like those in London, the Netherlands, and Russia. The system pictured by Bowman and others consists of an 8-km-wide barrier, 6 meters high, that can be opened and closed at the entrance to the harbor, and other structures. The cost is about US$15 billion; by way of comparison, estimates of the damage caused by Hurricane “Sandy” is between $30 billion and $50 billion.

On the other hand, some scientists worry that a single focus on sea barriers could be counterproductive—like disrupting river outflow, increasing sedimentation, upsetting ecosystems, and exacerbating flooding in areas that are not protected. Also, sea barriers do not protect against severe storms that produce inland flooding.

Cynthia Rosenzweig (co-chair of the New York climate panel and a senior scientist at NASA) says, “Sandy clearly shows that we have to do the barrier studies now… But I think we need to consider an integrated and holistic set of solutions, and not put all of our eggs in the barriers.”  Scientists and government officials must ensure that any rebuilding is done with the long view of global warming in mind, she adds. (Full text in “Hurricane sweeps US into climate-adaptation debate” (Nature, November 8, 2012)

The way governance of science and education in the Philippines goes, I think the message to the Filipino academic scientist can be seen in the Science editorial last week, which says in part:

“Scientists insist on believable data both in work and in public life. Bright young scientists do not accept nonsense from those in power, and they will not be eternally patient with those responsible for it. The response of the scientist to nonsense is both conceptual and practical: to recognize it, expose it, and try to fix it.”  (“The Scientist as World Citizen,” November 2, 2012).

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

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The UP economists and the RH bill
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

An important role—in fact, a social responsibility—of natural and social scientists is to help politicians make useful policy decisions. One way is to actively participate in debates on national issues and to do more to bring the debate to a useful conclusion.

When a debate on a national issue drags for 13 years, as in the case of the Reproductive Health bill, it says a lot about the quality of the debate. Perhaps there has been a communication problem. Are the academic scientists doing their job? Are nonscientists dominating the discussions, and thus confusing the politicians and decision-makers?

Recently, two articles that appeared in the “Talk of the Town” page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer presented opposing views on the RH bill. One article is by 30 University of the Philippines economists: “Population, poverty, politics and RH bill” (July 29, 2012 issue). The other is by Bernardo Villegas, Evelina Atienza, Frank Padilla, Anthony Lumicao, and 15 others: “No need for an RH bill, now or ever” (September 16, 2012 issue). 

Surely one would want to know which of the two groups of authors have more credible members to discuss the subject. This would not only help the politicians but also educate the media people and the general public. It should be noted that those without properly published work “lack the necessary expertise to evaluate information correctly.”

Says noted scientist Fred Grinnell in his book Everyday Practice of Science (2009): “The easiest way to assess whether someone has made any major contributions to one’s field is to check with the ISI database called Web of Knowledge. You can use that database to learn the number of publications done by a researcher and whether the published work has been cited by others. If you don’t have access to the Web of Knowledge database, then you can get similar information—albeit not quite as complete—from Google Scholar.”

From the citation information drawn from its Web of Knowledge database, Thomson Reuters determines the most influential researchers in chemistry, physics, physiology or medicine, and economics. Indeed, since inaugurating the Nobel predictions in 2002, 26 of the total of more than 160 Thomson Reuters ‘Citation Laureates’ have gone on to win actual prizes.”

These last few days, I have been doing a Google Scholar Advanced search on the members of the two groups and I found some interesting results (the data are freely accessible). I selected only publications in two peer-reviewed international journals, Thomson ISI’s Social Sciences Citation Index and Science Citation Index. These indexes are widely used indicators in evaluating research and S&T performance in the natural and social sciences; for instance, in ranking countries, universities, and researchers. 

Such properly published studies—adequately peer-reviewed and widely accessible for verification—are also referred to as valid publications.

Among the 30 UP economists in the Inquirer article, 10 have 4 to 17 valid publications with an average total of 14.9 citations. They are RV Fabella, AM Balisacan, RL Clarete, JJ Capuno, RA Danao, EM Pernia, GP Sicat, SA Quimbo, OC Solon, and GM Ducanes. Of the remaining 20 authors from UP, 9 each have 1 to 3 publications, and 11 are unpublished (see attached Table of publication data).

On the other hand, among Dr. Bernardo Villegas’ group of 19 authors, only Villegas has valid publications—3 papers with an average of 9.0 citations. The 18 others have no ISI-indexed publications at all. 

Note that in two earlier posts, I discussed the issues on the K-12 education program of the Philippines. Those who support it hardly have any valid publications, whereas those who oppose the Philippine K-12 have properly published work.

The above observations and information are crucial for government policy-makers in solving our national problems. They have been established from the experience of developed and fast developing countries. If we are to move forward, I think this issue on assessing expertise should be a major concern not only of our natural and social scientists but more so of our government.
And for me, I repeat my call—It’s time for the Philippine Congress to Stop the RH debate now!

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

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Propagating errors, Perpetuating Mediocrity
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao

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

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

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

First, I am not a professor emeritus.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.”

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