Author Topic: The need for performance-based funding for research programs  (Read 2932 times)


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The need for performance-based funding for research programs
« on: November 18, 2011, 06:12:38 PM »
The need for performance-based funding for research programs
By Dr. Flor Lacanilao, PhD

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

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

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

(b) Some developing countries, like the Philippines, should focus on improving the quality of graduates and building research capacity in a few universities. These should have higher funding support that is performance-based.
Dr. de Jesus’ article does not discuss the importance of research and research universities in promoting workers’ productivity and national growth. He overlooks performance-based funding, which needs indicators to evaluate performance and to monitor progress. Further, he fails to see which—basic or higher education—is the culprit in the disconnect problem (identified by the World Bank) between the two education levels. He blames the 10-year basic education.
But studies have shown that poor higher education is the cause of poor basic education and the educational system. As Carl Wieman, Nobel laureate in physics, says, “It is doubtful that great progress can be made at the primary and secondary levels until a higher standard of science learning is set at the post-secondary level” (“Reinventing science education”).

Wieman, in his article in the journal Science in 2009 (“Galvanizing Science Departments”) discusses innovative teaching methods in universities that improve student learning. It focuses on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
De Jesus says, “The delay (referring to the implementation of the K-12 system) has already caused considerable damage.” He says further: “The truncated basic education cycle exerted a perverse effect on the entire educational system. . .  Filipino students, while studying more, were learning less; because they were not getting enough time to master basic concepts.”
On the above claims, he does not give any valid support—from specialists or verified studies. These refer to those published in peer-reviewed international journals (which are covered in ISI's major indexes—Science Citation Index and Social Sciences Citation Index). They insure that study results have been verified (or verifiable), which is indicated by number of citations; these in turn measure the quality and impact of one’s works (one’s list of publications and number of citations are freely accessible by Google Scholar).
They are internationally established criteria and measures of selection and performance (e.g., for appointment and funding), respectively.
Many have blamed the 10-year basic education system as the cause of our poor basic education. And that the K-12—just because this is the system in some other countries—is the solution.
On the other hand, the studies of the husband-and-wife team of Christopher and Ma. Victoria Bernido, academic scientists who are the 2010 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for education, have shown that basic education reform is achievable under the 10-year system, even amid scarcity (“Poverty and scarcity are no barriers to quality education,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 13 Sept 2010).
They report, “We have seen marked increase in proficiency levels of our students, especially in Science, Math and Reading Comprehension. This is seen from their performance in college admissions tests and the National Career Assessment Examination (NCAE).”
Among the innovative changes they have introduced to our basic education are the following: (a) only one copy of textbook per class is needed, (b) no need for expensive lab equipment, (c) only 1/4 of the allotted class period is required for teaching, and (d) students are not given homework.
The above results of the well-published Bernidos team of physicists illustrate how to solve problems: (a) knowing what is wrong or the cause, (b) which of them takes an expert or specialist to find out, and (c) which also needs experts or specialists to fix.
There are easy ways to assess if one is an expert—or has made any major contributions to one’s field. Examples are the selection criteria mentioned above and below. Another is the ISI database called Web of Knowledge (“Putting the right people in charge of science and education”; see also Everyday Practice of Science by Frederick Grinnell, Oxford, 2009).
De Jesus’ concluding statement says, “The World Bank’s timely report validates the agenda that education reform advocates in the Philippines have been pursuing. Finally, the government appears to be listening and responding.”
I don’t think so. The World Bank Report stresses improving research, including higher funding, which should be performance-based. The two key requirements to get them done are (as I explain above):

(a) Internationally-accepted selection criteria (for choosing people to manage programs).
(b) Internationally-accepted indicators (to evaluate performance and monitor progress).
Both have been ignored in de Jesus’ commentary and the government’s education program. Hence, education reform in the Philippines remains elusive.

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