Reacting to one of my recent columns (“Do we even know what questions to ask?,” The Manila Times, January 17, 2017 ) a reader (whom I shall call here reader Hector because of his previous comments) shared with me an interesting piece of information.
He said the Philippines’ usage of Google /Internet searches could reveal a lot about whether Filipinos have inquiring minds or not.
Hector has a theory that Filipinos do not ask questions because they do not inherently have inquiring minds. To put this theory to the test he researched the country’s usage of Google/Internet searches.
What he found was revealing: “While most countries use an Internet search engine most (Google, Baidu, or Yahoo), in the Philippines, as in some other struggling 3rd world countries, Facebook is the most used.
Knowledge vs gossip
This suggests for Hector an insight into Filipino culture. A number of times, when asked for information about a certain subject, he would tell the inquisitor (usually one of our compatriots), “Google it.” The reply he gets is, “I never use it.”
This has amazed him no end. With all the power to be found in the Internet, there are many among our people who waste and do not avail themselves of the opportunity to learn.
In our country, Hector says, there is a prevalence of quiet children who are not asking ‘why’ 1000 times a day. Asking “why” is a normal part of a child’s early development, and the key to the formation of a “worldview” and how it works.
Reader Hector extrapolates the information about Facebook and search engines, as a key to attitudes to gossip and knowledge. People normally use Facebook to socialize and keep in touch with friends. On the other hand, they use Google, Yahoo and Baidu in order to get information and to find out what is happening in the world.
This could indicate that Filipinos probably prefer gossip to knowledge. We do not inquire for facts and information. We are curious about the latest gossip, scandal and what celebrities and entertainers are doing.
This is not the worst, says Hector.
He sent me a chart that disturbed me deeply. The chart said that Filipino IQ levels are declining while those of other ASEAN countries are rising.
This should surprise no one. Fake news spreads like wildfire on Facebook.
Then came his clincher: “K-12 will not make the difference by just adding on 2 years at the end of basic education, if we have not done things right at the beginning and changed the whole approach/philosophy of learning. Otherwise the next generation will not stand a chance against robotics and artificial intelligence.”
Philippines chickens out of PISA
Hector‘s findings on Filipinos and Facebook hasten me to disclose my findings on a subject that immensely disturbs me. This is my discovery that the Philippines (under President Benigno Aquino III and Brother Luistro as education secretary) chickened out of the 2015 Program for International Students’ Assessment (PISA).
The 2015 results were released last year, and I could not find anywhere in the tables the name of the Philippines. So we have no clue about the abilities of our 15-year-old students
PISA evaluates education systems in 70 countries by testing the academic abilities of 15-year-old students in each country. Skills and knowledge that students have acquired at the end of compulsory education in reading, math, problem solving and scientific literacy are tested.
It appears that our education officials in the previous administration ran away from the assessment because they feared that young Filipino students were not prepared for such a test.
After gloating over national economic performance in recent years and boasting that we had become “the darling of Asia,” the Aquino administration did not have the guts to submit our representative students to PISA testing.
In contrast, most of our Asean neighbors willingly submitted themselves to testing. Singapore emerged on top of the results, second only to Switzerland.
Ironically, the Philippines under Aquino made a big show of hosting the 37th Annual Conference of the International Association for Educational Assessment, at which some topnotch international educators were speakers. The conference did nothing to steel the nerves of Filipino education officials. They preferred not to know how Filipino students would fare in the tests.
I think it’s time for a more courageous approach to PISA, primarily because we have a President who likes to look tough before the world. And because we have a tendency to boast about the littlest distinction.
It’s time to join PISA because it is a kind of academic Olympics. PISA measures the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, math and science.
The PISA assessment is based on two-hour tests that half a million students around the world are put through.
You cannot improve what you cannot measure
Ms. Grace Shangkuan Koo, an educational psychologist from the University of the Philippines, expresses succinctly the reason why the Philippines should take part in PISA. “You cannot improve what you cannot measure.”
The PISA test was designed under the lead of Dr. Andreas Schleicher of Hamburg. Schleicher has pointed out that test items that were easiest to assess were the easiest to teach, but were also the easiest to lose.
Schleicher has revealed some startling results from PISA testing.
For one, the United States dropped from rank No. 1 to 26 in the results. The current rankings show that many of the highest-performing school systems are in Asia–specifically, China, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan.
The results further showed that outcome is not about how much a country is spending on education, but where it is spent. A nation’s wealth only accounts for 60 percent of its school system’s performance.
The top-ranking countries do not spend the most for education, but they spend a good portion on recruiting and sustaining the best teachers. The top-ranking school systems are also serious about teacher development.
In Singapore, only the top one-third of the graduating class in college can consider taking up an education degree and only one of eight candidates is accepted in the teaching profession. In China, teachers have to participate in 360 hours of professional development each year.
After recruiting smart people into the teaching profession, the top countries exert great incentives to keep them
in schools by making the job not only financially attractive, but also intellectually attractive.
Dr. Schleicher offers a persuasive parting word about PISA testing.
“We need to turn the belief that ‘only a few can achieve excellence’ to the commitment that ‘all students need to learn at high level.’ ”
“Students who are not prepared have diminishing life chances. Filipinos are not competing with fellow Filipinos; they are competing with the world. Learn from other countries. Use assessment and you will find out what you want to achieve is possible.”
The message is both exciting and uplifting. I see where it fits in all my talk about the creative economy.