Math as a way out of poverty


PROFICIENCY in math and science education is one of PNoy’s 10-point education agenda. Unfortunately, this pronouncement has remained just that – a pronouncement.

Five years into PNoy’s term, the country continues to lag behind its Asian neighbors in the competitiveness tables because we lack technological capability or the capacity to choose and use technology to create a competitive advantage. Much of this deficiency can be traced to our inadequate math and science background and training.

This explains why the Philippines only ranked 115th out of 142 countries in the perceived quality of math and science education in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2011-2012. Our tiny neighbor Singapore topped the list with Taiwan ranking fifth place, Hong Kong, 11th and South Korea, 12th.

It is also no surprise the country placed a low 41st in science and 42nd in math among 45 countries in the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), a quadrennial international assessment of math and science skills among primary and secondary schools.

This is not to say, however, that Filipinos are bad in Math. Filipino students continue to make headlines in Asia and the world by winning math contests. But enrollees in math related courses in college are in a steady decline, with incoming college students opting to enroll in courses that will lead to “in-demand” jobs. As a result, courses related to science, math, agriculture and forestry see fewer and fewer enrollees every year.

Math related courses have one of the fewest enrollees across all disciplines, according to data from the Commission on Higher Education, with only 13,358 enrollees in 2011.

While educators and politicians have called on the government to intensify its programs that will attract students to enroll in math related courses, an innovative company started its own unique way of getting students to love math and at the same time create opportunities for deserving math geniuses to finish their college education through scholarships. (YMG), a website that initially began as an online community to help others on questions about mathematics recently unveiled the YMG Scholarship Program that will award scholarships worth 10,054 US dollars to some 100 talented yet underprivileged students, equivalent to around 1.1 million US dollars every year.

This tech company transformed from being an online forum for math problems to giving students an opportunity to support their families once they complete their education. YMG scholars will be able to obtain a college degree in the field of Mathematics without worrying about the costs. The YMG scholarship will cover the tuition fees and miscellaneous expenses, including allowances for meals, payment for books, and dormitory fees.

YMG is currently looking for third year and fourth year high school students, high school graduates, and first to third year college students, from both private and public high schools and tertiary education institutions. Students who are also taking up degrees in other science-related courses are also eligible for the scholarship program.

YMG will shortlist around 400 to 500 students before the final evaluation of the top 25 candidates every quarter. Selecting the final list of YMG scholars will be done through assessment of documentary requirements, personal interviews, and evaluation of their essays. The essays are the personal answers of applicants on why they deserve the YMG scholarship. Applicants who have achievements and awards, highlighted by their outstanding involvement and participation in their respective communities will have an advantage.

YMG is also planning to hold a mathematics competition through an Olympiad to help decide on the final list of scholars, staying true to its roots of being an online community that promotes Mathematics.

Enrico Paolo Bugarin, the executive director of the YMG Scholarship Program for the Philippines, said that the founders of the website want to use math to improve the lives of scholars. He added that it would also become mutually beneficial for them since the success of the scholars would also allow and encourage more students to pursue the subject even further.

Once the winners are chosen, the names and schools will be published in newspapers throughout the country. The grant will then be coursed through the schools of the YMG scholars. In case the scholar graduates with some money left over in the scholarship fund, the remaining amount may be awarded to the student as a graduation gift, provided they complete the course they’ve enrolled in.

The application process for the Filipino scholars is ongoing and will end on May 31, 2015. is a website operated by YourMathGuru, Inc. The main objective of the website is to unite students who share a common love of math. YMG offers help with algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, analytic geometry, complex variables and combinatorics. The website also offers limited assistance for basic physics and chemistry.

Let’s hope is able to somehow achieve what PNoy failed to accomplish in the past five years.


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1 Comment

  1. Anima A. Agrava on

    Great column again. Atty Dulay.
    Please note that your paper has called on the people to form a People Power Movement to OCCUPY COMELEC. Please do support the call.