Saturday, August 27, 2011

"Beam Me Up a Teacher, Scottie!"

This is a fifth in a series of JoeAm's far out commentaries on the Philippine education system. So far we have established the following groundwork:


Article 1 points out that Filipino kids are broadly under-developed intellectually and skill-wise because the school system is so busy trying to keep its head above water. It is punishing Filipino kids by withholding knowledge. It is teaching them what to memorize, not how to compete. See:  State Sponsored Child Abuse

Article 2 proposes a striking new agenda that builds personal character, critical knowledge, and the will and way to succeed. The five disciplines are:

  • Mathematics
  • English and Chinese (Mandarin)
  • Discovery
  • Aspiration
  • Computers

You can read about the content of these five disciplines at: The Philippine's Reach is Too Short to Grasp

Article 3 deals with the objection that "such dramatic conversion is impractical". It describes the  "Moon Model" upon which a new style of education is based, requiring: (1) national commitment, (2) problem solving and will to succeed, and (3) technology. It proposes to overcome the "impractical" barrier by moving stepwise toward the new program:

  • Establish "Mission Control", a central computer and internet based leadership and communications hub.
  • Convert 7 classrooms to the new program.
  • Give each student a tablet computer and hook the classroom up to Mission Control via the internet.
  • Start pushing teacher's guides, lessons and exams out to students and teachers from Mission Control; there are no paper text books or exams. There are no fees or uniform requirements.
  • Select the next 70 classrooms to convert the following year and get teachers trained up; then the next 700 classrooms for the following year.

This article can be found at: Sending Philippine Schools to the Moon

Article 4 deals with the objection: "My God, the cost of all those computers and internet access!! No way, Dude!".  It calculates out the cost to computerize one classroom (P700,000) and 111,000 college track classrooms from grade 6 to grade 12 (P77.7 billion). It considers ways to fit the program into the DepEd's budget:

  • Implement the program in stages that can be managed within any budget. Call it an "honors" program at the outset.
  • Negotiate reduced "educational purpose" prices for hardware and internet time from vendors.

This article can be found at: "One Giant Leap for Filipino Kids"

This is Article 5. It discusses a few nuts and bolts, including the role of the local teacher in the centralized, internet-based instructional format. It will be followed by Article 6, revealing the "Big Secret" that will ensure that Filipino kids become the best of the best of the best, or "all that they can be".

The local teacher will be exceptionally important in the new centralized instructional framework. But gone will be the role of standing before a packed classroom of bored, sleepy and inattentive kids laying down the rules, of telling them what they are to memorize, of writing on the chalkboard lessons that most will forget by next week, and of lecturing them on what to think.

The new role will be to extract from each child his innate ability to learn and grow based on his pace at picking up internet lessons.

  • Lessons, study aids and exams will come from Mission Control.

  • Students will be assigned the responsibility to self-study, and will be given individualized coaching and counseling to help them progress.

  • Students will also learn to speak, listen, lead and concede by participating in small-group learning situations so they can self-discover within a constructive group.

When the program is fully operational, the teacher's lecture time will be less than one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. During the early "one-class-at-a-time" phase, the teacher will teach in the morning and work with Mission Control in the afternoon to perfect teaching methods and help fine-tune lessons and the centralized program. Mission Control will compile an internet-based teacher's guide based on inputs from local teachers.

When the program is fully operational, two separate classes will rotate through each classroom, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Most of the one-hour lecture time will be dedicated, not to giving knowledge, but to challenging students and directing them on how to work with internet lessons and student study groups.

Most student learning time will be outside the formal classroom. At home, or in designated study rooms at the school or off premises. The challenge for the school principal will be to provide students with space for self study or small-group working sessions. The local PTA may be able to suggest private homes or commercial space that can be used to supplement school space (guidelines to be developed by Mission Control).

Criteria for selection of teachers will include:

  • Fluent in English speech and writing.
  • Fundamental knowledge of computers to keep computers operational and linked to the internet. Able to teach spreadsheet, word processing and internet fundamentals.
  • An open mind. A "can do" problem-solving attitude.
  • Skilled at counseling. More capable in the Socratic method of questioning than declarative lectures. Able to direct and inspire children to find their own solutions.

Technical knowledge of mathematics, science or history is no longer as pertinent, as these skills will reside at the center where lessons are constructed.

Criteria for selection of schools for participation will include:

  • Balanced geographic distribution across the Philippines.
  • Starting from the major population centers and working out.
  • Availability of Globe, Smart or other wireless broadband service.
  • Appropriately skilled teachers.
  • Appropriate facilities for classroom and self-study space.

Criteria for issuance of computers to students will include:

  • Written agreement, signed by the student and his parent(s).
  • Promise to use computers only for school work (not games, chatting, internet roaming, etc.).
  • Penalties for violation of agreement: one warning, then expulsion from the honors program.
  • Internet connections will be spot-monitored from central.
  • Continuing sincere effort, responsible behavior and good grades: one warning, then mandatory withdrawal from the honors program.

Criteria for selection of students for the honors class will include:

  • High grades (e.g., top 25% of all students).
  • Demonstrated ability to speak and listen constructively.
  • Trustworthy and reliable (high attendance record; no disciplinary problems).
  • Solid foundation in English (can read well; may or may not speak fluently).

These criteria will be widely publicized so students (and their parents) know what they must do to qualify for the program as it expands.

Next up: "The Big Secret", or how to grow knowledge faster than a speeding bullet while gluing this whole program together.

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