Monday, August 15, 2011

The Philippine's Reach is Too Short to Grasp

My news feed pick up science articles. It has been an interesting week. A probe to Jupiter launched; it will take years to get there. Solar flares putting sensitive electronics like satellites and electricity grids at risk; activity will peak in 2013. Boeing showing off its private spaceship capable of ferrying seven people to the International Space Station. Evidence showing that the DNA requirements for life exist on meteors. Evidence showing that Texas and Antarctica were once joined. Hints that briny water may flow on the surface of Mars, giving hope for life there. A ring of antimatter particles discovered circling the earth.

America plays a lead role in discovery. It's many top-quality universities push knowledge inexorably forward. The military plots and plans for new ways to be powerful. American companies seek new ways to compete.  Germany also pushes innovation. Russia is there. Japan rode on the backs of American discovery, and improved upon it. China is now trying to catch up by stealing the discoveries of the rest of the world and blustering about how important the Chinese are in the New World Order.

Scientists share passions with the great explorers in history, the sailors who set off to go around the world on small wooden ships, the determined men who scaled Everest [recommended reading: "Paths of Glory" by Jeffrey Archer] and trekked across Antarctica, the spacemen who risked getting blown to bits or stranded in space to walk on the moon, the men and women who built and run the experiments on the International Space Station, deep sea explorations . . . solo this, a first at that, higher, faster, deeper; new understandings of life and tragic ways to find death.

A passion for knowledge. That is what drives scientists and explorers.

Cast that against the Philippines. A broad-based public educational platform that teaches by rote and demands order and obedience, not innovation and ambition and discovery. A relentless drain of brains to other lands. Careers determined by favor, not accomplishment. A clear view that introspection is shameful; look around town and see if you can find a psychiatrist or therapist.  Criticism directed toward those who do seek knowledge; a youngster with a book is disparaged by his peers as a "librarian". Jealousy of the success of others and an unending tear-down mentality to level the playing field at the absolute lowest common denominator.

The nation is a cat bound tight in a tangle of yarn, a trap of its own making.

The richest seas in the world are not a platform for discovery or production. They are a platform for plunder.

The richest soil and climate in the universe is not a platform for agricultural might. It is a platform for abuse. For bickering. For giving to the poor. For self-advantage, not stewardship.

Where is the flame?

Pride is a boxer, a singer, a Miss Universe contestant. Artistic expression is found in an obscene rendition of Jesus.

Where is the passion for knowledge, for discovery, for risk, for growth?

I don't see it.

"Joe, we are a poor country. You cannot expect us to keep pace with the US. Many Filipinos are engaged in cutting-edge technology and science around the world. Cut us some slack."


Here is my "far-out" curriculum for grades 7 through 12, under a 12 grade school system:

Track 1: Trade

Track 2: College

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

I'll deal with the trade track, as well as real-time curriculum administration and teacher development, in separate blogs.

For the college track:

Forget Tagalog, except in the home. It is not a language of national unity or discovery or global competition. Imposing it on Visayans is as artificial as imposing French. Students who attend private schools that teach in English are leaving public school graduates behind. Forget history, other than as a footnote to discovery.  Forget memorizing Rizal; let kids write their own wisdom. Forget PE; kids are naturally active. Offer extra-curricular sports and intellectual competitions.

Within the Discovery subjects include self awareness and sex education (tell the priests of the Catholic Church to kindly sit down; this is a secular school dealing with the mind, not spirit). Also the rudiments of oceanography, geology, astronomy, agronomy, sociology, biology, chemistry and physics. Give kids an understanding of what practical jobs are available in these areas. Give them a grasp of areas of new exploration as the foundation for career planning. Teach them how to think outside the box while understanding the limits of real life (budgets). Don't make them memorize species or the elements table or even multiplication tables. In the Math subjects, give them a calculator and move on to algebra. Assign them to a shared computer.

Within Aspiration subjects include self awareness and confidence building, public speaking, debate, competing within the law, problem solving, government structure and business fundamentals.

Within Computers include word processing, spreadsheet and presentation software, internet research,  rudimentary programming, and call center fundamentals (both operator and management perspectives).

Look at students critically and help them find subjects that they are passionate about. In the 12th grade, focus their energies on a self-study program aimed at their anticipated college major.

In 20 years, Filipinos will compete at the leading edges of knowledge. In 50, they will be hauling in Nobels and Pulitzers . . .

Think AHEAD of other countries. LEAD, for chrissakes. Stop trailing behind like a beat-down beggar kid pleading for handouts.

Or what's a heaven for?
Amendments to Curriculum: 

(1) Within Aspiration, add "Values".

(2) Within Discovery, add "The Relevance of our Roots."

(3) Strike "self awareness" from the Discovery subjects as it is properly addressed within Aspiration

(4) Within Discovery add "The Professions (Legal, Medical, Financial, Business, Technology)"


  1. Move over Luistro...

    Jesus, Joe! talk about 'far out' & 'thinking outside the box.' you've certainly outdone yourself there pal.

    quite ambitious i must say. we're talking about a complete overhaul of the entire educational system of the country here...

    do you suppose those dominant countries are already exploiting such ideas similar to yours?

    For a country still trying to recover from adulteration, with its people basically still struggling to live through the day, starting with the basics is what should be prioritized. I'm not saying your ideas are far-fetched, some may actually be feasible, and others, prone to scrutiny, which makes you wonder: while we do need to equip ourselves with the proper knowledge to be as competitive as possible, the 'seas' and the 'soil' will be abused continuously unless an overhaul of our future rulers' morals is in place. I suggest a topic or two about morality and values to be added in your curriculum there, Joe.

    but damn, wouldn't that be the day.

  2. 1DC, I'll say the ideas are farfetched myself. But the vision is how to move from behind to in front, and it can't happen on a wish and a prayer. US President Kennedy decided to send an American to the moon. I don't see why the Philippines can't be world class in its education system. You don't flip all the schools in the land to a new world order overnight, but you start with the first school, refine the model, and push it out as fast as you can.

    And yes, morals and values should be added to the curriculum. Good idea.

    I have more ideas about how to implement a striking leadership educational program and will write of them soon. When anyone says "yeah, but" to throw cold water on it, the challenge is to figure out how to overcome the problem. That's how Neil Armstrong got to the moon.

  3. ps. It is interesting. The biggest barrier at the outset is how "far-fetched" the vision is. No leader would take the risk of being laughed at for such wild and crazy ideas. He must be conservative so as not to shock the donors and the risk averse. It would have to fall to the youth of the Philippines to demand more. Much more. Or maybe the parents of young kids who see the mediocrity of where their kids are heading.

  4. We can't deny that foreigners still thrive in our universities here to study. whether it's for quality education or cheap tuition fees, or both, it would be best to ask those students personally. On the contrary, students here who recognize good education would kill for an opportunity to study abroad, which somehow I believe is part of your point. anyhow, for the moment at least, we could expect a timid approach to your challenge. But with the 'right people' with an eye for potential, ideas like these are anything but crazy.

    It's funny, if we could place your ideas and the present educational system side by side, it's like having an abacus and a computer...

  5. I recognize that education in the sciences etc. are vital to technological advances. But at the same time, there is also a need to be aware of one's roots. Western Europe, the US, and the Asian powerhouses did not have to turn their backs on their roots to advance technologically. American leaders, for example, are always citing judeo-christian roots and the wisdom and farsightedness of its founding fathers as the fountain from which all of America as we know it sprang, So yes to your curriculum but don't pull out the roots.

  6. MB,

    Yes, that's true. I think memorizing dates is less important than understanding the dynamics that brought us to where we are. My recollection of history is memorizing dates that meant nothing because I had no context, being a young doofus with no history himself. Now that I am older and see the dynamics at work, it is meaningful. Somehow the nation's roots need to be presented in a way that young people, without roots, can grasp the meaning.

  7. The educational system is a factor of course. But I think culture of the community may be more influential. Even in the US there are professions or skills that are associated with certain ethnicities. Jewish doctors, Asians being good at math, etc. I remember a stand up routine of Chris Rock where he points out how black culture value being a tough thug more than being brainy. It went something like "so you graduated college, so you're smart, so do you know... do you know... do you know if I can kick your ass?".
    Then there's the culture within the family which is even more influential I think. It's the parents job to teach kids the value of education and hard work. Of course if the parents don't see the value of those things then ignorance and poverty will be a family tradition. Even if one ancestor was really rich if he/she didn't teach the next generations to take care or generate wealth then eventually they will be poor. The value of learning English is also something that the parents decide. My parents decided it for me and I'm deciding it for my kid. Access to information requires less effort for me because of this.
    Then there's just people who are curious. I was the one who previously mentioned that curiosity is the only thing that limits knowledge in the google era. I went through the educational system that was all about compliance and memorization. Most people experienced the same thing. But then there are those who decided to be curious and to search for knowledge themselves just for the hell of it.

  8. kangkungan,

    Chris Rock is about the funniest nasty dude in America. He and George Carlin. Now THERE are a couple of unrestrained minds.

    Indeed some people with a built-in curiosity can overcome an education built on compliance. However, I rather suspect there are millions who could do better with a little help. They deserve the opportunity.

  9. Oh! another thought... Seems like the enlightenment/age of reason, never (hopefully, hasn't) reached the Philippines. Seems like the closest that we got was Jose Rizal and his buddies when they were in Europe.
    Filipinos are able to follow traffic laws and courtesy when they are in another country. Looks like a system/culture that encourages thought would be beneficial.


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