Friday, August 19, 2011

Sending Philippine Schools to the Moon

Students of Philippine public schools are being given a rotten deal. They are not allowed to be all that they can be.

How can parents stand for it, knowing that their child will not be given the education needed to be successful in a competitive global economy? That the child will never be all that he can be?

Public school students are  handicapped by a style of education that emphasizes the passive skill of memorization instead of active, productive skills of creative thinking, problem solving and ambition. Furthermore, there are too many kids, the facilities are poor and teachers are too often unskilled and overworked

Yes, Philippine universities produce many fine professional minds. They filter up with the strong support of their families, many through private schools. I am referring to a different group. I am referring to the millions of kids who are forced to achieve well below their potential.  Whose home life may not be the best. The millions of kids who are denied an opportunity to be all that they can be by a school system that is so over-whelmed and under-funded that it can barely cope.

How can the Philippines get from behind to the front in the global competition for capable minds? How can a struggling school system become a worldwide leader in how it opens young minds to the excitement of knowledge, good values and ambition?

In my earlier article, I proposed an "out of the box" agenda that encourages kids to think for themselves and to aspire to compete in the global playing field for brainpower. It is centered on five essential disciplines:

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

Refer to my prior blog ("The Philippine's Reach is Too Short to Grasp") for a description of the subjects covered within each area.

The First Objection

"Oh, yeah, Joe. How are we going to do that? It is totally impractical. We don't have enough money or teachers or people who would back such a wild, far-out program."

Well, the first thing you do is swap out your "can't do" attitude for one that says: "We must do this and we must not let any barriers stop us from finding a way".

As US President Kennedy made a commitment to put a man on the moon, the Philippines can make a commitment to radically improve and modernize its public education. To innovate and lead rather than lag behind forever.

The moon walk was accomplished by a commitment to problem-solving anchored by application of technology.  (1) Commitment; the nation was enthusiastic about it. (2) A problem-solving attitude, one that does not accept the premise "it can't be done". (3) Technology.

Achieving a striking advancement in education in the Philippines would require the same three elements: (1) National commitment, (2) Problem solving and will to succeed, and (3) Technology.

I'll leave gaining the commitment up to the nation's Educator in Chief, the President, and his "gate-keepers of children's minds", his education staff. I would remind them, the gates are weather beaten and worn, hanging from one rusty hinge, and very hard to push open. To put it in blunt terms, Filipino kids aren't getting a world-class education and the gatekeepers are responsible.

The Vision: to end the suppression  of opportunity that exists now and give millions of intelligent young Filipinos the knowledge and confidence to strive for the moon. The figurative moon. Or literal moon, that is fine, too.

Overcoming the First Objection: "It's impractical."

It seems impractical to make dramatic change given the breadth of the problems and the increasing flood of kids going to school. But it is entirely feasible if educators are willing to let go of the way they were taught and embrace technology as the way to do so much more, and teach so much better.

I therefore propose the Moon Model. 

Step 1, build a Mission Control center that is equipped with aggressive, sharp, computer literate people, technology pros, "out of the box thinking" Curriculum Masters, and central computer hardware and software (the latter including a secure internet platform). Have the Curriculum Masters begin building the full curriculum and Grade 6 lessons that will be pushed out to a handful of schools. Develop a teacher certification program.

Second, select the seven pilot schools for conversion of one classroom of Grade 6 students to a new curriculum and a new teaching method than is anchored to the internet. This program is for students showing the aptitude and desire to attend college. Issue a bold challenge to each of the seven responsible local schools to aspire to be the best at making the conversion. That is, they must supply a proper facility, certify the best open-minded  teacher to oversee class, provide the technology (with Mission Control assistance), and align teaching methods with directives from Mission Control. Classroom size, 20 students, plus or minus 3. No fees are to be assessed for exams, equipment or any other reason, and, no uniforms are required (this shall be deemed the "Bill Gates" rule, for he brought casual dress to Microsoft and corporate America.)

Third, give each student a tablet computer that can receive transmitted lessons and exams from Mission Control and upload exam answers and assignment papers to Mission Control. No paper text books or exam materials will be issued. Each classroom will also have 5 shared desktop computers and the teacher will have a laptop computer. All tablets and computers will have an internet modem (Smart or Globe broadband wireless).

Fourth, start pushing out the lessons from the internet site to students' computers. Provide teaching guides to teachers the same way.

Fifth, looking ahead, select the next group of 70 classrooms that will be converted and assign a conversion lead from each school who will work at the 7 initial schools to understand and help fine-tune the process. They have a year to get their own schools ready. Concurrently, have the Curriculum Masters build the Grade 7 lessons for those who advance from the original seven classrooms.

Concurrently, the Educator in Chief will have to get Philippine schools converted to the 12-year international standard, realign necessary laws and regulations to recognize the dual teaching method that will exist for a time, and begin funding technology roll-out.

The basic point of this article is to suggest how to overcome the obstacle that "the job is too overwhelming". It is not if you take steps one at a time, where each step is along a well-defined path, and you walk forward with your head up. You also have to accept that some students will have a huge advantage over others for a time, and the clamor to be added to the new curriculum will be loud. Criteria for selecting schools for expansion will need to be clear.

The math computes like this:

Year 1: Build Mission Control; create master curriculum and Grade 6 lessons; certify 7 teachers.
Year 2: 7 classrooms Grade 6 converted (140 students)
Year 3: 77 classrooms Grade 6; 7 classrooms Grade 7 (1,680 students)
Year 4: 777 classrooms Grade 6; 77 classrooms Grade 7; 7 classrooms Grade 8 (17,220 students)
Year 5: 7,777 classrooms, etc. (172,760 students)

In Year 5, you have 172,760 Filipino kids on the move toward excellence. Toward opportunity.

By year 10, they are all on the move.

In a future article, I'll deal with the Second Objection "My God, the cost of all those computers and internet access!! No way, Dude!".

I'll also deal with the Third Objection. "Our teachers are overwhelmed already; no way they can train up to a new curriculum, too." Ah, let me give you a hint about this:  Grading will be done by computer or outsourced to a call center under the auspices of Mission Control. Local teachers will have more important things to do.

Finally, I will provide the BIG SECRET key to success.

Once I finish with the BIG SECRET, a light bulb will go off inside your brain. The pieces will fit: The curriculum. The rollout. The computers. The teachers. The secret.

You will become a believer.

The Philippines CAN go from the back of the pack to global leader. From millions of kids denied opportunity to millions of kids thriving on opportunity.


  1. Damn Joe, this sequel to your first article "The Philippine's Reach is Too Short to Grasp" reminds me of the Harry Potter series, long yet much anticipated. Comments this early would be baseless and premature. It's something one needs to watch unfold to fully appreciate, or for others, scrutinize to their hearts' content. Still, the ideas you come up with are breakthroughs in their own right.

  2. The Philippines needs to build an Aircraft Carrier to counter the Chinese threat. Pinoys can go to the moon if we decide to. But now, we should focus on destroying China before they destroy us.

  3. PP, who is sending Pinoys to the moon? The article is about building world class schools. China is no threat to the Philippines as long as the Philippines maintains a constructive relationship with the US instead of a knee-jerk one. You'd rather have one aircraft carrier, sunk with one missile or torpedo, rather than world class schools? Incredible.

  4. Joe,

    History has shown that appeasement of tyranny only makes the tyrant stronger. You need to "man up" and learn to stand up to bullies like China.

    You blog about the Filipino potential and yet you say we cannot stand toe to toe with the Dragon. Well you are wrong Joe. The Filipino can.

  5. @Proud:

    I remember this 'borrowed' Ad used by a foreign pen maker, saying "the pen is mightier than the sword." Makes sense?

    Try this: brains over brawn.

    Realistically, we couldn't defend our islands through brute force even if we wanted to. This doesn't mean though that we will succumb to every invading country's will. Diplomacy, for the moment, is the strategy and our only option. I also doubt if another People Power would be effective in this case...

  6. @Joe:

    In reference to your article "My Baby Has Warts", reactions like those made by Proud give justice to your claim that we are indeed 'children'.

  7. 1DC,

    Another defeatist are you? A protracted guerrilla war spread across 7,000 islands would bleed any empire that dares to take us. But it would not have to come to that if we build up our navy to match China's. We have the brains and brawn to prevail. People forget that China has millions of people in poverty and is only one meal away from anarchy.

  8. @Proud:
    A Pragmatist perhaps. A Defeatist, highly unlikely.

    "bleed any empire" - cute, but practically delusional.

    'building up' our forces for mere intimidation is a luxury we don't have as of the moment. You do realize that mustering up all our resources for this endeavor would have its consequences.
    Let's ask to poor...

    You do realize that there are four other countries vying for this islands aside from us and the Chinese. would you suggest waging an all-out war against them as well?

    taking up arms may be an option, but to a thinking Filipino, there are other ways - civil, intellectual, cautious - to impose our claims.

  9. I admire your confidence and faith in the potential of the Filipinos, for I too would find satisfaction in saying "Filipinos can". But in essence, we are underestimating the capabilities of the Filipino in addressing this concern diplomatically, let alone maturely, without violence. Wouldn't that offer a sweeter victory? But still, i do agree that whenever pushed against the wall, the Bonifacio in all of us shall prevail. Until then, let Rizal's blood flow through our veins...

    Uh-oh, I'm afraid I've opened up another topic contentious topic there...

  10. 1DC,

    Speaking about these other neighbors who are also trying to take OUR islands from us, Malaysia has yet to surrender the Sabah territory which is rightfully ours. And let me guess, you want to be "practical" about this issue too? We have been negotiating with these thieves for decades and yet we are still not united with our Sabah brothers. At what point will you stop letting neighbors break up your country by stealing territory with impunity. Was it Theodore who said that you do not have a foreign policy if you do not have a strong military?

    Rizal was a Mason (a high level one at that). He was an agent serving the agenda of his 33rd degree Luciferian masters. He is only a "national hero" because our colonizers, who wrote history and defined reality for us, told us so.

  11. Who said anything about letting our neighbors break up our country?

    By the way, there's a reason why PNoy settled for a second-hand, obsolete Cutter rather than a Carrier... For what it's worth, nothing beats using the right tolls for the right job. But right now kabayan, we DON'T have the resources to own one. Doesn't it make you wonder why our neighbors are still hesitant to finalize their claims on our island? Because we're friends with the 'Big Guys'... Good connections, say, relations, have its advantages, you know.

    Like i said, the Boni-Rizal comparison would be another contentious topic. Sorry for dragging you into this Proud. Nevertheless, I do agree that the colonizers had their agenda in leading us to pick Rizal as our national hero.

    Anyways, there's a classic example of ad hominem for you guys...

  12. Joe, I really appreciate your desire to improve the state of Philippine education, but I don't think that goal will ever be achieved, at least not in our lifetime.:-(

  13. Hello Joe,

    I would like to give your Moon Project a shot, well at least on a small scale. I tutor urban poor children at Antipolo on Saturdays. Why don't we try this program at least once a week? Then we could send the report to DepEd to convince them that this proposal would bear fruit to the education system as a whole?

    Do you live in nearby NCR? Let's talk. Thanks.

    My email is


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