Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Knowledge, Skills, Discipline, Socialization

Why do we send our kids to school? Do you ever think about that?

Do we send them to get them out of the house and out of our hair?

Do we send them because everyone else does, and because, generally, we think school is a good thing?

I ask these questions because if we don't understand what we hope to accomplish by sending our kids to school, I don't know how we structure the best education for them. I rather think that, in the Philippines, the top educators don't think much about why kids are in school. They are too busy administering the standard curricula, getting text books, making rules, building classrooms and hiring teachers.

They see solutions only in a bigger budget. Not in reconfiguring education to improve what students learn, and to give kids the opportunity to be the best they can be.

It seems to me that there are four benefits kids get out of school:

  1. Knowledge: History and science give us a perspective on our world. It is generalized information that can be put to good use in understanding why it is important to trek down to the polling place to vote or wash our hands before eating.

  1. Skills: Mathematics for most people represents a skill. How to add up the cost of the shopping list or calculate the risks of investing in this or that. Welding is a skill. Science is knowledge.

  1. Discipline: Will we follow the rules or not? Do we have the routines in place to achieve a goal, like passing an exam or getting a paper written well and on time? Or later on, being self-motivated and productive on the job.

  1. Socialization: Will we engage other people directly, or manipulate the situation to favor us, or beat the shit out of someone who we perceive has slighted us? Do we have the confidence and aptitude to compete for success?

Now the level of emphasis given to some of these areas ought to vary depending on the "Development Platform". In the youngest years, all kids should receive the same fundamentals, with emphasis on discipline (good study habits) and socialization (how to find harmony in process and happiness through achievement). Later, the Platform might change as a child's "interests and aptitudes" become clearer.  The curricula should adjust according to what the goal is.

The two basic Development Platforms are:

  1. College track, or, in primary school, getting the discipline and knowledge needed to succeed in the next step of education.

  1. Trade track, or getting skills, discipline and knowledge in place to perform tasks for an employer who values individual productivion.

If we reflect on how to develop kids, we can observe that the Philippine public education system from kindergarten through high school has some profound flaws. These are flaws apart from the shortage of classrooms and teachers. They are correctable. Let me recite a few that I think have profound effect.

  1. Knowledge that is irrelevant. Take the table of elements. How relevant is it to know the symbol for Silver  is Au and why it is isn't Sl. And what element number it is? Why should hours of a student's time be spent memorizing the table  versus five minutes spent understanding how to Wiki the table and 10 minutes grasping what it is used for?  The point here is that this is not the 1950's and knowledge about how to get information is more important than the information itself. How do you teach the internet if your classroom has no computer? How do students compete with students around the world who DO learn computers? The Philippine teaching method is 1950's. Today is 2011.

  1. Skills that aren't. It does no good to try to teach a person who thrives on manual productivity how to calculate cosines. It does no good to try to teach an aspiring oceanographer how to paint or kick a soccer ball. It does a lot of good to test a student for aptitude and put him in a program that fits. One curriculum does not fit all.

  1. Discipline that is not. How can it be that so many kids graduate and go on to adopt the corrupt morality of favoritism that undermines Philippine well-being and productivity? The kids are taught to obey, follow the rules and learn by rote, but somehow way too many emerge to cheat, to connive, to take the easy way. Now a part of this is the social framework into which they are thrown, favor based rather than capability based. But a part is that they are not taught to aspire, to compete, to brainstorm and organize solutions, or to cherish the pride that comes with adhering to upstanding principles.

  1. Socialization that fails. The one mystery to my western mindset is why Filipinos are unkind to each other, lacking in basic consideration and courtesy. The nation seems to situationally sort people into powerful and powerless and it is considered acceptable for the powerful to trample on the powerless. Blaming, excuse making and knocking down successful people and practices are common reactions from the powerless. This is NOT an upward bound social framework. I believe Kids should be taught elements of character. Kindness, thoughtfulness, personal ethics. Ambition that is exercised honorably. Independent thought.  I believe a caring, aspiring culture is a productive culture. It is a rich culture. Introspection is important. Denial is counterproductive.

I'd recommend the Department of Education rethink why kids are in school. And get out of the 1950's.


  1. A minor correction, Gold is AU, Silver is AG.

    But you're correct, other than that minor correction, I haven't found any real use for that piece of knowledge.
    For me, its just another piece of trivia waiting to be used in a quiz contest.

  2. It's obvious students enrolled in public schools are those who suffer the most from these issues you've mentioned. The teachers there lack the motivation to give and perform more. The parents, poor and miserable as they are, would be simply satisfied if their children would just learn to read and write. The children, well, i believe they don't have much choice. It's the 50's standards or bust.

    Private schools, those who charge at least 50k per A.Y., excluding lab fees, do give their students the edge. At a hefty price, of course. Students here sure are exposed to a more modern and updated mode of teaching.

    It's bad that our leaders don't pay much attention to problems like these. They are more concerned on most things superficial. I'm afraid that in the end, good education would only be a form of luxury only the rich can enjoy.

  3. Funny, the most sought after UPCAT examinees to gain entry to self-proclaimed "ivy-school" University of the Philippines are greeted with a WARNING in UPCAT website, quote:


    These so-called self-proclaimed "ivy-school" are discouraging students to go to review schools. Of course, there is no stopping them but why the warning? What is its purpose?

    In my UCLA-Extension Classes in mathematics, I have had classmates still in high-school brushing up on their advance algebra classes to ace that SAT exam. While here in the GREAT PHILIPPINES, they are discouraging the students.

    Of course, to those parents that reads the WARNING SIGN in UPCAT website will understand it as NOT TO GO TO REVIEW SCHOOL. Because unerstanding english is one of those problems of the parents.

    WHY THE WARNING SIGN? Why is there a need for it? If a child goes to review school what they learn is for them to keep.

  4. One of those things that is holding the children including I is englsichtzes. There not much participation in the classroom because they struggle with englsichtzes. And Filipinos laugh at every wrong englischtzes. So Filipinos would rather hunker down and withdraw into their cocoon so they are not to be laughed at of their englischtzes.

    Englsichtzes is not Filipino's primary language. Classroom medium of instruction is englischtzes. My school penalize us if we speak our dialect. Peso if we get caughted speaking our dialect.

    I got plenty to say in the classroom but rather not because they laughed at my englsichtzes and those who laughed were not goot either.

    Reports in englsichtzes. Homework in englsichtzes. Assignment in englsichtzes. When I was called to the board i turn pale and quiver afraid my memorized englischtzes went awry which usually did.

    In America where americans speak english it is easy for them to particiapate in class and group discussions because there is no language barrier. Speak Spanish? Go to spanish group to discuss.

    Now, I just found out this very minute that what is holding Filipinos are englishctzes and religion.

    IF ONLY FILIPINOS DO NOT LAUGH AT EACH OTHERS' ENGLSICHTZES. Americans don't laugh at Hispanic's englischtzes. Hispanics' do not laugh at Asian's englsichtzes. They don't taunt or tease each other. BUT FILIPNIOS !!!! wOOOO Boy !!!!! They correct every englsichtzes mistake in pubic. Gosh ! How stuck-up condescending can they get.

    I can speak englischtzes fluently but when I am before Filipinos I start to think longer, calculate my responses and stammer.

  5. Aha !!!! It just crossed my mind re: UPCAT warning !!!

    The reason maybe because to avoid examination leakages which usually go thru review schools.

    Everyone here must have remembered that nursing exam leakages that caughted the attention of the U.S.

    In review schools they do give leaked exam questionaires. May it be for CPA, engineering and any examinations at all for a fee.

    Corruption is top to bottom. It is not only in Gloria but all over the Philippines from Aparri to Sulu, Limasawa to Spratlys.

    But the WARNING SIGN has no excuse. It should be torn down and let the children take review classes !!!

  6. Mariano,

    "Now, I just found out this very minute that what is holding Filipinos are englishctzes and religion."

    I saw the cranial lightbulb flash here north of Leyte.

  7. "The one mystery to my western mindset is why Filipinos are unkind to each other, lacking in basic consideration and courtesy. " What exactly is this "western" mindset you speak of in this post. Have you ever considered that economic-social class along with the environment has driven Filipinos to act like this. It is easy for you to say this cause you probably never had to live in such an environment that forces or shapes you to screw others. I am not saying that your opinion isn't validated or wrong just because of who your are (a probably well off white guy who lived in America)but I would just like to know if you have ever considered what causes these people to act the way they do. I use to think the same way you did but after some thinking I considered that having lived in a nice environment and coming from the upper middle class it is easy for me to be able to be "moral" cause I never would have to screw someone over to get by in society since America provides a good environment (well except if your of certain minorities). Nonetheless I always liked your blog for the good points it brings up. At first I use to think you were just some major asshole who seemed to demonized Filipinos but then I got to thinking that the point of this blog is to bring up discussion on the flaws of Filipino society cause an important part of fixing a problem is bringing up in the first place. If all we heard were how nice the Filipinos were or hospitable and yada yada yada then we would never confront the uglier problems.

  8. Sorry about not chopping my comment into paragraphs. Would have made it easier to read I assume.

  9. Mariano Renato:

    I agree on the UPCAT. Many businesses have sprung up for parents aspiring to get their kids to enter the UP.

    I don't think the level of education in High School is the same for all. Having the review center gives the impression that it's "leveling" the playing field.

  10. Yusuke Komiya, yes, I am a middle class American who is upper class in the Philippines. And I have definitely thought about the difference in backgrounds that has created Filipino culture. It is the rub of the two cultures, Filipino and Western, that inspires most of my writing. I try to see the good and bad, and can be critical of Western, too. But I see a lot of poverty about, and a lot of bad behavior, and I find it hard to be complacent about it.

    Good to have you visit the site.

  11. brianitus, yeah! yeah! yeah! That is the word "leveling" the playing field.

    I just cannot understand why "ivy-school" University of the Philippines is not promoting UPCAT review. CHINA HAS IT !

    Chinese parents send their children to review schools and have private tutor to ace college entrance exams to Qinghua U and Beida U, the top two universities in China. The Great Philippines run by Great Filipino educators are not !

  12. Indians also send their children to college entrance review schools to get into prestigious India Institute of Technology (IIT) dominates Silicon Valley human resource imports.

    University of the Philippines? HAWR! HAWR! HAWR! They are only goot in training their pupils englischtzes. Yeah, graduates of UP are very goot speakers of englischtzes. There been millions and millions of pupils that pass thru the pearly gates of UP but Philippines remained the same as it was in the beginning and forever will be. I just wonder what UP are taughting their pupils.

    Grrrrrr ! I am just so angry. I failed the exam because my parents did not want to send me to review school because I might be found out and disqualified. Grrrrr !

  13. Well Joe is I (and probably you have noticed) poverty tends to create bad behavior. Now that I think about it I wonder if bad behavior brings up poverty as well. Or is it more of a two way street? Once again reading this blog has brought me mores questions that while unsettling are nonetheless fascinating and necessary to tackle if we wish to find a solution. Was about to use the word solve but finding a solution and actually solving the problem through the implication of the solution. Well then again what is culture but a product of environment. Though I am Filipino I have spent most of my life in Japan and the U.S. An interesting question I would like to ask you if you can answer is what is the difference between Japan and the Philippines. Though overgeneralized both nations tend to think vertically while at least in America we try to make sure people are horizontal (emphasis on try but better than nothing). So why is it that Japan, not exactly the most western in terms of thinking, succeeded where the Philippines failed.

  14. Yusuke Komiya, you offer up two really excellent thoughts. One is that a solution is only as good as its implementation. It does not good to have an idea on a piece of paper. The other is viewing Western culture as horizontal while Japan and the Philippine are vertical.

    I have tended to think of Japan and the Philippines as emotional (loss of face being prominent) and Western as rational. I think the main difference is that Japanese citizen is totally (emotionally) committed to the community of Japan, whereas the Filipino citizen is totally (emotionally) committed to self. But pride and shame are prominent drivers in both cultures.

  15. Just read my last comment and noticed several mistakes such as actually not using the word "difference" when I was discussing finding a solution and implementing one, brain working faster than I type I guess.

    I would have to agree on your answer. One major factor I believe that comes to the community oriented nature of Japan is, other than the fact they are not really that poor, is that the people see themselves as one homogenous nation. While the Philippines genetically is homogenous (we have variety with our intermixing with foreigners but on a large scale still pretty homogenous) nonetheless we divide ourselves in many ways. Starting with from island, to region, to province, to town, from family, all the way down to individuals. Also religion is a factor too that divides the Christians from the Muslims. A lack of a national identity seems to be a major factor here.

    As a person who loves history I would like to bring up the point on how environments shape the people. As most people know there was a time when Japan was divided into various clans that often fought each other. The same could be said for the Philippines with its various city-states or tribes. The key difference that would cause a divergence would be where the feuding factions of these two nations played out.

    What help Japan eventually create a unified country is the fact that there are less geographical barriers compared to the Philippines. While Japan is mountainous nonetheless there are four major islands. If you look at a map Honshu is the biggest thus conquering Honshu would unite a large amount of people. The fact that the three remaining large islands were close by gave them the advantage of being able to administer to these islands once they were under control.

    Now if we take a look at the Philippines there is an insane amount of islands. While a good amount are not inhabited nonetheless there are enough inhabited islands that would create divisions. Though we had boats and could travel to these islands nonetheless the logistics behind being able to unite the island under one administrative government would have been difficult.

    Though the Spaniards "united the islands and created the Philippines we still had places that were never really administered by the Spanish, thus only in name were places claimed by the Spanish. Not only did this geography create physical divisions but also cultural ones as well.

    We would have a variety of local cultures on their own little islands and then when we throw in foreign influence we get further division. Before the arrival of the Spanish Luzon was a mix of local culture along with Indian, Chinese, and minor Arab influence. Visayas was local culture mix with mostly Indian influence and as you go further south more Arabic. Then we have Mindanao which is mostly Arabic. Now throw in the Spanish and along with Catholicism and we have further division. Another big important factor to recognize as well is along with the formation of different cultures there are a multitude of languages along with their dialects.

  16. Yusuke Komiya,

    Yes, indeed. I think you nailed it. I've been busy writing my next blog, and it discusses the ways the Philippines is divided. Now, on one hand, diversity is enriching. On the other, it prevents the parts from becoming whole.

  17. Yusuke, could it be homogenous Japan became to be because it used to be ... what do you call it ... at one point in time they did not allow contact with outside foreign countries?


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