Last year, I got inspired about education, specifically, a way to stop the current pattern of doing things, forever building hollow-block classrooms and stuffing them with 45 kids each led by an overworked, underpaid, undertrained teacher who is happier than the kids are when the day ends. I wrote six articles about it.
The idea is to start rolling out internet classes to selected schools. Buying the kids laptops, enrolling honors students first, and letting them study at home or the coffee shop or the school cafeteria. Take some of the pressure off the brick and mortar, and the teachers. Leverage the brainpower of a few centralized teachers to do lessons for thousands of kids. Receive tests and papers on line. Grade them centrally with interns or lower-paid staff. Innovate, both on how lessons are delivered, and on the curriculum. Teach things like leadership (small group exercises), problem solving, planning and organizing, judging risks prior to making decisions, that sort of thing. They would not be asked to memorize the table of elements, but they would have to know how to find it on line as a reference source. Local teachers would organize the program and counsel students.
These articles got a lot of circulation and a few months ago I read that a member of Congress involved on an education committee was talking up the idea about on-line education. That's great, and I hope something happens. The current model is unsustainable.
I am perplexed about how to get from A to B and B to C, to get anything done.
Here's the Filipino condition. Problems here are generally recognized as insurmountable. People just can't get around them. They give up. Get stopped in their tracks by any objection. Don't do anything. Filipinos are very good at finding the flaws in things, the warts, the bugs, the barriers. The tolerance for risk is low. After all, who wants to be associated with problems?
They do not evidence much skill or desire to work around the barriers.
Therein lies the solution to the mystery as to why not much changes in the Philippines. Problems are seen as BEING the project. They are not seen as a challenging WRINKLE to the project, the hurdle to be overcome, the barrier to be passed, the bug to be squashed. Problems are not seen as the rewarding part of the project, once overcome.
No, problems stop it dead.
The problem BECOMES the project and no one wants to be associated with it.
The reasons? Face and ridicule. Face is the impossible demand for self-perfection. It is the defensive motivation that generates all the excuses and blames you witness. And ridicule is the vehicle by which one Filipino whips another into a lower state, thus elevating himself.
So the tolerance for risk-taking is low in the Philippines, indeed. The ability to give up is high. The desire to achieve is hammered into submission by fear of ridicule.
So I have an idea of how the Department of Education can make this very easy on themselves. There are a number of on-line schools in the United States offering high school classes. Like anything, I suppose, some are better than others, but here are two examples:
- Allied National High School courses: http://www.alliedhighschool.com/curric_description.shtml#physa
- Park City Independent courses: http://www.parkcityindependent.com/courses/
Knowledge of physics in the U.S. is the same as knowledge of physics in the Philippines, and English proficiency is expected among Filipino honors students. So there is no need to re-invent a bunch of new courses.
Just find the three best schools and have them bid on the Philippine core curriculum. Include with the bid requirements the need to develop a few new courses specific to the Philippines (Philippine history; tagalog), or to social programs focused on developing a competitive mindset among kids (team work, decision making). Have them bid on packages of 1,000 students, 5,000 and 10,000.
Ascertain that the rigors of the class work are appropriate to assign credentials to the program comparable to a physical high school.
You could have your program put together in a year.
I tell you what, if I were a younger man, I would not offer up this ideal in a public forum. I'd keep it quiet and develop the school privately myself in the Philippines, get it credentialed, and start selling enrollments.
I don't think this is rocket science.
I'd get rich by helping Philippine kids get smart.
Frankly, it is an idea only one entrepreneur short of a million dollar business: a private, on-line school teaching modern subjects in modern ways.
If the Department of Education REALLY wants to make it easy on themselves, they only need to assign a small portion of their bloated brick and mortar budget to funding a few start-up private/public educational programs providing internet-based education.