04 July 2007

How to Bring Up Scholars

Much has already been written about Magaling ang Pinoy!: How and Why Filipino Public School Students Achieve, Ateneo’s Filipino Family Best Practices Study in Marikina and Bulacan Public Schools, written by Queena N. Lee-Chua, Ma. Isabel Sison-Dionisio, and Nerisa C. Fernandez, published in 2007 by the Office of Research and Publications of the Loyola Schools of Ateneo de Manila University.

There is no need to summarize the results of the study conducted by the writers. In any case, the book is available from bookstores, as well as from the Ateneo itself.

What I want to do now is to take the results a step further. What can the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) do to ensure that the pioneering research project does not merely gain applause but actually will affect the lives of the millions of children going to school this year and the next?

The book talks about things that parents can do to help their children achieve their full potential. It does not really talk about what schools can do to do the same thing, though the transition from home to school is implied by many of the chapters in the book.

Let us take some random insights gained by the writers and translate them into doable school projects.

The first chapter talks about the value of discipline in the home. One example says it all: “No one (among one family’s children) has ever violated the 6 pm rule because the children know that Mama means what she says. If they are ever late, they will have to sleep outside the house.”

I suggest that teachers at whatever level – elementary, high school, college, or even graduate school – simply lock the doors of their classrooms when the bell rings and not allow latecomers in. That should instil punctuality in no time flat.

The second chapter talks about setting goals. Many of the parents involved in the study proactively discourage their children from getting married early, obviously because most of them married early and therefore remained poor the rest of their lives.

I suggest that schools make it a policy, clearly spelled out in brochures and manuals, to expel any student that gets married or pregnant. It is not a matter of morality, but a matter of motivation. If students know that they will never be able to finish their education if they have sex early, they will refrain from sex. The sex drive may be strong, but the drive for self-preservation is stronger.

The third chapter, focusing on relying on oneself, identifies favoritism on the part of teachers as a key disincentive for students.

I suggest that schools remove the possibility of favoritism by adopting the British model of external examiners. If the final grade of a student will be given by someone else, a teacher has no reason to play favorites or engage in harassment (sexual, verbal, racist, or otherwise).

The fourth chapter talks about strengthening family bonds. Most schools already have parent associations in place, but we could involve parents not only in raising extra funds, but in designing the curriculum.

I suggest that parents (even of college students) should be asked to sit in curriculum committees, hiring boards, boards of trustees, and the like. On a micro level, parents should be regularly called in to discuss the progress of their children.

The fifth chapter on making the home fit for learning also has implications for teachers. Teachers should formulate homework that involves parents. A simple example on the elementary level is the construction of a genealogy of the family of a student. On the higher levels, an oral history project could start with interviewing one’s parents and grandparents.

The book is clearly meant for parents that want their children to excel in school. The lessons learned by the writers, however, can teach teachers a thing or two.

The researchers (all highly educated) obviously know educational theory. They wisely refrain from using academic jargon in this book meant for a non-specialist reader. Anyone that has studied pedagogy, however, will recognize the principles laid down by the book.

Discipline in the home or in the classroom is nothing else but the routine necessary for any learning to take place. Setting goals refers to the objectives of any course of study or even of action. Self-reliance is an attack on the Filipino value of bahala na (“God will provide”). Family involvement in learning makes positive use of the family, which to Filipinos is often above country or even God (not “God, Country, and Family” but the other way around). Creating a home environment conducive to learning is part of the so-called Whole School Approach, which DepEd has been pushing in the past few years.
Like every other book of any value, Magaling ang Pinoy does not tell us anything new, but merely reminds us of what we know deep down inside us to be true.

(First published in The Philippine Star, 14 June 2007)

1 comment:

mavic pineda said...

I have not read the book yet. But I agree to most of the points you highlighted Sir Isagani. A suggestion I want to add, as a teacher and parent, is to promote a competitive spirit among our students if we really want to raise scholars. Most of our schools perhaps because of the religious affiliation, have restricted or limited our students to push their potentials harder. I think we should push them to strive harder, test the limits of what they know or what they can. It doesn't mean that when a student is not good in academics, she or he is automatically a loser or when a student is intelligent and happy-go-lucky, it is something to boast about. Let's have different kinds of competitions that will give them opportunties to excel and show their best, and opportunities for our teachers to become better mentors.