Philippine K to 12 Program on the Go!

There is no denying that the Philippines quality education has deteriorated in all aspects where our graduates are labeled as unfit, uncompetitive and inefficient if they will go abroad. Thus, our educational system for many years has been undergoing an unending change and implementation of variable curricula and programs almost every two years to uplift the quality of our education and produce graduates that are holistically developed Filipinos with 21st century skills and is prepared for higher education. Last June 2012, the Department of Education implemented the K to 12 program and just recently Pres. Aquino signed the law institutionalizing the Republic Act 10533 (Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013), to answer this clamor. The question is, will the K to 12 cater this?

The goal of the program is to produce graduates that are holistically developed Filipinos with 21st Century skills and are prepared for higher education, middle-level skills development, employment and entrepreneurship. This ensures that even if the student doesn't choose to go to college, he/she will finish studying what is basic wherein human resources departments would no longer ask for college degree as a minimum requirement for employment.

The K to 12 Program as a whole is definitely excellent and in the long run has a significant role for producing globally competitive graduates. This program has its own advantages and disadvantages that can be perceived as subject for criticism just like any other prior programs. Every Filipinos have split opinions and insights about the implementation of K to 12 program by the Philippine government.

First and foremost, the implementation of the program itself. Are we ready for the K to 12? Considering all the preparations and necessary aspects, from the physical structure to the human resources? There are many problems in the Philippine education scene that needed much attention and long-term solutions first. Such problems are being addressed for a long time already. Build additional and conducive classrooms, improve teaching quality, renovate old schools, provide the necessary needs (textbooks, instructional materials, facilities and equipments, etc.) or do whatever is needed to be accomplished in order for the quality of education to be restored. Isn't it too premature to start this program? I strongly believe that K-12 will only work better if the overall quality of education here will be improved to a much competitive level first. However, it's implemented already all over the Philippine archipelago.

As a Grade 7 teacher and first implementer of this program, I have positive and negative views especially with regards to references, time (lessons pacing), grading system and lesson planning. The following contents are my actual observations and comments on the K to 12 program.

A. Textbook and other References
- there is no definite reference (textbook) for supplementing the lesson
- the production of modules or graphic organizers for activity/output is expensive and sometimes will be shouldered by the teacher considering the financial status of the students (especially for graphic organizers that are complicated and not easy for the students to copy; if copying is to be insisted, the whole period will be consumed just doing one activity.
- until this time, it would be the 2nd year since its implementation, the modules and teaching guide of some other subjects like English, Science, are not yet completed.

B. Time Allotment (specifically for Values Education subject)
- the time is very limited and short, given only 2 hours for SEC and SPA curricula and one hour for STEVEP and Science Curricula, every week for a lengthy and long topic suggested every module, there is always delayed and catching up of lessons with time constraint.

C. Lesson Planning
- in reference to the letter B comment, I encountered problem in my lesson plan since the suggested time frame from the Teacher's Guide cannot be realized because of the time/schedule of my class which is only once or twice a week.
- from our training, we were given a format on how to do the lesson planning but having my short time, I must innovate and modify my lesson plan just to realize the coverage expected from me

D. Grading System
- the grading system from numerical was changed to letter grade.
- the assessment process is holistic, it is standards-based. The philosophy behind the new system is that assessment shall be used primarily Under the standards-based assessment, as a quality assurance tool to track student progress in the attainment of standards, promote self-reflection and personal accountability for one's learning, and a provide a basis for the profiling of student performance. Under the standards-based assessment, promotion and retention of students shall be by subject. It's clear that unit per subject is not anymore counted to promote or retained the student. Hence, there are no definite criteria, standard on the basis of promotion more especially in retention.

Finally, I'm not saying that K to 12 system is totally a nixed idea, as it worked on our neighbouring countries. However, I strongly believe that K-12 will only work better if the overall quality of education here will be improved to a much competitive level first. As cited by the Department of Education in defense of the K to 12 Program, the Philippines must lengthen secondary education by two years in order to comply with "international standards" set by treaties such as the Bologna Process and the Washington Accord; the government should take into consideration in improving the quality of basic education, building science education, scholarship, establishing centers for teachers continuing education to realize and attain the vision to K to 12 Program which is to produce graduates that are holistically developed Filipinos with 21st Century skills and are prepared for higher education, middle-level skills development, employment and entrepreneurship.

Membership Development - The Art and Science of Reaching New Members

Developing a plan for increasing membership (and participation) in your community organization, agency, or community group is essential to your success. Notice I said, membership development - not a membership drive. I like the term membership development, especially for coalitions because new members as well as old members need to be continuously involved in the development and growth of the community group or coalition. A membership drive just seems to temporary and doesn't capture the nature of a coalition or community groups efforts.

A membership drive is really only the beginning. Successful coalitions manage their members well, communicate with them often, and motivate them to work for the coalitions. Those organizations who just do a membership drive will find themselves short of membership very quickly. Membership requires nurturing. Membership development planning is a way for you and your group to organize your actions and fulfill the core need of having new, fresh membership that represents your community while nurturing the core members who "are always at the table."

A membership development drive is an important activity because it helps you to (a) map out how you will get from point a (a coalition in need of members) to point b (an organization with the membership it needs to fulfill its mission and vision and (b) to make your search for new members efficient and effective. A planned effort for nurturing new membership is superior to a disorganized attempt at membership development.

Who are the potential members for your coalition or community group and how do you find them?

You don't have to look to far (or hard) to find new members. The entire community is a potential member for your coalition or community group. However, not everyone in the community is available or interested. The most important factor to finding potential members is identifying a list of potential names and working hard to keep the value in the membership for the person who is supporting your work.

How do you develop a list of names with key stakeholders and people who are potentially interested in your mission and vision?

1. If you haven't done so already - start building a contact list right away. This list should include everyone that the coalition or community group has had contact with in the recent past (6-12 months). The list should include former and current contributors, colleagues, legislatures, community champions, board members, staff, public officials, community leaders, etc.

Begin your search with people that you know. Ask members of your coalition and community who they know that may be interested in supporting the work you are doing. Most people can identify between 5 - 10 people right away.

Once the list is created you may want to share the list with potential stakeholders to see if the list triggers any new ideas about potential members. For example, you can ask a potential stakeholder, "Here is the potential membership list we have developed so far, is there anyone that you can think of that is not represented on this list?"

2. One essential steps to a successful membership drive is offering a personal touch. Research consistently finds that people join organizations, agencies, and community group efforts because, "someone asked them to join." Don't forget to offer your membership development team support materials. Make sure that they have adequate access to information whether it be a white paper, a report, or a brochure with the keys of membership.

The people you speak with should know why you are contacting them and if you were referred to them - how the person who referred them is associated with the organization. The person also needs to clearly understand the value that you offer (satisfaction, personal fulfillment, new skills, new information, social connectivity) and why joining your work is so important. People are more likely to become members when they know someone who already believes in the mission and vision of the organization, agency, or community group.

Action Step: As you build your list, consider the type of information you would like to keep on record. If you are going to be keeping an electronic database (Excel, Infusionsoft, etc.) adding fields to your spreadsheet will be easy. However, if you are using a paperbased record, you may want to be very specific about the information you collect and only collect what is absolutely necessary. Here are some suggestions: name, address, phone, email, referral source, history of participation, personal preferences, donation history, personal notes, and interests.

3. Coalitions and community groups can use sector lists to create your membership development list and outreach priorities. Coalitions and community groups often have specific target groups, called sectors, that need to be represented on the coalition or in the community group efforts.

Membership drives are successful when you target a specific group (i.e. healthcare or faith based organizations) and aim to contact all the key leaders in that group who live and work in your community. As you identify each group (government, school, youth organizations, business, human service organizations, law enforcement, colleges and universities, etc.) you will be able to continue to build your list in an organized, meaningful way.

4. Consider joining other groups who already have a thriving membership. These groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce, Civic Groups, etc., can give you access to key champions and people who will be interested in your cause.

You may run into potential members at these events or functions - take advantage of the opportunity to share your story and invite people to join you in the good work you are doing.

Action Step: When you contact your potential member use good content and personalized communication to get their attention. Be sure that you and your team know the reason your coalition or community group began and exists today and know the value that you offer to the potential member. It is also important to make sure your request is clear, specific, time limited, immediate and doable. Regardless of the outcome, you should thank the potential member for their time and request permission to add them to your email distribution list so they can stay informed of the coalition or community group's activities. The truth is, you never know when someone is going to be ready to join, so keeping them on your "leader board" is a great idea.

Another effective way to keep someone interested is to follow up your communication with an email or a letter. The letter can be preformatted but personalized to the potential member and ready to go out to the individual right away.

5. Keep members (old and new) motivated and involved. People usually join an organization or community group because they want to do something for others or for the community. However, they also want to get something out of being a member. Key motivators include feeling valued by the organization, being able to see the contribution they are making, opportunities to learn new skills and get education on a topic of interest, professional development, feeling part of team, being a part of activities that entertain or add to their social life.

Action Step: Here are some ways to keep people engaged once they join your team: (a) hold introductory workshops (these can be online or a recorded welcome message that is distributed via email or YouTube) (b) welcome and introduce new members to other new members (c) run regular education and development sessions for all members (d) give people responsibilities and tasks and team them up with experienced members (this increases their use and feeling of value) (e) leaders should spend time getting to know new members.

Building your coalition's capacity is important. Capacity begins with a constant stream of new membership and continuous education for current membership that provides the tools necessary to promote the coalition and its work.

The Absence of Science in Public Elementary School Curriculum

How important is a science education for your kids? Our public school system curricula are changing every day, and it's usually not for the better. Understandably, government-backed schools who are graded on students' proficiency in reading, writing and math put more of a focus on those subjects. More than ever, parents are turning to homeschooling to fill the gap left behind.

What Happened to Science?

There was a recent article in the news regarding elementary schools in Kansas, Colorado, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska. The topic was science curriculum, which has been reduced or even - in some districts - eliminated in favor of putting an educational emphasis on reading and math. According to the AP newswire published in the Lawrence Journal-World, "as many as one in five elementary teachers in Kansas and surrounding states are reporting science grades on student report cards, despite the fact that they don't spend any time teaching the subject or testing pupils' knowledge in it."

What a travesty in terms of educational goals for our kids! This seems to be a trend not only in the Midwest but in public education districts across the nation.

The Importance of Teaching Science at Home

The good news, however, is that homeschool parents (and any other parents who are concerned about their child's education) aren't limited by this type of underfunding and overemphasis on everything but science.

In the National Academy of Sciences research paper, "A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts and Core Ideas", the importance of science throughout a child's academic career is emphasized: "... integrating understanding the ideas of science with engagement in the practices of science and is designed to build students' proficiency and appreciation for science over multiple years of school. We believe that the education of the children of this nation is a vital national concern. The understanding of, and interest in, science and engineering that its citizens bring to bear in their personal and civic decision making is critical to good decisions about the nation's future."

The best way to help your kids comprehend science and be ready for college level coursework is to use a consistent, building blocks approach across grades K-12. Teach your kids the basics at an early age, then build on that knowledge by continually introducing new topics. I recommend that kids as young as five start with chemistry and physics courses in order to best prepare them for biology, astronomy and geology in subsequent years. They need an explanation of core scientific processes early on to combat their previously formed and often erroneous interpretation of the world around them.

Our children need to be actively engaged in hands-on learning throughout their entire undergraduate school career and this is the best way to develop deep comprehension. We cannot simply skip science education in the lower grades but expect students, by their twelfth year, to suddenly gain a deep understanding of science in the hopes they will continue their education in college. Not only does this approach help with comprehension and extrapolation of scientific concepts, it aids students in creating an organizational learning structure that encompasses other subjects so they excel in all.

The fact that so many public schools are skipping science in favor of the subjects on which they will be graded is both depressing and catastrophic. As a country lagging behind in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) innovations, we need to encourage our children to embrace science. The earlier they learn real science and the more they continue their education, the better.

Real Science-4-Kids frames science in a way that encourages kids to examine opposing models. To find out more about our books, check out our website. You can see the full text of all our books online for free, so you can decide for yourself if our books are the back-to-school science books you want for your child.

Find out more about the worldview neutral Real Science 4 Kids curriculum created by Dr. Rebecca Keller, herself a homeschool mom, and other home school teaching resources on our Real Science blog.

Academic Freedom and Democracy - ALEC Style

Academic freedom is one of the cornerstones of our educational system, so who could be against it? Representive Gus Blackwell introduced into the 2013 Oklahoma legislature HB 1674, called the "Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act". But there was something strange about the bill, as science teachers in Oklahoma already have a system ensuring academic freedom. And, the bill only insured Academic freedom in four areas which Representative Blackwell deemed controversial, specifically "biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning". Mr. Blackwell's education and expertise is in religion and business administration, so it's unusual that he knows what is controversial in science. Oklahoma scientists and science educators were almost unanimously opposed to the bill as it is their opinion that there is virtually no scientific controversy on the core facts of global warming and evolution.

The bill allowed "teachers to help students understand certain information about scientific theories; disallowing State Board of Education, district boards of education, and certain administrators from prohibiting teachers from helping students understand certain information about scientific theories." Perhaps the bill would have been more aptly named the "Freedom from Accountability Act". Apparently Mister Blackwell had not thought this through. It would also shield any science teacher, no matter of what religion, who wished to introduce their beliefs into their science classes. The bill even had an emergency clause providing that it be enacted immediately with a letter sent to school officials informing them of the decision. And, why is this now an emergency? The bill passed Oklahoma's education committee by one vote, but fortunately for the quality of science education in Oklahoma, the 2013 session ended without it coming up for a vote. But, you can be sure it will be back.

The unusual nature of this bill can be understood as similar bills, with almost exactly the same wording, have been introduced in about 20 states. It is one of the "model bills" being promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC is composed of over 300 special interest groups and corporations such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, pharmaceutical companies, and Koch Industries. They sponsor conferences where their representatives meet with state legislative members to collaborate on "model bills" and to draft legislation favoring their special interests. ALEC now has over 1000 "model bills", many of which seek to limit workers rights, limit corporate liabilities, oppose environmental regulations, cut taxes, oppose universal health care, and to privatize such things as education, workmen's compensation, and the prison systems.

Though mainly supporting corporate interests, the legislation often gives a nod to religious groups and to conservatives to win their support. The state legislators take the "model bills" back to their respective states, often as their own work. It also carries an understanding that by sponsoring the bill, they will receive support for their reelection campaigns. ALEC has 501(C)(4)status as a charity, which makes it tax exempt and hides its motives and the identity of its donors. Although ALEC claims it is not a lobbying group, it is directly lobbying our state Congressmen while getting around laws that limit lobbying and require disclosures of lobbying activities.

Representative Blackwell is a member of ALEC and, according to Source Watch, used state funds to attend their meetings. His interest in the bill was probably to introduce creationism into science classes, but adding climate change to the "controversy" list aligns with the interests of the fossil fuel companies. A leaked document from the Heartland Institute, a Libertarian think tank funded by fossil fuel interests, showed that introducing doubt about climate change into science classes was one of their goals.

Bill Moyer recently had a program on how ALEC is undermining American democracy. Although ALEC claims to promote capitalism, it is actually the citizens who pay. Not only do many politicians attend their meetings at state expense, members of ALEC get a big tax break for their lobbying activities and our taxes still pay for privatized state functions. Sourcewatch lists 25 Oklahoma legislators as members of ALEC and Governor Fallin was once ALEC's woman of the year, which means she favored the needs of large corporations and of the wealthy long before she became governor. We just saw a number of ALEC sponsored laws make their way through the Oklahoma Legislature, much to the detriment of ordinary citizens.

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

Dr. J.C. Moore is a physical chemist whose interests are spectroscopy,computational chemistry, professional ethics, and science education. He taught chemistry, physics, and general science at the college level for 38 years. Since retirement, he has established, a website that examines current events from a science and research perspective.

Education and Careers: The Paths We Choose

We all know that education prices are skyrocketing, and the return on investment (ROI) is not so clear. Degrees, they say, used to guarantee a job, and now jobs that used to only require a bachelor's degree require a master's, and so on. This means that the ROI has decreased, and that higher education is undergoing inflation. Technological changes, moreover, are eliminating midlevel service jobs.

According to a May 2011 report by the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, full-time workers with a bachelor's degree earn, on average, 84 percent more over their lifetime than those with only a high school diploma. If workers, then, with a bachelor's degree are now filling jobs that those with only a high school diploma used to have, then living conditions and salaries for them are poor, and salaries for those without a degree are unlivable. In this situation, it is necessary to earn a higher degree, and yet, hard if not impossible to receive a decent ROI for the time and money spent.

In comes online education. Online higher degrees are becoming more credible and more common. And as if on a linear train of thought - in comes free online education, offered from top universities around the country (MOOCs). Moreover, the career opportunities that only a degree-in-hand allow are merging with online ed options: just a few weeks ago Georgia Tech announced that it was merging with Udacity to provide a reasonably-priced computer science program. In the totally unbalanced situation of higher than reasonable brick-and-mortar degree prices versus free online education, hybrid models are emerging as one way of answering to the issue for positive ROI outcomes.

ROI: What Does It Really Mean? OR Is Money What It's All About?

According to government projections, by 2020, only three of the thirty fields with the largest projected job openings will require a bachelor's degree or higher to fill the position: teachers, college professors, and accountants. Most of the available positions will be midlevel jobs not easily replaced by technology such as retail sales associates, fast food workers and truck drivers.

College graduates who majored in zoology, anthropology, philosophy, art history and humanities are now among the least likely to find jobs appropriate to their education level, while nursing, teaching, accounting, and computer science graduates are the most likely. Graduates with degrees in marketing, finance, human resources, and advertising are seeing an increase in career opportunities and therefore ROI.

'While engineering and computer science consistently rate among the top-paying college majors, students should also research employment demand and hot skillsets,' Andrea Porter, communications director at Georgetown's CEW, said to USNews for a piece called 'College Majors With the Best Return on Investment.' "Research what skills are most valuable in the labor market... and depending on those 'hot skills' you can also obtain a certificate that will provide you skills that will set you apart," she added.

Katie Bardaro, a lead economist at PayScale (an online salary database), contributed to the piece by stating that engineering, physics, computer science, and mathematics boast strong earning potential and low unemployment rates, which can help prospective employees reap the highest return on their education investment.

Many are concerned, because where there are jobs there isn't enough talent and where there is talent, jobs are limited. And since ROI is usually only calculated by the maximum money one receives for their time spent in college, top-paying careers which are in-demand are listed as the top careers.

If you are cut out for the analytical work, these advisers say, then do it! For the money.

But what about for those who don't necessary need the maximum paying career - those who see what they want to contribute and what they themselves are talented in as important first, and then wish to identify how to make a living? Is money the most important thing to all of us? When did economical ROI become the most important aspect of continuing one's education? And the answer of course, is always for some, and for other's: when this became a concern.

No, money is not the most important factor for all of us. "Teachers aren't in it for the money," for example, is a common expression of the profession. But money can help us get places. Money is necessary to survive. A decent paycheck, good working conditions, and fulfilling our dreams is the ideal for many of us.

If money was the only thing that mattered, then perhaps we would all heed the advice of the higher education advisers who say - enter computer science now! Perhaps it is not that we do not have the ability, talent or work ethic, but simply, that our interests lead us somewhere else. Some of us have our own visions to follow. What then?

Fulfilling Our Highest Visions

We have an economy that is based on creating revenue by selling things we don't need cheap and making a profit vs. filling real world needs for humanity's benefit. We are conditioned to want more money and certain things - often brands. There is too much competition in fields we don't really need, and too many shady businesses and practices that take advantage of people. Imagine if we focused on the best and putting capable people into jobs that actually serve people, imagine if money didn't matter the way it does for people and businesses of today. But it does because money is the most powerful thing in our world. Even knowledge doesn't come close to the power money allows a person to yield.

Technology should make things easier on all of us, not take away a limited amount of jobs and further the economic gap between the wealthy and the poor, making only the hardest jobs that cannot easily be filled by technology what's available to uneducated people. All people should be well-educated. All people have potential. Meaningless jobs should be filled by computers, and people should be encouraged and able pursue their dreams. Make the world a better place. Make themselves better. Make others better. And help the community.

Perhaps I am too partial to romanticizing education. I truly believe that it is one of the most powerful forces in the world; that knowledge, not money, should be the most powerful. However, true education, education of this magnitude, is not, I believe, about pushing out "job-ready" graduates with "hot skills" at the right time or moment to enter a certain market. I believe the true graduates are the ones who leave college having faced themselves, and the world around them, and are ready to enter it; that specific skills are as important as life-skills, self-confidence, and general intelligence. That these hot skills don't in fact add up if graduates are looking at the job market to pick a career, rather than finding their career based on their innate talents and desired life, whether this means that they work in advertising, as a teacher, professor, fisherman, farmer, agriculturist, or politician. We must find our own path and therefore happiness instead of the world demanding, stealing, insisting it away from us.

So while education is a good and now an almost necessary cost in the vision of this country and our place in it, and while many things influence our futures in a numerical and calculated way - our parent's education, our education, society's demands, and media influences - we must insist on making our own dreams and happinesses real. ROI is not only about money gains, although it is often discussed in this matter. You are not a determined by the money you make.

Of course, we must have some kind of practical plan. We have to make it work. And following our happiness, indeed can take a lot of work. And many make their visions work by combining them with one of the strong in-demand fields such as in science, technology, education or business. If we love the outcome, then the work in the end means something. This, in my opinion, is what matters.