Mar 5, 2007

[Education] A Problem in Education

Enrolling your children in a private school does not guarantee a quality education. Many fall prey to the fallacy that private schooling equates to quality education, and not a few learn this lesson the hard way.

With the school year ending in a few weeks, as most students rush to comply with last-minute requirements for clearance, many parents will probably get a shock with their children's school performance. And when they do, it will probably be too late, all because there are instructors who don't care at all.

A good teacher will inform a child's parents immediately if the student is having problems in school, whether academically or otherwise. That way, parents can act on the matter, and the teacher can proceed with corrective action upon consultation with the parents. This is the ideal situation.

Now, things can go wrong on three fronts: an indifferent teacher, an indifferent set of parents, or worse, both are indifferent.

A trip to Navotas (a municipality in Metro Manila) this weekend had led me to write this post.

There is this kid who is enrolled in a private school. The grandparents of this kid (the kid's mother is an overseas Filipino worker (OFW), and his father is the usual husband of an OFW) learned that their grandchild will probably repeat next year; Php 36,000 down the drain. So that the kid will not repeat, teachers had told the guardians to "do" several projects.

The computer instructor had asked for a complex computer program. So complex, in fact, that the student will surely repeat, as the project is clearly above the student's capability and knowledge. Heck, this type of project is usually given to programming students - in college!

There are several problems to this story.

It is OK to teach students some computer skills. But to teach students programming skills that clearly is way above the student's capability is wrong. Programming entails advanced analytical skills; in reputable schools, they train programming students to be analytical by loading student course work with several units in Calculus and other hard sciences (chemistry and physics). Clearly, the teacher in the story is not an educator; he is probably a programming major without any training in education.

I understand that finding fully-trained computer-subject educators (with a degree in education) is a problem for secondary schools who offer computer subjects, so some schools are forced to hire the next-best alternative. But without a background in education, a greenhorn teacher (even if fully qualified in IT) is forced to apply what he know (despite the curriculum), sometimes even more than what students can handle. But education schools are fast catching up on this, and it will take a while before the problem is ameliorated.

Testing is a part of the teaching process. This allows a teacher to gauge what the students know, what they have learned, and how they can apply what they have learned. Projects are simply tests to measure how the students apply the knowledge that they have gained.

When a teacher assigns a project, it is assumed that the teacher has taught everything that the student needs to know in order to do the project. You do not test a student on what he doesn't know (unless it is a diagnostic test); you do not ask a student to do a project that you know he cannot do.

Also, the concept of project-for-passing-grade is just plain wrong. Why study for months when you can pass by just submitting a project?

The fact that the teacher allowed the problems to last at this point in time shows that the teacher is remiss in his duties.

However, the teacher is not solely to blame in this story. Parents and guardians have to make sure that their children are doing good at school. Besides, they get to see the report cards four times a year. By the grades alone, they should know if students are having problems or not, and act accordingly.

If this is the state of education in private schools, are public schools in a much better state? What do you think?

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