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The Perils of Parental Ignorance

Long before ‘facepalm’ became a meme, I had a conversation with a friend, a young teenage mom about 5 years ago, that made me literally put my palm to my face. We were talking about her baby boy.

Teenage mom: My son is always suffering from diarrhea. I don’t know why.

Me: Are you boiling the water you use for his milk?

Teenage mom: No…am I supposed to?

(insert massive facepalm here)


Common sense parenting isn’t common

For many of us, boiling water for a baby’s milk is standard operating procedure (SOP). Many people won’t even tell you that. You’re just supposed “to know”. The rationale is that babies’ digestive systems are still sensitive to too many pathogens, including “ordinary” free floating bacteria and viruses found in unboiled tap water. It doesn’t matter even if the water has passed through the usual microbiological tests and deemed 98 to 99% “safe”. For most babies, that’s still not clean enough. Having a brand new immune system, much of a baby’s immunity has yet to be developed. Moreover, immunity is acquired through the immune system’s memory cells, whose role is to store information on past pathogens. Babies, being brand new human beings, have not yet been exposed to enough pathogens, and have therefore not developed the required immunity to withstand even drinking water fresh from the tap.


Parental ignorance is not bliss 

Contrary to that adage, “ignorance is bliss”, a parent’s lack of information can easily harm the child. Recalling a time when I went with my dad to get rabies shots for a dog bite at the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), I overheard a tragic conversation between a doctor and a mother with a young man of about 14.

The young man was brought in for some symptoms which the doctor diagnosed as rabies. The conversation went something like this:

Doctor: So your son was bitten by a dog a few months ago?

Mother: Yes…

Doctor: And you didn’t get him anti-rabies shots?

Mother: No…

Doctor: I am sorry but he’s manifesting some advanced stages of rabies infection. We have no other choice but to pray now…

I couldn’t bear to stand and listen to what came next because the mom started to weep while the thin and pale face of the boy took on a resigned look. I don’t even know if he survived.

Parents have no excuse to be ignorant. In this modern age, information is everywhere. Even information on medical and health-related concerns abound. There’s the Internet, Google, and cheap Internet cafes that can be used for as little as Php 10-15 an hour. There are also medical advisories and tips posted in public places and school bulletin boards. One can even opt to ask advice from veteran parents. There are also regular health and medicine-related shows on TV and even medical columns in the newspapers.

And if there’s cause for concern, there are free medical check-ups provided by PCSO, its satellite clinics, and many barangay clinics and hospitals offered by LGUs in their respective areas. There’s even the occasional medical missions organized by many NGOs, medicine retailers, pharma companies, and philanthropic organizations. The bottom line is, parents have little excuse to be actively ignorant. In fact, I would go as far as to say that only parents who are determined to be ignorant stay uninformed, to the possible detriment of their children.

And since parents are parents, they are granted automatic de facto rights, responsibilities, and obligations towards their children. If parental negligence results in a child’s death, parents can be held criminally liable.


Making money from ignorance 

Moreover, there are many wolves in sheep’s clothing ready to take advantage of parental ignorance, ignorance that is not solely limited to the lower socio-economic strata. There are companies who leverage on the media machine, money, and advertising savvy to take advantage of the good intentions of even more affluent parents.

One example is this new sound device that purportedly help parents “interact” with babies while these are still in the womb. Other asserted benefits for prenatal babies include babies turning themselves to the proper orientation so that they come out heads first. And a third articulated benefit is helping the unborn baby familiarize himself/herself to the parent’s and grandparent’s voices so as to bond with them.

How the makers of these products came by this “bonding” conclusion is beyond me. Granted, babies may be able to hear the sound in vivo, but the sound that passes through the amniotic fluid (in which the unborn baby is suspended in) is likely to be muffled since sound changes speed in a different medium.


In other words, sound behaves differently in air than it does through amniotic fluid. Moreover, even if the baby does respond to the sound, for example, the baby moves more often, it is doubtful whether this increased movement is caused by babies’ being able to distinguish between a person’s voice from any other sounds they hear. Why? Because babies lack the experience in contextualizing verbal information; they do not yet know what words mean, much less phrases or whole sentences. Thus, baby product companies that make such claims of these sound products are in a very precarious situation just in case someone challenges the company to prove its declarations.


Fake fathers

Baby product companies aren’t the sole exploiters of parents’ lack of information. The other major group comprise religious authorities. In the Philippines, a largely Catholic country, separation of church and state is an illusion and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) reigns supreme and uncontested. The CBCP may be “spiritual” fathers to some but this fatherhood is merely metaphorical. The fact that they are not real parents makes one doubt if they can truly empathize with the plight of parents, specifically mothers, as reflected in their consistent antagonistic stance towards the RH bill.


Moreover, in the instance that pedophilic and sexually abusive priests do sire offspring, such a scandal will surely be swept under the rug and denied, including their parental responsibility. Worst, these priests just get shuffled between one country to another, to victimize more children and women in their wake while they exercise, ironically, their spiritual faculties to the faithful.


Despite eleven daily maternal deaths due to birth-related complications in the Philippines, the CBCP have kept to their guns, and they will continue to oppose the passing of the RH bill. And why should they not? Education, a critical component of the RH bill, will not only inform women, but it also has the potential to liberate and empower them from the shackles of religion, dogma, superstition, and ignorance.

The RH Bill connection

Despite the CBCP’s contentions, we direly need the RH bill. And mothers know this best of all. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that families have limited resources, and in the case of poor families, more so. The more children indigent families produce, the more pressure is put on the scarce resources they already have.

One case in point is my teenage friend whom I introduced at the start of this article. While the two of us had our first child almost at the same time, I still only have one child while she now has five children (in the span of nine years), with the last one just turning three years old.

While I am gainfully employed with my freelance consulting work with long-term committed clients, and have a husband who also does paid projects at home, my friend can only occasionally sell ‘kakanin’ (ricecakes) and is married to a construction worker. While I consistently get paid an honorarium month in and month out, the husband of my friend earns only on a contractual basis. He has take-home money only when he is needed for some physical infrastructure project contracted to an agency. Thus, the primary source of family funds for my friend is not secure and seasonal at best. When the father doesn’t earn, my friend is forced to borrow from a “5-6” local agent.

Every time I do get to see her (which is rare nowadays as we have moved far away), she is always complaining about how hard life has become. In fact, life for her has become even more challenging now than when she was still single. Last time I met her, she admitted to eating her neighbor’s dog food out of extreme hunger, just to ensure she produces enough milk for nursing her fourth baby.

My friend’s story, and other women’s similar stories, should convince us to we must push for the passing of the RH bill now. The bottomline is: who will make the final decision here? Will we listen to what the religious authorities who pretend to be our “spiritual parents” say, or do we choose to save the lives of our poor, our children, and our Filipino mothers?

Picture credits (used under Creative Commons)








Posted in Advocacy, Personal, Religion, RH Bill, Science, Secularism, Society0 Comments

Underestimating Parental Involvement

“You can divide the Red Sea,” my son declared.

We had just finished discussing the story of Moses (assigned by our homeschool provider as a lesson under Values Education). I emphasized that Moses’ story was a great narrative but it was just a story.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “What did you think about Moses’ method of dividing the Red Sea?”

Sil answered, “His method was a miracle, but you can still divide the Red Sea even without one.”

“How?” I asked.

“Make a dam,” he said.

I chuckled. It’s moments like these that reinforce my determination to pursue homeschooling, at least until Sil finishes Grade 6.

Through homeschooling, I have witnessed the development of my son’s character, his mental faculties, and his talents. By no means am I saying that homeschooling is easy — it entails a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and a persevering commitment — but it has also been very fulfilling. At the same time, it is far too easy for parents who homeschool their kids to doubt their own teaching abilities, to worry if they are teaching their children correctly.

“Surely, a professionally trained teacher is better qualified than a homeschool parent.”

I used to think that too until natural curiosity had me googling the academic performance of homeschooled children when compared to their traditionally schooled counterparts. Many reliable sources agree that homeschoolers in general significantly outpace traditionally schooled children. A study by Rey (2010) reported that “In most studies, the homeschooled have scored, on average, at the 65th to 80th percentile on standardized academic achievement tests, compared to the national school average of the 50th percentile (which is largely based on public schools). A few studies have found the home-educated to be scoring about the same or a little better than public school students.”


This study shows that homeschooled students are not academically disadvantaged. In fact, in many instances, they are doing very well or even better. Homeschooling is one of the few ways parents can gain control over their children’s education.

While the nature versus nurture debate is still fiercely raging in many educational and psychological circles, I have to point out that we have limited control over our genes and resulting heredity. Rather than curse our fates for not being born with a mythical Math gene, and consequently failing calculus, we could rather concentrate on the things over which we do have control.

And one of these few things is parental involvement. Unfortunately, parental involvement is in a precarious position in relation to other priorities of Pinoy families. With the Philippines’ current unemployment and underemployment rate, and job-skills mismatch, it’s very challenging to find a job that pays well and can comfortably support a family. As a result, both parents are forced to work, to meet the economic demands of supporting a family. One natural consequence is that parents have less and less time to spend with and on their children. This is saddening because increased positive parental involvement has many benefits for the child and his/her development. In this relation, while I am certainly not advocating that parents neglect the survival of their family, I do encourage them to spend more quality and quantity time with their young children.

Parental involvement can give rise to many positive effects for children, but I will just name a few below:

Increased Academic Achievement

Many studies agree that parental involvement can either promote or retard cognitive (mental) development, and thus also affect student achievement. Bempechat (1992) cited Coleman et al. (1996) who reported that achievement was more influenced by family background and environment than the quality of the school.


In our case, the first school that we enrolled Sil in had a whole year to teach him how to read, yet he was still unable to do so at the end of that year. It was unfortunate because I thought he was ready to read. He was 6 at that time and could already identify all the letters in the alphabet (a sign that the child is reading-ready). The school failed us. This reading readiness was a major hindrance to enrolling Sil in the first grade of the next school, because this school (as with most other schools) do not admit non-readers to Grade 1.

So my husband and I worked on Sil’s reading using’s online reading programs which, had animation, text, and audio features. After just two months of working with the program, coupled with patient and consistent mentoring, guidance, and tutoring from us, Sil was able to read. At nine, he is now reading newspapers with lola, his interest and emotions piqued with the territorial standoff with China. He plans to read the “Lord of the Rings” soon.

So how exactly does parental involvement help in achievement? One is through providing tutoring when the child needs it (Haggard, 1957 and Toby, 1957 in Bempechat, 1992). This was what we did daily with Sil in almost all his lessons, especially in parts where he encountered a lot of difficulty.

For example, it took a while for him to comprehend and solve word problems. So I made sure that he first mastered the four basic mathematical operations — addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Then we went back to word problems, and this time around, he was finally able to comprehend and solve them.

The bottom line is that parents act as teachers, where parental instruction is embedded in daily life. Instruction need not be explicit nor involve some particular strategy (Bempechat, 1992). In other words, though teaching can be subtle and indirect, learning can still take place.


Parents also encourage achievement through an active approach in learning (Hess and Shipman, 1965 in Bempechat, 1992). How can they do this? By giving children many opportunities to explore independently and learn by themselves, while still ensuring the child’s safety and wellness.

Reflecting on this second principle, I recall how we observed an entrepreneurial spirit in Sil. One day, Sil said he wanted to earn his own money. So we asked him how he planned to do this.

“I’m going to sell mangoes,” he declared, looking at our fruit-laden Indian mango tree. Except for me designing his “Mangoes Sold Here” label, we left him on his own and offered little assistance. As a result, he contracted the help of two close friends and between the three of them, they were able to sell 100 pieces of mangoes and split the profit evenly between themselves. Now, every summer, Sil sells mangoes with his friends.

Rogoff and Gardner (1984) in Bempechat (1992) reported that parents help children learn by showing how adults handle new problems while using past strategies for familiar problems. In other words, adults organize children’s thinking tasks, monitor the difficulty level of the problem, while providing pointers, and modeling mature performance.

When Sil could not understand division, I used Lego blocks (which he was fond of playing with) to group items and explain the concept. After a few demonstrations, Sil was able to solve division problems much better.

Academic Socialization

Bempechat (1992) cited numerous researchers who asserted that parental attitudes, expectancies, and beliefs about schooling and learning are also instrumental in the development of their children’s attitudes and behaviors toward achievement. For example, although there is little evidence that Math ability is dependent on gender, mothers of Math underachieving boys tend to explain their poor achievement due to lack of effort. In contrast, mothers of Math underachieving girls chalk it up to lack of ability. As a result, many girls tend to think that their gender is to blame for their poor Math ability, even though this isn’t true.

Math is a tricky problem because like many students, Sil has a love-hate relationship with Math. He hates the fact that Math is so exacting, so when he complains how he is hopeless, I always tell him that he can learn Math. After resting or eating (he might just be tired or hungry), and upon returning to the problem, Sil develops a more positive attitude. When he finally gets a problem, he calls himself a “Math monster” and I always agree with him. Consistently doing this has enabled Sil to develop quiet confidence in his Math skills. He now has no fear of Math.

Other Positive Learning Behaviors

Sénéchal, and LeFevre (2003) reported that parent’s involvement in teaching children about reading and writing words promoted the development of early literacy skills. They also reported that early literacy skills directly predicted word reading at the end of Grade 1 while it indirectly predicted reading in Grade 3 or specifically, that the word reading skill acquired at Grade 1 influenced reading comprehension in Grade 3. Thus, the child’s ability to read fluently is rooted in his early experiences, including parental involvement.

Although Sil was a little late in reading, our intensive two-month reading intervention made him a voracious reader. Nowadays, when I buy Sil a short book, he can finish it in 30 minutes. He is also reading encyclopedias, Calvin and Hobbes comics, the Sunday’s funnies, and newspaper articles on the Spratlys issue, among others.

Reduced Behavioral Problems

Finally, parental involvement can help even in the treatment of social phobia and general anxiety. Parental involvement was reported to significantly reduce children’s and even adolescent’s social and general fears, and that this improvement was retained even after one year (and presumably even beyond that). In addition, Domina (2005) reported that parental involvement can also prevent behavioral problems.

Sil has always been quite physical and easily bored when he is not mentally challenged. The language barrier didn’t help either because children in our neighborhood were intimidated by his mastery of English (his primary language). As a result, he was often misconstrued by his classmates, their parents, and even his teachers.

For the longest time, I felt like a failure as a parent. But instead of giving up, I did more research, talked to other homeschoolers, and visited another homeschool in Paranaque. Still, it was quite providential when we found a homeschool provider that had many UP Education graduates who acted as academic consultants and staff. One of his “homeroom” teachers understood that Sil was an intelligent, strong-willed, and active child. Since she was also the one who administered the annual Weschler test , she appreciated that Sil needed to be mentally challenged. She narrated a test on conservation of mass. Sil was shown two groups of seven blocks. One group was arranged in a line. The other group was scattered. Most of the children readily answered that the disorganized group of blocks was fewer. Sil looked at her and said, “I will check”. He counted both sets of blocks and remarked, “See? it’s the same.” Then he said, “I will check again”. Sil rearranged the scattered blocks into a straight line, beside the arranged groups of blocks. He then remarked, “See? It’s the same.”

Sil’s fellow homeschoolers were fluent English speakers, very bright, confident, outspoken, and very active. We have also enrolled Sil under a local taekwondo class. All of these interventions has enabled him to expend his energy on something productive, build up his physical strength, earn him friendship with his peers, and again made us confident that we are doing the right thing.

The Bottom Line

The verdict is out: parental involvement can promote children’s academic achievement and attitudes, influence other positive behaviors like reading and writing, assist in easing fears and phobias, and even prevent behavioral problems, among others.


Although the modern Filipino family has many priorities, especially economic ones, such considerations must be balanced with the critical need for parental involvement in children’s lives which can greatly influence their learning, their attitudes and ultimately, their future.


Bempechat, (1992). The role of parent involvement in children’s academic achievement. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from

Domina, T. (2005). Leveling the home advantage: assessing the effectiveness of parental involvement in elementary school. Sociology of Education, 78 (3), 233-249. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from

Marin, C.E. (2010). Parental involvement and group cognitive behavioral treatment for anxiety disorders in children and adolescents: treatment specificity and mediation effects. Florida International University. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from

Ray, B. (2001). Academic achievement and demographic traits of homeschool students: A national study. Retrieved April 25, 2012 from the Academic Leadership: The Online Journal, 8(1)

Sénéchal, M. and LeFevre, J. (2003). Parental involvement in the development of children’s reading skill: A five-year longitudinal study. Child Development, 73(2), 445-460. Retrieved April 28, 2012 from

Spence, S., Donovan, C., and Brechman-Toussaint, M. (2003). The treatment of childhood social phobia: the effectiveness of social skills training-based, cognitive-behavioural intervention, with and without parental involvement. The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 41 (6). Retrieved April 28, 2012 from

Photo credit for ‘Slices of Parental Involvement’: Copyright 2010 Forsyth County School. Used under Creative Commons.

Posted in Personal, Society2 Comments

Demystifying Homeschooling

Homeschooling is a much misunderstood and maligned word. It seems natural for people to jump to conclusions about it. After all, since one knows the meaning of “home” and “school”, naturally putting them together should obviously define homeschooling as education relegated to the home environment, right?


It’s true that homeschooling in general includes more contact hours at home, but it doesn’t mean that learning is solely done at home. In fact, a big part of homeschooling is experience-based (experiential) learning outside the usual four corners of traditional classrooms. The whole world can literally become the student’s educational oyster.

Thus, you are not merely confined to teaching your child from a book (although standard instructional materials will most likely be assigned by most homeschooling providers). In fact, you can teach more, over and above available instructional materials, topics, and formats. Best of all, you can delve into topics your child is interested in as well. For example, to promote Science learning, aside from teaching the child what’s in the book, you can bring him/her to the Mind Museum, NIDO’s Science Center, Museo Pambata, a planetarium, or a microbiology lab. In a microbio lab, a child can don a lab gown, wear protective plastic for his/her shoes, peer under a microscope, and discuss with lab researchers and technicians.

Another question that crops up is whether homeschooling is illegal. In some countries it is, but luckily for the Philippines, it isn’t. Several educational laws support alternative learning systems, where homeschooling would naturally fall under.

Section 1(2) of Article XIV (14) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states that the State shall, “Establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels. Without limiting the natural right of parents to rear their children…” It is from the last phrase on supporting parental educational rights that homeschooling is provided the legal basis of educating children. However, Section 4(1) of the same also stated that, “The State recognizes the complementary roles of public and private institutions in the education system and shall exercise reasonable supervision and regulation of all education institutions,” is one legal basis to support the establishment of formal homeschool providers, both as an educational institution and organization, as well as a business model.


Before DepEd, there was DECS, and before that was the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports whose educational powers and functions (Section 5) were enumerated under Executive Order 117, series of 1987. Section 5 included item b, as follows, “Sec. 5. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate and objectives, the Ministry shall have the powers and functions of formulating, planning, implementing and coordinating the policies, plans, programs and projects for the following areas of responsibility:

(b) Non-formal and vocational/technical kinds of education;

Again, homeschooling would fall under a non-formal kind of education (granted a choice of only formal or non-formal education). By non-formal, I mean education not falling under the typical traditional classroom set-up. In addition, a 2001 paper by Torres cited a more explicit and specific classification based on the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCD), . She classified education into three types: formal education (FE), non-formal education (NFE), and informal education (IE) with the following definitions:

Formal education comprised “regular school and university education”; non-formal education (NFE) comprised “out-of-school and continuing education, on the job training, etc.”; and informal education comprised “family and socially directed learning”. A fourth category, experiential learning, was added to embrace “learning by doing, self-directed learning, etc.” (UNESCO 1991:17-18).


It should be noted that E.O. 117 series of 1987 came much earlier than Torres’ paper, where alternative educational systems are relatively recent developments when compared to other countries. For example, while the British Open University which provides these alternative learning systems was operational as far back as 1971 ( ), most of the Philippine legal documents for such systems were only crafted in 2000. There was only one introduced at the time in 1972, three in the later 1980’s, one in the 1990’s.

This might very well be one reason why there are only a handful of homeschool providers in the Philippines, most of them concentrated in Luzon, and almost all of them religious and or sectarian in nature. The more popular ones include the following: Angelicum College, Catholic Filipino Academy (CFA), Colegio de San Juan de Letran, Harvest Christian School International, The Master’s Academy (TMA), and The School of Tomorrow.

Another common concern is the socialization process. By socialization, I mean a definition similar to the following: processes by which individuals acquire the knowledge, language, social skills, and values to conform to the norms and roles required for integration into a group or community ( ).

Despite that definition, there seems to be this thinking that children learn more from other children close to their ages (as exemplified by schools artificially grouping children into grade levels) than when children are exposed to other children and people of different ages. What can commonly happen in schools is that traditionally schooled children who spend most of their waking moments in school will most likely look to their peers as role models. Homeschooled children, on the other hand, have more contact with their parents and maybe other older children (siblings, cousins, neighbors) and just different kinds of people, affording them more opportunities to meet with and observe social norms from older children and adults than if they were relegated to the classroom.

While strong advocates for FE and die hard supporters of NFE and IE have cited conflicting results about the socialization of homeschoolers vs tradional students, a more recent paper by Koehler, Langness, Pietig, Stoffel, and Wyttenbach ( ), seems indicative of the potential promise of better socialization skills of homeschoolers over traditional students. The Social Skills Rating System (SSRS), a reliable and valid assessment tool of social skills, contains fifty-five questions that probe into social skill subcategories of cooperation, assertion, responsibility, and self-control. The SSRS was administered to a total sample of 23 children (7 homeschooled versus 16 traditionally schooled children). Results “indicated that the homeschooled population demonstrated above average overall social skills with a mean score of 63.143. The traditionally schooled children demonstrated average social skills with a mean score of 55.125” (Koehler et. al: p 472).

In addition, using the t-test for independent means (a test to show if there is significant quantitative differences between two discrete groups), it was reported that “a statistical difference was found when comparing the means of the two groups in relation to their overall scores at the .01 level, with the homeschooled children scoring higher. With regards to the subcategories, the results were mixed. In the area of responsibility, a statistical significance was found at the .01 level, indicating that the homeschooled population scored significantly higher than the publicly schooled population. No statistically significant differences were found in relation to other subcategories.” (Koehler et. al: p 472).

Further, Koehler and company also cited earlier studies which also supported their findings, including that of Stough (1992) who said that, “it would appear that few homeschooled children are socially deprived, and that there may be sufficient evidence to indicate that some homeschooled children have a higher self concept than conventionally schooled children” (as cited in Aiex, 1994).

They also cited the work of Smedley, (1992) who found that, “home educated children are more mature and socialized than those sent to school.”

Granted that the sample size is low, and thus, future studies must include a bigger sample size as well as similar local studies. Nonetheless, the results of this research is encouraging for parents like me who have chosen homeschooling for their children.

As a parting note, homeschooling has afforded me several other benefits, not the least of which include more family bonding, less cost (no uniform or daily transportation costs), less worry about my son fitting in school, bullying, or even infection from recent epidemics (like the last AH1N1 scare). At worst, sectarian schools will constrain and indoctrinate children with unconstitutional school rules and guidelines and superstitious mumbo jumbo. With homeschooling, my son and I can be out having nature walks and talks, identifying plants, trees, and insects.


The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. (1987). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from

Executive Order No. 117 January 30, 1987: Reorganization of the Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sports prescribing its powers and functions and for other purposes. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from

Homeschooling and open universities in the Philippines. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from

Jardeleza, M. J.Learning System Program. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from

Koehler,L.D., Langness, T.J., Pietig, S.S., Stoffel, N.L. and Wyttenbach, J.L. (2002). Socialization skills in home schooled children versus conventionally schooled children. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from

Torres, R-M. (2001). Amplifying and diversifying learning: Formal, non-formal, and informal education revisited (Outline). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from

Posted in Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Society32 Comments

Science By the Wayside: DepEd’s Wrong Choice

Science By the Wayside: DepEd’s Wrong Choice

The DepEd decided to remove Science subjects in Grades 1 and 2. This was reported in the January 24, 2012 Manila Bulletin article entitled, “DepEd drops ‘Science’ for pupils”. Education Secretary Br. Armin Luistro, FSC explained the rationale of dropping Science subjects in Grades 1 to Grade 2 by saying that such a move was to “decongest (the) Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) and to make learning more enjoyable to young learners.” He claimed that the new curriculum is “more child friendly” and is based on the idea that “we should be taking the students where they are.”

Basis for choice
The justification of DepEd’s head is unoriginal, especially since the word “decongest” was the same word used by former Sec. Raul Roco in item 6 of DepEd Order 25, series of 2002 on the Implementation of the BEC ( This seemingly uncritical acceptance of a rationale that’s 10 years old makes one wonder: How exactly did DepEd come up with such a decision? And why, of all the subjects, was science singled out? Why couldn’t it have been any other subject? If DepEd really had to make a drastic choice, why couldn’t the choice have been M.A.P.E., considering that Grade 1 and 2 students are naturally active, and that one real practical challenge is to keep such students focused on seatwork?

One likely consideration is the prior 2002 decision to implement the BEC, which the current DepEd administration is only implementing as a matter of compliance to a previous DepEd commitment. Still, it’s not as if the policy is set in stone. If the present DepEd admin believes that implementing such a decision may have negative long-term impacts, they could invoke a precautionary stance and decide to hold the implementation while reviewing the issue further.

In addition, though it’s certainly within DepEd’s purview to make such a decision, in the process of deciding, did they even consult with the DOST on their opinions, albeit even cursorily? Perhaps DOST might have thought that postponing the teaching of Science until Grade 3 wouldn’t be a good idea.

Start them young

We often underestimate what children can do, but as a homeschool mom and educator, I feel that even young children should be taught science at least as early as kindergarten. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, young children are naturally curious. Second, children’s brains are capable of learning science. In addition, children come in all shapes and sizes, including those who are interested in and/or are gifted in the sciences. More importantly, science, which DepEd purports to be a less child-friendly subject, encourages children to learn more by allowing them to put in additional effort.

I have noticed that children are innately and naturally curious about the world around them, especially the physical world. Many parents would agree that children tend to ask about how things work, including natural phenomena. Some of them, like my son Sil, seem to have an endless trove of questions. Once I’ve finished answering one question, he’ll just have another one, and another one, until oftentimes, I lose patience or ask him to do something else. Suffice it to say, having a nature walk with a plant, animal, or insect book can be very informative and stimulating for little children.

It should be pointed out, though, that children don’t think like adults. However, this shouldn’t be a reason to refrain from teaching them science as Piaget’s theory on Cognitive Development Stages explains. Children ages 7 to 11 years (which includes the age range that Grade 1 to 2 students fall in) have been observed to not be inclined to think in an abstract manner, solve problems systematically, or use general principles to predict specific outcomes (deductive reasoning). More importantly though, these children can already think logically about concrete events, objects, or places. They can also reason inductively, that is, they can utilize specific experiences to conclude general principles. For example, one can easily explain Newton’s law of gravity by just repeatedly asking children to drop different things to the ground.

On another note, Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences asserts that some children may have innate naturalist and logical intelligences, making such children like science and do well in them. One example is my son’s interest in science, which was brought about by his grandmother who showed him an old Reader’s Digest article on the body’s immune system entitled, “The war within us.” Building on this interest, I brought him to the Microbiological Research Sciences Laboratory (MRSL) in the UP Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP NSRI). There, he was able to wear a lab gown and put on protective bags on his shoes, but the most exciting part for him was when he looked at bacteria under the microscope. As a result, I am presently saving up for a microscope. Thus, the experience of other parents whose children love science begs the question: Why should such children have to wait until Grade 3 to immerse themselves in Science while their counterparts with non-science-related intelligences have already gained at least a 2-year head start?

Finally, Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) explains the distance between what a child can do independently and what he/she can complete only with supervision. The concept explains that these two zones of competence overlap. In practice, when teaching a new skill, a teacher can build on something the child already knows while being challenging enough to require the child to exert some effort. Consequently, teachers shouldn’t merely take “the students where they are” but rather encourage students to go beyond what they presently know.

A science divide
Although the Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) is required by DepEd of all primary and secondary schools as communicated in DepEd order 43, series of 2002 ( ), the BEC is strictly enforced only in public schools. Though many private schools adopt the BEC, these schools still have the option to include science subjects in Grades 1 and 2 while public schools do not have such an option. Sil’s homeschool, the Master’s Academy, is a private organization that provides science books even at Grade 1.

The uneven BEC implementation since 2002 could be promoting a science divide between public and private schools. It’s tempting to predict that such a disparity may mean producing more future technical professionals or white collar workers from private schools while turning up more blue collar professionals from public schools. According to Daniel Levitin, expertise in any chosen field requires 10,000 hours of practice. Educator Erik Ericsson has something similar: his 10 year principle. He asserts that expertise is gained through a minimum accumulation of 10 years of dedicated practice and immersion.This means that children exposed to science subjects early already have an advantage over children who are exposed much later. If the previously mentioned inequality is proven, it would be alarming since the present work environment is increasingly more global, more science and IT-driven, and has implications on the economy. Either way, if such a science disparity exists, it would mean that more students will be science disadvantaged since the number of students in public schools far outnumber those in private schools. It was reported in the June 5, 2011 Manila Bulletin article entitled, ‘Campus Boom’ that 14.25M public school students were expected to enroll compared to a measly 1.22M students enrolling in private schools, or where the population of public school students is almost 11.7x higher than the population of private school students. As a practice, most academic institutions need to review their curriculum every 5 years, and since the BEC is already at least 5 years since establishment, it’s up for review and evaluation. At the very least, the implications of this plausible inequity need to be studied at the soonest.

An integration problem
Granted that Br. Armin assured the public that science concepts will still be integrated in the remaining non-science subjects in Grades 1 and 2, much of the implementation still rests on individual teachers. Unfortunately, teachers with little background in science might be uncomfortable or unsure about how to integrate science concepts in non-science subjects. This integrating strategy characterizes a broad-based curriculum approach, which is a particular teaching strategy most teachers may be unaware of or, worse, not know how to do. In fact, in page 4 of DepEd Memo 35, series of 2005, it was reported that “some (teachers) however, merely echoed what they learned; thus there are still many teachers who do not have enough knowledge about the key concepts and approaches of BEC.”,%20s.%202005.pdf This integrated approach requires teachers to logically teach several topics under one common theme; for example, a teacher can use the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears to teach the number 3 (Mathematics) and temperature (Natural Science), texture (Art), taste (Culinary Arts), animal behavior (Biology), or even the concept of trespassing on private property (Law).

The integration will also require additional work, which many public school teachers can hardly do, what with their massive workload, shifting class schedules where one classroom is used by three separate classes in one grade level, abnormally large class sizes, and public school students’ 3 to 4-hour daily schedules, among so many considerations and factors. Simply stated, out of sight, out of mind, or what does not get measured (or monitored) falls by the academic wayside. Consequently, there’s the real danger of teachers not bothering to integrate science in their subjects at all.

Taking up the cudgels for science
It’s encouraging to know that Senator Pia Cayetano decided to take up this issue with DepEd. Still, considering the possible widespread effect of such a policy, we can exercise our rights as citizens and rally support for putting Science back in Grade 1 and 2 public school classrooms. If we succeed, this seemingly small step can redound to positive effects all around, like more future scientists from the ranks of little children.

Coffey, H. (n.d.). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from

Lind, K. (1998). Science in Early Childhood: Developing and Acquiring Fundamental Concepts and Skills. Paper presented at the Forum on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education (Washington, DC, February 6-8, 1998). Retrieved January 27, 2012 from

Malipot, I.H. (2011). Campus Boom. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from

Malipot, I.H. (2012). DepEd drops ‘Science’ for pupils. Retrieved January 25, 2012 from

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