Archive | Metro Manila South Chapter

FF – Metro South Meetup for Sunday, February 10

Event: Filipino Freethinkers – Metro Manila South Meetup

Date: Sunday, February 10, 2013

Time: 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM

Place: Union Jack Tavern, 2nd Level, Festival Mall, Alabang, Muntinlupa City

RSVP on Facebook 

Greetings from the Filipino Freethinkers – Metro Manila South Chapter! We are a group of freethinkers residing in the equally interesting but underrated areas of the Metro and its neighbouring provinces. We invite the residents of Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Las Piñas, the nearby sub-urban towns of San Pedro, Sta.Rosa and Biñan in Laguna, and even people from Cavite and Batangas to join our meetup this Sunday, February 10.

Discussion Topics:

1. What we oppose in the Cybercrime Bill

2. AIDS/HIV – the health problem, the stigma, and how the FF – MM South can help promote awareness of the problem.

3. Carlos Celdran and the guilty verdict for offending religious feelings

4. Videos/Comic Strips for Freethinking 101 Series

There is no need to pay or order anything, but Union Jack Tavern gives you the best ‘British pub experience’ available in the country, and the food and drinks are reasonably-priced.

Just look for the FF sign or the bunch of cool, smart, sexy people gathered together in the bar area. Minors (people below 18yo) are discouraged from purchasing and consuming alcoholic drinks, and all attendees are expected to abide to our code of conduct during the meetup and post-meetup.

There is no pressure to speak during the discussions, and you can just listen and observe. Even so, if you feel like voicing out your opinion on a given topic, just raise your hand and signal the facilitator, and you’ll be given a chance to speak. We want everyone to have an intellectually-stimulating, productive, and fun experience, and to enjoy the community experience of being among other freethinkers.

See you there!

Posted in Announcements, FF Chapters, Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter, Religion, Science, Secularism, Society0 Comments

Why Rude Protest Is Better Than Polite Concession

A Violent Kind of Envy

“Try protesting inside a MOSQUE and let’s see if you can keep your head on your shoulder.”

I have heard this said several times to argue against Carlos Celdran’s actions in the Manila Cathedral in 2010, and I think it is nothing but veiled Islamophobia, not to mention unfair to a group of people who happen to practice a different religion from the Filipino majority.

Saying this actually suggests that ALL our Muslim brothers and sisters are a bunch of violent, vindictive terrorists who will kill anyone who disrespects their faith. I find this offensive because I have Muslim friends and office-mates who are peaceful, reasonable, progressive, and in many ways, better than so many so-called Christians who react violently when someone disagrees with them. Shame on those people for even suggesting that all Muslims will immediately resort to violence. They probably don’t know that many Muslims, and I doubt if they are good friends with one.

‘Fatwa envy’ is the term used for the phenomenon of people complaining that criticism of their religion or political beliefs is wrong because the criticism would never be directed at Muslims for fear of violence or death, according to Rational Wiki (http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Fatwa_envy).

(image source: V-forVictory)

 ‘Proper’ Way of Protesting? 

You can drive out a person who says or does rude things inside your house, but you don’t sue them or send them to prison. It shows how emotionally immature you are. I am of the opinion that there are times when some people need a rude awakening, especially when social niceties and outward politeness are numbing and sheltering them from the fact that they are rudely over-stepping their boundaries.

(image source: FSTDT.com )

The CBCP and their ultra-conservative Catholic cohorts are over-stepping their boundaries, getting access to public privileges without paying taxes, violating the separation of church and state and shutting down art exhibits and protest actions that they find offensive. They can’t surrender pedophile priests to the public, they amass wealth by the billions in a country full of hungry, poor people, they get to ask a former president for gifts of SUVs, and they exercise political influence like it is their birthright. Barging into their church meetings to protest their political meddling is an act of defiance, an act of rebellion against the bigger evil that they are perpetuating, and is a nonviolent way of bringing to light the fact that they are not exercising the same respect that they are now demanding from everyone else.

A Stomping Ground For Stomping on Non-Catholics

It reminds me of the public high school that I went to years ago. Our government-employed Catholic principals and teachers required that all students attend a Catholic catechism class, and not attending will cost you your grade in Values Education. The cathecist teachers they allowed to come in and teach were from the local parish that the school administrators go to every Sunday. These cathecists would routinely ask each student, in the presence of the whole class, whether they are Catholic or not. When they learn that some of us are from ‘born-again’ families, they would proceed to joke that we are ‘burned again’, in reference to the hellfire punishment for apostates. Before we graduated, we were compelled to attend a Catholic mass. Some of our teachers even threatened us that we will not get diplomas if we do not attend.

(image source: Mostphotos.com)

The Catholic Church in our neighbourhood has a tall loudspeaker that rudely blares their prayers and sermons all over the place every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, at the expense of the non-Catholics who also reside in the area. Every Lenten season, messengers claiming to be from the same neighbourhood Catholic church would knock on our gates and ask for donations for the Holy Week celebrations, and we get dirty looks when we tell them that we are not Catholics.

Another incident was when my wife was confined in a Catholic hospital in Manila years ago when she gave birth to our son. We had no choice but to rush her there because it was the nearest hospital in the vicinity. The hospital’s priest visited our room while my wife was still recovering from a Cesarean surgery, asked us if we were Catholics. When we said we aren’t, he told us that we have lost our way and that God welcomes lost sheep when they go back to the fold. He said it in front of my visiting mother, who is a life-long ‘Born-Again’ Protestant deacon. It was a disconcerting experience for my mother and my wife, to say the least.

So a strangely-dressed man with a placard sign saying ‘Damaso’ walks in on an ecumenical church meeting that the CBCP bishops are attending and tells them to stop meddling in politics. For all the rude violations that the ruling Catholic majority keep doing at the expense of those who do not share their beliefs, is it that damnable when a man like Carlos Celdran gets fed up and goes directly to them, to tell them to their faces to stop?

In the New Testament account, an angry Jesus goes into the Temple to turn over the tables of merchants who jack up their prices to rip off the faithful, and whipped the traders with a rope to drive them out of their own legal territory. (Gospel of John 2: 13-16)

(image source: http://revbriceatjourney.blogspot.com)

Now You Do What They Told Ya, Now You’re Under Control

In connection to this, I happen to like punk and metal bands that use rude language to get their messages across, and I have often observed that it has a more immediate impact than any politely-worded political treatise out there because it gets into the heart of the issue. Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name Of” comes to mind.

To paraphrase fellow freethinker Sass Sasot, polite behaviour is often dictated by those who are in power, the oppressor, to control the oppressed. What we call ‘polite behaviour’ depends on what a certain group of people find acceptable. Who dictates the norm for polite behaviour? If those who are in power are the only ones allowed to decide what proper behaviour is, or what a proper venue for protest is, then the minority is already being restricted by this dictate and are only being bullied to the point of silence. Restrictions imposed by social rules of propriety only serve to delay the efforts of the person complaining of injustice. As Martin Luther King, one of the modern fathers of civil disobedience, would say, “Justice too long delayed is justice denied.” (from Letter From Birmingham City Jail)

Polite society often tells us to obey its rules at the expense of things with bigger consequences and to obscure bigger issues that should be addressed. My answer to that is “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me!“, as RATM would put it.

NO.

 

Posted in Freedom of Expression, Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Politics, Religion, Society10 Comments

God Is My Giant Robot, My Mask, My Vulgar Display Of Power

My problem with people invoking God to justify and rationalize their views on controversial issues is that they are so confident that this God actually supports and sides with all their biases, prejudice and definition of righteousness. If this God actually exists as a distinct entity, I still don’t see why he has to be a ‘Yes Man’ who nods his head to one particular person’s views and opinions, as if he doesn’t have his own mind on the matter.

Most of the people I meet who assert their certainty in the existence of a God profess belief in a character that closely resembles their desires, behavior and views, or at least one that shows complete approval of their outlook. It is like a ‘Mary Sue’ archetype in a story, a character made up to project the author’s wishes and idealized self. Another way of putting it is that this God resembles a puppet, a mouthpiece, an intimidating mask used to assert one’s views without providing room for criticism and analysis. Like a gangster with a big, handsome car running over someone, disrespecting that person’s voice and sense of self, disregarding that person’s protestations, just because they do not have a big, handsome car.

It is no surprise that mecha, giant robots in Japanese anime, are often depicted as God or are associated with God, as is the case in both the Evangelion series and Gundam 00. The staunch believer pilots the giant robot, metaphorically speaking, projecting his desire for a world to stay the same, to vent out his frustrations on what he perceives to be the enemy of his world, the threats to his sense of security. It is a behemoth best friend that will step on appeals for reason, logic and evidence and crush them because these are taking apart his perception of what he wants to be real and what he wants to not be real. It reminds me of squealing fan girls who get angry at someone for pointing out the flaws of their favourite Hollywood actor.

(image source: http://www.myspace.com/crosstout)

If there really is a God, he/she/it will not be a vessel for any person’s biases, any more than that the American President’s views does not necessarily reflect the overall values of every American. Even Batman’s Alfred has to tuck in for the night on his own and often disagrees with some of Bruce Wayne’s decisions. I am somewhat confounded that many believers call God their Master, when it is they who are pulling the strings and rubbing the lamp so that this God will fulfill their wishes and inflict punishment on those that they are angry with.

Even the biblical God has has been known to say, “my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” (Isaiah 55:8, NIV). If that is the case, then it would seem that many believers are simply putting forth a being of their own creation, tailored to fit their worldviews. They’ve made it that way so that they do not have to deal with the fact that the world is full of people with a variety of beliefs, ideals, and various cultures where people view their separate experiences as truth.

I have people who I can call really good friends, and even if I have a lot of things in common with them, they do not always agree with me, and they have separate lives and experiences that produce a truth that is subjective. They do not always take my side, they do not pander to my convenience, and they are honest enough to point out where I am wrong. They will not be my friends if they said yes to everything I said, and I will doubt their sincerity. In the same way, people who invoke God as if their relationship with him is without question, are only invoking something that is imagined, idealized and made up so that any other opposition can be conveniently disregarded. It would be like the Emperor hitting the child for pointing out that he doesn’t have any clothes, all because he is the Emperor and the child is weak. This God is a person’s reflection of himself, a self-compensation for his feelings of inadequacy and therefore a necessary means to force everyone else to adjust to his ideas of right and wrong.

(image source: http://hiscrivener.wordpress.com)

This invocation of God as a perpetual ally to the hardcore believer’s every cause is an issue of power, an expression of a bully’s sense of helplessness that he has to call on a bigger, brawnier gang member to beat up the small kid whose only crime is defending himself and his convictions. It is the reflection of inner fear, a fear that induces a person to show bravado and use intimidation to achieve a sense of control in a world that is out of his control, rather than taking up someone their own size, on their own, without asking a divine benefactor to confront his own life issues for him.

Posted in Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Philosophy, Religion2 Comments

September 9 (Sunday) Metro Manila South Meetup

Location: Union Jack Tavern, Festival Mall
Date: September 9, Sunday
Time: 4 PM – 7 PM

RSVP on Facebook

Topics:
* Is it justified to use animals for research in order to help people?
* Should there be a cap on how much celebrities can earn?
* Are we becoming too dependent on computers?
* Should military service be mandatory in the Philippines?

* There is no need to order anything in the venue, although Union Jack Tavern is a rad place if you want to experience the relaxing ‘authentic British pub’ ambience at affordable prices.
* Please look inside for the FF signboard or that group of sexy, smart people having lively discussions that go with the sign.
* You can just sit in and listen, but sooner or later you might get the urge to speak your mind on the topic, so you’re encouraged to do so.
* There is usually a post-meetup get together for food and drinks.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.
See you there!

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 Comments

July 15 (Sunday) Filipino Freethinkers Metro Manila South Meetup

Location: Union Jack Tavern, Festival Mall
Date: Sunday, July 15, 2012
Time: 4:00pm – 7:00pm
RSVP on Facebook

Your friendly Filipino Freethinkers from the Metro South are inviting you to their regular bi-weekly meetup in Union Jack Tavern, 2nd Level – Festival Mall, Alabang! Join us, learn and have fun discussing the following topics:

* Is the Philippines ready for secularism? To be facilitated by Haresh Daswani.
* Can intelligence really be sexually attractive? Is Sapiosexuality Fact or Fancy? Jojie Tiongco will be facilitator for this topic.
* ’50 Shades of Grey’, the rise of ‘mommy porn’ and the mainstreaming of BDSM. Good or Bad? This quite controversial topic will also be facilitated by Jojie Tiongco
* Updates on the Camp Talino (science and critical thinking summer camp project) dry run, to be discussed by Erick and Miam Tan-Fabian.

* There is no need to order anything in the venue, although Union Jack Tavern is a rad place if you want to experience the relaxing ‘authentic British pub’ ambience at affordable prices.
* Please look inside for the FF signboard or that group of sexy, smart people having lively discussions that go with the sign.
* You can just sit in and listen, but sooner or later you might get the urge to speak your mind on the topic, so you’re encouraged to do so.
* There is usually a post-meetup get together for food and drinks.
* Please abide by the code of conduct.

See you there!

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 Comments

Filipino Freethinkers Metro Manila South Sunday Meetup!

A bunch of meetups this week! Besides the two meetups today in Davao and at Taft, our Metro Manila South chapter is having a meetup this Sunday at Alabang!

Be at the Union Jack Tavern at Festival Mall this Sunday at 4pm. Meetup officially runs until 7pm, after which there are usually drinks (if you’re not a minor). This week’s topics are very varied:

  • The pros and cons of stereotyping
  • Palatino’s abandonment of the government secularization bill: a result of cowardice or strategic accommodation?
  • Should marijuana be legalized?
  • How important is money to you?

If the other Metro Manila meetups are too far up north for you, try heading over to the South meetup this Sunday. You’re bound to make a few new friends.

Look at all those friendly faces

You can find the Facebook event here.

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 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), http://www.adeanet.org/adeaPortal/adea/wgnfe/publications/biennial01/RMTorres%20-%20ADEA%20Biennale%20outline.pdf . 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 (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/429744/Open-University ), 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 (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/socialization.html ).

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 (http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/jur/2002/koehler-langness-pietig-stoffel-wyttenbach.pdf ), 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.

References

The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. (1987). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.chanrobles.com/article14.htm

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 http://www.lawphil.net/executive/execord/eo1987/eo_117_1987.html

Homeschooling and open universities in the Philippines. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://en.wikipilipinas.org/index.php?title=Homeschooling_and_open_universities_in_the_Philippines

Jardeleza, M. J.Learning System Program. Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.slideshare.net/YsayJardeleza/alternative-learning-system-program

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 http://murphylibrary.uwlax.edu/digital/jur/2002/koehler-langness-pietig-stoffel-wyttenbach.pdf

Torres, R-M. (2001). Amplifying and diversifying learning: Formal, non-formal, and informal education revisited (Outline). Retrieved April 5, 2012 from http://www.adeanet.org/adeaPortal/adea/wgnfe/publications/biennial01/RMTorres%20-%20ADEA%20Biennale%20outline.pdf

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 (http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/DO%2025_6-17-02_00001.pdf). 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 (http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/DO%2043_08-29-02_00001.pdf ), 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.” http://www.deped.gov.ph/cpanel/uploads/issuanceImg/DO%20No.%2035,%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.

References
Coffey, H. (n.d.). Zone of Proximal Development. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/pages/5075

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 http://ecrp.uiuc.edu/v2n2/science-search.html

Malipot, I.H. (2011). Campus Boom. Retrieved January 27, 2012 from http://www.mb.com.ph/node/321369/campu

Malipot, I.H. (2012). DepEd drops ‘Science’ for pupils. Retrieved January 25, 2012 from http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/349141/deped-drops-science-pupils

Posted in Metro Manila South Chapter, Personal, Science, Society1 Comment

January 29 (Sunday) Metro Manila South Meetup

Location: Don Henrico’s, Festival Mall – Alabang, Muntinlupa
Date: Sunday, January 29, 2012
Time: 4pm – 7pm

RSVP on Facebook

Proposed Topics:

-DepEd curriculum which introduces Science as a subject only by Grade 3
-Secular Camp: A proposed project to promote science, secularism, and reason
-French Secularism (Facilitator: Ryan Amparo)
-Should euthanasia be legalized? (Facilitator: Marx Cole)
-Is the demolition of informal settlements moral? (Vlad Pablo)

Posted in Meetup, Metro Manila South Chapter0 Comments


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