DepEd “Drops” Science? What Science?

A recent report by the Manila Bulletin said that the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) will be dropping science classes for public schools from the first and second grades. This was supposedly “in line with its efforts to decongest the Basic Education Curriculum and to make learning more enjoyable to young learners.” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro says, however, that they will be integrating science topics “in other subjects to make the new curriculum more child-friendly.” This new curriculum will “mainly focus on oral fluency” for the first grade.

Time Allotment for Public Schools According to the Basic Education Curriculum

The Basic Education Curriculum was instituted under the late DepEd Secretary Raul Roco and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2002, which was “the product of 16 years of study under the various DepEd secretaries.” This 2002 curriculum removed “Science and Health” from the first and second grades.

Since the belated Manila Bulletin report, there has been a lot of outrage regarding this decision, leading Senator Pia Cayetano to discuss the matter with her constituents online. She said that she would discuss the curriculum with other senators “so [they] can act on it.”

The claim that science is too difficult for children is not controversial and it is commonly believed, though seldom backed up by evidence. And, to be fair, it can be quite hard to convey the rigor and chain of evidence employed by science to children. In this way, I can somehow understand (but not agree with) the secretary with his implication that science is not “enjoyable” or “child-friendly.” Even scientists themselves often have a difficult time grasping the more counter-intuitive discoveries of science.

While it is a shame that science is regarded by some sectors of the government as “congestion,” I do not think that this delaying of science will have as terrible an impact as people have been suggesting it will have. Rather, I think that scientific instruction in the Philippines regardless of age has been misguided for far longer than just the ten years since the curriculum revision. Given this, the removal of two years of bad scientific instruction isn’t too big a loss.

The position taken by the government towards science reflects the general attitude of the public—that it is conducive to practical skills and not much else. That’s why the state can afford removing science and replace it with the more economically useful “oral fluency.” Though the loss of even just practical science would still be worthy of outrage, the more noble value of science has long been lost (if it was ever held). The principles of science—critical thinking, skepticism, and reliance on evidence—are rarely ever instilled by educational institutions in the country, even upon science undergrads. We may have some really bright minds in the Philippines capable of unique scientific insight, but we would be hard-pressed to universalize this trait for as long as we have a workaday perspective of science.

Our society treats science as a behavior apart from normal life, which leads to some very interesting, though disturbing, juxtapositions of brilliance and outright nonsense. We have very intelligent doctors who fall prey to alternative medicine. We have scholarly lawyers who believe in feng shui. We have trained psychiatrists who believe that atheism is the cause of depression. New curriculum or not, as long as science is treated by our society as a body of knowledge to memorize and a set of equations that barfs out dissertations, and not as a way of going about the world, it wouldn’t matter even if we started teaching science at kindergarten.

Neil Degrasse Tyson once said, “If you’re scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you.” Beyond its practical utility, science provides an outlook that imbues the world around us with unending wonder, which will always be unavailable to those lacking the curiosity to investigate things deeper than face value. Science empowers one against the cognitive failures our brain is predisposed to (we call these “biases”). Scientific illiteracy is a sure way to getting swindled by liars, frauds, and superstitions but, more than that, scientific illiteracy makes an entire universe inaccessible.


  1. I see why they aim to decongest the Basic Curriculum. But what I don’t understand is removing science in its basic course. The natural instinct of a child is to ask questions. Those years (3-7) are important for them to grasp basic foundations of life.

    My nephews, Grades 1 and 2, studies at a Catholic school, and enjoys their science subject. I am thinking that maybe it is just a matter of approach with regards to the subject.

    (I don’t recommend sending them to a Catholic school btw. It’s just to show that kids enjoy learning SCIENCE even in a CS environment.)

    Saying that science is difficult for the young students.. maybe it’s just the educators who find it hard to teach the subject. Maybe they plan (once more?) to decrease the education budget.

    I believe that teaching language at a young age is more advantageous than teaching it a later age, however, in line with their effort to ‘decongest’, I don’t see practicality to choose English over Science.

  2. What most people fail to comprehend is that science education is values education and that teaching science is also about building character. When you are teaching science, you are teaching not only a way of looking at the cosmos but a way of living in it. You cannot teach science without changing attitudes.

  3. They took out Science on the 1st and 2nd grades, but are doing nothing against the Jejemon cultural phenomenon. No Science for youngsters, and yet those teleseryes that reek of sampalan, mga nawawalang tunay na anak, and main characters that cry every 15mins are still here to stay, come 7pm on your TV screens.


  4. We made electromagnets and dynamo powered toy boats when I’m in first grade. I was so fascinated by elwctronics during my early years that I took a bachelor of physics and an ongoing chemistry degree on college.

    Science is fun. If The methods of teaching are crap, even the most interested students would juSt give up on studies of oral fluency.

    This is a stupid curriculum; as stupid as artists are beong paid more than what most engineers or scientists earn.


    • As much as I wouldn't want to move away from the topic at hand, I believe that your comment concerning artists and engineers/scientists is highly unfair considering the fact that most artists get paid per piece whereas a lot of engineers get paid monthly regardless of the number and quality of work they are doing. Plus, it is very hard to actually get paid as an artist unless your name is established. I think that your comment is rather out of touch and unfair.

  5. Bro. Armin handed me my college diploma, but I beg to disagree with DepEd's decision to exclude Science from the public curriculum.

    In education, it is perfectly valid to integrate topics belonging to other subjects into material for one subject. It serves to reinforce learning and encourages deeper understanding of the topic by making it "universal". However, for a subject as essential as Science, I think it deserves its own substantial chunk of the school day.

    I don't get why the perceived difficulty of Science makes it less child-friendly. You could give the same justification about Mathematics. You don't drop a subject because it's "difficult" to teach. A good curriculum expert would try to incorporate topics and teaching techniques that make the subject age-appropriate and interesting.

    You'd be surprised at what kids are capable of learning these days, given the right instruction. My seven-year-old learned about petioles and stamens in preschool. In contrast, her former nursery school tried to teach kids about states of matter and failed abjectly. In these instances, judging learner readiness and tailoring the delivery of the content to the audience influenced the learning outcomes.

    During early childhood, children are naturally curious about the world we live in. They are only beginning to grasp complex abstractions, so concrete examples to illustrate scientific concepts are a must. Perhaps considering DepEd's budgetary limitations, it considers purchasing materials like visual aids low-priority. I hope that there is no sinister, religion-induced conspiracy to keep our children from learning about the big, bad natural world and practicing critical thinking.

    As an aside, I wish they would consider inclusion of Computer Literacy into the curriculum. And by Computer Literacy I don't just mean learning how to type in Word. I mean my first-grader is being taught how to TYPE. Typing skills might be necessary these days, but I shudder to think that educators deem typing as a primary skill vs logic.

  6. Incorporating science and health topics in the language classes makes sense to me. I have always stood by my opinion that the greatest challenge for a person in the sciences is to communicate science to the common man. Hence, prior to even mentioning the most basic physical phenomena to our nation's children, we have to introduce them to language. Communication skills (including that "oral fluency" that sends images of call centers to our heads) is necessary before our educators can properly teach the skills that our children will need in order for them to be able to learn to think critically, scrutinize and rely on evidence.

    Besides, I recall that for the first few years of my grade school, our science lessons were mostly in narrative form anyway. You read stories about the planets. About why things fall, or why some things fly instead. About the difference between birds and horses. They were all stories to all of us before they were phylogenetic trees and differential equations.

  7. teaching oral fluency over teaching a way of critical thinking and skepticism? science is not child friendly? the most precious of our childhood memories were those awe experiences when the world unfolds right in front of us. for the first time, a grown up reasons that we live in a natural world where we can explore, and have answers through learning. show a chrysalis that is about to open and see the amazement in the eyes of children.

    now tell them a story that grown ups readily believe, without inquiry, without doubts, without evidence… and you just passed an age old ignorance of intertwined cloudy nonsense.

    skepticism is a virtue that anyone should learn early in life. oral fluency is learned by simply … living. i see what you did there, secretary luistro.

  8. "…This was supposedly “in line with its efforts to decongest the Basic Education Curriculum and to make learning more enjoyable to young learners.” DepEd Secretary Armin Luistro says, however, that they will be integrating science topics “in other subjects to make the new curriculum more child-friendly.”


    – I wonder what their bases are for removing science. I mean WHY SCIENCE???

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