Monday, July 13, 2009

On science in the early grades and in graduate school.

DJB is in a crusade to bring back science as a distinct subject in the early grades of the basic education curriculum (BEC). Since 2002, science has been integrated with Makabayan and English. For Makabayan there are these subject areas: Social Studies, Music and Arts, Technology and Livelihood, and Values Education.

DJB's current crusade should let us think about the problems of teaching science in basic education. Dina Ocampo et al's paper (2009) (also a UP Centennial lecture) on reforms that don't transform in the DepEd should be a requisite backgrounder on dealing with the problem of basic science education.

Despite the extensive discussion on the various surveys on Philippine educational reform and the vexed issue of language of instruction, one important point in this paper is that we haven't effected a shift from structure based to constructivist based approaches to education. Here lies the nuts and bolts of the post-modern debate on science education. What is better? Content based sci-ed (structure based) or inquiry based sci-ed (constructivist)? Recent pedagogical approaches in the US and Commonwealth countries point to a concept based approach that rapidly moves on to an experimental hands on based approach. This is supported by some research but remains controversial.

Obviously the latter choice will require extensive infrastructure in the provision of science labs in elementary and high schools. Even in the USA, there has been a trend to de-emphasize science in basic education by reducing the core subjects to earth/physical sciences, biology and chemistry. This is partially due to the expense of providing these programs. There is also a trend to integrate the sciences along a more humanistic and social studies theme. In the UK upper level basic education programmes may have 21st science as an option for their school leavers certificate.

I am quite aware of this first hand when I taught at Lousiana State University. Thus the concern that the United States is losing its competitive edge in science has some basis. In the USA, the integration of science along humanistic lines occurs in junior high. Physics has been the first casualty here and universities and colleges are quite worried that students get into science and engineering with not much physics to begin with!

I am no expert nor a practitioner in basic science education but we in higher education get the products of basic education. The leveling process in introductory college science courses includes removing out misconceptions due to previous thinking or views of the world. In my Philippine experience of college science teaching these misconceptions often have a religious and cultural/superstition basis. This BTW cuts across social classes. The rich have their own unscientific ideas and the poor theirs. The common between these are religious in origin and class based misconceptions persist especially on human biology and health. The recent study by Professor JR Torres of Rizal Technological University on astronomy concepts is proof that these misconceptions persist.

It is certain that inquiry based science should include factual knowledge since it is impossible to do experiments on all basic science concepts. A good grounding on both the experimental and factual bases of science is necessary in metacognition in which students begin to integrate and form their own scientfic theories. This starts in high school and further developed in college/university. In the MSc and PhD levels, this is further honed. However we notice that even at the MSc level, we have to teach science the undergrad way since students haven't developed the basic metacognition competencies!

In the US, UK, EU, Japan, and China, science is taught as a single subject from the early grades to at least in high school where the basic sciences are taught as separate subjects. The trend to teach science along humanistic and social studies lines risks it being tainted with ideological bias. This is something that isn't part of a scientific culture and will retard scientific development Teaching basic science in Makabayan risks this and may not develop thinking skills for a globalized technology driven environment.

SOURCE: Philippine Commentary


Jm Benavidez Estoque said...

pero hinihiling ko lang na sana... ang uri ng science na ituro ay yaong talagang nai-a-apply natin at yaong nai-co-connect natin sa ating pangkaraniwan na buhay at yaong mga basic na bagay na makakatulong sa bansa.

ang edukasyon dito kasi sa Pilipinas, payabangan ng dami ng name-memorize... paramihan ng teoryang alam... pero pagdating sa application... wala... LAGPAK!

Buti pa ang Japan... napaka-basic ng itinuturo sa kanila... halos kahit mga bobo ay nakakaintindi... pero yung mga isinusuksok sa utak nila... gumapang din pati sa kanilang mga palad...

Anonymous said...

in japan, does it teach its science in english? whence is english as language of instruction teaching necessary and truly effective?

as to torres' study, what is the reliability score of the instrument?

as to its validity, part of the process of testing validity is to be transparent as to the degree of competencies of science teachers consulted precisely to test the validity of the instrument. how many years have they been teaching the subject? are the postgrad holders? etc, etc.

in table 1, first question is a test of logic not science, therefore a substantial number respondents got it correctly. [how many btw did not respond? what is the failure rate of reply in the survey?]

question 2, on respondents reply: is there significant difference in response to q1?

question 3: it appears (gut feel) that this is not sig diffntly with q1--signifiying a strong consonance in logic with literary understanding.

q4: in what context? scriptural or scientific?

"the inclusion of a Biblical quotation might have triggered this kind of response from the students."

why leave it to speculation? torres could have inserted a likert-scale question asking how much influence religion or the bible has in their interpretation. this is a classic case of study gone wasted.


in table 3, another case of test in logic, not science. only this time, the logic has gone nuts.

"if the earth has 4 corners, then it is flat." granting: if the earth is a flat plane, how many corners can be set up on it? infinite, as infinite the dimension of a plane is. it just happened that there were 4 angels, right-angling themselves in parallel lines so they appear to stand in 4 corners.

q3. "belief at that time" should have also provided a time line of when the various books in the bible were written. q1 uses revelation; if my cathechism lessons are remembered correctly, isnt this under NT?

if in the OT, our jurrasic ancestors already have concepts of the the centrality of earth in the universe, however scientifically flawed (in that regard lang ha), what makes us say now they do not have a concept of roundness, and hold the pervading urban myth that they were incapable of figuring out the possibility of earth being round? look back to q1, and see who made the conclusion the earth being flat.

"c) The Earth is young, but it only appears old because God can create old things and young things as He wishes. For example, He created Adam and Eve as adults right away."

a convoluted way to ask a survey question. what is the point? state it directly and not enmesh in too many corner turns.


part of the recommendation should include revising the instrument itself and make it truly valid and reliable. nasayang ang effort, nanduon na sana. perhaps this exercise reflects the lack of the art in scientific inquiry itself. sayang, sayang.


blackshama said...


You are asking the wrong person. Email Professor Torres.


Anonymous said...


i am not asking, just hyperventilating. don't mind me. it's just that i find it congruent for a scientific study to be published without much scientific effort given in its questionnaire construction.

on language: we are talking here of strengthening critical thinking, including those done in science. my question is, is english the primary medium of instruction in science beginning in elementary in japan, this being the stage where curiosity is fed best?

science in english at the postgrad level is chicken to scientific minded people who presumably already know the value of metalinguistic requirements of learning in another language at this level (same case as you have presented with thailand). even in mathematics, one is encouraged to learn either french, russian, or japanese , to expand knowledge. again, only at this level.