Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stay focused. This is what we usually advise ourselves when workload at the Institute becomes very demanding.

For a few days last month, we were distracted from our research and curriculum development activities by the commentary written by Mr. Antonio Calipjo Go titled “The blind leading the blind” which appeared in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on June 21, 2010 criticizing mainly the biology book developed by NISMED and DepED for public schools. Some advised us to ignore the article because what Mr. Go identified as conceptual ‘errors’ do not hold water. We also anticipated that the author would not accept our arguments. However, we believe in the educational value of our responses, so we negotiated with PDI to have our full reply printed, but in vain. The newspaper would only accept a short letter to the editor (about 480 words)which we think is unfair, considering that Mr. Go’s article which occupied almost half a page was given front-page treatment. We submitted a short letter, with notation that the full reply is posted on our website. To this date, that letter has not come out.

A PDI columnist, Mr. Butch Hernandez, Executive Director of the Foundation for World Wide People Power, gave NISMED a space in his commentary dated July 31, 2010. He quoted parts of our reply, especially those that questioned Mr. Go’s analysis of the textbooks. Further, he said that the issue on textbooks could be made a part of the education reform of P-Noy’s administration. Those who read the commentary sent letters to NISMED supporting our arguments, especially those related to science concepts.

As expected, Mr. Go wrote a 12-page response which I understand was circulated to many newspaper editors and to other people in the media. For one who professes to be waging “the great moral battle of properly educating the young” his use of words such as ‘downright silly’ and ‘stupid’ is hardly constructive. One who reads his latest verbal rampage will agree with him that his article is indeed fit only to "humor" his godson. For this time, he has stripped himself of all his academic pretensions and went berserk to reveal his true persona. And to think that we at NISMED even thought at first that he deserved some space in the forum for an intelligent exchange of ideas. We were mistaken. We dare Mr. Go to write his own book to experience the processes and challenges in producing one, given limited time and minimal resources.

In the many years that we have been helping DepED develop textbooks, NISMED and the authors did not receive royalties precisely because the books for public schools were Not for Sale. Yes, we get refunds for supplies used and development money for writing the chapters and the teachers’ guides; tryout of the activities with teachers and students, payment of encoders, artists, and copy editor; and the design of relevant posters for classroom use—but these were not really commensurate to the work done. Yet, we continue to do these for the love of science education and in the service to Filipino children and teachers.

Surely, we can learn from what has transpired. We have to stay more focused on our mandate. Even if we have been recognized and awarded for leadership in science and mathematics education and our accomplishments are acknowledged in terms of the number of local and international organizations who partner with us, we still have to exert more effort to fast-track improvement in the quality of science and mathematics education in the country. This year we will concentrate on the Collaborative Lesson Research Development (CLRD) project to make science and mathematics teachers become more confident in addressing their students’ misconceptions. Within the month, we will submit to DOST-SEI, DepED, and CHED the proposed science curriculum framework for basic education and the accompanying framework for science teacher education. These are important documents for the proposed K-12 curriculum.

We will continue to produce print and nonprint instructional materials suitable for Filipino children. Due attention, among other criteria, will be on ensuring the accuracy of concepts in the text, models, charts and illustrations, using the inquiry approach to develop the concepts and critical thinking skills of learners, making the language and activities suitable to the cognitive level of students, and applying varied forms of assessment to assess learning. We also have one international conference in science and mathematics education on “Assessing Learning: Innovations and Practices” and a national seminar-workshop on “Optics and Photonics” coming up in October and November, respectively. All these we will do with the limited budget from the University and the generosity of our partners.

Our partners continue to grow and we believe that this is because we help build capacity, not destroy or downgrade people and institutions. We also believe that it is everyone’s duty to encourage and inspire one another. Many a time, a word of praise, thanks, appreciation, or cheer has kept a man on his feet. NISMED is willing to work with more partners who speak such words and who believe in our advocacy.