Category: Education

Much has been written about the comments, guidance, and threats from official (and unofficial) government leaders about how teachers and schools should deal with the ‘threat’ of independence activism in…

China Education Umbrella Movement

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I was intrigued by a link on Twitter concerning a paper that was “sweeping” awards at the American Political Science Association conference this week, with the title The Missionary Roots…

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One of the keynote speakers for CESHK 2013 was the Dean of Teacher Education at Cebu Normal University, Filomena Dayagbil, who spoke about quality issues in Philippine education. Internal and external (TIMMS) testing showed that there has been a precipitous drop in math, reading, and science scores in the Philippines that show up in even short, year-to-year timeframes. She spoke about three new approaches to remedy the issues: a new policy to increase the length of schooling from K-10 to the more conventional K-12 system, the role of teachers colleges in increasing teaching quality, and change away from English Medium of Instruction to mother tongue instruction.

I found myself disagreeing with the overall framing of educational quality issues in the Philippines. In general, it’s difficult to disagree with the idea that teachers can and should be better or that K-12, under the right conditions, would make the Philippines more academically competitive. But this ignores the fact that expanding enrollment rosters without increasing funding to go with it would likely decrease quality even further. This is exactly what has been happening over the past two decades, as successive Philippine governments failed to adequately prepare for a population boom. A 2009 New York Times article summed up the issues very succinctly:

According to the World Bank, the Philippines spends $138 per student per year. By comparison, Thailand spends $853 per student, Singapore spends $1,800 and Japan spends $5,000. The Philippine government spends 2.19 percent of its budget on education, according to official figures, well short of the 6 percent that educators say is optimal — despite a constitutional mandate to make education a priority. At the start of the decade, educators talked of a radical overhaul of the education system, but the main change since then has been increasingly intense overcrowding, Mr. Luz, of the policy study institute, wrote in a recent paper.

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I spent all day Saturday at the Comparative Education Society of Hong Kong 2013 Conference at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The theme was “Educational Reform and Social Change: East-West Dialogue.” I had originally planned to present some of my research findings, but changed titles to present instead on “Situation in Resilience in the Context of Educational Reform: Lessons for Planners and Curriculum.”

I’ve been intrigued by the idea of adaptive cycles, and thought I could argue that the the rise and fall Michelle Rhee‘s reforms in the DC school district could be seen in that context. This starts by seeing the conditions of school failure and concurrent entrenchment of old regime actors as being an educational system in “late K” – unable to adapt to increasing demands for higher performance, and the costs of maintaining the system extremely high (externalized to student learning, morale throughout the system, paying for entrenched but ineffective teachers and administrators). This created the conditions for a release stage with the election of a mayor who ran on a platform of comprehensive reforms of the school district.

During a short reorganization phase, old actors were politically marginalized while new school district chancellor Rhee set in motion sweeping, radical reforms. She made it to a growth stage, pushing ever more radical (in comparison to the prior regime) reforms and firing hundreds of teachers.  But popularity for the reforms plummeted and the system went back into a release phase, where the old regime actors took over the system again when the mayor lost re-election. A few years later, we’re either in the conservation or growth stage of a hybrid system with some of Rhee’s reforms still in place.

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This is a follow-up to Reading Freire: Prefaces and Introduction. See all Reading Freire posts here.

When I was deep in my literature review of rural politics in the Philippines, a friend with ties to radical leftists in the Philippines mentioned a book, a sort of bible for people of his persuasion, called Philippine Society and Revolution by Amado Guerrero. It was an appealing read, as I have (sort of) a soft spot for the New People’s Army (NPA) in the Philippines. I had heard from many people in the Philippines, especially the poor, that Philippine Army was an ‘enemy of the people’ and that the NPA at least had the right intentions. I’m also well aware that the existing social order of the Philippines is held together partly by violence.

But like the first chapter of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, I couldn’t finish Philippine Society and Revolution. Both stand as historical or anthropological source material more than any sort of social science. As social science, it’s simply wrong. The models employed do not fit the real, empirical world I live in. They’re rife with intellectual shortcuts and expounding the most extreme cases as being the typical scenario. The primary shortcut is to find a single target struggle against, anthropomorphizing an Other that’s responsible for a wide range of problems. For Freire, it’s the unnamed Oppressor. For Guerrero, it’s the United States.

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This is the first section of a Reading Freire series.

One of the ‘a-ha!’  moments of my academic career came during a crusades class during my undergraduate years where I was saddled with some dozen or so books on the reading list. I was frozen with terror throughout much of the first quarter of that class, until the professor told me I wasn’t expected to read all of them. I was to mine them for the information I needed. I think it was at about that time I developed my “read the introduction, read the conclusion, go back and read the interior parts that go over the parts you either don’t agree with, don’t understand, or just want to learn more about” formula.

That later evolved into a second strategy of coming to rely on secondary sources – people describing what other writers are arguing. Why wade through the density of Foucault or Bourdieu when you can have someone else unpack the theory spread over several books into a few chapters? This sits alongside a notion that no one idea is so brilliant that it takes more than a hundred pages to explain.

But I’m walking back a little bit on that now. There are a few books that I want to read in full. The one that has stood out the most is Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. My thesis right is now about Southern farmers mired in poverty. How could I justify a PhD with a subject like that without seriously engaging the totality of Freire? And so I downloaded a PDF and the journey begins. And I’ve decided to more-or-less live blog it.

Development Education Inequality philosophy Uncategorized

From Keith Lewin’s Taking Targets to Task Revisited: How Indicators of Progress on Access to Education can Mislead In reality financial and non financial bottlenecks often result in progress falling…

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