February 20, 2012
REFORMS IN SCIENCE AND MATH EDUCATION
Senator Edgardo J. Angara emphasized the need to enhance science and mathematics education in the Philippines to boost national competitiveness.
Angara, Chair of the Senate Committee on Education, Culture and the Arts, made the pronouncement during a recent public hearing on the proposed K-to-12 curricular reforms to the Philippine basic education system.
"We're falling behind in all competitiveness tables because we lack technological capacity, and that goes back to our lack of a good science and math background," said Angara, who is also Chair of the Senate Committee on Science and Technology.
Earlier, the Department of Education (DepEd) made assurances that they are designing the new basic education curriculum to strengthen science education in light of criticisms regarding its announcements about dropping science as a single subject in Grade 1 for 2012-2013.
In a statement, the DepEd clarified that science had not been taught separately in Grades 1 and 2 since the 1980's, and that rudimentary science concepts were embedded in such subjects as languages and mathematics.
During the hearing, Dr. Dina S. Ocampo, Dean of the UP College of Education, explained that there are different models of delivering science education in the primary grades and that many schools do not offer science as a separate subject because a lot of them integrate related concepts in health.
"At that level, what children need to learn immediately is care for themselves--knowledge of their body parts, what the body parts are for, how to care for these body parts," said Ocampo. "But the key point, I think, [is that] the teaching of health in the early grades is actually a precursor to formal science education."
Also at the hearing, Dr. Merle Tan, Director of the UP National Institute for Science and Mathematics Education Development (UP-NISMED) said, "We look at science as both a product and a process. And for the lower grades, we're focusing on how science can be learned through the processes. The content can be anything--it can be your body, it can be about the plants and animal around you. So [the students] observe, they classify, they infer on things that are around them. I think they are learning science by inquiring, asking questions and trying to find answers by themselves or with the help of others. So that is still science--whether it's in health, in language or in other subjects--because the processes are being taught."
Angara stressed, "This issue of science and mathematics being taught at the earliest period of education is very important. If we're going to do reforms, they have to be undertaken in the most critical areas. In this Internet-driven, information age, those areas are science, mathematics and engineering--whatever the pedagogy."
Pressed for time, the veteran lawmaker deferred further discussions on the curriculum and called for a follow-up hearing, saying "Let's not conclude there will be no science as a formal subject in Grade 1 and 2, whether it's integrated in the language subjects or in health."
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