We did not have high hopes for our students when they participated in PISA 2018 (Programme for International Assessment). After all, they ranked third from the bottom in TIMS 2003 (Trends in International Math and Science Study). Despite this, we still felt sad and a bit shocked when our students ranked last among students from 79 countries. From being third, our students are now first from the bottom.
But failure is the start of new beginnings. We can take PISA 2018 as the springboard of evidences that we can use to give our children the best education.
1. It is not just about resources. Students from countries like the United States, Australia and United Kingdom that spend huge sums for their students (US$107,000 per capita) scored no better than students from countries like Canada, Ireland, and New Zealand which spend from 10%-30% less.
2. It is not just about instructional materials. Students from Bulgaria, Denmark, and Latvia did not appear to be hampered by shortages in educational materials.
So what is quality education all about?
Factors that were positively associated with academic performance include support from parents, a positive school climate, and a growth mindset. It is about efficient allocation of resources. It is about fostering the habit of reading for leisure and reading to build knowledge, spur creativity and to distinguish right from wrong.
PISA 2018 found a strong positive correlation between parents’ involvement and learning performance. High performing students are those whose parents take the time to discuss with teachers how their children do in schools. They ask what they can do to help their children learn better.
PISA 2018 tells us that schools which nurture performing students are those with a strong spirit of cooperation, respect and belongingness. They provide opportunities for learners’ participation to bolster their self-worth.
PISA 2018 shows us that we need a community to motivate and challenge students to soar beyond their limitations and achieve their dreams. Our students need to be inspired and to be challenged.
PISA 2018 shows us that developing good teachers is not as simple as paying them more. They need to be valued and their difficult work publicly acknowledged.
PISA 2018 is about providing schools with principals with good managerial competence and empowering leadership.
The good news is that most of these factors are easily within our reach.
It is about freeing our teachers from mundane assignments such as monitoring compliance to 4 PS, conducting surveys for the Department of Health, and manning elections so that they can have more time to teach and work with children.
It is about focusing education spending on activities that enhance learning and teaching, instead of financing activities and structures that are totally unrelated to learning, like expensive sports tournaments.
It is about building teachers’ mastery of subject matter content and not just pedagogy. What does it benefit them to know a method that worked well in Singapore if they think that 1/8 is bigger than ¼?
It is about building the capacity of parents to understand that they play a significant role in the education of their children .Turning off the television on weekdays, conversing with their children, attending parents’ meetings ,and making sure that children have something to eat before they go to school are simple investments that will produce significant impact.
It is about declogging the curriculum so that children can develop strong competencies in reading, writing and math.
PISA 2018 shocked us with the truth that our school system is broken. It will take a village to fix it. And that village is not just DepEd. It is includes you, them and me.