Book Smart versus Street Fighters

Frustrating.Saddening.Alarming.Frightening. These are the words that best describe my emotions about Science Education and Basic Science Education in the country. Frustrating because I saw myself as one of the culprits why the present situation of science education is such. Saddening because other countries such as France, Madagascar, United Kingdom and Argentina have started massive campaigns on uplifting the quality of science education in their country while the Philippines is still trying to resolve issues when and what to offer [the] science education in the K-12 program (in a review by Dr. FlorLacanilao, UP Professor with Filipino academic scientists On April 21, 2012). Alarming and frightening at the same time, as to what future this country is heading.

Image source: Pixabay

Book Smart versus Street Fighters
Image source: Pixabay

Most of the discussions cited commonalities to the kind of science education that must be offered to the learner of this generation, the following have been pointed out as the key factors:

(1) The teaching-learning process must be active, engaging, creative and enjoyable (Hubber& Tyler, 2004, Klein, 2006, Schaverien and Cosgrove, 1999-2000 In Current Challenges in Basic Education)
(2) Science, in terms of content, must not be the focus of learning and assessment but the applications of these concepts since this will be the true measure of learning (Black and William 1998, Perrenoud 1998 In Current Challenges in Basic Education).
(3) Science can develop affective and cognitive skills: cooperation, collaboration, expression, concern for the environment and even concern for humanity (Bloom 1992, Tytler and Peterson 2001, 2004, Wickman 2006, Hackling 2006 In Re-imagining Science Education).

After this analysis, I asked myself: What type of students do I want to see when I retire as teacher maybe 30 years from now?


Let me share a story of an experience I had few years back. Two of my students in Chemistry class have caught my attention, neither for being too smart nor being too lazy, but for being so close together despite being so opposite. The first student lives by the book, she often ask me questions which often makes burrows on my forehead such as, is the comma a part of the sentence or was it just because of the unclear photocopy? Is the third letter really in capital? Is this topic included in the quiz? This student memorize everything, she graduated cum laude and passed the board exam. The second student is a lighter one; she listens to the class attentively but always articulates she hates to memorize notes from her hand-outs. She often ask me questions like why do I need to know where the electrons are? Why do I need to be familiar with NaCl when everyone simply calls it salt? And why do I keep on talking in their class even when the lecture time is over. She didn’t get any academic award but also hurdled board exam.

Going back to the scenario of science education in the world, while relating the results of the investigation of different countries to what I personally experience in the class, I can say that Filipino teachers must now choose: do we want kids who are book smart or street fighters? Are we going to settle for students who memorize notes without asking questions why they have to retain such information in their minds? Or, are we going to reinvent ourselves as science teachers? Let me cite this discussion in class (adapted by Pujol, 2003, p. 82 In Current Challenges in Basic Education) as to what kind of student I want to see in my own class very soon:

Teacher: What do you think has happened?
Student 1: They didn’t have any food to eat.
Teacher: And if we’d put in food wouldn’t they have died?
Student 2: For me, they needed water.
Student 3: I think that where we captured them there was moist earth and here in the terrarium it isn’t…
Student 4: We’ll have to go out into the schoolyard and look more carefully.
(They go out into the schoolyard to observe the woodlice in their habitat.)

Teaching for couple of years made me realize that I seldom let my students go out and see for themselves what I am talking about. Rarely that I say, what do you think has happened?

I believe that other reinvention in the class must also be employed like having wider range of teaching-learning assessment (Duschl&Gitomer, 1997; Gitomer&Duschl, 1995, 1998) and performance-based assessment (Erickson & Meyer, 1998). Insightful and engaging discourses Gunzenhauser (2003) must also be a focus of this reinvention to keep pace with the upbeat learning style of the street fighter learners. To what I have observed, students today love to share themselves [both philosophies and experiences], not only to their peers but also to their teachers. I am certain that now is the right time to take part in developing students who are more outspoken of their thoughts and ideas.

Moreover, students today have ways and means to express themselves using the Information and Communication Technology. A viral video in came up just last December 2, 2012 entitled “Why I hate school but love education” which described how a student named ‘Suli’ became cynical about the system of school and now promotes alternatives of educating people. He even said “All I’m saying is that if there was a family tree, hard work and education would be related, but school would probably be a distant cousin. If education is the key, then school is the lock. Because it really ever develops your mind to the point where it can perceive red as green and continue to go when someone else said stop, because as long as you follow the rules and pass the exams, you’re cool. But are you aware that examiners have a checklist? And if your answer is something outside of the box, the automatic response is a cross, and then they claim that school expands your horizons and your visions.” This video has been viewed 1 937 540 times. The end part of the video says, “I will not let an exam result decide my fate.”

If this scenario would continue, hatred towards school will rise; drop-outs will increase and the next generation could be lost until urgent, concerted action is not taken to address the major challenges facing science education (http://www.the – September 27, 2006 In Re-imagining Science Education).
Let me end this article through an excerpt from Carl Wieman Reinventing Science Education (2008), he said: “Science education research clearly shows that a true understanding of science, as demonstrated by how it is practiced, is not merely about learning information. Rather, it is about developing a way of thinking about a discipline that reflects a particular perception of how ‘knowledge’ is established, its extent and limitations, how it describes nature, and how it can be usefully applied in a variety of contexts. Developing such a way of thinking is a profoundly different experience from learning a set of facts, and requires very different teaching skills.”

Filipino teachers, academicians and scientists alike must make herculean movement to transform the current status of science education in the country. Academic scientists and policy makers must meet now! The K-12 is in full implementation and decisions regarding science education must be delivered in the quickest possible time without of course sacrificing the goal of this endeavour. Issues on curriculum, time spent in school, remedial teaching and outcomes must be addressed. This might be difficult but not impossible.

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