Where to, Science and Math Education?

Manila Bulletin, December 13, 2011 | Go to article overview

Where to, Science and Math Education?


MANILA, Philippines - Once when several schoolchildren were asked what they think about Mathematics, the answers they gave were alarming but at the same time, not surprising. They just described Math as a "nightmare" and a "form of punishment".

Science is no different from Mathematics, in the children's eyes. De La Salle University College of Education professor Dr. Maricar Prudente explained that the deteriorating performance of students in the National Achievement Test (NAT) in Science and Math is already a proof that there is still a problem.

"While Filipinos hold high regard for Science, majority may not consider themselves well-informed about science and technology. The NAT proficiency scores for Science in elementary and secondary school students revealed for the last five years scores ranging from 46.77 to 63.14 percent, and 53.66 to 63.26 percent in Math, which is below government standards," Dr. Prudente shares.

So where does the problem lie? With the students, the teachers, or the education system itself?

The situation and the solutions were discussed during the Strengthening the Capacity of Future Pillars of Science and Mathematics Education conference held at The Heritage Hotel in Pasay City last month organized by Department of Science and Technology's (DOST) Science Education Institute (SEI). Science and Math educators from around the country attended the event.

"Through this conference we intend to develop and capacitate a new generation of Science and Mathematics experts who will serve as a future pillars in S&M education," said SEI director Dr. Filma Brawner.

TAIWAN'S CASE

One of the countries in the world that excels in Science and Math is Taiwan. Considered as one of the scientifically oriented countries in the world, Taiwan is a big performer when it comes to Science and Math education.

For one, Taiwan is known for its tech companies and the world-class quality consumer products that they produce, to name a few, Asus, Acer, D-Link, HTC, MSI, and Trend Micro.

In terms of student performance in Science and Math, Taiwan always lands in one of the top spots. In the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) 2007, Taiwanese Grade 4 students placed second in Science and third in Math in overall performance, while Grade 8 students placed second in Science, and first in Math.

On the other hand, in the TIMSS 2003, the Philippines ranked 23rd in Mathematics, out of 25 countries that participated in the study. The country also ranked 23rd out of 25 in Science.

Yet despite its high scores, Taiwan is seeing a slow decline of interest in Math and Science.

"In the TIMSS 1999, 2003, and latest 2007 studies, students from Taiwan were categorized as one of the lowest in terms of 'self-confidence in learning science' and 'valuing science' country groups which included Japan and Korea," explained professor Chun-Yen Chang, director of Science Education Center, National Taiwan Normal University, who was the keynote speaker during the conference.

Chang also said that the loss of interest of students is attributed to too much exposure to Science and Math, the numerous tests students have to go through, and a straight Science-tracked education system. …

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