Tell it to SunStar: Education crisis, one solution away

Tell it to SunStar:  Catastrophe or happy ending?
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For almost a decade now, our education department has been struggling to provide quality education to the public. Studies by the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) rank the Philippines at the bottom four in creative thinking assessment in 2022, including science.

Earlier in 2018, the Philippines ranked the lowest in reading comprehension among all countries, according to Pisa. A hard pill to swallow for our education department, with the highest budget from the National Government, downplaying the results and blaming insufficiency in the budget for hampering its progress.

In first-world countries like Singapore, it is its people’s talent that is its most precious asset. To maximize Singapore’s talent, it made efforts and subsequently passed laws to encourage educated men and educated women to marry one another and produce children while providing incentives for educated couples to marry. In this way, not only the educated parents can raise their children but also produce a highly intelligent child. The extreme policy did not go well with the people, but Singapore’s early realization made it produce highly talented and creative citizens. Singapore, which was then led by Lee Kuan Yew, believed that if it is unable to nurture talent, then allowing nature to do it will make things easier.

Unlike Singapore, which was quick to realize and come up with willful policies, the Philippines is lagging and overthinking what went wrong. Unconsciously hurting more generations and indecisive in its actions, our education sector is facing a crisis with long-term effects. When a generation is a generation behind, then it’s twice a generation behind.

If, for the time being, we cannot solve all problems at once, then let’s start with the small ones. What clear differences were there between students 20 years ago who were far more successful than our students today? Phones, right? Only a handful were privileged to have phones, but unlike our phones today, which are full of distracting apps trying to feed us the happy hormones we desire, phones before were boring. They were not exciting, and people didn’t waste half of their day unproductively scrolling. Class discussions were not interrupted by sudden messenger notifications, and students were laser-focused on listening in class.

A handful of studies revealed that students who use traditional note-taking methods in class perform better than those students who are dependent on gadgets like laptops and phones. Constantly distracted by popping notifications on their gadgets, they are a click away from getting their focus out of class. This new epidemic of digital distraction is posing a challenge for our learners. The proliferation of gadgets is at its highest and demands are not slowing down soon.

Like dancing, learning takes time and concentrating is something that needs to be developed. It is important for children’s development to avoid any unnecessary distractions. Concentration allows students to develop focus, improve creativity and achieve a flow-state. Doing multiple things at a time is much more harmful than beneficial, a bad habit in the long run. Gadgets like phones and laptops are the main culprits for extremely dissatisfactory Pisa results of our students. Digital distraction is leading to decrease productivity among our students.

This epidemic is wasting the talents of young Filipinos. Unlike Singapore, despite its scarce resources and limited land, nurturing and attracting talent were beneficial to improve the talents of its citizenry. If we wish to see light at the end of our education crisis, our policymakers should implement quick and decisively-timed policy changes. They should be ready to face disapproval, at worst losing potential voters and facing condemnation.


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