The will to survive

Tomorrow, a fresh bloodbath starts as Filipinos already severely weakened by months of quarantine calls face yet another two-week onslaught of the toughest kind of lockdown.

We are told that this could be the last siege on our pandemic-curtailed liberties and livelihoods as the government unleashes one of its largest caches of vaccines on the National Capital Region and cities where infections continue to rise.

But can we really expect this to be?

Filipinos are despondent over the ineptitude displayed by our government officials in managing this pandemic, and blind and forced submission is getting to be more difficult. The will to survive is once again taunted by hunger pangs caused by joblessness and increased poverty.

I hope to tackle in succeeding columns some insights on nagging questions on how these lockdowns are being measured. Is the total number of new infections reported the only measurable data? How do we know whether the lockdown during a period is working or effective?

Teaching math and science

Jim “Joe” Cornelson is an American who professes to be a resident of Sibulan, Negros Oriental, but has been caught by the pandemic lockdowns in the United States while visiting his parents. He is waiting for the opportunity to return to the Philippines.

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He had read one of my columns on Philippine education and sent his views. Here are parts of his letter, lightly edited.

“I do not know the solution to Philippines education issues. We have many in the States and are constantly trying to improve. It seems [like] two steps forward and one step back, but there is progress.

“We may be able to teach math and science in English, but only if students are already fluent in English. Perhaps in grades 1 to 6, students could do a serious study of English so that by the end of six years of school, they really are fluent.

“I have a stepdaughter in college in Dumaguete. She grew up south of Iloilo learning Hiligaynon and Aklanon. In school, she studied Tagalog. Math and science could be taught in the native language through 6th grade. After that, science and math could be taught in English.

“My daughter got her high school diploma [when she] graduated from 10th grade. I believe that when she entered school at Siliman, it was the last year colleges could admit students with 10th grade education. They [now] have to graduate from 12th grade. So many students cannot go through 12th grade. Their parents simply need money. It is so sad. I think 10th graders should be able to go to colleges.

Opportunity to succeed

“In the States, many cities have community colleges. You can obtain certification in two years in many subjects. In addition, you can complete the first two years of a regular four-year college. Community colleges allow high school dropouts to attend school. This is a wonderful thing. People who are in 20s, 30s, 40s or older can go to college. They can take extra courses if they need to enable them to succeed.

“Everyone should have the opportunity to succeed. A person who dropped out in the 8th or 9th grade doesn’t have to attend junior and [senior] high school for four or five years to graduate.

“I believe regular colleges should be able to allow those who had to leave school to take basic courses. That would enable them to do prep classes that would enable them to succeed! As an example, I didn’t do too good in math in high school. Several years after graduating from college, I took intermediate algebra in community college and made a B. This was math [that] people take in 8th or 9th grade. I then took college algebra. That is called algebra 2 in high school. Then I took trig. I made an A in both of those at the university. Most people who take algebra and trigonometry in high school have to take them again in college a second time.

“If their degree requires those two courses and you took them in high school, you must take a test before going to college to prove you do not need to take them. Most fail so they take it again in college. So, why can’t students who had to drop out of school be allowed to take those courses even if they did not attend high school.

“I am not proposing your country build community colleges. That is too much money. I believe existing universities can provide those courses. So many students cannot complete high school. It is so sad.


“Your idea for immersive English is good one, but I doubt many schools could do that. Try it though. [Note: this was a view shared by another reader, not mine.]

“Teach English along with other subjects for most schools, but teach science and math in English only after six years of English study. This will help kids [to] be successful.

“Open up new opportunities for those who graduate from 10th grade to go to college. Open ‘community colleges’ inside of regular university at little extra expense. (You could have some additional reading-writing-basic math-history classes to prepare students for college level classes.)

“Please create policies to help students be successful, not to hold them back. It seems many education policies do not help people succeed. They hold them down and prevent success.”

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