I am completely unfamiliar with the educational reform debate in the Philippines. All I know is that there is an imposed change from 10 to 12 years of primary and secondary education. It is easy to dismiss this change as a waste of time and resources but it can be defended as some form of catching up with the world. We can also argue that education as a whole is a waste of time if it does not encourage curiosity and ability to use first principles. Isagani Cruz has a series of engaging articles on this educational reform. I read this for today’s post. I choose to point out an appealing feature that came to my mind almost immediately.

An appealing feature of the reform is the data that can potentially be generated.  The change in the grading system allows this to happen. The new grading system is letter-based rather than numerical:

B for Beginning (“the student struggles with his/her understanding”).

D for Developing (“the student needs help throughout the performance of authentic tasks”).

AP for Approaching Proficiency (“the student, with little guidance from the teacher and/or with some assistance from peers, can transfer core understandings through authentic performance tasks”).

P for Proficient (“the student can transfer fundamental knowledge and skills and core understandings independently through authentic performance tasks”).

A for Advanced (“the student exceeds the core requirements in terms of knowledge, skills and understandings, and can transfer them automatically and flexibly through authentic performance tasks”).

A report card might become three-dimensional. The five grades could represent five vertices of some pentagon. A surface can be used to present grades across subjects (not an average for all subjects). This surface can be used to match students for group work, mentoring, etc. The evolution of this surface over time can also be used to see the maturation of a student. Which field is he likely to excel? What seems to be deficient? How interdependent are the subjects the student is exposed to?

An internal report for the effectiveness of faculty can also be generated. The grades for each subject for a particular teacher can be plotted in a boxplot or a spectrum. Across time, that same teacher can be evaluated to see how performance has changed. Which classes can he teach effectively?

The data collected and the corresponding visualizations could be useful to education, psychology, statistics and economics researchers. This will encourage a lot of interdiscplinary work that will usually attract a lot of funding. Funding begets funding. Even scientists not interested in teaching can find new avenues for tailoring research frontier material for impressionable students. All of these lead to publications and a cooperative research climate. I know it might be too ambitious but I cannot ignore the rewards. All of us guided by our self-interest can be gathered and harnessed to get the ever-elusive critical mass.

If the data are gathered with some foresight, then it is possible to form a panel dataset where we could track the same students over time. It is also possible to assess basic questions such as:

  1. Was the whole educational reform worth the expenses based on some criteria?
  2. How different are public from private schools? Is the additional expense for private schools worth it?
  3. Are the incoming college students brought about by this reform better than past students? Can high school students apply to universities abroad?
I hope more people would be aware of the potential benefits of the proposed reform rather than just dismissing it right away. Of course, I have not highlighted some of the disadvantages. But that is for another post. Feel free to share your thoughts about this.