Sunday, April 20, 2008

Education & critical thinking

The Philippines does not rank highly in maths in primary & secondary school. Rizal Raoul Reyes thinks its because of the Filipinos lack of critical thinking skills. I agree with Dr Fidel Nemenzo, a professor in Maths, that partly the problem is the compartmentalised way in which maths is taught. People don’t see its relevance. But maybe the more important issue is that people realised a long time ago that knowing maths is not going to help them use the computer. The problem is that teachers don’t take maths beyond the standard problem-solving drills, they don’t apply the maths to the problems that people confront in reality.

Dr Fidel Nemenzo thinks Filipinos would be better in maths if it was taught in their language. He argues that maths in Vietnam is taught in Vietnamese, anf yet they get great scores in maths. What poor logic is that? He argues that part of the problem developing the Filipino language is the ‘colonial mentality’ of the country’s leaders. Really? Might his nationalism be more problematic. The English capability in the Philippines is earning the country $5bil a year in export revenues. I’d have though the language in which maths is taught would mean very little. The notion of reducing English training goes against the international trend, including what Vietnam is doing. He makes the case of Japan too, which teachers Maths in Japanese. Some do, some don’t. Is it an issue?

He argues that in the classroom Filipinos use Engish, and then Tagalog with friends. “There is a disconnection between the language of the heart and the language of the mind”. This sounds like religious moralism, raising the notion of a dichotomy between the mind and our emotions. In fact there need be no conflict between our minds and emotions. Moreover Filipinos use Tagalog among their friends because there is an expectancy that they should. Is it necessary for Filipinos to learn English? No. But they gain a great deal out of it. If one wanted to destroy the call centre industry and prevent Filipinos going abroad – it would be a good policy. It might also be a good way to solve the country’s problems because protagonists could no longer go overseas, they would have to fight for change from hear, or more likely go overseas for lesser-paying jobs because they cant speak English anymore.

Dr Fidel Nemenzo also neglects the fact that most western nations offer support for foreigners in their country. He also laments the lack of sponsorship support for maths. Might that ‘people skills’ that Filipinos have explain the low quality of their maths logic. Might this also be evident in the quality of the teaching – because I see little logic in his argument.

Andrew Sheldon