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The science dilemma in Philippine schools

Friday, September 28, 2012

It is believed that Math and Science are excellent subjects to test children because these subjects are taught and tested devoid of culture and emotion. It is no wonder that, other than Language, Math and Science are part of the three kings of school subjects worldwide.
However, a student’s exam results in these subjects cannot predict his success in life because grades are greatly conditioned by teaching itself.
A person may be labeled as poor in Science not because he is dumb but because of the low quality of science education he has received. This early labeling works against a child as it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy later in life. It will be an injustice to generalize that Filipino children are bad in Science considering that children are naturally inquisitive.
Under the new Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), we start teaching Science as a subject only in the third grade. Whereas before, we teach Science early in the hope that we could produce students who could excel in this field, teaching Science in Grades 1 and 2 now does not seem to matter because students remain laggards in the said subject.
Lack of training of teachers, overpopulated classrooms, dull curricula, outdated teaching methods, lack of equipment, and books offering Mickey Mouse lessons – these are some of the factors that lead to the poor state of science teaching. This is worsened by the general culture that undermines scientific thinking and technological innovation in favor of “bahala na” (“what will be, will be”) and “puwede na” (‘no need to excel”) in our daily national life.
In the end, the educational system, family and government fail to effectively inculcate scientific thought that is necessary in the development of science and technology. This one whole system must be responsible in the large-scale dumbing down of generations upon generations of Filipinos in the field of Science.
In the1999 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the Philippines ranked 36th in 2nd year high school Science out of 38 countries. By 2003, the country yielded a similar devastating result in the same study, ranking 23rd in Grade 4 Science, among 25 countries. The shock reverberated as the country started talking about a crisis in the Philippine educational system. In the high school level, we ranked 42nd in 2nd year Science, among 45 countries.
The Philippines did not participate anymore in the 2007 TIMSS.
Significantly, Asians are the ones topping the TIMSS. These countries are our East Asian neighbors known for their discipline and ability to unite as a people. These are Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong (China) and Japan.
Filipino students sometimes top international Science competitions, but they usually come from science high schools with special programs.
The country ought to have a strong science education program. Science and technology have propelled the economies of our Asian neighbors, successfully using these two fields in business, crime prevention, transportation, education, art and e-commerce.
If Philippine schools want to be very good in science, they must do that which is difficult and not just what is convenient. They must resist the culture of parents or intermediaries requesting them to just pass the flunked children. Philippine society, unfortunately, remains feudalistic in terms of social relationships where social ties matter more than real merits.
The country has not yet really transcended influence-peddling based on social bonds, to the detriment of the collective system. By allowing this to be practiced in schools, educational institutions become active agents in training the new generation not only in the dirty world of corruption but also in the world where scientific thinking is alien to them.
An alumnus and former faculty member of UP Diliman, the author is president of the Darwin International School System. He studied in Osaka University (Japan), the University of Cambridge (England) and at the University of Leiden (the Netherlands).


The Flower With The Creepy Scent

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Dama de Noche, or the Night Blooming Jasmine is the plant that takes centerstage on the onset of Halloween. This one has a strong fragrance and it’s an old fashioned heritage plant that is often seen in old ancestral homes.  It is widely cultivated here in the Philippines and was introduced from tropical America during the Spanish era.
Botanically known as Cestrum nocturnum, this is a climbing evergreen shrub with a height of six to 10 feet, and a canopy width of about six feet in diameter. It is often adorned with showy night-blooming white flower clusters.  It belongs to the Solanaceae plant family and is closely related to the tomato, potato and pepper.   The flowers have a very bold fragrance which can give anyone a creepy feeling of ghosts hovering around.
The plant is easy to grow. It requires full sun exposure though it could be planted under partially shaded areas. It thrives well in constantly moist soil, particularly sandy loam to clay loam soils, moderately mixed with decomposed plant litter. You just have to fertilize the plant twice a year, preferably before and after the rainy season.   It is best to apply additional phosphorus fertilizers to enhance root development and for continuous flowering.  It’s a fast grower so you’ll have to pinch  the foliage and prune its flowers to maintain its compact growth.
The Dama de Noche plants are often affected by leaf spot diseases, usually coming from bacterial or fungi, especially during the rainy season.  For disease control, always remove diseased leaves and dead twigs, and for severe infestation, apply a mild solution of fungicide during the rainy season at a rate of once every month for three months.
This plant’s leaves are mildly toxic to animals.  The leaf extract has an anti-bacterial activity and a highly effective larvicidal activity against mosquito larvae (or wringlers) of Aedes aegypti, the carrier of Dengue..
The Dama de Noche can easily be propagated from seeds which come from the fruit berries  that developed from the pollinated flowers.  At times, the plant can become a noxious weed when left unchecked.


‘Living Ceramics’

Monday, July 23, 2012

Ceramics are more than just tiles, dinnerware, bricks, and other by-products of pottery. They are more than just firing the kiln and burning the earth to create a vessel or a jar. Ceramics are strong fragile parts of human life.

Without ceramics, the modern world won’t exist. Without ceramics, there would be no steel and metals to create automobiles, machineries, plans, and other things that need these items for construction. With ceramics as sophisticated refractory materials, people would be able to produce iron and non-ferrous metal.
Can you imagine life without buildings and houses? Thanks to ceramics, we won’t have to worry about such problems. Construction industries pretty much depend on ceramics, particularly bricks and cements, to build infrastructure.

Electricity also depends on ceramics for high tensions insulation. As an excellent insulator, ceramics make it possible for electric companies to safely carry electricity to houses and businesses.
“Ceramics is a repository of culture and history which encapsulates human existence. Introducing ceramics is equivalent to introducing culture, history, and current social structure. Ceramics are living culture,” says Hong won Lee of the Korea Ceramic Foundation, an established international entity that promotes and develops artistic endeavors related to ceramic art.
From the earliest civilizations, the technology and applications of ceramics have come a long way from mere basic earthenwares to modern ceramics. It is just right to take a closer look at these living cultures through the “Living Ceramics: The Modern Touch of Korean Heritage” exhibit at the Korean Cultural Center in Taguig City. The exhibit showcased the celebrated Korean ceramic tradition which has been infused with modern touches and techniques throughout the history of Korea.
Korean ceramic tradition began from earthenware culture back in 6000 BC, during the Goryeo Dynasty in the 12th century, which displayed its high stature throughout the world with its own unique celadon green ceramic. One of the most celebrated ceramic forms in Korea, celadon is characterized by its bisaek, the blue oxidized iron within the clay, as well as its jade-green color.
The Joseon Dynasty in 15th century had seen the rise of baekja, the white porcelain ceramic made of white clay, with transparent glaze, which seems harder and clearer than most ceramics produced that era.
“Based on Confucian philosophy and Sunbi (a virtuous scholar) culture, it highlighted the advanced aesthetic sense of the Koreans which surpassed even the minimalism and monochrome painting techniques of modern arts,” shares Hong won Lee.
The buncheong also thrived during the Joseon period. This ceramic form is characterized by white slip covers with bold and complicated designs. It is considered the “most Korean” of all the forms because it embodies the emerging Korean culture.
Korean ceramic entered its dark age during the colonial occupation of Korea (1910 to 1945). The war didn’t make it easy for ceramics to thrive. But following the end of war, the ceramic culture re-emerged and led the way towards the modern tradition.
“The efforts to trace and redevelop the Korean traditional ceramic technology and production process, together with the creative will to express modern art with earth, is drawing worldwide attention from the ceramic industry,” shares Hong won Lee.
He continues: “Nowadays, Korean ceramics is continuously being researched and efforts are being made to overcome the limitations of ceramics by extending its scope through the  convergence of other art genres with ceramics.”
The exhibit highlighted the unique fusion of ceramics with various fields such as crafts, industry, information technology, visual media, and especially food design. It is geared towards putting Korean traditional dining customs on the cultural awareness of the Filipinos.
In “Nature,” artist Sin Hyun Cho involves the natural changes with the designs formed through different color plates and blended them into the lines. Infused with practicality and aesthetics of life, he presents a visual delight in the food culture.
Artist Panki Kim gives a modern interpretation that embraces the tradition of Korean celadon. In his “Celadon Dinnerware,” the artist expresses his own interpretation, juxtaposes the pure celadon colors with iron glaze and silk thread which underscores its transformation, reflecting the flow of time through color contradictions of the internal and external colors of celadon.
Ceramic artist Se Lim Yu expresses the motif prevalent during the Joseon Dynasty in “White Porcelain Dinnerware” and “Blue and White Porcelain Dinnerware” collections. The white porcelain with traditional patterns are a reinterpretation of the traditional forms with contemporary sentiments and are applicable to the daily life of the people.
“Dinnerware, Buncheong with Plant Design in Iron-Brown,” created by Sang Man Kim, maximizes the material characteristics of the Korean traditional grayish-blue powdered celadon. The artist highlighted the beautiful physical attributes of the material, as expressed by its surfaced texture and the thickness of the glaze, and blended them with simple patterns, shapes, and flavors.
Artist Ji-Young Moon captures the simplicity, the soul of the soil through the lively yet unadorned porcelain. “Relaxation” is a living porcelain that imbibes the beauty of ceramic through the use of natural materials.
The “Moon Jar” by Shin Bong Kang contains the core Korean emotions as well as the faith in the ancient East and West. The artist created the moon jars as symbols that represent the royal authority, the daily lives of the Koreans, and as an expression of beauty.
Hee Sok Ko combines modern design and natural homemade trait, shown as quite peculiar on the boundary lines of industrialized pottery and handicraft work, in “White Flying.” A contemporary artist, he emphasizes the purity of white porcelain through the transparent oil-glazed inside of the ceramic, contrasting with the surface of the self-nitrided white porcelain.
“The Won” by Bok ja Won revolves around the concept of real artistic luxury in pursuit of “living in’ art as it is naturally a part of human life. Through the fusion of Korean traditional celadon and the harp, the artist creates a luxurious porcelain that presents a dining table designed for a special day with different designs and technology.
Sy Young Kim’s “Black Glaze with Tableware” is a reproduction of Korea’s black porcelain. It allows the viewers to re-evaluate the history of Korean black pottery as well as the artistic value of ceramic technology. Soaked with natural colors of deep black and rainbow, the collection is an attempt at modern transformation in harmony with the color of Korean food.
Jae Kyung Lee has consistently worked with the “Eumgwang” (Sound and Light) theme, with several glass works aiming to capture the moment of light, sound, and memory, all the things without the concept of forever. His goal is to show movements, light, brightness, and formation through the composition of the transparent glass.
The “Living Ceramic: Modern Touch of Korea Heritage” is in line with the celebration of the Philippine-Korea Exchange Day as well as the first anniversary of the Korea Cultural Center.
“The Philippines and Korea have a strong diplomatic relations for more than 60 years now, with the Philippines having fought beside Korea in the latter’s quest for democracy. In this sense, if the two countries embark on and continue to engage in a much more aggressive art exchange, the partnership may produce great developments,” says Hong won Lee.
He concludes: “If the characteristics of the two nations – the Filipino’s colorful, optimistic and positive character and Korean’s sophistication and natural beauty – complement each other, there might emerge a new art form which would generate a win-win situation for both countries.”


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