By Carolina S. Ruiz Austria

The word "Heresy"

was used by Irenaeus in Contra Haereses to discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. It has no purely objective meaning without an authoritative system of dogma.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Learning, Measurement and the Cost of A Good Education: A Mother's Lament

When some of my feminist friends found out I was reading the Harry Potter Books (I just started Book VI, "The Half Blood Prince" now) and calling it my "Harry Potter Review," of course in anticipation of both the next movie (based on Book V) and the seventh Book (supposedly the last in the series), they asked me whether I was reading it for the sake of catching up with my daughter's interests. My daughter is very interested in the Harry Potter novels of course but she's only six. And while she is patiently reading Book I, one paragraph or two, every night (even as I keep telling her to settle for books with bigger print), I end up saying that I'm reading Harry Potter for myself.

Now I know what got my friend Abbie (a mother of three) hooked when she read them way before I did and kept updated, eagerly awaiting each installment. I got started this late January when my mother returned from the US with a gift from my sister, for my daughter: Volumes 1-6.

Of course it doesn't hurt that the way I have been going through the books has been getting my daughter more and more interested in reading them.

At some fancy progressive elementary school she recently took entrance exams for, my little girl (according to the test) showed a very high aptitude for language and reading/writing ability. It showed she was among the top of the batch which completed the exams. But the results for her "Math" exams were (again as reflected by the test scores), nothing short of dismal.

I know I am well informed enough to realize that children ought not to be "judged" according to their purported test scores, or even at this very early age, by their "grades." Heck, I teach law and I know my best students aren't always the ones with the perfect grades.

The strange part of it was, one of the sections in her Math exam had a "0" score, which probably meant she missed answering out an entire portion!

It took an old friend of mine (who has undergraduate and graduate degrees in Education at UP) to set me straight: EXAMS are also ALL ABOUT SKILLS in TAKING EXAMS.

I can't imagine how it has come to this. Nowadays, little pre-schoolers entering Grade I in the big schools are being asked to answer exams with the format of NCEE and other intermediate type of exams with questions on a separate booklet, and the computer/machine tallied answers on a separate sheet where answers are filled in by "shading!"

I remember my own Grade I entrance exam as something more similar to the pre-school/kindergarten workbook type of exams! Would I have passed my own entrance exam if I took one like that at Grade I?

Of course one of possible reasons for this "heavy drama," is because it involves my kid. I have to lay that much out. Yes, it matters because its my daughter. But it is also quite a wake up call.

Some friends (and mothers and fathers I met during the exam period) have been articulating the same concerns. It is so hard to choose a good school which can offer a good education (and an affordable price tag) nowadays.

In the Philippines of course, our most qualified teachers (especially the primary school and elementary school teachers) have been for many years the most recruited to work outside the country. And not all of them end up teaching. A lot have accepted work as domestic helpers, with the worst job conditions, and often ten to sixteen times their pay as educators.

Nowadays, the good and quality education schools also charge an arm and a leg (from each parent) and putting your child through anything less on the other hand, feels so much of an unfair risk to take.

Having worked with NGO and the academe all my life, I suddenly find myself reviewing my own (now I think selfish) job options. Having refused (avoided) to do "work" that I don't care much for (READ:not related to my causes) in exchange for "pay," now seems to me, nothing more than a luxury I can no longer afford.

But this is so not the drama (as one of my daughter's favorite cartoon characters would say). Perhaps I am taking it a bit all too seriously.

How can any entrance exam ever fairly measure how my little daughter, even before she turned six, is able to express her values on religious tolerance (There is a really good children's Book to get children started talking about this See here; or how she knows the first Emperor of China was Qin Xi Huang Di); how deeply she is interested in the pyramids of Egypt and wants to find out more about Cleopatra, and tells anybody interested enough about the story of ISIS and Osiris, how intently (without at all getting turned off by the blood and amniotic fluid) she watched over our labrador, Mira giving birth to her litter of puppies and lovingly cared for Mira and her newborn pups at four in the morning?!

But here it is. Here IS the drama. No less than a mother's lament.

Last Monday, she took another exam, this time in a Catholic school for girls. My little girl observed the uniforms (the usual long skirts below the knees). She stated simply: "If I get to study here, I will run for President of my Class."

I was impressed but also amused and smiled. I asked her why she would be interested. Her answer made my day. My daughter says that her only platform would be "shorter/sexier skirts."


Blogger PhilMADE said...

hey karol,I am truly amused by this post about your daughter. Great mom = Great kid. More power!

2:52 PM  

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