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Philippine Science High School

Dec 6, 2007
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[Another old post from my other blogs. I just found it appropriate to post it here.]

Alex started this with his discussion on schools, and I stumbled upon a project called Pisay Meets World. This project was conceptualized by Martin, a Social Science teacher in Philippine Science (and a former colleague). Basically, the students have to answer this question: What can the world expect from a Pisay scholar in the future? Kudos to Martin for this project. Pisay scholars need this badly, I think.

What is Philippine Science High School? It was established by R.A. 3661 which was signed into law in 1963. This charter mandates the PSHS “to offer on a free scholarship basis a secondary course with emphasis on subjects pertaining to service with the end in view of preparing its students for a science career.” They even have a contract saying that a Pisay scholar should take a science or engineering course in college. If the student doesn’t comply, he/she will have to reimburse a certain amount, equivalent to four years worth of stay in the school. Theoretically speaking, of course. I know of a lot of Pisay alumni who stayed clear of science careers after leaving Pisay. And they didn’t have to pay the school.

Why do some Pisay alumni stay clear from science careers right after high school? Well, most people don’t know what to do with their lives at that age. Like hell, some people don’t know what to do with their lives even if they are already adults. So can you say that a contract is valid if you signed it when you were 12 years old? (This was quoted from Jessica Zafra, another Pisay alumna, when she was interviewed by some Pisay scholars many years ago, when I was still in high school.) At that age, most kids would just follow what their parents would say. And the parents would want their kids in PSHS. Who can say no to free education, with monthly stipends to boot! Plus you have a higher chance of entering the university of your choice, because the students are being taught college-level science and math courses! So what if you have to take a science or engineering course? As long as you are in PSHS, and as long as you could go to a good university, who cares about contracts?!

However, being in PSHS is no walk in the park. After passing two entrance exams, you are assumed to belong to the “cream-of-the-crop”. (My friends would often say “crap-of-the-cream” instead.) So the teachers expect a lot from you. I remember my first year Earth Science teacher talking about gravitational forces and saying that it is equal to G x m1 x m2 / r^2. What the hell, and to think that I came from a school where science is taught conceptually, without using equations. It was really a big shock for me when I was in first year. (And yeah, you can probably guess that Earth Science was my lowest subject during that year.) It takes a while to adjust, and yet you are not given enough time to do that. You adjust now or you flunk. Period. And since each person has a unique personality, you can expect different reactions to this problem. Some do strive hard to adjust and be one of the best in the batch. Others just break down totally. Some simply don’t care. And that’s the problem of most Pisay scholars: they tend to be underachievers. They got used to the fact that they will flunk anyway, so they don’t do their best. Besides, they will still be promoted next school year. Or so they thought.

Before, they have strict rules about retention of scholars. If you flunked, you will be kicked out of the institution, period. But recently, they were reconsidering students even though they failed to achieve the required minimum grade. The intention was good, of course. The teachers are encouraged to be ‘nurturing’ and therefore expected to do everything that is possible to prevent a student from being kicked out. But as a consequence, students tend to be lazy (based on my observations). And what makes this problem even more alarming is that the students tend to keep this habit in college. As a consequence, most people have this bad impression of Pisay graduates. Mayabang. Maangas. Iresponsable. Nagmamarunong. There are exceptions to this rule of course. Many Pisay graduates made their alma mater proud by excelling in their chosen fields. And every year, these people are invited to attend the annual Foundation Day celebration, hopefully to inspire the students to do their best as well. But in general, this is the (sad) reality: most of my colleagues don’t like (sometimes, even hate) Pisay graduates because of this.

Whose fault is it? What went wrong? Can you truly say that it is Pisay’s fault? And if Pisay is not really achieving what it was supposed to do, which is to prepare the students for a science or engineering career, what is the purpose of Pisay? I’ve read somewhere (I don’t remember where exactly) that some Pisay alumni are even questioning why PSHS was created in the first place. Some say that it was some sort of a social experiment somehow.

This has been the topic of many discussions I had with my former colleagues. What comes after high school, after Pisay? The Pisay graduate is thrown into an environment where he/she had to study the same thing all over again, at least during the first year of college life. No wonder it is such a bore. No wonder the bad habits kick in. And right after college, what next? As if there are enough opportunities for the Pisay graduate to pursue a science or engineering career. Not to mention that even if you are given the opportunity, the pay leaves much to be desired. Most people are employed in call centers anyway, and they earn a lot of money. So why do research? This has been the complaint of most of my colleagues here in the University: The research culture is weak, unlike in other countries.

Will things change in the near future? I hope so, I truly hope so. But it can only be done if people wanted to do it. It has to start somewhere. And hopefully, with the “Pisay Meets World” project, students would pause and think of what they could offer to the country who pays them to learn science and mathematics. And I also hope that it doesn’t end as just another project. Sana nga…

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Dec 6, 2007 10:30 pm

    I remember this post… Thanks, Tina. Stay tuned for what I got planned this coming fourth quarter. 🙂

  2. Tina permalink
    Dec 7, 2007 3:08 am

    If you say so. 🙂 Can’t wait.

  3. polayn_jap permalink
    Dec 9, 2007 12:32 pm

    sa tingin ko po, ang pinaka importanteng naituro ng pisay sa mga estudyante ay ang maging aware sa mga possibilities na kayang i-offer ng science sa bansa. so kahit hindi man science or engineering course ang napili ng isang pisay graduate, kahit papaano malaki pa rin po ang impluwensya ng pisay sa buhay ng taong yon, so kahit papaano mas naaapreciate nila yung mga bagay na science-related at sinusuportahan nila yung mga programs na nagppromote sa science sa pilipinas. (perfect example: jessica zafra and butch dalisay) 😀

  4. edwin permalink
    May 4, 2008 5:03 am

    greetings kabayan from usa.first let me salute you for writing said article.the screening for pisay students is indeed very rigid.now i understand why my son was not lucky enough to be accepted, yet medyo sumabit kasi natanggap sa pamantasan ng lungsod ng maynila where he finished ece.the way i look at your program is that-kulang kayo sa alalay sa mga incoming first year.what do i mean by this. of course-let us not make whether uncle sam is highly industrialize and juan de la cruz does not have any money.APPROACH-is the key word.and i will use my son as a hypothetical example.my son had a taste of public education in the phil-taga v. mapa high hanggang third year then usa. i call it luck. he was admitted in a state university here in ca to pursue engineering. before they start schooling which is in sept.- the”scholars” are given a rigorous orientation for about one month.it is live in-expenses shouldered by the university.students are reviewed on the test they took.attitudes are”reconditioned” telling them that if the”scholar” does not maintain the minimum gpa-all your priviledges will be revoked.i agree with you-that pisay is weak in research-one reason,budget-nagastos ni gloria for gte project.dito busog ang student sa computer including software.siguro kulang itong time for us to discuss said issue. but this can be a good start for us sharing-and who knows-have you ever heard of grant.

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