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Teacher’s Credibility and Its Consequences

Mar 20, 2009

There are already some entries discussing the current issue about Math 5 in Pisay. We already have one side from a former student and another from a faculty member.

The main issue here is the credibility of the Math teachers involved for giving a difficult exam. The parents even consulted professors from UP to judge the exam in question. At this point, I have to say this: It is unfair to judge the level of difficulty of an exam just by looking at the exam in question. I believe that the level of difficulty of an exam is a reflection of how the teacher presented the subject matter. A teacher who taught by the book is bound to give exams from the book. A teacher who goes the extra mile to discuss the subject in detail is bound to ask those same details in the exams. To put it simply, you don’t teach algebra to your students and then later give an exam that only requires arithmetic, right? A responsible teacher does not ask questions that were not taught to the students. A responsible teacher does not deliberately flunk a student. The main goal of teaching is to impart knowledge, and the exam is a measure of how much a student learned from the subject.

The critics, not knowing how the teachers involved taught the subject, would of course base their opinion on how they teach the same subject. I know the teachers involved and the critics consulted in this issue, for they happen to be both former teachers and former colleagues of mine. I can definitely say that their teaching styles are very, very different. So it is only natural for the critics to say that the exam is difficult, while the other side would say that they are spoonfeeding their students.

So if it boils down to a difference in teaching styles, what standards do we follow? Then we have to go back to the institution. This is Philippine Science High School we are talking about. The students should know that the standards are normally set higher than usual. This school is more than a ticket to a good university in the future. This school was created to train future scientists, mathematicians and engineers. This school is supposed to teach students how to think critically. Lowering the standards is not exactly teaching students to think critically, rather it teaches them that they can get away with anything given enough guts to complain. The critics may be graduates of Pisay a long time ago, but they only had the student version of the Pisay experience. They don’t know how things are done at Pisay. The Pisay they know back then is quite different from the current Pisay. If that is not the case, then I would be horrified. That would imply that the institution is stagnant and horribly outdated.

Okay, there is still the issue of the low passing rate for that exam. Teachers are not perfect, they are bound to give exams that are too difficult for the students. Making a grade adjustment is already an acknowledgement on the part of the teacher that something went wrong, so it must be corrected. However, these adjustments are not done arbitrarily. Some level of standard must be kept, a level that would be beneficial for the students and would be acceptable for the teacher. I don’t believe that teachers are “playing gods” with the grading system. At this point, I agree with what Martin said:

“Only two — out of a Batch of more than two hundred — are getting a five in math. The only obvious question to ask after all this is really: What did the student fail to do?”

As I said before, this is an issue rehashed from what I already discussed last year. And honestly, I am alarmed with this trend of questioning a teacher’s credibility if a student fails a subject. I can’t help but think that this trend would only lead to lowering the standards of education, not just in Pisay but for the rest of the country as well. Speaking as a member of the academe, we are trying to raise the level of sciences, mathematics and engineering in our country, hopefully to be competitive with the rest of the world. But we cannot do that if the standard of education at the lower level is being compromised.

P.S. To the Math teachers involved in the issue, fight on! ^_^

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