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    Science Education: Who’s to Blame? Accountability in the Teaching and Learning Process
    By Camilo Tabinas y ... | December 14th 2012 06:36 AM | 14 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Camilo Tabinas

    He is both a chemist and an educator. He teaches General chemistry, organic, and biochemistry for health sciences students as well as introductory...

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    Accountability plays a very important role in the realization of educational aims, goals, and objectives. Thus recognizing the “Who is/are” in its formation and/or its implementation is important. They are the local and international educational agencies, the school administrators, the teachers, support staff, and the learners. They are the key players responsible and accountable in carrying out each of the components in the teaching and learning processes, specifically, in the formulation of the general and specific outcomes; in providing the right learning situation and learning experiences; in the evaluation of teaching and learning processes; and in the development and improvement necessary to achieve the learning outcomes. Together, they form an integrated whole accountable for the realization of the desired educational outcomes. Gronlund (1974) classifies educational accountability program into product accountability, process accountability and experimental accountability. According to Grolund (1974):

    Product accountability refers to the belief that in order for learning to be best improved, the teachers should be held responsible for the amount of learning achieved by the students; process accountability is the belief that holding the teacher responsible for using professionally sound methods may result to a maximum learning with fewer negative effects; and experimental accountability is the belief that the school staff is responsible for systematically trying out and evaluating alternative methods and improving student’s learning.”(p.29-30)

    Indeed the attention and support of the administrators/supervisors are very much needed. According to Aquino (1988, p.39), it is not enough and it is not fair to let the teacher tackle by herself the heavy burden and complex task of bringing about effective teaching”. Haworth (1977) states “administrative efforts to support faculty almost always helped to enhance student’s learning” (p.720).

    Furthermore, McIntyre (1974, as cited in Aquino, 1988, p. 498)) states, “instruction is a central subsystem of the total educational system, and administering an improving the instructional program is an important domain of responsibility for school administrators.”

    Though school administrators have great roles in attaining effective teaching, according to Rubin (1972, as cited in Aquino, 1988, p. 550)) “the impact of the teacher on the curriculum is, and always be considerable”, for it is the teacher who translates the curriculum into effective learning experiences. However, it can be said according to Aquino (1988) that if a student did not learn, the teacher did not teach well, and if the teacher did not teach well, the supervisor did not supervise well. 

    The efforts of the support staff in the school system are of importance in creating a supportive and positive atmosphere that is conducive to learning. According to Ornstein (1990, p.698), “teachers to be effective, need a supportive and positive atmosphere”. On experimental accountability, according to Gronlund (1974) the school staff is responsible for systematically trying out and evaluating alternative methods of improving student’s learning.

    In the study of Tabinas’s (2004) on Assessment of Chemistry Teaching: Public High Schools, Fourth District of Leyte, the teachers identified unsupportive facilitative staff to “fairly affect” their teaching among other factors, 92% of the teachers “strongly suggested” that improving the general facilities of the school is one of the solutions that can minimize their encountered difficulty in teaching. It follows that the help of the support staff in the maintenance of the school facilities is important.

    Thus, effective teaching is a cooperative process and its components are inter-related and should be integrated. Shall we adhere to John Dickinson's motto: together we stand, divided we fall?

    Who’s to blame?


    Aquino G.V. (1988). Principles and Methods of Effective Teaching. Manila: National Book Store Inc.

    Gronlund, Norman E. (1974). Individualizing Classroom Instruction. New York:

    Mcmillan Publishing,

    Haworth, C. (1997). Educational Management. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

    Ornstein, A. (1990). Strategies of Effective Teaching. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice hall

    Tabinas, Camilo (2004). Chemistry Teaching in Public High Schools in Leyte, Fourth

                District.USC Graduate Journal, XX(2), 37-45.



    Gerhard Adam
    You bring up many good points, but unfortunately like many such discussions, misses the "elephant in the room"; the student.

    No learning can occur without a receptive student, so in a similar vein, the "support staff" of the student is the parent.  Without having a set of values where education and learning are considered important, there is little a teacher can do to overcome that obstacle.

    Correspondingly if a student is eager to learn, then even poor teachers can produce better outcomes.  It's time we stopped viewing the student as a product that can be manipulated and "fixed" by some arbitrary external process and also included them and their parents in the process of taking responsibility for educational outcomes.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Without having a set of values where education and learning are considered important, there is little a teacher can do to overcome that obstacle.
      I agree with you Gerhard as one said, "Education begins at home"
    You bring up many good points, but unfortunately like many such discussions, misses the "elephant in the room"; the student.
    Students are referred in the article as "learners" but yes, definitely I missed out the influence of the parents in bringing about educational outcomes

     In the basic education level in Philippine education, the importance of the role of parents in education is very well recognized.  They even have this PTA (Parents and Teachers Association) and parents-teachers conferences. However, this is not any more true in the tertiary level in many schools in the Philippines. This probably because as the students go up in the educational ladder they are assumed to be more and more responsible for the success in their studies.

    Even at the tertiary level of education, the influence of the parents can not be denied, specially in the Philippines where "close family ties" is valued. In the first  few days of classes at the tertiary level, I encountered  a lot of college students when asked why they enrolled  in their specific B.S. program answered, "that's what my parents wanted me to enrol".
    It's time we stopped viewing the student as a product that can be manipulated and "fixed" by some arbitrary external process ...
    "manipulating" the student is a strong word for a teacher to do with their students, I prefer  the words "facilitate", "guide, and/or "motivate".

    Well, The question may now be "Does the tertiary level of education still value the influence of parents? To what extent? Is it cultural?  How about the tertiary education in your country Gerhard?  I appreciate if you  will share your observations.

    Cultural differences though should be recognized, in line with the globalization of education, the differences are set to become thinner when it comes to effective teaching and learning outcomes.

    Thank you Gerhard for your insights.


    Gerhard Adam
    Again, you bring up many excellent points, and I have to admit I was considering much of your article in the light of the U.S. and not really taking cultural differences into account.

    As a result, my use of the word "manipulate" was not intended to suggest what teachers were doing, but rather the view that I believe exists in this country where students are a product to be packaged.  So, it isn't the teacher as much as it is the system that takes that view.

    Also, in the U.S. education tends to be somewhat under-valued, whereas making money is considered to be the source of status.  Now, obviously having money is important in most cultures, but in the U.S. there can sometimes be a tendency to presume that money equates to intelligence.  In fact, in some quarters one can even hear comments like, "if you're so smart, then how come you're not rich".

    I realize those are simply anecdotes and aren't intended to portray all of U.S. culture in that fashion, but I think that it is something that is different in this country versus many other parts of the world.  Also, your emphasis on the PTA is probably different in its influence in the Philippines versus in the U.S.  Many parents here don't even bother going to Parent-Teacher conferences, so there are many that are uniquely disconnected from their children's education.  Again, this clearly doesn't apply to everyone, but it is a problem when it comes to looking at the overall societal ability to educate people.

    I completely agree with you regarding tertiary education, so some of my comments were focused on lower levels, where the student must be sufficiently motivated and successful to even attempt such  levels.  It is this area that I find to be problematic in this country.  Too often schools claim success or failure regarding individuals without considering the broader social attitudes that will determine how well or how poorly students actually do.

    In any case, your article raises many good points and it's a subject that is becoming increasingly important.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Too often schools claim success or failure regarding individuals without considering the broader social attitudes that will determine how well or how poorly students actually do.
    Definitely. I don't feel comfortable when schools and districts boast about things like "95% graduation rates". They sell themselves as production units. It doesn't answer key questions such as:

    (1) what standards produced that apparent success?
    (2) what happened to the students after they graduated? Did they continue to enjoy success in a trade, work environment or college?

    Of course all kinds of other factors influence future success of students. But that's precisely the point. Education is a broad social responsibility. And it's an ongoing process that should not be limited within institutional walls. For too many companies or parents, their idea of contributing is through a donation for a new gym or computers. 

    But the sharing of knowledge, skills and experience would be far more valuable to students and society as a whole.


    Science education is an important, even crucial subject. But to me this piece reads as though I came into a to a conceptual discussion about issues whose main features were presented before I arrived.

    "Responsibility of teacher", student, parent, setting, etc. are all relative themes that one can't easily deal with until one places them in concrete frameworks. International tests show that Finland, Singapore, and South Korea are world leaders in teaching science, based on student performance. But can we compare the importance of various components in Finland with the those applying to a science teacher in Tanzania? (to take rather extreme examples to make the point). It could well be that the Tanzanian teacher's success will have less to do with science competence than with his/her ability to secure resources from local governments, develop rapport with families of students, and make judicious choices of material adapted to student skills. Given the rigor of early education and uniform access to resources in Singapore, in contrast, teaching can take wholly different forms there.

    In the 1960s U.S. high schools moved from a "cognitive" system with nearly universal mandatory core science courses for all students, to a more "affective" educational philosophy. Social promotion in the elementary grades contributed to wide differences in student skills in high school. Tracking (offering different levels of rigor based on student ability) was therefore introduced. Rigorous science instruction was moved to AP or college prep courses for a advanced students. The majority of students got more descriptive mixtures of sciences where they learned about scientific phenomena but there was much less emphasis on ability to apply scientific principles to problems.

    My point is that the larger educational context in which science teaching is placed may be more important than specific factors involved in the teaching process. Shouldn't we start with "who do we want to reach, and what do we want them to know and do?" My personal opinion is that a modern nation needs to have its entire school population achieve basic scientific literacy (not just an elite) and feel confident about flexibly applying scientific thinking to any problem that might be encountered. True scientific thinking seeks out the most important elements of problems. As see it, that this means giving due attention to peoples and our own psychology and emotions where these are important, rather than focusing only on what may be quantitatively measurable.

    Agree with telemann, above, reads like an article in a conference proceedings journal. "Who's to blame?" is not developed.

    Anyway, before always trying to blame the teacher or the student, look at the system that has been created. The curricula across the physical and mathematical sciences are dreadful; granulated  flashcard-driven memory overloads with the conceptual frameworks removed and a large dose of socio-political propaganda included. Such curricula are rammed down the throats of schools through accreditation corporations bankrolled by the government to keep schools in line. Quality is only measured by the paperwork generated, which is often as manufactured as the criteria. Schools who would dare to thrive without accreditation are most often barred from so doing because it is a legal requirement established by... government.

    Don't believe me? Cambridge have finally had enough of the dumbing down and have introduced a qualification above A level, known as Pre-U. Had to laugh when I saw the Mathematics practice papers and curriculum as it is identical to what I studied as a student 30 years ago. The question arises as to why the board let their A level standards slip during those years. The meritocratic rhetoric was in reality a drive to mediocrity; where failure is almost impossible, so too is excellence.

    The only rays of hope I can see are in those organisations developing what are currently considered extra-curricular materials. There is a long tradition of this in the Mathematics Olympiads and the host of feeder competitions at every level; I can see more developing in the physical and human sciences. Well thought out, integrated and stimulating resources leading to both teachers and students (and even parents) enjoying the experience. May the dead hand of the accreditation police stay well clear of these gems.

    Several frustrating problems I have as a Science Teacher:
    1) "Success is the Only Option" is taking hold in educational settings. It sounds good at face value, but the truth is teachers are told to not fail low performing students. Some students should repeat a grade, so that success could truly become a valid option, and not just a way to pass a student from one grade to the next without the student truly deserving it. This is happening in middle schools, and now often in high schools.
    2) State standards, and even national core standards are great, but when these became adopted by states, the textbook publishers, published new books with little change in the body of the text, they just slapped standards on what they had already written. There needs to be a core base used by all schools, with a certain amount of time given for individualistic additions to the curriculum by the individual teacher.
    3) In Florida for instance there are thousands of benchmarks associated with the standards students are assessed on, but the teachers never have knowledge of the test questions. When you teach thousands of standards, and students are only tested on a handful of those standards, it is easy for student's scores to not reflect much of what they actually have learned.
    4) Without a core national science curriculum with one text and suggested supplemental materials and labs used as a base for a teacher to build upon, the results of knowledge acquired are going to be as varied as the body of knowledge being used to teach scientific principles.
    5) Many students entering middle school and high school score so low on reading assessments, it is excruciating to a teacher to get major learning gains in these students. Research has shown if students hit the age of 12 to 13 teaching them to read is extremely difficult. Students should be held back when they are younger to insure they can read before moving on to the next grade. Without good reading skills, a student is often ill equipped to make complex associations science often entails.
    6) Many students are coming from homes where parents are often ill equipped to parent effectively. Too many students come from homes where drugs are used, or from broken homes, or from homes with very inattentive parents. Inattentive students, or students who can't keep attention on something for more than 10 minutes is a problem. Students such as these, then deflect by acting out by seeking acceptance from peers rather than from their teacher. The lack of respect for authority or for knowledge puts additional burdens on a teacher. The teacher then has to become a motivational leader, and a multimedia entertainer of sorts.
    7) Now, many teachers are having their student scores tied to their teacher evaluations. Accountability is a good thing, but when you give a "science teacher" students who should have never passed earlier grades, and students who are low in reading, science teachers are not being fairly assessed!

    4) Without a core national science curriculum with one text and suggested supplemental materials and labs used as a base for a teacher to build upon, the results of knowledge acquired are going to be as varied as the body of knowledge being used to teach scientific principles.
    Teachers object to this and fall back on 'critical thinking' mumbo jumbo which, along with the IQ test, is a relic of 1920s progressivism, when we thought there was some chance psychology could be science.

    Education is literally the only business where we claim an objective metric for performance is a bad thing and make the assumption that they are so unethical they will cheat to attain their scores.  A 21 year old in an Apple store has a greater perception for being ethical than the people educating our kids?  Why don't we worry that an Apple store salesperson is going to cheat to make their number?

    Teachers have tenure in the US, they can't be fired, so this idea that teachers will (a) cheat or (b) education will go down, to meet some pointless evaluation standard makes no sense. In reality, if more teachers actually taught things and spent less time framing current news through their prism of social justice issues, scores would go up anyway.

    America rules the high end of science because of our education system and its focus on thinking - that is the system teachers and their unions like.  So then letting them say they don't have enough funding every 2 years when the average scores of standardized tests are lower than other countries is silly. We don't teach to the test like other countries do.
    I respectfully disagree with the idea that "other" countries have good performances on standardized tests because they "teach to the test". Flanders (the northern part of Belgium) does well on international tests. It's not in the same league as Finland etc., but not far behind. Yet there is no teaching to the test, because there is no test. Each teacher designs his or her own test.

    The standards for mathematics have been falling recently, but not because teachers were dumbing down the curriculum. The dumbing down was imposed by the "educational establishment", meaning from above - often in the face of heavy resistance by the teachers. I'm glad teachers here are quasi-tenured. It means that they have a certain degree of liberty, which most of them are using to ignore the educational establishment as much as possible.

    There is only one test where Finland does well, so your invocation of them basically affirms my point that the 'concern about education' is manufactured by media, who like soundbites from teachers and lobbyists who can say how concerned they are about our kids - while they talk about how stupid they are.

    In reality our kids are pretty smart.  I am not concerned about standardized test scores because America has never done well on them.  On the first one given, America placed 11th out of 12 countries.  And since America was next to last on that first test in the early 1960s we led the world in Nobel prizes.  If you look at the countries that score lower than us on standardized tests, France, etc., no one in America says their kids are stupid - nor do the French.  Loathing our young people so we can help them is a distinctly American phenomenon.
    Yet there is no teaching to the test, because there is no test. Each teacher designs his or her own test. 
    That's interesting because it sounds a lot like Finland's approach. Hire knowledgeable people who can also communicate effectively, give them professional autonomy to tailor the curriculum to the clientele, which further motivates them, and then everything else falls into place. 

    With such a foundation, what's on the test, who's in the union, and how many gadgets are bought are barely relevant.  

    Thank you all for the comments.
    Yes, "Who's to Blame?" is the catchy part of the title. In the context of the article, " Who's to Blame?" means  accountability and responsibility.

    The article may seem to explore the different aspects and factors within the complex world of education. However, as mentioned in the first paragraph, the article limits it to those responsible  for the "realization of educational aims, goals, objectives, (and outcomes)" That is, holding constant those responsible for the formulation of the educational aims, goals, objectives, and outcomes. They are the upper administrators (the system), instructional designers, and accreditors.

    To come to terms with the author, considering the factors mentioned in the article, the article further implies to limit it within the school system. Thus holding other factors outside the school system constant.

    A good instructional design (I.D.) considers the laws, policies, rules and procedures affecting education (defining the system), the needs of the society, and the possible influence of parents or family.  This will  also include to consider   "who do we want to reach, and what do we want them to know and do?" ( in Teleman's comment)

    Yes, the article failed to mention beyond its scope but yes I agree with Enrico Uva that  it should not be limited within institutional walls.

    The concluding part of the article conveys that all aspects, factors and those responsible are important, integrated and inter-related.  Thus the cooperation of all those accountable is needed,  for one can not stand without the other.    

    Wishing Science 2.0  and everyone a prosperous 2013.


    I am surprised to see only 11 comments posted for this article when I received 38 email alerts for comments specifying for this article. Where are the 27 comments, were all of them screened for relevance? I wish those irrelevant comments were sent to my email so I can thank them.
    The only comments we delete are spam. The rest are at the author's discretion.