What A(H1N1) can teach our Science Scholars

You are in this school for the precise reason that one day, one of you will develop a cure to diseases such as this. And if there is no cure, then you have the proper analytical frame of mind to design containment procedures and to develop public health policies that minimize epidemics and improve the overall health of our population.

You can always excuse yourself for being merely high school students now. I don’t have to think about that yet, sir. True. But think about these.

Personal responsibility makes a difference

What if people were more hygienic? What if they did maintain a hygiene kit? Washed their hands? Covered their nose when they sneezed? Their mouth when they coughed. What if? What if? What if!

Basic manners could have made a difference in containing A(H1N1). It is said that how a person keeps his or her surroundings is a reflection of how they keep themselves. Lately we’ve been pushing everyone to be more conscientious in maintaining the cleanliness of the school and segregating food in the cafeteria. I hope you didn’t see this as pointless or cheap. Otherwise I’d be worried how people look after their own selves.

Are we egoistic enough to worry just about our own and not look after others? That is debatable. But for sure, A(H1N1) wouldn’t have spread as quickly or as widely if we got the basics right. And while manners and etiquette are things that you can learn from school, applying them in real life is something only you yourself can look after.

Our actions do impact others. If anything, our struggle with this virus should teach us that. We can’t afford to live isolated lives anymore, thinking that there will always be someone to clean up after us. Transposing the law of conservation into a social context, the energy you spare from not cleaning up will be the same energy another person uses to do so. And let’s say there are at least five dozen yous, then just one janitor. No wonder it’s a tough job. Not everyone does their share.

Everything is part of a system

One consensus we had in our meetings earlier is that we didn’t fully appreciate the threat of the virus until it was too late. And when it did hit, still not everyone was convinced. Others called us too paranoid or that all we’re doing is overkill. The reality is, what we’re doing may not be enough.

We should see the effects of the virus not just on one individual, but on the entire system. “So we have one confirmed case. But it’s just one!” was the cry of many. And yet that single one began a chain that endures until now. It was downplayed because of its apparent mildness, and yet the rate of its spread has left our school crippled.

Think of your equations. A(H1N1) is not a constant; it’s a variable. It’s entrance into the equation has altered the balance drastically and we’re seeing values we never saw before.

I may not have the aptitude in math that most of you have, but I did take one valuable lesson from all my math teachers before: one small change can make a big difference. It’s something I brought into my study of the social sciences and history. And it’s one thing that should help put all of these in perspective. Just take a look at all these changes we’re seeing now. That had to come from somewhere.

There are things more important than grades

I think we have a fault in all this. Instead of absenting themselves because of sickness, students carry on to avoid missing exams and precious class time. They also don’t like the burden of additional make up work. True, the PSHS curriculum is so advanced heavy that students can’t even de-load themselves to get well. To get well!

I don’t know about you, but I find this fishy.

Then what do we do? To make up for lost time, we put them to task during an imposed quarantine. As they struggle to get the rest they all need, they’re catching up with readings, problem sets, and research papers. They’ve begun to abhor the quarantine and fear returning to school and see all the tests waiting for them.

I completely understand the position of my colleagues. We have deadlines to meet, courses to complete, a job to do, and students to teach. But we teach them what?

That to tell me that you’ve learned, you pass this requirement.
That when you pass this requirement, you get a good grade.
That when you get a good grade, then you’ve learned something.

Then the cycle repeats itself.

Both students and teachers are trapped in a spinning wheel of meeting standards and expectations. I’ve always wondered who set those standards and why, and whether those same standards still apply to us today. To say that these standards have been working for us is a poor argument to make; there is never nothing we can’t do a little better. (And there definitely are.)

PSHS was built in the milieu of the Cold War when competition was the global standard. But it’s the 21st century now. In the era of the Internet, it’s all about creation and collaboration (hence an argument has to be made for protecting Humanities Week in some shape or form).

Times have changed, but have our standards?

As a student once said, “the requirements have come in the way of my learning. The teaching was come in the way of my education.”

Does it follow that just because we teach our students more, they learn more? This may sound like a funny question to ask, but think about it. In economics it’s called the Law of Diminishing Returns — that there comes a point when you simply overdo something for it to be effective.

I think we’ve reached that point; surpassed it even. We’re beginning to do too much that it has become dangerous to our students’ health. Just take a look at what has happened.

Teachers have long felt that a curriculum review is in order. I think the comment that students rather go to school than recover from ILI has to be taken seriously and used to argue not just for a curriculum review, but a reassessment of what our goals are as an educational institution.

I have always believed that our report card underestimates who we are. Yet I can’t shake away the feeling that the card is only where it begins. There is so much potential here, and I feel that we aren’t tapping into its entirety.

I hope that when one of this school year’s students becomes a teacher in the PSHS, look back at this year and tell us — what would you be rather doing during the quarantine, and what would you want to look forward to in going back to school?

You can ask yourself that question now, or begin answering it here. Leave a comment.



  1. If I were to decide what I would do during this quarantine, this is the arrangement I would prefer:

    1. That the teachers give a RECOMMENDED reading catalogue (specifying the course outline) outlining the chapters and topics they WILL DISCUSS when we get back.
    2. That the teachers distribute optional hw that will count as bonus credit about the said topics in the recommended reading catalogue.
    3. That the (humanities) teachers would give one group project that can be accomplished online with enough leeway such that it can still be finished after classes resume (as a substitute or preparation for Humanities Week).

    As for when I go back to school, I would look forward to the following:

    1.A combined (hybrid) Humanities and YMSAT week (if possible, to create the Science of the Humanities or something like that…[hehe])
    2.A contingency plan just in case of future suspensions (such as distributing requirements in advance to be answered at the students’ discretion, or distributing YM addresses for online classes, etc.)
    3.A curriculum which does not rely on merely submitting requirements and taking tests, but on making the students think and question what they learned (not that it does not do this at all).
    4.A curriculum which does not just focus on learning, but also on team-building and social skills (which are equally important today).

    That’s all. Thanks for taking the time to read this (very lenghty comment) πŸ™‚

  2. And thanks for the awesome comment too, Nino! I agree with everything you said especially about thinking and team-building. This is something I want to see too.

  3. Yes, I think we should save the Humanities. We had it last year, and the other, and still the other years that had passed. Why not have it now? It’s been an annual tradition, so to say.

    And yes! I don’t believe in report cards. The A’s and 1.0’s one gets is not enough to say one is superior. It’s a representation of what we’ve done in school, or rather, a mere representation of the one to ten percent of what we can really be. I believe that even those who gets 3.0’s and 5.0’s can be as good (or even better) as those who gets 1.0’s and 1.25’s comes the time.

    Nice, Martin (and Nino as well). I totally agree with you.

  4. Yeah… cards do underestimate a person.

    The curriculum’s forcing all members of the Pisay community to work just to meet its standards, but, hey, can’t we just think twice before imposing and/or doing requirements?

    Oh well. Sorry for the poor language. Pero, iyon nga.

  5. I just have to say that i don’t agree with YMSAT and HUMANITIES WEEK being combined.

    Maganda ang ideya na yun, pero masyadong madaming ginagawa sa HUMANITIES week na sa palagay ko ay di dapat mawala. Masaya ang kilos-awit, sabayang pagbigkas, sayaw interpretasyon, katutubong sayaw, musikong di-kumbensiyonal… wala pa dito ang mga palaro sa socsci at mga paligsahan sa English.

    At paano na ang fashion show ng Arts at mga masayang palaro ng PE?

    Sa YMSAT week ang daming ginagawa ng mga 3rd yr at 4th yr sa STR… di ko alam kung pano niyo maiisip na pagsamahin ang dalawang linggong ito , gayung sa humanities week pa lang , nagrereklamo na ang mga bata sa dami ng ginagawa at sina-submit. Isasama pa ang “requirements” ng YMSAT?

  6. good day sir. i am an alumna of batch 2005.

    i disagree with Mr. Gana re: combining the YMSAT and Humanities Week. Mawawalan na ng sense ang parehong events at for sure gugulo lang lalo pag pinagcombine ito kasi busy tayo sa parehong events. mawawala na rin ang tradition sa pisay kapag nangyari to.

    ipopost ko po dito yung pinost kong comment kay Paula Tayo.

    “bakit ba parang competition pa rin ang laban sa pisay throughout the years? kasi matatalino tayo lahat don. at dahil hindi pa rin naman natin fully naiintindihan noon ang definition ng social responsibility, ang way ng thinking natin e hindi pa to develop projects that will improve our nation, pero para makapasa tayo sa requirements at makakuha ng mataas na grades para di madisappoint ang parents… ang utak ng high school students ay hindi pa mature enough para sa hinihingi ni sir. kaya hindi rin natin masisisi ang mga kapwa iskolar natin na sinasacrifice nila ang quarantine for acads.”

    at para sa karagdagan, eto po ang ginawa sa ming UP students na naforced quarantine kahit asymptomatic po ako (nanggaling po kasi akong Malaysia to attend a conference there) — lahat ng namiss e hindi isasama sa pagcompute ng grades. kumbaga ang aalalahanin na lang nila e yung mga lessons na namiss nila para sa exams, na responsibility ng teacher na bigyan yung student ng handouts ng namiss na lessons para makacatch up sila.

  7. Regarding Mr. Gana’s “A curriculum which does not rely on merely submitting requirements and taking tests, but on making the students think and question what they learned (not that it does not do this at all).”

    — ang evaluation neto e magiging subjective at mas mahirap magcheck ng “what did you learn” kasi ang attack ng students dito e pabulaklakan ng sagot. hindi naman natin makikita ang importance ng lahat ng tinuturo sa tin ngayon sa pisay hangga’t hindi pa tayo nakakawala sa totoong mundo. Kapag naapply mo ang natutunan mo dito sa career mo, yun ang totoong “you’ve learned something”. πŸ™‚

  8. Good points, Joanna.

    There is value in both the Humanities Week and the YMSAT Week, either separately or together. However integrating it will require a different set of tools and paradigms on the part of the administration and the teachers. I’m not too sure whether we are there yet, but it is my opinion that it is there we should move towards.

    True, there is a mismatch between the two activities but only as we currently have them. Lately though, I’ve been seeing more and more projects in Biology, for example, that also looks at the social and cultural aspect of the lessons they discuss, for instance biodiversity. Likewise, there is a growing desire in the Humanities to make it more clear what a science education means for citizenship and leadership.

    A common comment among students is that the gap between Humanities and the Sciences is so large. The reality is that it isn’t. I’ve long felt that these big theme weeks are perfect opportunities to demonstrate this point. I hope we get there.

    I would also like to point out something in your comment to Paula. You said, “ang utak ng high school students ay hindi pa mature enough para sa hinihingi ni sir.”

    I refuse to accept that. It simply isn’t true. I’ve seen it.

    Again, we go back to paradigms. Perhaps, taking tests and passing requirements is what students have been trained to do. In some ironic way, it is the most convenient thing to do. But I’m focusing on that less with my classes, and even less with the members of AKSIS. I work with students who want to make a difference NOW. I’ve learned that if I can teach them facts and figures on history, I can teach them skills on how to organize, plan, and execute projects. Year in and year out, I am surprised with the amount of passion and drive I get from my students. All they really need is the opportunity and people telling them that they’re way better than what people are making them out to be.

  9. Hi sir. πŸ™‚ meron po sigurong part ng YMSAT or Humanities na puwedeng maintegrate. kaso for example as in the case of hardcore pure and applied physical sciences like physics, chemistry, math, etc., hindi po ganon kadali para isama po sa purpose ng mga activities nito ang integration of humanities concepts. and somehow matagal na rin naman po naincorporate yung latter, like yung physics diorama or videos or earth sci kite flying contest, or pacreative-an ng research posters and math projects. yung research proposals and projects, opo puwedeng maincorporate ang social responsibility like yung isang project sa batch namin na efficiency ng pagfilter ng lumalabas sa tambutso para sa pag-iwas sa polusyon or something, but since this is a science high school, i think students should be trained to become more of a “scientist that is socially aware” rather than a “social scientist that is scientifically aware”.
    And i think regarding the maturity of the high school students, Yes, bilib po ako sa teaching style niyo kasi you made an impact on your students. However, your teaching style may probably be applicable to the social sciences but not to the sciences na nagrerequire po ng definite na strategy at sagot. yes teachers incorporate projects para maapply po yung knowledge ng students, pero hindi po sapat yun to evaluate if the student really learned the lesson. And the good thing is, you teach the students how to organize plan and execute the projects well + their knowledge in the sciences = better and research projects that may probably have more impact on the society. πŸ™‚

  10. I think the proper role of the Humanities in the PSHS is to help form scientists who are more complete persons, and that includes being socially aware and engaged (among other things). There is no question about that. In addition, there are definitely activities in the natural or ‘hard’ sciences that must do without a ‘social agenda’. There needs to be science for science’s sake if we want to see real, objective progress.

    What I am really just passionate about is finding a way to bridge the two. As a student of the social sciences, that is my agenda. I currently don’t see an institutional paradigm that allows for that to happen, and so until there is I will continue to assert at a different and ‘better’ way of doing things. The spaces of integration which you pointed out is simply not being utilized.

  11. P.S. By the way, there is more than one way to teach the sciences. The one that requires a definite strategy and answer (which you point out) is called ‘objectivist’. The other is ‘constructivist’ which assumes that knowledge is gained and understood from the experiences of a person. (A popular constructivist in Pisay was Ma’am Ciedelle Yu-hico.) In the former, science is the search for truth. In the latter, science is a process by which we understand the world.

  12. Ma’am Simpas and Ms. Joanna have brought up some good points regarding the Humanities and YMSAT integration. Maybe, in the school years to come (not necessarily next year) there can be an event BESIDES the YMSAT and Humanities week that tries to BRIDGE the “gap” between the sciences and the humanities (maybe in between the Humanities week and the YMSAT). Of course, this shouldn’t be hectic on the students (or at least TOO hectic). πŸ™‚

  13. di ko po naging teacher si Ma’am Yu-hico kaya hindi ko po alam na may constructivist na teacher po sa pisay. πŸ˜€

    I had a good conversation with you Sir Martin. And I am looking forward to the day when the bridge between YMSAT and Humanities week is already built. πŸ™‚

  14. Nice exchange too, Joanna. πŸ™‚ There are actually more constructivists than you may think. Just at varying degrees and with different priorities at the moment.

  15. I strongly believe that the gap between the the Humanities and the Science is small. We now live in a world full of information. Everyday, we get so much of it everyday through various forms of media, especially the internet. But all of these have no significance if we do not use them, if we don’t no how to relate the pieces of information we have and do something for the betterment of the world. That is the problem now. We do not see the links between the info we have. If we cannot integrate, we do not maximize the potential of what we have. Nasasayang.

    So back to what I’m trying to say. Life is not compartmentalized. We do not address problems by just consulting just a specific discipline of the humanities or the sciences. We don’t consider problems – whether political, economic, social, moral – to be solved just by Mathematics, or Engineering, or Psychology, or Economics. Science makes us think, while the Humanities make us feel. We are not mere textbooks nor calculators. We are humans who think, feel, and have the power to choose. We have so much information that we can and must use so that we arrive at better decisions for the welfare of humanity.

    So I think, the faculty and the student body must work together to find that link between the Sciences and Humanities. Maybe we can vaguely see it. What we need to do is establish that link and share it to the people so that we can make sense and appreciate all of these things we have been doing for years already.

    So ayun. I think integrating the Humanities and YMSAT weeks is possible. Mahirap nga lang and maraming activities mawawala. Di pa tayo sanay. I hope someday we’ll get used to it. πŸ˜€

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