DLSU research links poor studies to bullying, youth alienation
MANILA, Philippines — Efforts to improve the quality of education in the country must go beyond improving the curriculum and ensuring enough resources and be focused instead on what’s happening on the school grounds, according to the findings of a psychology professor at De La Salle University (DLSU) and his team.
Citing their study which took a deeper look into the 2018 data of the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa), DLSU professor Allan Bernardo said they learned, for one thing, that poor readers tend to be more exposed to bullying, which aggravated their sense of alienation—and undermined further their learning.
In a webinar organized by the Private Education Assistance Committee on Wednesday, he cited that experience as a recurring factor among students who did poorly in the 2018 Pisa.
The global assessment by the intergovernmental group Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development prompted interest and concern in the Philippines — which joined that evaluation in 2018—after the country scored second lowest in math and science and lowest in reading.
The country still participated in Pisa’s 2022 assessment, which is due to be released in December.
“If we want to improve the quality of education, let’s look at what’s happening with the poorest performing students. Often, they’re the ones who are ignored,” said Bernardo, who also teaches at the National Academy of Science and Technology of the Department of Science and Technology and is a fellow of The World Academy of Sciences.
In analyzing the students who had poor reading performances, his group — which included data scientists and math, science and English teachers—found that they had a tendency to “disengage” from classroom activities after experiencing discrimination and bullying.
Department of Education spokesperson Michael Poa said that since launching its antichild abuse hotline in November last year, the agency has so far received 78 complaints, many of them from students who claimed being bullied by classmates.
“[But] we are still verifying this because we cannot just take the complaints on their face,” Poa said.
The research by Bernardo’s group also cited discouraging feedback from teachers as another factor that contributed to the students’ poor performance in Pisa. This has led to some of them regarding themselves as “bad readers.” Others said they did not enjoy reading—not even fiction, for enjoyment.
These conditions are “a stressful pedagogical experience,” Bernardo said.
“This is an environment full of unenjoyable activity. Not just unenjoyable, the activities in school also threaten their sense of competence. ‘When the teacher makes me talk, I feel worse about myself and then I’ll receive feedback about how incompetent I was,’” he said.
Other factors that affected the performance of students were poor or no access to the internet and, above all, their environment of poverty.
Bernardo said the education system must take into account these conditions.
He said reform efforts that are only focused on developing the curriculum and training teachers would have “very limited impact” on the students if they are physically present but “psychologically, spiritually and socially disengaged.”
He also suggested assessment and instructional strategies that are “less threatening” to learners who are not performing well.
“Let’s look at our classroom environment so there’s more cooperation and less competition,” Bernardo said.
He emphasized, further, the need for schools to foster “high standards and aspirations, [so] students see that they can actually improve their abilities and aim high as well.”