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Changing Landscape of Mathematics Education in the Philippines: Lessons from Globalization

Author: Maria Linda C. Cabillan Professor, Mathematics Department, Saint Louis University Baguio City, Philippines mcabillan@slu.edu.ph Telephone number: +63910-7056-117 Abstract: Globalization is extensively affecting the education sector and the mathematics departments of universities are not exempt from its effects. Changes are taking place and this study aims to present the changes that are taking place in the mathematics departments of universities in the Philippines due to globalization. The study employed a case-type qualitative research design. Four top universities of the Philippines were included in the study. These universities are considered as Centers of Excellence (COE) in Mathematics by the Philippines Commission on Higher Education (CHED). The study considers the area of instructional design, faculty and research. With the issue of the pervasiveness of globalization, the question now is how far reaching is globalization in mathematics education and why such extent of influence.

Keywords: Mathematics education, globalization, technology, mathematics faculty, mathematics research

Changing Landscape of Mathematics Education in the Philippines: Lessons from Globalization


INTRODUCTION Globalization had been defined in many ways. It had been defined as any reform or structure that transcends national borders (Astiz, 2002), described as a heightened tendency towards interactions and interdependencies (Sirat, 2006), and considered as a complex process of creating worldwide networks (Tullao, 2003). Within such definitions is the idea of breaking down borders and increased collaboration in many areas among nations. Globalization in the 21st century is reaching almost all countries few places can elude contemporary trends, and innovations and practices seem to spread even faster due to modern technology (Altbach, 2004). The education sector is not exempt from the impact of globalization. It is no wonder then, that universities and their prospective students are attentive, at the least, and vigilant of the universitys global ranking. Newsweek in its 2006 issue released the global ranking of universities worldwide. The criteria came from two sources: Shanghai Jiaotong University and the Times of London Higher Education Survey and the indicators included the number of highly-cited researchers in various academic fields, the number of articles published in Nature and Science, and the number of articles listed in the ISI Social Sciences and Arts & Humanities indices, percentage of international faculty, the percentage of international students, citations per faculty member, the ratio of faculty to students, and number of volumes of library holdings. This and other university rankings are often criticized but they are getting the attention of universities and are mobilizing them to do something to be part of the elite list. Ten years ago, The World Congress on Higher Education took place in Manila and the following thoughts were shared: (1) Technology has changed the requirements for education and training, the nature, reach and mode of educational delivery, paving the way for the establishment of borderless schools (page 3); (2) Teachers would have to rethink the way in which instruction can be delivered, including the selection of the right kind of technology, prescription of the contents of education, and definition of the outcomes desired (page 4); (3) Global higher education will be strongly influenced by the advancements in information technology (page 35). Changes are imminent then and are very evident now. Lin asserts that though the fundamental need for education never disappears, the exact goals of education vary with time and circumstance. A countrys educational system is therefore subject to continuous transformation in order to adapt to these changes. As the countries and citizens of Asia begin to embrace the knowledge economy, they must also recognize the multitude of challenges posed by the changing nature of education in the 21st century in order to implement effective solutions. She further stresses that Asian countries are at varying stages of educational development, ranging from the still-developing systems such as that of China, India, and the Philippines, to the more sophisticated systems of Japan and Singapore (2001). These thoughts can now be reviewed in the light of the present status of the higher educational institutions specifically in the mathematics departments of such institutions. Mathematics had always played a key role in the university training of the young, the

future movers of the world. And as society continues to live in the era of globalization, changes have to be made and adopted in the mathematical communities. Ebeid has asserted a necessity of addressing the need to shift the culture of mathematics teaching and learning to suit the features of globalization (2004). The International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI) has made a comparative study of East Asia and the West with regards to mathematics education in different cultural traditions. The study was confined to school age children and their scope covered a wide variety of areas ranging from social and economic contexts to curricula, teachers, students, methodology and media. ICMI voices the sentiment that today we are observing a growing interdependence between environments like regions, states, countries, and different cultural areas of the world. In many respects, they have to rely on corresponding or equivalent standards of education (ICMI, 2004). Purpose and Significance of the Study Mathematics and science are important components of the school curriculum in every country. They are seen as integral components of every students educational program. As the role and impact of technology continue to increase in society and in the workplace, the concepts, processes, and skills of science and mathematics are likely to become even more highly valued and the importance of these subjects in school curricula to become even greater (TIMSS, 1993). Never has the statement of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study more true today than it is ten years ago. Thus, this study may serve as a guide and/or reference for the other mathematical academic communities as they try to make changes in the area of (a) instructional design, (b) faculty, (c) research to be as competitive globally in the academic training of the youth. These three aspects can not be denied to be major factors in breaking down borders and increased collaboration as globalization asserts. Instructional Design: Mathematics instruction in the universities is adapting globalized instructional designs. With technology, especially the internet reaching almost every nook and cranny of the world, this can not be difficult to adopt. Miskulin of Campinas State University made an observation when she wrote in her paper that the Internet can be part of the solution to enhance Mathematics teaching in a student-centered learning environment (2002).Alsina has asserted in her paper that the classical way to deliver lectures needs to be changed, stopping the talk and chalk method, stopping the use of an old textbook and offering a very lively guiding program, based upon various information sources, with revised teaching notes and opening new windows to appreciate the context of the students and their creativity as individuals and as a group (2002). Classroom technology options have expanded from the once innovative graphing calculators and data-collection devices to include more all-inclusive software packages, graphics, video clips, digital images, and more. With advanced technology, these propositions are not impossible nor are they difficult to implement. Advances include the following instructional materials, to name a few: interactive whiteboard, use of blogs in online college classes, pod casting, Computer-Based Instruction (CBI), multimedia

presentations, secondary classroom web sites, webcasts, mobile technology and the concept of m-learning, tablet PCs, online interaction. Faculty: The math educator, as a professional, is not exempt from the effect of globalization. Atweh and Clarkson have asserted that there is an increase in international activities of educators due to globalization. The technological advancements and the ease in travels nowadays have led to increased international activity and globalization of ideas. Mathematics educators have indicated their reliance on the Internet to keep in touch with some international publications and the few conferences that they are able to attend. (2001) Mathematics educators have shown a strong awareness of the internationalization of their discipline. The rapid growth during the past century of a number of regional and international conferences around the world, in addition to a number of high profile journals of research, has increased the exchange of ideas between educators from different regions of the world. (Atweh, Clarkson, 2002) Research: Knowledge production is one area where globalization most affects higher education. Global flows of information and data seem to be an inherent feature of the emerging knowledge economy, and knowledge travels even more effortlessly than money. Globalization is absorbing universities into a distributed knowledge production system, involving universities in many more alliances and partnerships as they seek to acquire specialized and up-to-date knowledge. (King, 2004). Moreover, King has asserted that distributed knowledge production is creating a world of collaborative arrangements. It is the need to possess specialized knowledge of all kinds that lies behind the current growth of networks and the proliferation of research and development partnerships and alliances. The general objective of this qualitative research then is to look into the changes made by mathematics departments of selected universities in the Philippines. The study investigates the issue of the pervasiveness of globalization, and anticipates to answer the question of how far reaching the influence of globalization is in mathematics education and determine the reasons for such extent of influence. Specifically, the study seeks to answer the questions: (1) How far has the department changed in the area of instructional design, faculty, and research in response to globalization? and (2) Why such extent of change? Methodology The study employed a case-type qualitative research design. It investigated the response of some members of the faculty of the mathematics department of selected universities to questions and issues regarding the pervasiveness of globalization. Four top universities of the Philippines were included in the study. These universities are considered as Centers of Excellence (COE) in Mathematics by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) of the Philippines.

The study examined the following areas of concern: (a) instructional design, (b) faculty, (c) research. Data were gathered from key persons of the department; key persons included the former and present heads of the mathematics department of the universities considered. A semi-structured interview was adapted which was taperecorded and later transcribed. Additional information was sought from the regular administrative reports of the departments.

Findings INSTRUCTIONAL DESIGN Mina (2004) has given the following as two of the most important growing trends in mathematics education: a gradual decrease of the use of the traditional formal teaching of mathematics and the use of technology, to some extent, in the learning/teaching processes. Young wrote that there is a high level of expectation in information technology playing a major role in manifesting changes with respect to teaching and learning of mathematics. Despite these comments, the four departments studied have shown a very low level of use of technology in the classrooms. The assertions of Taylor (1999), Kadijevich (2002), Yushau (2006) seem to be strengthened by these findings. These authors have asserted that education is very gradual in its adoption of changes and despite the presence of technology within their reach, they are rarely used. Yushau found out that mathematics professors perceive computers as a positive tool that can enhance the teaching and learning process but putting such perception into practice tells a different story. Though the results are the same, the reasons are surprisingly very different. Yushaus paper (quoting Kadijevich also) gave the following for the low level use of technology in the classrooms: (a) not enough knowledge and skills related to what and how these tools can be used, (b) lack of time, (c) tight schedules, (d) too much material to be covered, (e) rigid syllabus to be followed. Despite these observations and findings from other sources, the departments under study gave the same view and reasoning which are quite different. It can be summed up by the comment of one former department head. She said that the purpose of teaching mathematics is not just to impart knowledge but to develop several skills like pattern recognition, data observation, problem solving skills, analytical skills. Some of these are easier and more effectively taught using technology (computers and graphic calculators). However, there are still skills that are better developed with the chalkand- talk method, for instance writing proofs, manipulating algebraic expressions, analyzing the syntax of mathematical language, and investigating abstract concepts and spaces in higher mathematics. This is the same contention with the other departments. They do not entirely disregard the use of technology in teaching their mathematics subjects but they assert that one can not do away with the chalk and talk. The departments maintain that mathematics, due to its nature, is highly analytical and such skill is taught with the chalk and talk method. What is commonly used by the departments is the LCD but is not extensive. One department has started a pilot project of holding large class sizes holding approximately 160 students per class. Here the LCD is extensively used but still alongside the chalk and

the board. One head commented that the chalk and talk method can not be done away with completely though new technology really helps. Based on this result, Taylors statement: ...skepticism abounds whether education systems will be able to overcome their traditional inertia and respond to the challenge of the knowledge-based revolution (1999) could be right. The result of the study does not show otherwise. The use of Yahoo Groups, though not a departmental practice, is used by some of the faculty members in the four departments. It is used for submission of assignments, for posting announcements of the faculty and where files of lecture presentations are uploaded. Also, links to other sites are given so that the students can have additional reference materials. Exercises and sample exams are also uploaded. The faculty gets feedback on the course and other issues related to the subject under discussion by forming polls. FACULTY While many faculty members of universities prefer to stay in their comfort zone and be satisfied with teaching or studying within their university or in a university nearest theirs, the departments in the study have always been outward-looking. This is evidenced by their pioneering efforts and initiatives in studying abroad for mathematics faculty. These departments are the ones who produced the first PhDs in Mathematics in the Philippines. This practice and mindset of outward-looking continues until now. This is in keeping with one of Newsweeks global ranking criteria which are openness and diversity. With the outward-looking attitude, the departments are in keeping with the universities vying for recognition for the top ranks. There are more faculty members now going abroad for further studies as well as trainings, seminars, and conferences. The administration of the different universities is a major player in the changes in this area. A former president of one of the universities, with his commitment for academic excellence, has provided the institutionalization of more incentives for research and creative achievements. This has given the push to the faculty to go for trainings, conferences abroad. Around 5 to 10 people in the department in a school year are sent to present within the region (Southeast and East Asia). For within-the-country conferences, about 20 to 25 are fully funded to present their results. Aside from the administration, other factors include the travel grants given to these departments as a result of their being COEs and the ease in establishing contacts with contemporaries from schools abroad. For the departments under study, there is a collective average of 5 faculty going abroad for conferences and trainings out of an average of 38 faculty. Many of these faculty presented papers coming from their researches. Hosting international conferences has been easy for the faculty also because of the same reason. The different departments have hosted several international conferences in the last 5 years like 5th Sino-Philippine Symposium in Mathematics (2003), CIMPA-

UNESCO Philippines School on Pseudo-Random Sequences (2005), MATHTED 2007: An International Conference in Mathematics Education (2007), Conference on Algebra (2002), CIMPA-IMAMIS-Philippines School on Numerical Methods for Partial Differential Equations (2007). There is the existing link with foreign professors where some of whom come for visits and give lectures, workshops to faculty and students for a certain period of time. One department had at least one visiting professor in a school year. Local university collaboration also exists where foreign professors visiting one university are also given the chance to visit the other universities and give their lectures there. It is some sort of a friendly competition commented one of the former department heads. Membership in international organizations, though quite an expensive endeavor, has gotten the attention of some of the faculty members in the departments seeing the need to establish contacts outside and hearing the views coming from the outside world. RESEARCH There is no doubt that the discipline that has been global ever since is mathematics. There are no linguistic or political boundaries in mathematics basically because of its abstract nature and universality. The number of papers co-authored by mathematicians from different nations rose about 50 % between 1981 and 1993. And so mathematicians are well adapted to the current trend toward a world of vanishing borders. (Griffiths, 2000). The Philippine scenario is no different as seen from the departments considered in the study. The incentives and support from the administration and CHED has given the departments the push needed to go into research regularly. There is also the external support coming from places abroad like Australia, Japan, Singapore. And the research done is not limited to individual researches or team researches within their departments. There is increased collaboration with mathematics professors abroad. This started when a faculty member goes abroad to study and gets a foreign adviser for his thesis or dissertation. When the faculty comes back in the department with a link with the foreign university already established, research collaboration is started and continues until now. It is in this area where computer technology plays a vital role for the math faculty of the departments. Though computer technology failed as a major part in the change in instructional design, it has become a major part of research in the departments. All the faculty members in the departments are given an unlimited account for the use of the internet which includes wireless access. Also, the different departments are subscribing yearly to the online databases like JSTOR, EBSCO, Ovid Online, and ProQuest. There is an intensive use of the internet particularly the e-mail due to research collaborations with their counterparts abroad. This is where Yushaus comment rings true as he states that increase in computer use is rapid and more than other fields, mathematics as a subject is thought to have benefited and established a stronger intrinsic link with the development of computers in recent times(2006). The Internet had made mathematics educators more connected than before. The voluminous resources on the Internet made access to

resources and people much easier and more affordable to mathematics educators around the world. (Atweh, 2002). Changes are taking place in the nature of Mathematics offered in the different universities. One department has commented that the introduction of the new course, Applied Math major in Finance, forms a new direction for research for the faculty. Another department has increased its research output due to the developments in computing that happened in the mathematical communities of the world. The development made mathematics more applicable in the other sciences like biology and the marine sciences and thus has expanded its area of research. Another department has increased in research output in the past 5 years due to the conditions for promotion which is based on productivity in research. This is based on the contention that a university faculty has the task of not just imparting knowledge but creating knowledge as well, thus research plays a major factor in promotion. Discussion In some researches, the low level use of computers, of technology in teaching has given reasons like not enough knowledge and skills related to what and how it can be achieved by using these tools (Manoucherhri, 1999), teacher perception of the computer as an efficacy of the change, lack of curricular imperative for this (Heywood & Norman, 1988). An interesting reason has come up in this research as shown in the discussion above. Mathematics professors do not see the computer as an important tool or an aid in developing the much needed skills that must be developed by a university mathematics student. Though there is a very low accommodation on the use of computers which is a strong evidence of globalization when it comes to instructional design, the different departments still maintain the attitude of the need to be global. One department head commented the following: There is a need to connect, need to globalize else the graduates will not be prepared for the practices and norms abroad. In line with this, the department and the university as a whole is benchmarking with universities abroad. Another stated that there is a need to go global to be able to cope with the recent trends in mathematics education. One comes at a losing end, becoming obsolete if one does not globalize. As commented by Mina (2004), globalization has its set backs and one of which is polarization. One department head made the following statement regarding polarization: Polarization is very evident in the school. The expensive cost of education in the university assures one of good facilities and well trained and equipped faculty which only a few can afford. This is coming from a faculty teaching in one of the most expensive universities in the country. One department head gave this comment about the research situation in the Philippine universities: Faculty who came from studying abroad observe that the

Philippines is not far behind in capability. The Philippines just lacks the culture of mathematics in the university. Unlike in the universities abroad, the faculty members are very enthusiastic in attending seminars, with no push needed. Also in one country, the mathematics educators have mathematics embedded in their lifestyle, discussing mathematics even while they eat. Here in the Philippines, research in mathematics is just for the school and leave it there when they go home.

Challenges and Conclusion There are a lot of challenges that one can pose coming from the results of this research. One is the challenge for the technology-based instruction enthusiasts who think that we are moving towards blackboard-less classrooms. It is the challenge of how to deliver mathematics using technology without compromising its objective of developing the listed skills which the faculty have asserted can be taught best with the chalk and talk method. The second challenge is how to be global without being polarized. In a third world country as the Philippines, the problem of connecting is an expensive endeavor despite the fact that technology is getting cheaper rapidly and financing faculty members going abroad is no small thing in a universitys budget. The third challenge is the creation of a research culture in the Philippine mathematics departments. This takes time but with the onset of globalization and its accompanying effects like increased and ease in collaboration as well as access to thousands of researches by the touch of the finger, this task is much easier done now than perhaps twenty years ago. All in all, the great challenge for the Philippine universities and the other universities aiming to be at par with the global universities is the challenge of change in instructional design, in faculty, in research. For only in change can we keep abreast with this thing they call globalization. This study attempted to describe the present scenario of the Mathematics Departments of four universities in the Philippines in the light of globalization and its effects on the education sector. With the still-developing system of education as asserted by Lin, the Philippines can not be considered as lacking in her efforts to change due to globalization as can be seen from the results coming from the top universities. These findings are limited to the mathematics departments of the different Philippine universities. It does not generalize and does not imply that the findings are the scenario for all mathematics departments in the universities of the Philippines. A more extensive study must be done to make generalizations.

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