Shocking PISA bottom ranking a wake up call for Filipinos to uplift education

What is truly shocking about the bottom ranking of the Philippines in the recently-published Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report is that Filipinos are shocked to begin with. It is hardly surprising that Filipinos scored dismally in key areas of basic education given that Philippine society has long been known as one that does not put a premium on intellectual discourse and systematic problem solving.

Released on December 3, 2019, the latest PISA results revealed that the Philippines scored 353 in mathematics, 357 in science, and 340 in reading, all below the average of participating Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries.

This goes far towards explaining why even some of Filipinos’ top “thought leaders” not only shrink away from responding properly to direct challenge to their ideas, they have developed a standard script for dismissing them outright.

These responses to confronting debate have become renowned classics in the Philippines’ national discourse.

Subscribe to our Substack community GRP Insider to receive by email our in-depth free weekly newsletter. Opt into a paid subscription and you'll get premium insider briefs and insights from us.
Subscribe to our Substack newsletter, GRP Insider!
Learn more

Indeed, some arguments are dismissed simply because the bearer of the argument chooses English to articulate herself. The term “nosebleed” is often used by Filipino “intellectuals” of the makabayan (nationalist) mold to say that they cannot be bothered to comprehend what an English speaker is saying.

Perhaps it is because Filipinos fancy themselves as an “emotional” people and, their language, an emotional one. However, in an age where algorithms routinely monitor and analyse the emotional pulse of the public and, out of that, customise messaging to exploit identified patterns and trends, it has become more important to develop intellectual skills and tools to get on top of our predisposition towards easy emotional response to stimuli.

We have to decide whether we want to continue thinking with our emotions, or not. Singapore [a country that tops the PISA list this year] had long ago decided. They had Malay, but they chose English because Malay is inefficient with its long, repetitive words. As [Teddy] Locsin rightly observes, it is circular. They even could have opted for Chinese, but chose English. They would have been okay with Chinese, as Chinese, even if it is just a sound-based language, is a very intellectual language in written form; the reason why Koreans and Japanese had to find a way to simplify the Chinese characters.

It doesn’t help that influential people like Rappler CEO Maria Ressa don’t serve as good role models to Filipinos in the manner with which they conduct themselves when confronted with challenges to their hallowed ideas. Ressa has been on a years-long crusade telling anyone who would listen how she and the Philippines’ journalism profession are “under attack”. She summarily labels anyone who is not on her side as “trolls”.

But who is she to decide who are trolls and who aren’t? Did some sort of God of the Internet descend from the Cloud to bestow a crown on her pointed head and dub her She Who Knows all Trolls and Non Trolls? It is disturbing that, rather than educate people, characters like Ressa would rather denigrate them.

St Scholastica students in a protest rally call President Duterte a ‘dictator’ simply because they were told so.

To be fair, there is a lot to be said about the amount of resources and the quality of these applied by the government to the uplift of academic excellence in the Philippines. However, as the examples above show, there is a chicken-and-egg situation underlying all this. Perhaps the reason investment in modern approaches to education suffers such a low priority in the Philippines is because the values ingrained in the character of its society itself do not lend well to any aspiration to excel intellectually.

Filipinos need to be encouraged to think, understand, and ask the right questions rather than merely defer to credentials and perceived status for guidance. Part of the journey we need to take is to excel in the intellectual fields essential to problem solving: math, science, and reading comprehension. However such a journey starts with ingraining the right values to develop a culture where an ethic of excellence in modern thinking can thrive. Teach Filipinos how to think and not merely what to think.

19 Replies to “Shocking PISA bottom ranking a wake up call for Filipinos to uplift education”

  1. Education in the Philippines isn’t challenging enough. You’re just told to get good grades so you can get a decent paying job, and that’s it. What do you get out of all that hollowness?

  2. Those nuns & staff of St. Scholastica College are doing the wrong way to make those poor kids to become an idiotic & undisciplined Filipinos. That’s not good for our country & this is another reason why our education here are on a decline brought about politics within the schools/universities and the other one are corruption, Filipino kids are too addicted on video games & social media, lack of parental guidance to their children, etc. If I were a dean or the president of that university, I would prohibit the exercise of their right to do any political activism & expressions & instead focus more on higher quality of education & using discipline as their top priority of that university. If they think that using discipline on their university will hamper or harm their freedom? Think again!!! It is actually being a disciplined students & teachers can make them FREE!!! Lack of discipline or being an ignorant can make them a slave of their own!!! So this is the REAL truth about discipline! Don’t you believe on what I just said? Well then, watch this video on why DISCIPLINE could make you FREE as what this blogger/retired US Navy SEAL officer by the name of Jocko Willink in which I’d also posted that video from a previous article here on GRP on so what if our country is “less democratic” under Pres. Duterte, and I’ll gonna post it here again on a video link & great review to everyone:

    And I’m not done yet, I would also like to add on what if I’ll be the next dean/president of St. Scholastica College & this should also apply to our schools & universities in order to increase the quality of education in our country & to become more discipline to our students/children and that is they should become a janitors & clean their schools/universities after their classes just like these Japanese students who are doing it to their schools & no wonder why the Japanese are very disciplined & their education are very world class & highly developed in spite that their country is a non-English nation unlike ours & this is also another moral lessons to our country:

  3. This is the result of the Aquino era of Indoctrination of the next generation. They put textbooks, to be studied in schools and universities; glorifying themselves, as heroes and saints. They put the False Narrative of EDSA coup d’ etat, as Aquino EDSA revolution…Indoctrination has produced a generation of “Semi Robot Generation” of Filipinos; incapable of thinking for themselves; and learning nothing, but political activism, glorification of our dumb, corrupt, and stupid politicians; and most of our crooked leaders, as role models…

    Can you see that dumb and stupid woman, Lugaw Robredo, the fake Vice President, who cheated the 2016 VP election, with the help of the crook, Andres Bautista, is the “Poster Woman” of virtue and intelligence…this woman took her Law Bar Exam three times…did not even practiced as a lawyer. Because she is so dumb and stupid. Pnoy Aquino is mentally retarded , lazy, suffering from depression, and dumb. These people are what this generation of Filipinos are looking as the “role models”…

    Science, Math and good reasoning, are not emphasized in our school curriculum…other good and important subjects are not taught, but are set aside.

    So, we are now at the bottom list of the PISA test…

    Unless, we discard all those stupid EDSA Aquino indoctrination tools; we will remain at the bottom of the PISA test list !

  4. While top universities around the world are competing who gets to be the best in various intellectual fields. Philippine universities especially the ones in Metro Manila are just competing who wins a basketball tournament, an illegal drag race, or just pathetically competing who has the more expensive tuition fee

    1. Fucking hell. In an article addressing the intellectual bankruptcy of Filipino culture this is what you have to say.

    2. Oh yeah, that big line of online schools that cater to teaching Tagalog to all those paying customers around the world is quite long.

      1. English is the language of business
      2. French is the language of love
      3. Spanish is the language to talk to God.
      4. Tagalog is what is spoken in our noontime talk shows.

      1. may I add to your reply @Gogs? You’d missed one of these:

        5. Korean is the language of pop cultures & dramas.
        6. Japanese is the language of anime & video games.
        7. German is the language of innovation & enginuity.
        8. Greek is the language of philosophy & logic.

  5. All those anti-English commenters don’t get the point. As I said before, the information you need to understand and fulfill the requirements of a higher responsibility or function in most companies are in English. It’s still the international language for information, media and education. Anti-English sentiments will only bring us back to the stone age.

    Another problem is the cultural attitude of palamunin. Many Filipinos will push others to be the workers and to get high grades, leading to higher positions and all that, because they want to mooch on these people they push. Even if it’s parents pushing children, it’s still an abusive practice. As usual, it’s the palamunin attitude that brings our country down.

    1. I think ChinoF don’t get the point either and has misread those who don’t get along with GRP’s idea and advocacy of near to almost full abandonment of the Filipino language, as an anti-English sentiment. When there are those who believe we ought to embrace Filipino together with English, it is not being sentimental. Filipinos who care ought to commit their share for its enrichment.

      GRP’s advocacy of virtual abandonment is an idea of espousing escapism of their claimed intellectuality and identity.

      With the so called problem of cultural attitude of palamunin, neither ChinoF, the webmaster nor all the GRP tambays can also claim of exceptions, having relied heavily from the parents in their formative years (you can always deny if you didn’t!), thus, giving them the virtual edge over others in the process.

      While after having spent this life of privilege courtesy of the elders (while others who haven’t’ pictured as the low-life and bad), then, as now, habitually creating this dubious and wild perception, in support of a theory, just to get a message across, without mentioning the comparative edge, that they’ve already gotten their ticket to ride, it becomes not only irreverently impolite but lewdly attempting to impress, seeking and affecting greater importance to oneself.

      1. The human brain/mind is capable of handling and mastering multiple languages; it’s just that we need to know when and when NOT to use a certain language depending on the situation/application. A good example would be Rizal who being a polygot had the wisdom to use Spanish to write his novels. English is the language for science, technical debates, and international exchange, while Tagalog is the language for harana, poetry and happy hours. They each have their place. It’s really not an “either-or” issue, but a question of how/when to make the most of each.

        We use an axe to cut trees and a bolo/itak to open coconuts. There’s a reason one tool is better suited over another for a given application. Language is just a tool, and the English “double-edged sword” happens to be the wider blade / more sophisticated one best suited for education and precise articulation. Just try translating “Intrinsic properties of superconducting nanowire single-photon detectors” or “Mechanistic Link Between Olfaction and Autism Spectrum Disorder” into our everyday noon-time show language, and you’ll likely understand the point.

        Note: José Rizal (1861–1896) was a Filipino nationalist, writer and revolutionary. He was able to speak twenty-two languages including Spanish, French, Latin, Greek, German, Portuguese, Italian, English, Dutch, and Japanese. Rizal also made translations from Arabic, Swedish, Russian, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew and Sanskrit. He translated the poetry of Schiller into his native Tagalog. In addition, he had at least some knowledge of Malay, and some other Philippine languages like Chavacano, Cebuano, Ilocano, and Subanon.

  6. “Filipino professionals whom we recruited to work in Singapore are as good as our own. Indeed, their architects, artists and musicians are more artistic and creative than ours,” and this is what former Singaporean prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew what he thought about the Filipino professionals who’d worked in Singapore but unfortunately those Filipino professionals are victims of the so-called “brain drain” in our country, instead of working here & help them to our fellow Filipinos to become a better & progressive people in order to make our country to become a great nation, they just want to abandon our country & let their geniuses/knowledge go to other countries in order to develop there while the Philippines are continue to become the “Sick Man of Asia.” So where’s the progress & intelligence now? 🙁

  7. Not only most Filipinos are poor in the major subjects but also a lot are rude. Undisiplined in a way that especially in streets, people would not cross the pedestrian bridges or lines but instead cross in the wrong path. What’s worse is that they would rush in front of the car, thinking that guy should be given way first. That’s one example and I’m pretty sure there are alot more. But going beyond this PISA, I also conclude that despite most Southeast Asian nations fare better than Philippines generally, most nations especially in Asia, Africa Middle East, etc. suck anyway especially in the eyes of the White supremacist side of the West and America. Why? Its because first of all, its the West who taught us education. Its a matter of cultural, technological and educational(or intellectual) transfer from them to the rest of the world. No doubt the White race is the most advanced and superior. Racist White Americans might be partially valid with this one. What about the fact that China has the most number of inventions and that is something we have to realize. And yet here we are, Philippines. Still alot of of bad things happening here especially amongst typical ethnic Filipinos whether they be Tagalog, Visaya, Muslim, etc. Corruption, betrayal, abuse of power, crab mentality, crime, porn wanabbees, etc.

    1. I also like to add that given the small stature of an average Filipno, I will strongly doubt if he could stand against a tall white American. And given the fact that America has the strongest military, largest number of guns and that all Americans are able to use a variety of firearms, I’m pretty sure that the West is still the most superior in this world. Not only most Filipinos are poor in Math, Science and Reading but also not good in using firearms because afterall, current Philippine constitution sucks. We currently have gun laws that doesn’t allow us to use extensive guns for self defense. But only a pistol. In the States, they can use as many guns for defending themselves. Also, I don’t have any idea whether most Filipinos use martial arts or not. This makes Philippines a very weak nation to the others and even to the country’s criminals, landlords and rebels.

      But a logical truth is that even if you are a smartass that you’re outstanding in math, science, etc. but you’re just small, skinny and not good in fighting , you still can’t get a chance against a stronger guy in general. America has everything, Filipinos. Hehehehe. Allahuakbar 🙂

  8. i saw a clip of jack ma in youtube (its a conference i think). He said that not all people are good in academics. nations should consider investing on people weather they are good in academics or not.
    i agree with jack ma on this one. though still i believe education and critical thinking is important.

    theres a lot of skill which doesnt fall in academics. leave PISA to people who are good in it.

  9. I think a lot of Filipino education issues is that it copies several of educational mistakes from a lot of colonial mentality on copying American education systems. Only, even with all the comments on how American education systems work to reduce critical thinking and creativity (Such as Ken Robinson’s Ted Talks or the Teachthought blog that lists practical ways on how to teach students these undervalued skills), somehow Filipinos discover a way to make this even worse.

    The constant anti-intellectual attitudes of Americans emphasizing athletes to an unfair advantage gets transferred to Filipinos, that is why I’m sure that part of fixing Filipino education is understanding its American influences by also studying American education critics. Seth Godin shared a free PDF called, “Stop Stealing Dreams,” of 98 pages, which I’m sure would be “too long” for a lot of ignorant and lazy Filipinos, but I think the ebook and its recommendation list would be of use to all of you at GRP. (

    Thank you for reading.

  10. I refuse to send my children to Philippine schools. I certainly don’t want them to be forced thru Filipino studies, ie nationalist brain washing. It was clear to me in the kindergarten level that nothing was being taught.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.