Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for September, 2009

Children’s schoolbags should be lighter

Posted by butalidnl on 16 September 2009

Pampanga Rep. Carmelo Lazatin has filed a bill seeking to limit the size and weight of textbooks schoolchildren need to carry.  This bill, he hopes, would end the practice of small children carrying very heavy bags to school.  The bill calls on the Department of Education to consider the size and weight of books before approving them, and schools to provide lockers to students/pupils so that they could leave books at school instead of bringing them home every time, only to haul them all back to school the next day.

I think Lazatin’s bill will be a good first step in reducing the weight of schoolbags. However, it does not go far enough.  There is a whole system that needs to be changed to really make it light for students.  For example, I know of a case when the school encouraged students to leave their books in lockers at school, only to back down when parents complained that they paid for expensive books, but they don’t get to see them at home.

And it has a lot to do with the practice of doing homework. In the Philippines, teachers regularly give homework to even the youngest children. The children often need to have their books on hand to do this. But why should very young children have homework? In the Netherlands, where I live, children only start having homework at about Grade 6, and not even every day. I don’t think the children here end up being less smart as a result.  Children in the Philippines spend a lot of time in school, why don’t they allot study periods when they could do their reading and  other extra assignments while still at school. That way, their books don’t need to be brought home, and when the children go home they don’t need to think of school.

Perhaps the heavy schoolbags symbolize  how heavy primary education is for the children in the Philippines.  I feel that primary education should be lighter, more fun, designed with the purpose of making children want to learn, want to find out things, want to interact with people.  We don’t need to cram them with facts, but inculcate them with the habit of finding out, seeking facts. And when they are in high school, they can put these to good use to learn the whole range of subjects.
This is not an idealistic idea… it is what my children went through in the Netherlands.  In the elementary school they learn first just reading, writing, and some arithmetic. History, social studies, even English come only in Grade 5, and homework is done only in Grade 6 (in preparation for highschool, when they will have loads of homework).  It can be done.

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Electric cars will dominate road in a few years

Posted by butalidnl on 6 September 2009

There is a lot of talk about electric cars these days, but many people believe that the whole thing would blow away once the oil price goes down, or the crisis is over. Government leaders in the US and elsewhere sound as if they have high expectations of electric cars, especially when it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But, when it comes to concrete policies, or their projections, they are quite modest (realistic?).

Well, I don’t agree with such modesty. I think that the electric car “revolution” will radically change transportation, and make a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Going even further, I would say that by 2020,  up to 80% of new cars sold outside the US would either by hybrid or electric. (the US is generally more wasteful than other countries, so perhaps only 30% would be hybrid or electric there by 2020)

High Oil Price
The price of oil and oil products is bound to go higher in the future. Right now, while we are in the midst of a deep recession, the price of oil is able to maintain itself at more than US$ 70/barrel. While this may be low when it is compared to the US$ 140/barrel it achieved last year, this is still quite high historically. And after the recession is over, the price is sure to go up again, most probably beyond the highs of last year.

With the high price of oil, many people will opt for cars that either use a lot less oil, or even no oil at all. Thus, the choice will go more and more for either hybrids or plug-in electric cars.

Pollution Control
The world is more conscious of global warming, and many countries are taking steps to lessen their greenhouse gas emissions. This will mean stricter rules for CO2 emissions. There would also be more measures taken by cities to reduce other emissions, from other gases to fine particles, and even the level of noise produced.  All these would be good for electric cars, which do not produce these kinds of pollution.  Of course, this would mean that the pollution is transferred to where the power is produced e.g. power plants; but these are either easier to control or are outside the city. At the same time, there should be some increase in alternative energy sources for electricity to partially compensate for the increase in electricity demand.

Technological Breakthroughs
Although there are still technical problems connected with electric cars e.g. the limited range a car can go on a full charge, these are most likely to be solved in the next couple of years.  In addition, competition will drive technical innovations, resulting in cars which are competitively priced and easy to use.  When this happens, why would people choose the old-style internal combustion engine cars when the new electric cars gives a better performance at the same price?

These factors, taken together, would make it almost ridiculous not to by either a hybrid or an electric vehicle by 2020.

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