Saturday, March 29, 2008

Clarification On the Issue "The Value Of A Pisay Diploma"

Yesterday morning (3/29/08 at 6:00 a.m.) I read the blog entry of Ms. Ma. Cristina “Tina” Bargo, a faculty member of the Mathematics Department of the University of the Philippines-Diliman and an alumna of the Philippine Science High School Main Campus (in Diliman, Quezon City). Tina belongs to the PSHS Class of 1999. She finished her B.S. Mathematics (summa cum laude) from U.P. Diliman in 2003 and taught mathematics in PSHS Diliman (or Pisay) after she graduated from college. I was still the campus director of PSHS Diliman during the time that Tina first taught in Pisay. (Note: I am also a PSHS alumnus, from the PSHS Class of 1977).

The title of Tina’s blog entry is “The Value of a Pisay Diploma.” I am reproducing Tina’s article in this blog ( )


I am speaking as a Pisay alumna, as a former Pisay faculty member and as a UP instructor.

Getting in Pisay is a privilege. You are not paying for your education, in fact you are getting paid to study. As a student, I've worked hard to earn that Pisay diploma. Graduating from Pisay means that you have passed the standards set by the school.

I find it unacceptable that someone could earn that diploma even if he got a grade of 5.0.

The grades are based on several components: homeworksand seatworks, quizzes, long exams, classparticipation and periodic exams. This measures boththe intellectual capacity and the diligence of the student. Even if you get low scores in the exams, you get a chance to redeem yourself in homeworks and class participation.

Getting a grade of 4.0 or 5.0 means that your performance is bad in all of these components. If you obtained a grade of 4.0, you get one last chance to redeem yourself through the removal exam. This will determine whether you learned enough concepts to pass the subject or not. If you pass, then you get a grade of 3.0. Otherwise, you get a grade of 5.0.

Allowing a child to graduate even if he got a grade of 5.0 implies that the child did not deserve to flunk.You've got to be kidding. There are four different levels of failing marks: 2.75, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0. If a student got a failing mark on a particular subject, hei s required to take remedial classes throughout the entire year to help them improve their grades. Getting a grade of 4.0 or 5.0 in spite of this means thateither you really did not learn anything from the subject, or you did not exert any effort at all.

Allowing a child to get a Pisay diploma even if he got a grade of 5.0 is being unfair to the other Pisay graduates. They did their part to get the Pisay diploma, and yet another person could get it even i fhe did not meet the standards. Why bother with the standards in the first place? This makes the Pisay diploma practically worthless, because anyone couldget it. Not to mention that this will also be unfairto the former Pisay students who did not get a Pisay diploma because of a grade of 5.0.When you get out of Pisay, other people will not carewhether you passed or failed in your subjects duringhigh school. Your Pisay diploma says it all, and otherpeople will naturally expect something from a Pisay graduate.

At present, my colleagues would often complain that a lot of Pisay graduates are not performing well in their math courses. In fact, I've flunked a few Pisay graduates myself. Is this the image that we want to project? If you could still get that Pisay diploma even if you get a grade of 5.0, what then is the value of a Pisay diploma?

After reading Tina’s article, I wrote a comment in her blog asking for more information about the issue.

As expected Tina’s blog entry received a lot of comments and reactions from fellow PSHS alumni.

As a concerned PSHS alumnus and an officer of the PSHS National Alumni Association and the PSHS Alumni Association I sought to get as much information as I could before making a stand on this issue. I sent an e-mail yesterday to Dr. Cielito “Ciel” Habito who is the Chairman of the PSHS NAA. Ciel represents the PSHS alumni in the PSHS Board of Trustees (BOT). I also sent an e-mail (via our batch e-group) to Dr. Jessamyn “Jess” Yazon, Officer-in-Charge of the PSHS Main Campus. (Note: Jess is my batchmate in Pisay).

Jess replied to my e-mail yesterday. I have not yet received a reply from Ciel but yesterday I saw Mr. Jun Sabug (we met at the graduation ceremony in Ateneo), vice-president of the PSHS NAA. Jun ( a member of PSHS Class of 1969) told me that he was the one who sat in the PSHS BOT meeting last March 28 on behalf of Ciel. I told him that there is a brewing issue on the BOT’s decision regarding the case of three fourth year students who failed their Math subjects but are being given a chance to get a PSHS diploma.

To prevent misunderstanding, some clarifications are in order:

The three students who got a grade of 5.0 in Math (Calculus) will not be allowed to march during the Graduation Ceremony of PSHS Class of 2008. Also, they will NOT AUTOMATICALLY be given a PSHS diploma. The students will undergo a summer remedial program and will have to take an exam. IF THEY PASS the exam, then they will be given a PSHS diploma.

Here is an excerpt from Jessamyn’s e-mail to me:

As decided by the PSHS Board of Trustees last March 28:

Three students with grade of 5.0 in Math will not march in the 2008 graduation, and the students will be allowed to take a summer remedial program and exam, which IF THEY PASS will allow them to get a PSHS diploma -- what the summer program looks like is still for discussion at the level of the campus directors in the next Execom meeting -- FOR Sure we will solicit initial inputs/ feedback from teachers, alumni, other educators, before the PSHS System will propose what this change in policy looks like... etc...

Dati daw sa DOST-SEI scholarship, when you get a 5.0 you are out --> but now, you can retake the course, and once you improve on the grade, your DOST scholarship privileges are reinstated.

When the DOST scholar is in the 4th year, and is recommended to be disqualified because of failing grades, DOST looks for another sponsoring institution to support the last year of the student's scholarship. I guess we are going through a similar review for a change in policy because the BOT feels that the 4-year "investment" in the student will be wasted without some program in place.


So it has been clarified that:

1. The three students who got a grade of 5.0 in Math will not be allowed to march in the Commencement Exercises (Graduation Ceremony).

2. The students who got a grade of 5.0 are now being given another chance to get a PSHS diploma (instead of a DepED diploma which has been the case in the past).


1. The BOT Resolution takes time to be disseminated to the larger PSHS community. Between the BOT meeting and the relaying of the BOT decisions to the larger PSHS community, sometimes confusion arises (the situation is aggravated by spread of wrong information and rumors).

2. This issue falls within the case of policy change. The PSHS BOT has made a decision to modify an existing policy: i.e., FAILURE (getting a grade of 5.0 in any subject) MEANS NO GRADUATION AND NO PSHS DIPLOMA.

Now the new proposed (?) policy is: FAILURE (getting a grade of 5.0 in any subject) MEANS NO GRADUATION BUT concerned students will undergo a summer remedial program and will take an exam, and IF THEY PASS THE EXAM then they will be given a PSHS diploma but IF NOT then they are just eligible to apply for a DepED diploma.

3. I think with the decision of introducing a summer remedial program and a retake exam, the PSHS BOT should now address two questions:

a. TIMING – when shall the summer remedial program and retake exam be implemented? Do they have to be implemented right away, i.e., this summer? Or can it be implemented next schoolyear after undergoing consultations with the larger PSHS community?

b. FAIRNESS – many reactions from PSHS alumni are concerning the issue of FAIRNESS. They are asking if this new decision of the PSHS BOT is FAIR to PSHS scholars in the past who got a failing grade (a grade of 5.0) in their fourth year subject/s and were not given a PSHS diploma.

I hope that this article contributes positively to the issue raised by my colleague Tina (Ms. Ma. Cristina Bargo).

Raffy (
3/30/08, 2:45 p.m.

Dr. Rafael Saldaña
Member, PSHS Class of 1977
Board Secretary, PSHS National Alumni Association
Board Asst. Secretary, PSHS Alumni Association
Former Director, PSHS Main Campus
Associate Professor, Mathematics Department
School of Science and Engineering
Ateneo de Manila University

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1 comment:

Carlos said...

I belong to a PISAY batch a few years earlier than your batch, and I am one of those 4th year students who got grades of 5.0, and were not allowed to get a PISAY diploma.

As far as I am concerned, it is not a matter of whether it is fair to us if the PSHS BOT now allows 4th year students who get grades of 5.0 a chance to get a PSHS diploma. Rather, it is a question of whether it was fair to us that previous PSHS BOTs did not think of this change in the policy.

4th year students usually get grades of 5.0 not because of lack of ability. After passing the multi-stage entrance exams, and surviving the first 3 years of the PSHS curriculum, these students have already proven that they deserve the PISAY badge of excellence (diploma). Failure usually results from other external factors, like family problem in my particular case. For class advisers not to have identified the potential for failure by students early on likewise manifests failure on their part since they are expected to monitor closely the progress of their wards,not so much the over-achievers, but more so the apparent under-achievers.

Finally, to expel, or deny a PSHS diploma to, a PSHS student is to admit that the prior stringent screening of students is not adequate.