While surfing the Internet a couple of days ago, I came across an interesting question that someone had posted on Yahoo Answers. It went something like this: “Should I study at [insert name of a primary science high school here] or [insert name of alternative, non-science high school here]?”
The question garnered different responses from a number of different people. Those who argued in favor of science high schools mentioned a few good points, some of which I’d like to share with you in this article.
Please note that when I speak of science high schools, I am collectively referring to these three types: the DOST-run science high school like the Philippine Science High School or (Pisay); the DepEd-run science high schools like the regional science high schools and the city science high schools (e.g. Manila Science High School (MaSci), Quezon City Science High School (QueSci) and Makati Science High School).
What Science High Schools Offer: Advanced Training in the Sciences and Major Subjects
There’s no doubt about it. If you’re a person of science, a science high school is definitely “the” place to be. The interesting thing about science high schools is that you will get training in science and mathematics courses that are usually taught only at the tertiary (i.e. college) level. You will be taught advanced physics, advanced chemistry, advanced biology, genetics, and all those exciting science subjects. You will be running while your contemporaries in non-science high schools are still learning to crawl, so to speak.
This is not to suggest for a moment that the hard sciences are the only things you will learn in science high schools. Science-focused training may be the main thrust of these institutions, but they are by no means the only things offered in science high schools. Science high schools take pride in both their science and mathematics courses. In science high schools, you are just as likely to learn advanced statistics and advanced calculus as genetics.
Technology education is also a big deal in science high schools. Do you want to become proficient users of computer and information technologies? Do you want to learn coding and programming? Take a number and head on over to a science high school then.
The social sciences and humanities courses are not left out, of course. For example, you’ll find that Pisay, MaSci and QueSci offer a substantial amount of humanities courses, particularly in English. Science high schools are also the place to be if you want excellent English language training. Science high schools believe in furnishing their students with the smarts (science and math training) and communication skills necessary for imparting their knowledge to others and becoming a success in whatever field they choose later on. Ironically, one student claimed she had developed and nurtured her musical ability in Philippine Science High School.
Now, you have to ask: why do you need training in all these things? Why can’t you just amble along like so many of your contemporaries who are enrolled in non-science high schools?
1. Science high schools provide excellent preparation for college
Well, if you want to perform exemplarily well in your college courses, you have to prepare the groundwork as early as possible; and there’s no better way of preparing for your college years than by learning as much as you can in your high school years. Someone who has been in college for as little as one year will tell you that great preparation is crucial to college success.
So many people I know crawled through their math series, for instance. Now, if you have already learned about the things that your math series teachers will teach you, chances are high that you will go through your math series in college just fine. No, you probably won’t breeze through it but still, you’ll get through it with much more dignity than you will have if you have to crawl through these subjects.
2. Science high schools give you an edge in your college application.
Chances are that you’ve probably got your sights set on studying in one of the top colleges in the land, right? I’m referring to the University of the Philippines, Ateneo, De La Salle University, University of Santo Tomas, and so on. If that’s the case, then a science high school background will definitely serve you in good stead. The emphasis on the hard sciences plus the humanities thrown in for balance will count as a major academic advantage if you’ll be gunning for the Ivy League institutions later on.
This advantage is two-fold. First, your science high school training will give you a great preparation for these universities’ and colleges’ entrance examinations. Second, since science high schools’ subjects are so attuned to premiere colleges’ curricula, the admission authorities of these premiere colleges are going to look more kindly at applicants from science high schools.
In fact, in the University of the Philippines, the high school grade point average requirements are lower if you are from a science high school. The logic behind this is simple: science high schools are expected to be stricter in their student grading so, more often than not, an honor student from a science high school will have a lower average grade than an honor student from a non science high school student. Thus, the grades need to be standardized so that the “true excellence’ (how pompous; pardon meJ) of science high school students will shine through.
3. Science high schools provide highly relevant training
The subjects and lessons in a science high school are updated often to reflect present circumstances and current reality. Not for the students of science highs schools are outdated (and often disproved) tidbits of information that you will learn from old textbooks. Oh and yeah, science high school teachers usually use supplementary materials to keep their lessons updated.
4. Science high schools provide world class training and provide you with numerous opportunities to gain worldwide acclaim.
I’d like to think that all or most of us, at one time or another, have dreamt of making it big on an international scale. If you’re a student of any of the premier science high schools in the Philippines, you may just get the chance to turn that dream into reality.
Here’s why: part of your curriculum includes making proposals for science projects and actually carrying them out. If they’re really, really good, they may just land you a chance at participating in and even winning an international science fair.
Consider the case of Avril Bries and Henrian Bayona, both students of Quezon City Science High School. Bries and Bayona discovered how to produce bio-ethanol from pineapple peelings and electrical energy from cow manure, respectively. For their efforts, both of them received gold medals in the Sixteenth Environmental Project Olympiad held in Istanbul (Pssttt… note to the unaware, Istanbul is in Turkey, he he he. Just kidding, I know you already know that, duh!).
Who knows? If you come up with something really cool, maybe you’ll win that highly-coveted Nobel Prize someday.
5. Science high schools prepare you for the in-demand and lucrative careers.
While the bulk of your career preparation and development occurs in college, your high school training also has a lot of bearing in the type of career you’ll end up in.
First of all, the variety of subjects will help you gauge your interests. Thus, you will be able to choose a relevant course when it’s time to go to college. Second, your science high school training will give you an edge in in-demand and lucrative careers like engineering, actuary, business management, programming, etc.
There are many other reasons for studying in a science high school, but it will all boil down to what you really want. If you want great, forward-looking education, get a science high school education. Even if you’re not “nerd” material, you will still find a lot to learn about science and about life in science high schools.