Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Advocating Your Healthcare

During my husband's last health crisis in the Philippines, I have come to realize how it is incredibly important for a foreigner to have someone advocate for their healthcare.  Let me explain.

When my husband was bedridden for awhile because of his back pain (spondylosis) and after his initial hospitalization, we contacted the Veterans Affair in Manila at the end of October 2015.  He was given oxycodone to manage his pain.  However, one of the significant side effect of oxycodone is constipation.  So you can imagine how difficult it was for my husband to manage constipation when he could barely walk to the bathroom.  I cannot tell you how difficult that time was for me (as a caregiver) and for my husband as a patient.  We requested the VA in Manila several times for valium which my husband knows to be effective for him in previous bouts of back problems and does not have the same side effects.  I called VA Manila constantly, asking the primary care doctor to either refer us to a back specialist OR give us a Valium prescription.  By the end of November 2015, I still did not hear even a bleep from the VA.  Upset, angry and at the verge of a meltdown, I dug deep into my "lawyer" mode, and brought my disabled husband in a wheelchair to the VA even without an appointment.  I wrote a long letter to the VA director and although we had no appointment I demanded to speak to either our primary care doctor OR to a patient advocate.  The staff at the reception/lobby at the VA was ready to dismiss me as just another Pinay, but I look them in the eye, spoke fluent English, and told them I was not leaving until I spoke to either our primary care doctor or to a patient advocate.  Once I spoke to the patient advocate, I told him in no uncertain terms, that if the primary doctor doesn't do anything to help my husband over a clearly service-connected disability, I will have his medical license revoked for negligence.  To make a long story short, we changed primary doctors then and there and the new primary doctor scheduled us with a spine doctor in less than a week.

As a foreigner, it is difficult sometimes to be taken seriously in a foreign land.  Your "loud" "cantankerous" manner can be viewed as something that  most foreigners are prone towards and the average Pinoy can view it as menacing.  Most pinoys may just ignore you or report you to the Bureau of Immigration as an undesirable alien. But it helps when you do have someone who can advocate for you who is a Pinoy and not necessarily a laywer.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

U.S. Public Education System vs. Philippine Private Education System

First, I would like to make a caveat that I am making a comparison between the U.S. public education system vs. the Philippine private education system, which are two educational systems my son has been exposed to.  The Philippine public education system, with the exception of the well-known science high schools like Philippine Science High School, Manila Science High School and Quezon City Science High Schools, is something I would not go into evaluating since I myself have not been exposed to them.

Philippine Private Schools

Depending on the private school your child is enrolled in, some schools like Ateneo and the Katipunan-schools do try their best to maintain a level of excellence they can be proud of.  They are above average, so you get a lot of feedback from them.  My son went to John Dewey School (in Quezon City), which is  a progressive school with a fairly expensive yearly tuition ($2,000 a year).  I get a lot of feedback from the teachers on what my son needed to work on and what he is good at.  I think it is absolutely important that more than just making sure a child improves on something, they likewise need to provide positive feedback on what they are doing right.  So I got that from my son's private school education in the Philippines.  Since I was working 40 hours a week at the time, I honestly did not have a lot of time to tutor my own son.  Even his nanny could not provide the tutoring he needed. So on top of his regular school tuition, I paid a tutor to help him meet his school goals.  I would say I paid roughly an additional P2,000 a week for the tutor.

What I also particularly liked about my son's school was that it taught Singapore Math and Mandarin for the higher elementary grades.

U.S. Public School System

Having been here for a year, I would say first the quality is dependent on the district, after that that it depends on the level of commitment of the teacher.  I learned that the hard way because when we came in on the middle of the school year and we were forced to enroll my son in a school outside our district since ours was full, it turned out that it was a better choice because the teacher he was with on the first year (kindergarten) was excellent in communicating to us first what the expectation was, and second where my son was in that expectation.  Since I am not working at present, I am able to supplement what the school was doing.

The teacher this year is just dismal.  Since we moved to a Montessori setting (with no homework), I had no idea what the standard was for my son's first grade education.  On top of it, the teacher is fairly new into the school system and thinks that "grading" is just a matter of pass or fail without even communicating first what is expected of the student.  There are no benchmarks as to what is supposed to be covered for first grade reading, writing, science, etc. and I have found that I have had to supplement a lot of what my son is not learning in school.

The long and short of it, in either settings, the level of learning a child learns is wholly dependent on the parent.  No teacher or school system is more committed to seeing a child learn more than their parents.