Pinoys losing creativity?

DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco - The Philippine Star

When the Korean pop group BTS was conquering the United States with sold out concerts, many of us wondered why it isn’t a Pinoy pop group instead that’s making all that money given our cultural identity with the US. BTS is bringing in an estimated $5 billion a year to South Korea, that’s around half a percent of the country’s entire economy.

We want to believe that Pinoys are tops in creativity. We were ahead of the Koreans in telenovelas. We were selling our telenovelas internationally before they did. I recall being quizzed by my taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur about Kristine Hermosa. She had a lot of fans there. Reena Garingan, the ABS-CBN executive in charge of international marketing managed to sell our telenovelas in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and as far as Kenya and other African countries.

Then the Koreans came around with better stories, better production values and even Pinoys were binge watching Korean telenovelas. BTS and other boy bands started getting attention. Psy, a Korean singer started horsing around with his Gangnam Style song and made $8 million in revenue through YouTube alone. The incredible success of  Gangnam Style has put more than $20 million into Psy’s pockets, before taxes, managers fees, etc.

Well, we had Lea Salonga and she did bring us a lot of attention on Broadway and in a Disney movie. But after Lea, who else got us world acclaim outside of Manny Pacquiao?

Eugenio “Gabby” Lopez III had a game plan to make Pinoy productions competitive in the world market. Gabby saw the potential but he realized that for us to make it big time, we need to improve our production values and our story lines have to be more interesting, more original. All that entailed massive investment in production facilities and talent, something Gabby was more than willing to provide.

That was when Gabby decided to build two world class, state-of-the-art soundstage in Bulacan to produce Hollywood-caliber  telenovelas to be competitive internationally. Gabby also invested in training manpower by organizing the ABS-CBN University, an in-house facility where production staff from directors to scriptwriters and other talents are trained.

The script writers have to attend classes on Greek drama, Shakespeare and immerse themselves in classic literature to bring them way above the local norms.

Then Duterte came and everything ended. No one in our entertainment industry, other than Gabby, was willing to invest the big bucks required to make us competitive internationally. Local producers are happy with the tried and tested formulas that made our entertainment industry pretty stagnant through the years. I still believe that Pinoys are very creative but that natural creativity must be nurtured or it will be lost.

Unfortunately, we have lost it. The PISA test on creativity released last Tuesday has depressing news. The PhilStar story says it bluntly: Filipino students have one of the weakest creative thinking skills in the world, based on a newly launched global benchmarking test.

This is the first time that the PISA tested students on how well they can use their imagination and creativity to generate and improve ideas. Fifteen-year-old students in the Philippines scored 14 points on average, well below the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 33.

Only around three percent of Filipino students can match the creative thinking abilities of the average student in Singapore, based on Philstar.com’s analysis of the publicly available PISA scores. Data showed just 3.4 percent of Filipino students reached Level 5 proficiency in the test, while 30 percent of students in Singapore achieved this. Level 5 is the second highest proficiency with scores of 41 to 48. Similarly, no single Singaporean student who took the test scored at the lowest proficiency (Level 1, at less than six score points), whereas a third of all students in the Philippines scored at this level. Hay,  shame, shame.

PISA defines creative thinking as “the competence to engage productively in the generation, evaluation and improvement of ideas that can result in original and effective solutions, advances in knowledge and impactful expressions of imagination.”

During the 2022 test, students were given an hour to answer a set of creative thinking items in four domains: written expression, visual expression, social problem solving and scientific problem solving. In one sample question, students were asked to come up with two completely different film story ideas based on a single visual prompt. In another sample question, students were asked to provide original ideas on how to improve a wheelchair ramp for library users.

The test “does not aim to single out exceptionally creative individuals, but rather to describe the extent to which students are capable of thinking creatively when searching for and expressing ideas…” the OECD said in its creative thinking framework for PISA.

So, what do we do about this? Well, with Sara Duterte mercifully out of DepEd, BBM had better appoint someone who can reverse our dismal situation.

The PISA offers hope… Students who reported being curious about many things and liking to know how things work scored around three points higher in creative thinking than those who did not, according to the OECD average. This score difference based on curiosity leaps to four to five points higher in the Philippines –  the highest of all PISA-participating countries.

Based on their answers to the PISA questionnaire, a whopping 81 percent of students in the Philippines said they agree or strongly agree with the statement: “I like learning new things.”

It does seem that DepEd has failed our students who are curious enough to want to learn but failed to learn because our educational system didn’t nurture them. We are wasting our God-given resources. Let us start from there.



Boo Chanco’s email address is [email protected]. Follow him on X @boochanco

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