Tuesday, November 29, 2011

sisihan at hugasan ng kamay

(this the the fifth and last article of the board exam series: Tip to top; It's a team play; bored teachers; administravision)

Sa isang tagayan:
Alumni: Nakakahiya ka student, dinungisan mo ang record ng skul natin bakit ka bumagsak sa board?

Parent: oo nga eh, sayang ang ginastos ko dyan
Student: Huwag ako ang sisihin ninyo. Si teacher ko kasi kulang ang binigay na lesson. Akalain mo ni isa sa mga questions sa board ay hindi man lang niya naituro.
Teacher: Ba't ako ang sisihin mo, ang hirap kasi sa inyo mga estudyante, spoon-feeding kayo. Gusto ninyo sinusubo lahat. Ni hindi nga kayo pumupunta sa library
Student: Palagi naman kasing wala si Teacher
Teacher: Owws... kayo nga ang gusto palaging walang klase eh. Mas nauuna pa nga kayo kesa memorandum

Student: At wala pa kaming sapat na laboratory.
Teacher: kung laboratory, huwag ako sisihin mo. Sisihin mo si Admin. walang suporta sa atin
Admin: Bakit ako? May binibili naman tayong mga lab equipment ah
Teacher: pero kulang
Admin: Kulang pa yon? halos naubos na pondo natin, kulang pa iyon?
Student: Paano ho ba naubos ang pondo, eh kulang naman ang lab namin?

Parent: Paano maubos, nagbayad naman kami ng 10k kada semester ah.
Admin: sampung libo? eh 5k lang naman sinisingal ko ah.
Parent: oh ito oh ang mga resibo. Acquaintance party, kickout party, pasiklaban party, field trip, intrams fee, society fee, LSG fee, fines.
Admin: hindi kami ang nagasingil nyan!
Parent: bakit may resibo? niloko mo ako anak ah.
Student: malay ko! katabi man nagabigay ng enrolment form yung nagasingil nyan. hindi nga kami makakuha ng forn kung hindi kami makabayad niyan eh. tapos di kami bigyan ng pre-clearance pag wala signature nila.

Admin: Basta kami wala kaming kinalaman dyan. Hinahayaan namin yang mga student orgs na iyan kasi kami naniniwala sa right to self-organization nila
Parent: Eh saan pala pumupunta yung 5k namin kung wala namang lab yung anak ko?
Admin: kung tutuusin kulang pa yan eh. Halos nahihirapan nga kaming sweldohan ang mga contractual namin eh. Tapos pinipilit pa kami ni Teacher na magpataas ng sweldo at bonus.
Teacher: karapatan namin yun!
Admin: kung kakulangan sa sweldo, huwag kami ang sisihin nyo. Kasalanan ni DBM yan. kinaltasan niya ang budget natin.

DBM: nanahimik ang tao, ginugulo niyo! Anong kinaltasan eh tinaasan ko pa nga ng 10% ang mga budget niyo eh.
Admin: tinaasan nga pero sinabihan nyo kaming taasan din sweldo ng mga permanent personnel namin. Eh di parang wala!
Parent at Alumni: Oo nga. Bakit ba kulang binibigay mo DBM sa kay Admin?
DBM: Hoy Parent at Alumni, magbayad kayo ng tamang buwis para may ipamigay kami kay Admin!

Monday, November 28, 2011


(This is the fourth article in the board exam series)

I have been away for almost four years from USM. As such, I have no idea how the current administration have been doing with regards to steering the students towards performing better in the board examination. All I can offer here is my insights on how we could move forward in our quest. I will be using some strategies that may work in the USM context based on my experiences in observing other higher education institutions in the Philippines and abroad. This article is about the role of university management in nurturing academic excellence. I will divide this article into (a) support to teachers, (b) academic and student support, (c) administrative support.

Support to teachers. As I have illustrated in the previous article  (bored teachers), the management can enhance knowledge transfer my engaging with teachers through a relevant faculty development program (FDP). Several universities I have gone have this. There is a clear schedule for graduate studies by faculty members (who will take MS, who will take PhD this time, next year?). It is the duty of the college and the human resources office to look for scholarships for the individual faculty. Or the management will hire those with graduate degree already. Scholarships are expensive though. Alternately, the admin can send faculty members to seminars and convention. Perhaps a endowment fund for this purpose can be created. A faculty member who will actively participate in a seminar (say facilitator, lecturer, paper presentor) can seek funding. I guess we can ask help from the alumni to fund this. Add this to our bucket list.

The FDP also outlines the different skills enhancing activities for faculty members including but not limited to personality development (because sometimes professors forgot to comb their hair) and teaching skills (because some of our professors are busy talking to the chalkboard). This should be done for free. Or why not carefully examine job applicants with innate teaching skills? Psychologists are good at this. The management may also conduct motivational activities. For example, when I took my MS in the US, undergrads are encouraged to write a letter of thanks to their respective professors. And once the professor will submit his grades, he will receive the letters from the student (hopefully not curses). Of course, let us not forget promotions and incentives. Add this to our bucket list.

Academic and student support.  In the board exam performance the central figure is actually the student and their community. The administration has to make sure the university is an environment conducive for learning. There should be a regular review of the curriculum. The management has to constantly keep in touch with CHED and PRC to keep updated with new exam syllabus or policy standards. Sometimes, a student flunk in the exam because they have not been taught about the subjects covered in the board. It would be good for OSA to regulate activities to make sure these activities are really academically relevant. Add this to the bucket list.

Updated laboratory facilities should also be taken into account. Although personally, I doubt if  laboratory equipment is a major factor in the board exam (except perhaps for chemistry where they have analytical chem). A lot of schools in Mindanao don't have sophisticated equipment like we do have but they perform better in the board exam. The problem really is that we don't have money. And the laboratory fees are really not enough. Sometimes, the strategy is to pool laboratory fees and to prioritize a particular academic program and neglect the other.

I am just thinking if it is possible to borrow money from the bank to purchase laboratory equipment and slowly pay  it back through laboratory fees. In that way, students enjoyed the equipment instead of waiting to accumulate enough fund (after the students graduated?). They have done that when they constructed the hospital to cater our nursing program. I guess this bank can accomodate this weird idea. Or why not ask help from the alumni. I guess the alumni is willing to donate a laboratory equipment than donating money. Add this to the bucket list.

Administrative and fiscal support. We need to have a strong administrative support in sourcing out money and in resource generation. I am not really good in making money so I don't have idea about this. I leave it to the experts. What I know is PNoy is willing to add more funds to SUCs with academic programs matched with his priority areas (BPOs, agriculture, electronics, infrastructure and tourism) and have majority of the students in the low income category. Bucket list.

Is the bucket full? Some of these are difficult to achieve. But with our concerted efforts we can address them and our board exams will be smooth sailing. All we need is a guiding vision. So all acts are coherent.  Administration guided by a vision.     

bored teachers

(This is the third of the board exam article series. Please read also (1) Tip to top, (2) It's also a team play)

When the board exam performance goes nowhere, students would point to their teachers as the culprit. We'll we cannot blame them. But do we really have to blame the teachers outright?

Before going any further, let me paint a picture of teacher-student knowledge exchange. When a teacher share knowledge to his students, not all will be received well by the students. Students have different capacity to absorb the knowledge shared by the teacher. For a perfect knowledge transfer, the knowledge shared by the teacher, should match the capacity of the students to receive. If the knowledge shared by the teacher is overwhelming, students will be shocked. On the other hand, if the knowledge is too miniscule, students would laugh at the teacher for being dumb. But in reality there is no such thing as match made in heaven. One has to select between too much or too little knowledge. I guess too much is better than the latter. From what is explained above, there are two actors involved here: student and the teacher. For the purpose of this article, we concentrate on the teacher.

A knowledge sharing model of a teacher 
Now, let us examine a model for knowledge sharing by a teacher to understand how knowledge can flow based on a teachers' motivation. Knowledge shared is a function of appropriate knowledge and  motivation to share. If a teacher has the appropriate knowledge and he is highly motivated, he can effectively share what he knows. Even if he has the appropriate knowledge but he is not motivated, then there is no knowledge shared. If he has the motivation but does not know anything, then knowledge was not imparted.

Appropriate knowledge as defined in this article is the knowledge that is at par with the students' capacity. It may not be directly match the capacity of the students but at least it is on a level understood and can be assimilated by the students. Knowledge is a function of knowledge bank and the capacity to impart. Knowledge bank is nourished by a teachers' further acquisition of knowledge. This can be done by research, self-study, seminars, conventions, and pursuing graduate studies. It is the obligation of a teacher to really nurture his knowledge bank to make it relevant and attuned with times.

But even if a teacher has his PhD or EdD, it does not guarantee an appropriate knowledge. A teacher should have the skills to select the right lessons and to employ right strategies and skills. This is like a withdrawal slip. Without it, one cannot withdraw from the knowledge bank. Right teaching strategies does not include intimidating the students by projecting you are a "terror" professor. This approach will motivate students to learn but for the wrong reason - fear. On the other hand, if a teacher possesses the best teaching skills but his knowledge bank account is bankrupt, then there is no knowledge imparted as well.

There are two types of motivations: rationalized and honorific. In a rationalized motivation, a teacher get motivated by salary increases, promotions, and recognition. One of the traits of a teacher is that they can be satisfied easily. A five hundred peso increase in his salary can make him throw a party worth a thousand! Even a promotion with not much salary increase makes him smile just for recognition. Let me cite an example. During my first year at USEP, we produced board topnotchers (no.1 and no. 4 in board). The then president Dr. Ed Prantilla gave us (the teachers) individually certificates of recognition for the performance in the board. We used that as additional points for our NBC (see below). It motivated the USEP AE instructors to study more to improve their teaching. Right now, majority of the AE instructors of USEP have masters degree and overtake USM as Center of Development in AE education.  How much more if the university can give a teacher substantial increase in salary?

On the other hand, a teacher is demotivated if he is neglected for so long. A teacher is usually not a radical type of guy, he would just retreat in a corner and talk to the walls about his heartaches and dissent. However, this state of mind slowly eats his person and his motivation to share. And through the years, this will have impact on his enthusiasm to teach. A proactive management needs to seek out teachers' dissent before it can be a systemic problem.

The government has seen this predicament of teachers way back. Before, the promotion is based on available items (just like the regular employees of the bureaucracy). When a professor retires, associate professors compete to get that item. This kind of competition is counterproductive. It pit teachers against each other to the extent that it can lead to backbiting. That is why the central government has instituted measures to make sure that teachers are evaluated according to his own merits regardless whether a higher rank is open or not. One teacher upon satisfying the needed points can be reclassified. This is the so-called NBC 461 which has evolved from NCC 69. The only role that the management has to do is to make sure to evaluate the teachers every two years so reclassifications (promotions) happened in every two years also. 

They say that sometimes a teacher is a fool (please read: ganyan din kami noon). That even with meager income, he can still afford to smile. This is where the honorific motivation kicks in. We can also call this as dedication. Sometimes, it is a struggle between a rationalized and the honorific motivation. When rationalized motivation is so negative compared to honorific motivation, this is the time that a teacher gives up teaching. We assumed that honorific motivation is always positive. It is the rationalized motivation that can drag the motivational state of a teacher. But so long as the conviction that teaching is a noble job, negative rationality is checked in abeyance by honorific motivation.

Using the factors discussed above, I argue that for a outstanding teacher to emerge and stay in the university, the management has to invest in graduate studies (more scholarships please) and enhancing their teaching skills (for free!). It would also be rewarding if promotions are done in an up-to-date, equitable, and transparent way. After all it is not the money a teacher wants, it is respect.

Let me sum up again the above discussion with an equation:

U = aK*C*(cR + dH)

where a = appropriateness of the knowledge
K = available knowledge in the bank
C = capacity to share
c =  quality of motivation
R =  rationalized motivation (little money and respect)
d = the strength of the honorific motivation
H = honorific motivation

Are all of these factors met?

(Next article: administravision)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's also about team play

In a previous article (Tip to Top), I outline how should a student prepare for the board. Using basketball as analogy, preparation for board exam is like playing basketball ALONE against five opponents. The article proposes that the central figure in a board exam is the student himself. Preparation is the key.

A lot of events happened since I wrote that particular article. We were shocked to learn that a good number of USM's courses were beaten beyond recognition. When almost all of the exam takers flunked, it is a symptom of a systemic problem. It is no longer about individual's constraints but rather shared by the commune.

Since we have started discussing about board exam through basketball, let me continue my assertion through basketball as well. This time I'll continue with the role of team mates. The role of classmates and the student community as a whole. Your classmates and student organization also help a lot in supporting an individual. Using our hypothetical game, an individual strives to take a shot with the assistance of his teammates. It would be a lot easier right than playing alone? In what ways therefore the student community can help nurturing a future topnotcher?

Synergy of individual capacities. Through collaboration, one can increase its capacity. For example, one student can increase his knowledge by sharing with fellow students through group studies and intensified group learning activities. No one can muster all knowledge by himself. It is a given fact that everyone has its own competencies. One can excel in one area and maybe dumb in one area. In a solid learning group, everyone compliments their weakness with other's strength. Like basketball, there is a sharp shooter, a blocker, one with good assist skills, a ball handler, etc. The strength of the team is more than the sum of the individual players' strength.

Molding a standard. In a good group dynamics, we induced uniformity within a certain batch. We are creating a batch of more or less the same caliber. Is it in this state that we do not rely on the "star" players or the cum laudes to do the job for us. A star player-centered approach is like rejoicing one or two topnotchers at the expense of 100 or more flunkers. All the star players are with Miami Heat in the last season, but they still lost. It is already about the team.

For four to six years, a particular batch is nurtured to act as one. Let me illustrate an example. During our time, if we encounter a difficult problem, we usually retreat to a group and try to solve it. If we cannot solve it, we coordinate with other groups to find for answers. It is not really cheating because we understood what we are copying. At the end of semester, we have almost the same line of thinking. Our student organizations also are academically oriented. Fines are imposed on activities that nurture academic standard (convocations, seminars, etc.). When we took the board exams, our scores are close to each other . Needless to say, almost all of us pass the board (3 of us landed in top 10 and the rest are claiming they are no. 11). When we have created a "standard", the batch goes up and down together. Yes a batch can also go down together if they are not nurtured the right way.

Nurturing a positive synergitic power. In learning through groups, the disparity of knowledge among individual is narrowed but the knowledge has increased exponentially. In a synergitic environment, 1 + 1 is not 2 but 2 raise to a certain power. The sign of that exponent is crucial. If it is positive, the result is multiplied several times. If it is negative, the value is reduced as well. I think I have illustrated above how to nurture a positive power environment. It is group dynamics with a good content.

Let us take a look at how the negative power can come into play. The current student community dynamics is not really helping. When you have a student organization whose primary objective is how to win in beauty contests and sports activities; when you have an organization whose agenda is how to spend every last cent making acquaintance parties memorable, pasiklaban more bonggacious, and kick-out parties like there is no tomorrow, then I am afraid we assigned a negative coefficient to our synergetic power. What is worse is that societies and other organizations are forcing fellow students to attend irrelevant activities through the imposition of fines. Sadly, we only realize this after 5 or more years after the fact. At a time when this negatively signed powered activities have become the "culture and standard" of a student life. At a time when students are so addicted to it that taking it away will require a therapeutic session similar to that of a drug-dependent individual. 

Let the good times roll. Learning does not have to be dull. We also share the same laughs, and cry together for nothing. It is hard to infuse learning when the mind is not happy. Our minds are sometimes wired in such a way that we receive new ideas when we are happy. But all activities should conform to a goal of academic excellence. So that when an activity contradicts with our academic pursuit, we snub it.

Willingness to learn. I happened to teach for a year in USEP (currently, the leading university in Mindanao in terms of board exam results). I was so proud then. Coming from USM was like a giant entering a dwarf's house. The facilities there was not comparable to the ones we had in USM. The campus dean even warned us not to boast about USM because they already accept the fact that USEP is 20 years behind. But what strikes me the most is the students' willingness to learn. They make do of what they have. Students would join you in lunch and invite you to parties in the guise of asking question about lessons. They were eager to learn. Students there are good in befriending professors to learn new techniques. USEP students are clever enough to observe you when you go to library hoping that they will discover where did you got all those difficult questions. They even join USM for review to learn from USM. It is a closely knit community who thinks as one. Now if I visit USEP, I am the dwarf entering a giant's house.

In an engineering tradition, let me propose the following equation to describe a board exam performance:

Z = (aX + bY)exp (W * U * V)

where Z = board performance
X = individual taker's knowledge
Y = other takers' knowledge
a = individual taker's motivation to learn
b = other takers' motivation to share (b = 0, when there is no collaborative learning; b<0, when other takers are bad influence)

W = student community and supportive mechanism for learning
U = the teachers and their willingness to share knowledge
V = administration and its ability to provide a conducive environment for learning

Team spirit is one factor beyond the individual player. We still have to discuss the role of teachers (like the coaches) and the administration (team management). That would be discussed in the  next articles. I encourage you to share this article to those whom you know is interested about board exams too. The more shares, it will give me the synergistic power to write more.

Vis Unita Fortior. - United strength is stronger

(This is the second article of the board exam series. Please read the next article: Bored teachers)