Friday, October 05, 2007

Education Matters & Blazing News

Rewrites of Jottings: Education Matters & Blazing News

March 3, 1999
In early 1995a leading Manila daily carried a news item about the planned phase-out of Nursing in state colleges. The reason given by the chief of the newly created Commission of Higher Education (CHED) why she was recommending the phase-out was due to the fact that nursing graduates will only leave the country; only the foreign institutions who hire these emigrant nurses benefit from their schooling. So, she asks, why should Philippine government schools spend for these people whose jobs benefit only foreign countries? This logic comes from a person with a doctorate in something or other.
Later, sometime in 1998, Xavier University President Samson in a speech to the XU-PTA addressed campus concerns and mentioned among other things the closure of the Nursing School of Xavier. He said a steadily declining enrolment forced the closure of the school.
Now, there are indications of a shortage of nurses in the country. Both private and government hospitals have been losing experienced and competent nurses. They have accepted jobs in an English speaking country named England. And this country is eager for more of such English-speaking experienced nurses.
Nurses employed abroad benefit our country in two ways: the foreign currency remitted by the emigrants and the job openings they created by emigrating. This logic of course runs counter to a doctorate’s way of thinking.
In the PTA speech, Fr. Samson also expressed regrets about having to reluctantly impose tuition fee increases, knowing that these will further burden family budgets. Yet, in the afternoon 0f 17 February 1999 a rally of X.U. students demonstrated against a perceived tuition fee increase. Witnesses said that the rally was peaceful and orderly until some frat brats spoiled the message.
As a parent of teeners attending college, I sympathize with the predicament of schools, but also share the misery of parents in the tuition fee controversy. For I am painfully aware that matters of education and the academe have been forced into the mainstream of economic realities. Inflation attacks both the family budget and the school budget. But I also realize that schools that do not maintain and upgrade facilities or pay tutors attractive salaries will degrade and so will their ability to educate.
When the Magna Carta for Students bill first emerged in the news I explained to my children that studying in college is a matter of choice, just like a customer shopping for the best quality goods and constrained only by the limits of budget. The lesson: if one desires quality education, be ready to pay the price. And to drive home this point, I rebuked their elation when a class is cancelled, whatever the reason --- absent teacher, transport strike, someone’s birthday, or whatever --- they, the students, are the losers. They paid for that cancelled session but were deprived of the learning opportunity.
More than once I emphasized to them the ultimate goal of education: the acquisition of knowledge and ability to reason that will help them to be an independent, law-abiding and productive member of society, and that learning must continue for the rest of their life to keep in stride with progress in an ever changing world.
Finally, I cautioned them about too much reliance on a diploma, a piece of paper they paid for with real diligence but which can also be bought instantly from specialists in a Manila main street, complete with transcripts of records and even a thesis.
Indeed there are suspicions that some graduate students submit masteral theses they purchased at a price up to P50,000 depending on the subject. CHED deplores the practice, saying that the act falls under fraud and falsification of public documents, a crime punishable by 6 to 12 years imprisonment. But amnesty will be granted to students who snitch in court on the enterprising professor who wrote and sold the thesis. It went on to say that Congress will be asked to review the penalty for this crime, an implied threat that might end up being a heinous crime, considering the prevailing bloodlust.
And so, a caveat: beware of the diploma framed on the wall whenever consulting a doctor or other professional --- it could be spurious. And speaking of consultation, parents and students should heed the nuances of the word. Here’s what my ancient Funk & Wagnalls says of consult and its synonym: CONFER suggests the interchange of counsel, advise or information. CONSULT indicates almost exclusively the receiving of it. A man confers with his associates, consults a physician or dictionary.

Flight of the Multinationals

The Year of the Tiger, 1998, was not too gentle to the tiger economies of Asia. Even kittenish Philippines was roughed up. The flight of hot money of foreign speculators triggered the financial crisis. This was followed by the 50 – 60% devaluation of the peso which strong-armed inflation into double digits. Next came the jump in bank loan rates that induced business failures and job layoffs. To cap the debacle, multinational companies started to abandon the country in droves, shutting down their manufacturing plants and laying off their workers: Warner-Lambert, Johnson & Johnson, Colgate-Palmolive, Novartis, Pharma Phil, Philipps Electronics, Abbott Laboratories. The latest to join the exodus is Procter and Gamble, leaving only the locals in the toiletries manufacturing industry. The departed expats merely maintain marketing operations and import their products from their other plants in nearby countries where labor, power, infrastructure and raw materials are less expensive.
Thousands of Filipinos lost their jobs, workers with middle-income salaries that used to pay for children’stuition fees, housing amortization, utility bills and groceries would now seriously worry on how to cope.
The decision of the multinationals to desert, no doubt, was influenced by two factors: high production costs and wages, and the retail trade liberalization. The implication of liberalized retailing is the marketing by foreigners of cheaper goods that will threaten the survival of not only local retailers, but also local manufacturers who are burdened by the same high costs that drove away the multinationals.
So, where are the so-called safety nets promised to cushion the ill effects of globalization? Nowhere to be found. Now the paternalistic half-century old policies protecting infant industries are coming home to roost.

Rewrites of Jottings: Education Matters 2

16 December 1998
Of course education matters, It may not matter when a farmer plants his crop, or when the police arrest him for harvesting that crop. It may not even matter when a judge passes the death sentence for cultivating the prohibited marijuana plant on public land. Not anymore. For ignorance, the lack of learning and education, could be unforgiving and a matter of life or death. Ignorance of the law excuses no one.
Education does matter, even in the face of the belief that ignorance is a right, not a privilege.
Retrieved from dead files, this opus was written in the early 90’s.
Like any typical secondary school sophomore, our daughter tends to collect trivia to litter her study closet. And like any doting and tolerant (to a point) parent, Mom periodically unclutters the clutter. But to make sure that nothing of value is trashed, this dad scans the “litter-ature” for any trivial gems.
Sure enough, one such piece was almost discarded. Salvaged and preserved as a souvenir was a sophomoric masterpiece created in all probability during one of those inattentive moments in a boring class. It was written on a “things-to-do” prompter sheet captioned “do it or else … This dad couldn’t resist the temptation of providing repartees (in brackets) to his daughter’s witticisms thus ---

1. Get ready for the day. (DAD: a real toughie)
2. Avoid sleeping in Chemistry. (DAD: It’s OK in Pilipino)
3. Pass activity cards on time. (DAD): But fill them up first.)
4. Study the night before a test --- not 3 minutes before it. (DAD: Caveat – sleepyheads fail.)
5. Don’t scream if there is a lizard above your head. (DAD: Only if it is under your skirt.)
6. Don’t chew gum in class. DAD: Or else you’ll be classified as a ruminant.)
7. Stop acting like a know-it-all. (DAD: Just be one.)
8. Do not accuse the teacher of sputtering saliva, bad breath etc behind her back. (DAD: Be a sport, do it frontally.)
9. Pay class funds and clean on your cleaning day. (DAD: Clean out the class funds.)
10 Stop spending all your money on snacks when you’re not hungry. (DAD: Bum instead.)
When the kids were in high school I got sucked into their study endeavors, confirming the truism that adult education is something that continues as long as kids hve homework. It soon became apparent that there were gaps in my grasp of the subjects that I breezed through in my day. To prop up my stature as dad (the fountain of knowledge), a rapid review of their textbooks had to be undertaken, the frenzy resembling, in modern terms, a VCR rewound and then put on fast forward.
One thing led to another and soon a breakfast university evolved the result of a common wakeup time. Having arisen minutes before the children’s alarm clock rang, I functioned as a “snooze” feature that served as the backup rouser, the fail-safe gimmick for the sleepyheads and surly risers.
The “breakfast school” usually began with general talk, gradually drifting to recent classroom lessons and activities. The unobtrusive but inquisitive grilling, laced with new words and ideas to stimulate the “why” response in their young minds, worked most of the time. But occasionally a sore spot was touched and a sudden silent calm would dim the mood on the table. Most times, the soreness was gone by the next breakfast.
Yet another interesting innovation was the computer program which I created and dubbed “learn”. The software (computerese for program) was written in a computer language called Basic and covered the school subjects. The program was designed to reinforce formal school work..
Each subject module ended with ten randomly picked questions. Correct replies were then summed up and a score given, after which a final praise or scorn rating was awarded.
It was at this stage that a choice had to be made --- whether to heed the motivation principle to scold softly but praise mightily or to give emphasis to building vocabulary; in brief, feelings versus communication. Words won out.
The verbal ratings ranged from the pat --- excellent, marvelous, terrific, superb, magnificent, sensational, fabulous, fantastic, splendid, wonderful, brainy, talented, scholarly; to the bland --- average, fair, so-so, plodding, mediocre; to the rap --- stupid, moron, imbecile, idiot, vacuous, fatuous, feeblebrain, numbskull, dimwit, ignoramus, halfwit, lamebrain, birdbrain.
Crafting the program was truly a learning experience, for me more than for the children. Learning Basic, which is essentially a system of English commands translated to machine language by the computer innards, was challenge enough. On top of this, the project demanded a re-study of algorithms and the math techniques of linear programming and PERT/CPM (both too complex to detail here) to reduce branching and pathways and thus speed-up program execution.
Little by little, I grudgingly accepted the computer’s rigid rules, its distracting beeps and bells announcing program errors, and its unforgiving nature. I learned a valuable lesson besides --- it is difficult to outwit a dumb machine.
The final outcome was a working model. Not sufficiently brilliant for commercial purposes but enough of a teaching aide for the kids. And for me, a hobby was born. High school still was not a picnic for the kids but it was no longer a drag. Stumbling and frustration did not disappear, but perseverance improved perceptively.
The lighter side of the computer episode was, of course, the games, both the entertaining and instructional. One or two of the advanced games even had the temerity to admonish: if at first you don’t succeed, read the instructions.
The accumulated software library of bought diskettes was not expensive, the total cost coming to about the purchase price of a few hardcover books. The benefaction was however marred by the non-originality of the software, both diskettes and brochures being copied …to use the harsh term, pirated. The pirating of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) was commonplace then. (Albeit to a lesser extent, it persists today, even in our centers of idealism and ethics --- the colleges --- where students are encouraged to photocopy (Xerox) whole chapters of reference books. Typical third world ethics and perverse sense of economy.)
The mealtime university lasted throughout the high school years where school hours were still regular. It came to a gradual end when college and puberty brought on a disorder bordering on chaos, where punctuality was banished and procrastination became the new order. I coined the phenomenon “adiabatic peer pressure.”
As I look back on those halcyon years with nostalgia, I wistfully describe them best with one word --- superlative.
Good News Anyone?
No wonder President Estrada is sore at media --- they are too intrusive in the affairs of state. Look at some of the scandalous activities they’re ventilating:
3 million bribe try in contract for textbook purchase smears Departments of Budget and Executive Secretary
17 billion Napocor contract imputed as scam irks Erap who screams ‘libel’
Squabbling over turf in lucrative sugar, rice imports
Fake land titling syndicate; Ghost reforestation
Adulterated rice, pesticide-dosed veggies, tampered weigh scales, dyed fish
11 billion EXPO scam (minimum)
RSBS scam (amount a military secret)
7.8 billion AFP modernization fund vanishes
Murderers, rapists serving life sentences allowed luxury living inside maximum security prison
Top sports officials bickering, insinuations fly
1.6 billion in fake tax-credit involving 12 corporations
Toll fee hike stirs furor; pending hikes in power, telephone metering opposed
Revelations of thievery in officialdom is not new of course. The remarkable feature of the news is the influx of inflation in the alleged stealing --- rapacity is now measured in the billions (with a B). A million or two is scornfully considered small change nowadays?

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