Category Archives: Education in the Philippines

On Finding A Better School

Each time teachers or school administrators resign but expressed intentions to continue with their career in the academia, their colleagues would tell them this – “I hope that you find a better school.” I heard that several times because I also moved from one school to another – 6 times in the Philippines and twice here in South Korea – in the past 31 years.

Hiring committees in the academe consider “school-hopping” as a red flag. Some (if not most) people in charge of recruiting  teachers or  school officials think that when an applicant for an academic position has moved from one school to another several times, hiring them is a risky proposition. To this, I disagree.

You may disagree with my disagreement but I think that depriving applicants of the opportunity to get hired because  they “hopped” from one school to another is b—s–t! Recruiters who subscribe to the notion that transferring from one academic institution to another is an indication of an attitude problem on the part of the applicant think that they are morally better than anyone else – holier-than-thou. They should not forget that there are justifiable reasons teachers and school officials may do so. Of course it’s a different story if the hopping is due to an applicant getting fired from their position for whatever reasons and there are ways of determining if that’s the case.

At the  very least, the applicants described must be given a chance to be interviewed and afforded  the dignity to explain themselves. In my case, I tell you, if you would know my reasons why I left the last two schools where I served as a school administrator (where I stayed only for a year each), before I came here to South Korea, I could almost hear you saying “that’s the best decision to make” and that  you would not have second thoughts doing the same if you were me. 

There are a thousand and one reasons why teachers and school administrators resign. Some of them are justifiable, some are not. Reasons could also vary from professional to personal, sometimes both. But for those whose reason, specifically, is to find a better school, there is one question whose answer you should carefully contemplate on– “Does a school better than where you are presently working (or where you were previously employed)  exist?”

For those who like me “hopped” from one school to another – Did you find a better school? What about me? Did I find a school better than the previous ones that employed me as a teacher and as head of a department or of the school as a whole?

Before I, or any of you who, like me, moved from one school to another, at least once, answer the questions aforementioned (and before those who might also be considering leaving their current academic positions to find a “better school” make their final decision) there is another question that should be answered also:

 “What, FOR YOU, would make one school better than the others?”

Yes, I emphasized the phrase FOR YOU because when you look for a better school you will definitely be using your own standards to guide your choice. Only you know whether the personal norms you will be using agree with the existing (and research-based) measures used  in judging whether a school is good or bad. Only you know what philosophy, if any, informs those benchmarks that you will be using.   

For you, probably, a school is better when it is paying higher and giving more benefits. Nobody would fault you if that’s one of the bases, or it could be the primary basis,  you’re using to judge the worthiness of a school. As I said, I don’t blame you. Who would not want to graze where the pasture is greener? Who would not want a pasture where there are waterholes bursting with fresh water?

But there are other things that should be taken into consideration. In that school, you may be satisfied with the compensation package but what about the organizational climate and working conditions? Will you not consider those things? Would you not check first if behind the bushes in the pasture lions or tigers are not lying waiting to devour you? Would you not check first if in the waterholes submerged are crocodiles and snakes ready to bite you?

Will you not try to find out if it is a school wherein people, from top to bottom, treat each other professionally and humanely?

Is it a school that has benevolent administrators and ideal teachers?

Is it a school where while you are enjoying the pay, you would also be happy and peaceful?

Is it a school where you could grow personally and professionally?

Is it a school where you don’t disagree with the policies because they are perfect?

If the answer to each of the foregoing questions is a yes, then it means you have found a better school. Congratulations! And I think you found not just a school better than your previous one but THE PERFECT SCHOOL.

But do you honestly think you can really find a school that would answer yes to all of the questions above?

I hate to disappoint you but the answers is — NO!

Believe me.

And why you should believe me?

I have more than 3 decades of experience in the academe as a teacher and as a school administrator at the same time – transferred to different schools several times in the Philippines and here in South Korea and worked with teachers from different parts of the world. I have seen the best and the worst in the academe from both sides of the fence – the employers (school officials) and the employees (teachers). I can tell you with all honesty that there are demons and angels in both sides of aisle.

Believe me that no matter how good the compensation a school will give you, you will not be contented. You will always wish that they give you more… you will always want  more. Humans are hard to satisfy. If you say I am mistaken, that you are satisfied with what you’re receiving now then you are not like most of us. You are probably not human. You are a sentient being… an angel.

Believe me also that no matter how good the school administrators (or owners) are,  some people in the organization will always find something wrong with them. That’s just how people are naturally wired. They are programmed to find faults and trained to see what’s wrong. I am not saying all have that kind of attitude and tendencies. And I sincerely hope that you are the exception.

But what about you? Are you nor really like that? Don’t you have the mindset that those people holding offices are born to make things difficult for their subordinates – that the policies they implement are making your life difficult?  If yes, I tell you this, you will never find a better school. In your next school, with that kind of mindset, you will see the same problems and you will hurriedly pack your things again and leave after a year or less.

The employers and employees, like the administration and opposition parties in the political spectrum, are seemingly locked in an ancient struggle we call the battle of good and evil. As to who’s who – good or evil –  nobody knows What I know is that employees are naturally positioned to think that they are always at the receiving end of the bargain. That policies are inimical to their interest, that they are given too much work but are paid less, and — they think that they can do better than their school administrators. Come on girl! I dare you put up your own school and let’s find out if you would not become the school owner/administrator you hate.

Educators – you teachers and administrators – will definitely find a new forest but one thing for sure you will be the same animal there and don’t be surprised if you’ll find the animals in that forest as very much like the ones you left in your former forest. I will bet my house and savings that the problems and issues  you experienced and had in your former school will be the same you will encounter in your next school. You know why? Human beings are the same where ever you go. And you? Believe me, you will be the same person where ever you go. Unless you decide to change. And that is the prerequisite to finding a better school or a better workplace. You will find out why if you read on.

Oh… so you decided to read on. Thanks!

So, what happened to my quest for a better school?

First, here’s what I found out.

You searching for a better school – one better than your former school – is like Vladimir and Estragon waiting for Godot… who never came. I used this analogy hoping that you are familiar with Samuel Beckett’s existentialist  play entitled, “Waiting for Godot”. For all of you thinking that you can find that school somewhere – that one better than your previous – imagine me as the boy telling Vladimir and Estragon that Godot will not be coming tonight and I will return again tomorrow to tell you the same thing – that Godot is not coming… that you will never find a better school.

Why?

Because that better school we are searching is an abstraction –  an ideal. That school exists nowhere but in our minds and in our hearts. We don’t search for the better school but we make the school where we are better by becoming a better educator.

We create the better school when the pursuit of our pedagogical functions as educators is not predicated on the material gains we get in return for the efforts we exert. The efforts you exert, from the creation of  your lesson plans (setting your objectives, designing your learning activities, constructing your tests, and what have you)  to their execution in the classroom is a priceless endeavor that can not be valued monetarily. Its significance is intangible.

When at the end of the month  you exclaim that your pay is not commensurate to  all the efforts and sacrifices you put up in the classroom (and at home because most of the time you have to bring home work you could not finish in school), it is an indication that you may might have embraced the wrong profession. The solution is not to find a better school that gives higher compensation and less work but to search for another job that would give you what you value more – MONEY.  And hey, I’m not saying that’s bad. Me too likes money… lots of it. But if earning as much money as you could, the academe is not the right place for you. You should stay as far away as possible from the academe. I advise you to try becoming an entrepreneur. Who knows you might be the next Jeff Bezos or Warren Baffet.

Those who fully embraced teaching and acknowledging that it is not purely a profession done to earn a living but a vocation at the same time that has to be pursued for a higher purpose – that of preparing young people for life and to become the best they could be – find their pay envelopes bursting  with both money and sense of fulfillment. They receive intangible benefits – happiness and contentment. They are the teachers and school administrators who found a better school – it’s in their hearts and minds. They found joy in what they do.

We make the school where are better when we begin to acknowledge that we are in the academic institutions where we are  not for ourselves, not for our colleagues, and not for our school administrators.

For whom then that we are in a school and why are we teachers?

It’s sad if you don’t know the answer.

STUDENTS.

Yes, the students are the reason why you’re in school. The students are the reasons why you are a teacher. The students are the ones that gives essence to your being an educator.

Just like a woman that could not be called a mother if she has no son or daughter, adopted or biological.

Right? She’s just a woman (and a wife), but not a mother, if she has no child or children.

And would you call yourself a teacher  without a student. I think not. Those buildings in campuses of schools would be referred to only  as structures, collectively they could not be called a school, if there are no students.

You can make a school better when you acknowledge that you are there for the students.  It is important that you nurture your relationships with your colleagues and administrators but the more important relationship that you must nurture is that with your students.

The school becomes better when you realize that you are there to perform your functions as a teacher and not as  a critic waiting for the slightest mistakes from your colleagues and the leaders of the institution so that you will have  a topic to discuss (or shall I say gossip about)  with  your friends or an issue to hurl against the people concerned.

When you realize that changes being implemented would redound to the interest of the students being the most important stakeholders of the institution – the institution whose very reason for existing is to serve them – then you just made  the school all the more better. When you realize that such changes, and the corresponding adjustment you have to make are necessary, for the good of the student then you become a pillar of the better school where you wish to be.

Good riddance if the reason you leave the school is because you view necessary changes as too much, not too much per se, but too much as far as you and your standards are concerned. I hope that you are not so entrenched in your comfort zone that you construe the demand of existing and evolving circumstances for you to change and to learn something new as being unreasonable and disrespectful of your rights as an individual. That’s why you are at the verge of leaving your current academic position to look for a better school – and your idea of a better school is probably one that will not mind you not wanting changes to happen, one that will pretend not to see the badge of mediocrity displayed proudly in your chest.

The school where you are becomes the better school you are searching when you decide that even if nobody is watching, you conduct yourself within the bounds of professionalism and excellence that all educators are duty-bound to uphold. Your school becomes better when you make it a policy to never short-change your students.

Now, have I found a better school?

Eventually I did.

I found a better a school. It is where I am now. You cannot see it, because it is in my heart and in my mind.

I found it when I started to focus on the main reason I am a teacher – the students.

I found it when I decided to trust my colleagues and administrators that they know what they are doing. I trust that my administrators have got to do what they need to. I trust that my colleagues will do no less. My job is not to mind what they are doing because I have no control over those. My job is to guide my own students into becoming the best they could be and into getting themselves ready to live life when they finally leave school.

In that school, I found joy.

That joy make me not work, but play. Since then, school has ceased to be a workplace, but a playground. Yes, I play with my students. And for playing with them, I am given a reward everyday and every payday. Every payday – a well-deserved paycheck. Everyday – happiness.

On Graduating From Top Universities and the Principle of “Fair Judging”

graduationUpon completion of their basic education, the next step for young people in the Philippines (and elsewhere)  is to choose a tertiary institution where they will spend the next four years or so to pursue the undergraduate degree they dream of completing. Given the chance, they would choose to enroll in one of the top 10, if not top 5, colleges or universities  in the country…better yet, in the world. Making it to the premiere universities and colleges is the dream of majority of those graduating from high school (and their respective parents and guardians).

Parents, no matter how expensive, would try their best to send their children to the tertiary institutions who are tops in the ranking. Even for basic education they enroll their kids to the most reputable schools. They inculcate in the young minds of their children the need to strive harder than the others so they would graduate in high school at the top of their class with GWAs acceptable in the universities they are targeting. And their children follow them like good soldiers heeding the marching orders of their generals.

The foregoing is a manifestation of how society have embraced the idea that when students graduate from highly-ranked universities their success is guaranteed and their future bright. What could have permeated that notion are classified ads trumpeting that only graduates of “this and that” university may apply for certain job openings. Such hiring policy is “not giving priority to alumni of top-notch universities but it “is giving ONLY them” the chance  to fill up positions and vacancies in companies and organizations.

Business entities who implement the policy aforementioned cannot be faulted. It is a simple exercise of prerogative. If they want to hire only those who could present diplomas and transcript of records minted in their “preferred colleges and universities” there’s nothing that anybody can do against that.  They consider it their right to do so.

But is it so?

When reason is allowed to prevail, there are rights that supersede other rights. And in nations where, indeed,  reason prevails, every individual has the right to equal employment opportunities. In the Philippines for instance, this is a right guaranteed by the constitution (1987 Philippine Constitution – Art. 13, Sec. 3)[1]. So, the policy of not allowing graduates of tertiary institutions not belonging to the “preferred list” to apply is not just discriminatory, it’s also unconstitutional.

In the United States it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or generic information. [2] Discriminatory practices under Federal laws  include employment decisions based on stereotypes or assumptions about abilities. [3] Employers thinking that graduates of university A is better than the graduates of university B is a form of stereotyping. It is an act of assuming that only those who graduate from university A have the potentials of contributing to the growth of a company or organization.

But why are graduates of low-ranking colleges and universities seemingly being looked down upon?

Are graduates of “whatever university” mere mortals and those who received their degrees from “supreme university” gods and goddesses? Would the latter become better persons and professionals after completing their training from their highly-ranked alma mater? Are the former just second best and meant to play second fiddle to the latter?

To say that graduates of top-ranked universities are better than those who received their diplomas from lesser-known schools is committing the fallacy of hasty generalization. Nobody can say which group is better. Graduating from a highly-ranked university doesn’t make one a better person and professional than those who sweat it out in lesser-known schools.

Employers need to observe the “principle of fair judging.” Applications should be judged on their merits. The  evaluation of the applicant should be in accord with the duties of the position; for example, for the job opening of choir director, the evaluation  may judge applicants based on musical knowledge rather than arbitrary  criterion such as hair color. [4]

“Education,” as Horace Mann puts it, “is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” The education offered by the universities provides “fair access to qualifications” [5]  intended to put applicants in equal footing before competition (for the job) begins. So, making a decision to hire based on “from-what-university” an applicant graduated is against equality of opportunity.

Graduates of  the best colleges and universities already have the best things in life. That’s the reason they could afford to pay exorbitant tuition fees and the high cost of board and lodging in cities. The ones studying in lower-ranked schools, especially those located in provinces, belong to indigent families pinning their hopes for a better life through education.

Those who have less in life need to be given a chance, at least an equal opportunity for employment.

At the vantage point of an employer, applicants for a job need to be evaluated using objective measures. The decision to hire should not be based on from what college or university they graduated.

This is not asking that graduates of lesser-known schools be given priority. Let the applicants, wherever they graduated, undergo the hiring process.

They must be asked to submit their resume and the corresponding documents and attachment. These papers, in one way or another, will reveal things about the applicants that will inform decisions to hire or not – that is if the ones evaluating the papers do not give special treatment to graduates coming from their preferred universities.

This is where the “blind hiring process” becomes very useful.  Blind hiring anonymizes or “blinds” demographic-related information about a candidate from the recruiter or hiring manager and eliminates the unconscious bias about the candidate’s age, gender, the  school they attended and so on [6].

The next steps would involve interview (or a series of interviews) and battery of tests. These parts of the hiring process will gradually show who’s who among the applicants.

What could be considered as the best part of the process is the demonstration of skills. The applicants need to actually show their repertoire of skills related to the job they are applying for.

The decision to hire must be based objectively on the over-all results. The alma mater of the applicants should not be factored. This way, the applicants are given equal employment opportunity.

Companies and organizations limiting their choices to graduates of top universities are also limiting their chances of possibly getting the best applicants. One thing certain, there are brilliant young people sharpening their minds and honing their skills in lesser-known colleges and universities outside of  the big cities and urban areas.

They are diamonds in the rough waiting to be mined and polished.

__________

[1] http://www.gov.ph/constitutions
[2] http://www.natlawreview.com/author/us-equal-employment-opportunity-commission
[3] https://www.eeoc.gov/facts/qanda.html
[4] Richard Arneson (Aug 29, 2008). “Equality of Opportunity”. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
[5] Mark Bevir (editor) (2010), Encyclopedia of Political Theory, SAGE Publications.
[6] https://ideal.com/blind hiring/

Measuring School Effectiveness

Picture1The main subject  of the dissertation I wrote for my doctorate was “school effectiveness.” Choosing this subject was driven by a personal belief that the school contributes the most in the development of an individual. It is in school where an individual acquires and develops formally most of the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values they need and they ought to have.

I put emphasis on the word formally in the preceding paragraph for anyone could argue that the home (family) and the church contribute also to the formation of an individual. Of course they do… but not all parents (unless they are teachers by profession) are trained educators. Teachers (presumably) are. And not all families are functional. The dysfunctional ones would certainly not help in the proper development of an individual. A school (presumably also) is always functional. This is not saying that the home does not contribute to the development of an individual. It does, but not as comprehensively as the school could.

What about the Church?

An individual can not be forced to embrace religion. A lot of people do not have religion. And even those who profess to have religion can not be obliged to go to  church and attend masses (or church services) during days of spiritual obligations. Thus, religious institutions may not help (or may contribute just a little) in the development of an individual. On the other hand, a young person can not avoid going to school. No parents in their right mind would not want their children to get an education. For as long as the budget would allow, children will be forced to attend school from basic to tertiary education. And even if a family may not have enough financial resources to access expensive private education, schools run (or subsidized) by the government may serve as alternative.

The school carries on its broad shoulders that task of ensuring that the students entrusted to them should acquire and develop the necessary knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that they ought to posses. The school, which is already acknowledged as the extension of the home, should even be ready to become a vehicle of the church in spreading the gospel… except of course in societies where religion is not part of their culture.

Thus, the school cannot afford to be mediocre. The schools, as expected, should always be a paragon of excellence.

But how do we measure excellence in schools?

Excellence is an abstract concept but can be empirically tested. Excellence of schools can be quantified through existing measures of school effectiveness.

Existing literatures suggest that to measure school effectiveness the performance or achievement of students should be taken into consideration.  Scheerens1 refers to school effectiveness as “the performance of the organizational unit called school. The performance of the school can be expressed as the output of the school, which in turn is measured in terms of the average achievement of the pupil at the end of the period of formal schooling.”

Student achievement in the basic skills is undoubtedly the most popular criterion for defining an effective school.  Sergiovani explains that an effective school is one whose students achieve well in the basic skills as measured by standard tests. Thus, schools take pride whenever their students top government exams – proficiency in certain subject areas for basic education students and board exams for college graduates.

But are the students’ grades or scores in standard tests and government examination a valid measurement of school effectiveness?

Sergiovanni’s model (and similar approaches in quantifying school effectiveness) is being criticized as unidimensional and insufficient. Critics are saying that focusing exclusively on academic achievement ignores the relationship between achieving effectiveness in academic outcomes and achieving effectiveness among other dimensions like citizenship training and development of self-esteem, independence training, and the development of self discipline.

Focusing too much on academic outcomes have made society too obsessed about grades.

Schools are believed to have purposes and goals other than teaching basic skills. Schools effectiveness, therefore, should not be measured only in terms of whether the graduates could read, write and compute and could get good grades and perform well in government examinations.

The effectiveness of schools should be measured in other dimensions as well. Measuring school effectiveness through Sergiovani’s model is taking a myopic view of the purposes  of education. It takes into consideration only the intellectual purpose of schooling, which, according to McNergney and Herbert3, include the teaching of basic cognitive skills, such as reading, writing, and mathematics and the transmission of specific knowledge. There are other purposes of education which they (McNergney and Herbert) identified – political, social and economic.

A comprehensive measurement of school effectiveness should attempt to quantify the performance of schools in all the areas aforementioned.

It is hard to refute that schools play a very important role in the development of the individual and in nation-building. Thus they cannot afford to disregard their political and social purposes.

Measuring effectiveness of school should not stop after their students graduate. How their students perform in the workplace and in society as they grow older should also be considered.

The school is the vehicle in the delivery of education and the quality of education the citizenry and their leaders receive through the educational system determines whether a nation is destined for greatness or remain in socio-economic stagnation.

It is believed that a nation is as good as its citizens. One measure then that could be used to establish the effectiveness of schools is to determine what kind of citizens (and members of society) do they produce.

Whatever the status of a country is at the moment, whether it is progressive and peaceful or not is what its citizens made it to be and how the citizens made a nation to be reflects the kind of education they received from the schools.

Measuring school effectiveness in this way, admittedly, is difficult. But even the simplest of minds can easily answer the following questions:

Which school is more effective? Is it the school that produced graduates who topped board examinations or the school that produced responsible, productive and conscientious citizens and leaders?

Which schools are effective? Those that produced topnotchers in standardized and board examinations or those that produced citizens and leaders who are contributing positively to the betterment of society, nation, and the world?


References:

  1. Scheerens, Jaap,  Effective Schooling:  Research,  Theory  and Practice.
  2. Sergiovanni, Thomas, The Principalship: A Reflective Practice Perspective.
  3. McNergney, Robert & Herbert, Joanne Foundations of Education: The Challenge of Professional Practice.

 

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