What We Filipinos Ought To Realize (1)

(1st of 4 parts)

If we, Filipinos, think that our leaders by themselves could deliver us to the proverbial “promised land”, then we are gravely mistaken. If we think that among them  is a messiah who could bring about the socio-political and economic reforms needed to make our country progressive and peaceful, then we are hallucinating.

It is not because nobody among them is qualified and capable to lead the Philippines to greatness. It’s just that nation-building doesn’t work the way we think it does – that it can be done single-handedly by whoever we elect as President.

That actually is one (probably the worst) of our major problems as people – the mindset that the  leaders  we elect have magic wands they can wave to solve all of society’s ills and all of our nation’s problems. This is the prevailing belief  among Filipinos. We pin our hopes for  a brighter future on our leaders. We expect them – the governors of our provinces, the mayors of our towns and cities, and the captains of our barangays to solve all  of our problems. We expect them to weave their magic and cast their spell then when the smoke dissipates we suddenly live a better life. We, think of our congressmen and senators as witches  and wizards who through  their out-of-this-world powers could make our  country a better place to live in.  We think that our President is Ironman and the members of the cabinet as the rest of the Avengers who could slay all of  our nation’s Thanoses. Well – they are not.

It’s time to wake up. We need to realize that those elected (and appointed) politicians and leaders manning the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government are not superheroes. They don’t have superpowers. They cannot solve all of the nation’s problems by themselves. They need our support as citizens. Each citizen –  rich or poor, professional or not – has a role to play. Each of us should contribute to nation-building.

What can ordinary citizens do to help make the Philippines a better nation?

Let us begin by not selling our votes during elections.

We expect too much from our government yet we are not voting for the best and most qualified among those seeking public office during elections. Instead, most of us write in the ballot the names of the candidates who are willing to buy our votes.

Vote-buying is an open secret in our country. It is freaking rampant. It has seemingly become the norm. It’s making the electoral process lost its essence. Leaders are elected not on the strength of their qualifications, abilities, and platform of government but on the power of the money they are capable of paying each voter who would promise to cast their votes for them.

On the eve of an election day, bidding wars begin. Once candidates get the information that their political rivals offer a certain amount for each voter, they will likely double that. Starting price is usually P500. Then candidates will try to maneuver  until the price becomes P1000 per vote. The desperate among the politicians would sometimes cough up P2000 (or even more) for each voter.

Would elected officials admit that they are guilty of vote-buying?Of course not. So,  we could only wonder how many percent of our elected officials literally bought the positions they are currently occupying.

Stopping this culture of vote-buying and selling is difficult but it has to be done. One thing that we need to realize is that the leaders we put into office should have the moral ascendancy to lead. It is difficult, if not impossible, to look up to leaders whom we know cheated their way to their offices. They are not credible as leaders. We could not apply the principle of “public office is a public trust” when we know that the persons occupying public offices “bought” their mandate. These scheming politicians feel that the office they are occupying is their “private property” because they paid for it. They can do therefore as they please and their constituents cannot and (shouldn’t) complain because they have been paid.

Those who thought that they duped the politicians by taking the money they offered to them are wrong. They were so happy with that P500 (or P1000… make it P2000) which  they received. Such amount is nothing as compared to the millions of pesos they will get when the politicians  dip their dirty hands into the coffers of government. The money those politicians use to buy votes are considered an investment. Once they get elected, they would make sure that they will get the return of their investment… with  the corresponding interest.

Then we complain about how our government is performing. What kind of performance would we expect from politicians to whom we awarded the mandate to lead not because they are qualified and capable  but because they have the money to buy votes?

As Thomas Jefferson puts it, “The government you elect is the government you deserve.”

This is what every Filipino needs to realize. Suffrage is not just a right but a moral obligation as well. It’s not for sale. Don’t reason out that you’re selling your votes  because someone’s buying. “It takes two to tango.” Both vote-buyers and vote-sellers are guilty of this wrongdoing.

Don’t expect the politicians to stop buying votes. They would never do that. Politicians will do everything to ensure they would get elected and have the power they crave so much to have. It is not public service they are thinking of when they ran for elective positions. Power, as they say, is addicting. They want it so badly and on top of that, they salivate so much for the accruing benefits and the opportunities that they would get once they are in position. And only those who were born yesterday don’t know what benefits and opportunities are those.

Online Teaching Is Still Teaching

As most schools continue to hold classes online because of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s one question that needs to be answered – “Which is the MORE APPROPRIATE AND BETTER way to teach online – upload a class video for the students to watch or meet the students online via WEBEX, ZOOM, GOOGLE MEET, or any other virtual learning platforms?

Instead of answering the question directly, let me just share my views about online learning.

Teachers like me should understand this – online teaching is still teaching. It’s not a magic trick that we are using to keep the students entertained or preoccupied while we are waiting for the COVID-19 crisis to dissipate. It should not be treated as a band-aid solution to the problem of not being able to meet the students face-to-face.

Online or otherwise, when you are a teacher, you should teach. You ought to find a way to achieve the objectives of the course/s you are teaching, cover the topics enumerated in the syllabus, motivate your students, discuss the lessons, give assignments, and evaluate learning. This is the time to use your creativity and resourcefulness.

Be reminded of the three major activities teachers do – planning, instruction, and assessment. Pedagogy – the art, science, or profession of teaching – remains the same, with or without COVID-19. The virus is not an excuse for you not to perform to the fullest your duties and responsibilities as a teacher.

The most important part of the planning process is the setting of learning objectives. Whatever you do as a teacher, online or otherwise, should be grounded on the objectives of the course. There are course objectives and there are unit objectives (or goals). You should know this if you are really trained to be a teacher (and was not just plucked from certain geographical locations of the world to pose as a teacher). Supposedly, you should also know that for every topic you present to the students you also have objectives (or goals), right?

It is only when you are well-grounded on the objectives (course-unit-topic) that you should begin teaching – online or otherwise. You’d better not teach if not  because you will become the embodiment of “the blind leading the blind.”

So, online or otherwise, you should be guided by the objectives of the course and of the specific units listed in the syllabus. There are times that even the objectives (goals) for each topic under specific units are provided by the school where you are teaching. If not, then it is your duty as a teacher to create them. Don’t whine, it’s part of your job. You signed up for it. And come on, creating learning objectives (goals) is not rocket science.

After setting the learning objectives (and planning other teaching-learning activities), what should you do? I know that you know (hopefully) what comes next after the planning – instruction. Simply put – after the setting of objectives – you TEACH.

In case you have forgotten let me remind you of the definition of instruction – “the purposeful direction of the learning process.” The main aim of instruction, online or otherwise, is learning. Don’t forget that. So, whether your meet your students “face-to-face” or through any of the different platforms online, you have to teach them purposefully. We have different views. Rest assured that I respect yours. But for me, just uploading videos is not teaching, no matter how sophisticated are the videos you create. Videos cannot carry out the multi-faceted role of the teacher. Videos, at best, are just supplementary learning materials.

Don’t tell me that students prefer just watching videos over attending actual online classes. Of course, they would prefer that because it’s convenient for them. But teaching is not a matter of choosing which strategies the students consider comfortable for them. Teaching is choosing which methods are best for them. It’s choosing which ones could maximize learning, which ones would lead to the attainment of the objectives of the course.

Now, let me continue.

After setting the objectives, you teach. After that, what comes next?

Answer – assessment. Call it testing to make it simple.

After teaching, online or otherwise, you need to determine whether or not your students learned through quizzes, exercises, assignments, tests, and other methods of assessment. But don’t forget that like instructionassessment should also be purposeful. You don’t dump in the laps of your students all those academic works for the purpose of making them busy and simply to comply with course requirements. Education doesn’t work that way.  You will use their scores in whatever you require them to do or submit to measure the extent of their learning, to evaluate how efficient are your teaching methods and strategies, and to determine if the course/unit/topic objectives are met.

There are two more important reminders for those who are teaching online. Firstly, don’t forget that you are not supposed to give your students assignments and tests on topics you did not discuss and thoroughly explained.  And secondly, make sure to mark/grade each of your students’ tests and assignments. All marked/graded course requirements should be returned to the students. They need to be given feedback on their performance.

So, online or otherwise, when you are a teacher, be a teacher. Set your objectives, teach, and assess. Even if you’re holding the class online, you still need to motivate your students and elicit their participation. Do all those things purposefully.

Now, what do you think is my answer to the question I asked at the beginning of this article?

South Korea: In the Eyes of an Expatriate (3)

(Last of 3 parts)

Part 1

Part 2

I really tried hard to figure out what happened. What went wrong for my country and conversely,  what did the South Koreans do correctly? To think that in the 1950s, while my country was soaking in the glory of being Asia’s second strongest economy, the Korean peninsula plunged into a devastating war.

I tried to probe deeper into this nation’s history to find the answer to the following questions: 1. How were the South Koreans able to  slay the ghosts of a bitter colonial past?;  2. How did they survive the devastation wrought by the Korean war?; and 3. How did they triumph over internal political turmoil while at the same trying to ward off a belligerent neighbor in North Korea?

How were the South Koreans able to accomplish all of the aforementioned then  eventually catapult themselves to their current lofty position in the global community?

Then I found out what the South Koreans did in 1998 at the height of the Asian financial crisis. They willingly donated their gold – jewelry (including their personal wedding rings), medals and trophies, good luck keys, and what have you. This they did to save their economy during that crisis. The collective weight of the gold they donated may not be that much. But more significant  than the corresponding monetary value of their donation was the willingness of the South Koreans to make a personal sacrifice for their country. I call that nationalism. If it’s not then I don’t know what is.  It is the same sense of nationalism that emboldened them to resist one military junta after another… to sacrifice their lives and limbs to lay the democratic foundations of this country which eventually became a fertile ground that nurtured the economic prosperity they are currently enjoying.

I also learned about the collectivist culture of these people. They think first of the general welfare over and above their personal interests. This I witnessed first-hand when I saw how the South Koreans willingly obeyed the restrictions set by their government during the early onslaught of Covid-19. There was no need for their leaders to implement a “hard lockdown,” the way other countries did, including mine. The citizens just strictly wore their masks, observe social distancing, and avoided leaving their homes unless it was necessary. They are willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

I think I found the answer to what  enabled the South Koreans  to attain prosperity and stability –  the combination of  their nationalism and collectivist culture. I may be wrong but I could not really see any other possible reasons for their success as a nation. There is nothing more potent of a mix for nation-building than the combination of the two. And if they keep using this formula, the future of this nation is secured.

Other expatriates living in this country may not see things here the way I am seeing them. To them the observations I made may not be a big deal. To me, given the situation in my country now, they are.

If only my countrymen would consider including the South Korean model of nationalism and collectivism among the things from this country that we allow ourselves to be influenced by. We should try to find out if we could also propel our own native land to greatness if we would try to emulate the way South Koreans profess their love for their country. We need to see if we could also make our country better if like them we would put the greater good over and above our personal interests.

We copied hook line and sinker (Or was it forced down our throats?) the socio-political and economic models of our colonizers and we are not getting desirable results. Obviously, our needle of success as a nation is barely moving. We have been trying to fit our colonizers’ square peg into our round hole. It’s not working.  It’s time for us  to rethink our strategies for nation building. Why don’t we try the South Korean model? Let’s see what will happen if we embrace, not only K-dramas, K-pop, and kimchi but also  the values that brought the South Koreans to where they are now.

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