K-12 is not OK

DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro of the De La Salle chain of universities summed it up short and simple:  our Asian neighbors and the rest of the world have instituted a 12-year basic education to make their young population globally competitive.  Poor Philippines should do the same.

I spent a total of 11 years to complete my kindergarten, primary and secondary education.  Even without the law that mandates a 12-year education cycle, most Filipinos of my age took preparatory schools (nursery and kindergarten) prior to entering the formal education system.  In a sense, most of the younger urban generation today have completed more than the mandated 10-year cycle.  So what gives?  Can the DepEd just formally recognize preparatory school instead of adding a 7th grade and a 5th year?

Modesty aside, I don’t feel inadequate having gone through the 10-year education cycle.  If competitiveness is  DepEd’s primary objective for adding years in our basic education cycle, then they should be clear:  competitiveness in what?  The rest of the world have been enjoying our low pay, high quality workforce.  Many overqualified Filipinos have been exported everywhere to perform jobs that are way under their competencies.  So why reinvent the wheel? 

My take is that Filipinos are in fact overschooled, but hardly educated.  We spend so much time memorizing facts and figures.  We focus on perfecting exams, getting high scores, and finishing school with honors…or at least on time.  Our education system creates a schooled population but not an educated one.  Schools are used as factories to produce unthinking automatons, not humans.  Yes, even Catholic schools that espouses total human development cannot accept critical thinking, freedom of expression and self-paced learning as virtues of their brand of education.  It is not a surprise then to find people who have PhDs attached to their names but are incapable of creating original thought, or forming an intelligent opinion moreso express a divergent view.  They are not bookish; they are boxed. 

Another reason for expanding the basic education cycle, DedEd says is for those who can’t afford a college education become easily employable.  But in an economy with high unemployment and underemployment rates, where even college graduates cannot find a decent work that is commensurate to their college diplomas, do we expect employers to prefer an undergraduate over a degree holder?  I don’t think so.

The 12-year basic education cycle may be the answer to a wrong problem and for a different time.  Now is not the time to prolong the agony of poor parents to send their children to school.  Twelve years in school does not guarantee better education.  It might just mean longer years spent by hungry students in crowded classrooms with overworked, poorly trained and underpaid teachers using error-ridden textbooks and outdated curricula.


Taking the MBA Oath

Today’s Pinoy Kasi column of Michael Tan in the Philippine Daily Inquirer discussed a viral contagion of another kind:  the pursuit of ethical conduct in managing a business.  In simpler terms, management professionals particularly MBA graduates want to transform the field of management into a true profession, one in which MBAs are respected for their integrity, professionalism, and leadership.

The MBA Oath initiative was started by Harvard Business School’s graduating class of 2009.  The students asked why should not MBA graduates be similarly bounded by a professional code of conduct like the lawyers and medical doctors.  To them, more than maximizing shareholder’s value, the business leader-manager should also be concerned about the general welfare of the people by doing good business the right way. 

The initiative drew more supporters than the graduating students earlier expected.  From 100 of their classmates as the initial target, there are now more than 1,200 MBA graduates from around the world who took and signed the oath on-line.  In fact, the oath itself has now been translated to Spanish and German versions.  I’m thinking of doing the Filipino version soon!

When Michael Tan mentioned in his article that he has seen no one from a Philippine business school signed the oath yet, I immediately checked the MBA oath website and became the first Filipino to do so.  (Although I am not sure of this because the list only indicates the school graduated from and not the nationality).

Here’s the full text (short version) of the MBA Oath for your reading pleasure.  After reading the text myself, I felt that there is much that managers and leaders can do to make our world a better place. 

When will our public managers replicate this initiative?


 As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

13 Years After

96-43101.  That was the student number issued to me when I was admitted to the University of the Philippines in 1996, as the first two digits of my student ID number declares.  To most UP students, the student number means so many things.  It could define one’s existence in the university, where a student will be reduced to a hyphenated 7-digit number and lose  one’s self in the process.   Quite literally.  The student number can also be a clue of one’s age in the campus, as if it matters, when you are seated in between 86-72142 and 97-58464 in an auditorium listening to the same instructor who have handled and will handle the same class in the last/next 20 years.  Let me just say that the point is, whether you are an aging dinosaur or a blossoming embryo, age does not matter in the realm of ideas.

Three years and one decade later, crossing both a millenia and a centenary celebration, I’d like to share with you my thoughts and observations of the many changes that has happened to UP since that innocent day of June 1996, when I first set foot to the welcoming embrace of the University of the Philippines.

13.  Waiting Sheds

Gone are the wooden waiting sheds of yesteryears that served not only as queuing area for campus jeepney passengers but also, and I guess most importantly, as a mouthpiece to the various and varying voices of the people in the university.  I refer to the bulletin boards in all of the sheds before where enterprising (Wanted Bedspacer), agitating (Ibagsak US-Ramos Rehimen) and inviting (Join UP Student Coop) messages are posted on top of each other creating a visual collage of voices that shouts the dominant political, social, educational and cultural activities of the day.  The bulletin board connects the people of the university on those days.  People were scrambling for its every free but limited space.  To me, the bulletin boards were a visual feast; it was such a delight to see them change its face everyday as it tells the people of the university of the happenings in and out of the campus.  Now these sheds with boards are replaced with steel and iron structures but without the boards.  These are sheds without a mouth.  Waiting in the shed would never be noisy again.

12.  Carless Oval and Bike Lane

The erstwhile 2-way Academic Oval is now a single lane running counter clockwise.  Its innermost lane is the designated Bike Lane.  On weekends, motorized vehicles are prohibited in the oval.  In its lieu, families and wellness enthusiasts abound in the oval.

Some sectors of the universty, notably the jeepney drivers and students, are complaining about this scheme, as it has taken them a longer time to complete a single trip.  But to me, this is one big bold step in not only promoting walking and maintaining open spaces in the campus, but also in eliminating noise inside the campus.

For whatever it is worth, I’m sure they will soon find the most efficient route for the jeepneys.  Meanwhile, let every one walk his way around the campus.

11.   Blackhawks Down 

This generation of male students must be thankful that the compulsory military training under the ROTC is now a thing of the past.  UP ROTC was the only tolerated fascist organization in the university then.  It is a good thing that it has already evolved into something more relevant to the times.

10.   Enemy at the Gates

UP is the university of the people, that is why the campus should be open and accessible to all.  But in my recent visit, I’ve noticed that some amount of taxpayers money was used to enclose the campus with security gates, making access impossible to passing motorists and visitors.  Even the once welcoming University Avenue now looks like a crime scene with all the secuirty signs and police lines that they’ve put up in the checkpoint.

9.      Instant Noodles

In the past, the Manininda in campus, the small cart-type ones at least, only sell fishballs, kikiam and squidballs.  Before I left the university, quail eggs was added to their menu.  A few years later, cheese sticks.  Today, the fishball carts near Vinzons Hall sell all kinds of instant noodles.  Like the rest of the impoverished people who thrive in instant noodles as complete meal, it seems that students of UP are also in to it.  With the closure of Narra, my guess is that students are having a hard time finding inexpensive meals inside the campus.  Where is Mang Bogs and his Aristo-cart?

8.      New Buildings

College of Social Works and Community Development transferred to its new building while the School of Statistics now occupied the old CSWCD building.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the Office of the Registrar has a new building too.  Although I haven’t been to its new home, the College of Architecture reportedly have a state-of-the-art edifice erected near College of Arts and Letters Building.

That’s three new buildings in thirteen years.  Who’s complaining?  As of last count, DepEd needs 10,000 new classrooms.  In the rest of the country, grade school pupils are either cramped inside a small classroom or sundried under an acacia tree.

7.      ID

When I was in UP last year, I noticed that students have begun wearing IDs around their neck.  I thought of visiting my college but unfortunately, I was not able to pass through the guard bacause I was not carrying a valid UP student ID.  What’s next, a school uniform?

6.      TFI

In my whole four years in UP, tuition fee was fixed at P300 per unit.  That was the cost of tuition since UP witnessed a tuition fee increase (TFI) in 1989, the year when the  bastardized Socialized Tuition Fee and Assistance  Program (STFAP) was introduced.    Before STFAP, tuition was I think (am not sure about this) P80 per unit.

On December 2006, TFI showed its ugly face again by raising tuition to P1,000 per unit.

(To be continued)

Part 2 here