Friday , May 25, 2018

Estremera: Defeated purpose

BROWSING through Facebook, I saw a video of airline passengers inside what was described to be a domestic flight furiously fanning a passenger who has apparently fainted while you can hear the flight attendant asking over and over again if there is a doctor on board.

From what can be gleaned from the bits and pieces shared, it was a flight to Cebu that was made to wait for two hours on its way to the runway for whatever reason, with the plane's airconditioning system turned off. Amid the voice on the intercom, you can hear babies crying and people complaining.

I remember reading something about this. About a process or a system that has been set in place to improve an existing condition but which loses its significance as only the action is left, not the purpose by which it was designed to address.

In that book I have somewhere in my bookshelf entitled Chief Culture Officer by Grant McCracken, I remember reading that the reason why passengers are not allowed to disembark when everyone has already boarded is because the time of departure is counted from the moment everyone has boarded. The purpose of this procedure is so that flight delays are reduced and planes can leave as soon as possible. But the purpose has long been forgotten, just the practice remains.

What we have then are unthinking, uncaring systems, which disregard the fact that cramming more than a hundred passengers in a non-airconditioned steel tube under the heat of the sun will mean discomfort and to be scientific about it, a higher ratio of carbon dioxide than oxygen in the air.

This brought me to thinking about a recent conversation with a private university administrator, who said that they have no choice but to spend more on some bridging system for incoming college students because the freshmen students from public schools can barely put together a proper sentence in English and Filipino, not even Cebuano.

The reason for this can easily be traced to yet another system introduced by the Department of Education (DepEd) under the purpose of "no child left behind".

Under this purpose, teachers are envisioned to attend to every child so that they will not lag behind in their lessons and be in step with the whole class. Here we imagine teachers who take time out to tutor the slower ones, nurture them and bring them up to passing level.

To ensure that no child is left behind, however, DepEd put in place systems called "productivity" for "performance appraisal", from which points will be deducted if a teacher fails a child by the end of a school year. To make the deal sweeter, they add a productivity bonus.

As the stress has been on passing and the so-called measurable productivity and not on the intangible nurturing and pushing the slow ones to be in step, then what the system actually managed to do was force teachers to pass a slow learner to the next level even when the child needs more time and mentoring to merit passing that grade level, because not doing so will mean a cut in the productivity bonus.

This same system has given birth to the practice of making children memorize NSAT samplers to get good ratings, instead of making sure that children learn critical thinking and analysis so they can answer on their own once exam time comes.

We're not even talking about the Mother Tongue-based Multi-Lingual Education that is now producing children who can barely understand Cebuano being taught by teachers who can barely speak Cebuano, because the textbooks are in Cebuano in utter disregard to the fact that Cebuano is not the mother tongue in Mindanao. But we're running out of space.

Our take-away for today is to never lose one's purpose, one's reason for being. Systems are put in place to make things easy, to improve existing conditions, or to strike a compromise. But once the reason for the system is forgotten and only the method remains, then we will be in greater trouble than having incoming freshmen not able to read and express themselves in correct English or Filipino, and not even Cebuano.