Monday, June 08, 2015

It doesn't matter

The Manila Standard commissioned a nationwide survey on K to 12 and it showed that majority of Filipinos thought that it can't be done. And while I do trust surveys in general, one has to remember that it only tells you the responses of people (statistically meant to represent a certain population) to the questions they were asked.

What it doesn't tell you is if the respondents do know enough to form a proper opinion on a certain issue.

"Don't know enough"

The Standard's survey has a "don't know enough" option but, honestly, how many people will admit that they don't know enough. (I've been to enough barbershops to know otherwise) But seriously, how do you know that you know enough? Your average respondent probably has a relative in a public school, and is sort of aware of what's going on in the news. But is that enough?

The survey asks if "The government is very ready to implement in full the K to 12 program next year" and 63% disagreed with only 5% admitting that they don't know enough. Which begs a couple of questions: one, is there a difference between "ready" and "very ready" (handa versus handang-handa?) and two, what is the basis of their opinion?


Unless properly defined, there can be a huge gulf between being "ready" and "very ready." One could say that meeting the minimum requirements makes one "ready" and exceeding them merits the "very." I can imagine someone reasoning out that the government isn't "very ready" because some classrooms for senior high school haven't been constructed yet. Or that until the displacement issue of college instructors has been adequately addressed, the government cannot say that it is handang-handa.

Bottomline is that a certain number of that 63% who disagree with the statement probably don't think that the educational system will collapse in 2016. They probably know that something has been or is being done to prepare, they just can't bring themselves to say that government is "very ready."

But does it have to be?

Degree of readiness

Anyone who has planned a school event in college or got married (with all the trappings) knows that one can never be 100% "ready" for something like that, what more a gargantuan reform measure involving 47,000 schools and 650,000 personnel. In organizational development terms, a change involving 50,000 people is huge. How do you classify something 11 times that? More importantly, how do you become "very ready" for something that has never been done before?

Your event or wedding planner has the benefit of having done it before, with the previous outings as benchmarks. If he's any good he has a checklist of things to do and a rolodex of suppliers who can help do it flawlessly. The government isn't winging it when it comes to K to 12, but no one, here or abroad, can actually claim that they've done something like this before.

Butch Hernandez, in an Inquirer op-ed piece says
"it is rare that conditions will be exactly the way they should be, especially for something as complex as education."
There is no such thing as being "very ready" for this and only the ignorant (or biased) will demand that an organization be 100% prepared today for something to be implemented next year.

Access to information

I have trouble taking opinions based on incomplete or erroneous information seriously, which is often the case with K to 12. While all the info is technically out there in the public sphere via press statements and datasets in the DepEd website, very few people have actually read and understood all of it.

During TV Patrol's June 1 (school opening) telecast, Noli de Castro asked a field reporter about classrooms for senior high school, which were under construction. Although he didn't say it out loud, you could see the former VP wondering "bakit kaya ngayon lang ginagawa yan."  What the reporter and De Castro failed to mention is that senior high school (grades 11 and 12) will begin next year and the fact that the classrooms are already being constructed is a good thing.

It's not a bug, it's a feature.

But your average citizen who gets his news from kapamilyas would think otherwise. He would think that all public schools are crowded when, in fact, it's the same 10 or so congested NCR schools that get featured on TV every June 1. No major network covers the school opening in Pavia, Iloilo or in Makati, or in most rural areas where things generally run smoothly and the classroom ratio is ideal.

We end up with a population that thinks we're barely coping with basic needs nationwide based on what media tells them, so when asked if we're ready for K to 12 they answer no. But in reality the correct answer is they don't know enough to form a proper opinion.

Basing policy on popular opinion...

... isn't exactly wrong. But basing your planning on the pulso ng masa definitely is.

What that survey tells us is what some people think, which is different from what actually is. An outsider evaluating DepEd based on limited information and without proper context cannot trump actual planning, data, and results by people who have been implementing the program the past five years.

What people think is just a matter of opinion. What matters is if the government is, indeed, ready. And that's a matter of fact.

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