22 July 2006

Rebranding education reform: a liveblog

"IS THAT really Mayor Sonny Coscolluela speaking?" Mayor Diding Gamboa of Enrique B. Magalona town in Negros Occidental asked in jest, after hearing the former share his thoughts on the topic of "Branding our education reform—how can we be understood by the public?"

Mayor Sonny, who hails from Murcia town in the same province, is more popularly known among us for his "strong mayor" approach to improving the quality of basic education. But today, it was a "marketing man" Sonny who addressed us in the second and final day of Synergeia's strategic planning session here in Clark Field, Angeles, Pampanga.

And he made very cogent arguments: while our product is good, even exceptional, judging by measurable results made practically across the board, it is not being perceived well. Mayor Jesse Robredo, who spoke yesterday, made the same point: Notwithstanding Synergeia's rapid growth and growing influence as an organization, its member communities remain the exception, rather than the rule.

He ascribes the problem to the use of the phrase "local education reform," which presupposes that somebody—individuals and institutions alike—have committed mistakes in the past. And it is going to be difficult to sell these reforms to the very same entities who are supposed to be directly or indirectly responsible for the mess that the Philippine public school sector is in.

It was really interesting to see two mayors from radically different backgrounds and of contrasting management styles agree on the common need to rebrand what we are doing, and engage DepEd more vigorously and strategically, even to the point of letting it "own" what Synergeia began and built over the last four years. And it is equally exciting to give liveblogging a try, as the picture above shows. (Mayor Sonny is the guy in orange shirt.)

Well, there is always a first time. :)