14 November 2006

Striking a healthy balance (2)

FOR ONE whose task is to coordinate an effort that requires the involvement of institutions and of people representing them, frustrations are par for the course. They come from many sources, impelled by competing institutional and personal agenda that complicate what otherwise should be a predictable ordering of things.

What riled me most is the all-too-easy tendency to backslide, to return to the old ways that haven't worked. Again, there are various reasons behind this:

  • One is demonstrated by the "state of denial" that many in the DepEd still find themselves in, as in the case of the Cotabato division superintendent in the event I am attending since yesterday; the plethora of data notwithstanding, she still does not believe that our public school system is in trouble.
  • Another is more deep-seated and personal, especially as one goes up the ladder: this is how our supervisors did it to us back then, now it's our turn.
  • Then there is the culture that continues to box DepEd, especially its people on the ground. Yesterday, I was talking to Jess Mateo of the DepEd central office and he is bullish about the BESRA (of which I am also hopeful about). But he had to agree with me that even BESRA recognizes this endemic culture as a problem: no matter how empowering the ideas of central leaders and functionaries are, these are mostly lost in the translation when cascaded down, and their division and district personal remain unwilling to get out of the box that has become their comfort zone for so long.
But I remain hopeful, and this sense of hope has been energized over the past few days. In our last School Board meeting on November 9, the discussion was no-holds-barred, yielding an agreement to find the middle ground insofar as lesson planning and teacher supervision are concerned. In the event I am attending here in Kawit, Cavite, the USAID-funded EQuALLS2 project has, in principle, adopted Synergeia's expanded Local School Board (LSB) approach as a central strategy for mobilizing community support for education. This, to me, is an affirmation of the highest order.

And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that what we did four years ago -- to develop prototype lesson plans that will unload teachers of this daily burdensome activity -- is another central strategy that is being implemented in many areas in Mindanao.

All these imply the need for a healthy balance: of course I will continue to find more ways -- and outlets -- to creatively let my steam off; because in so doing, the old dog that I am will surely learn new tricks. But it is equally essential to continue holding the fort, the frustrations that are par for the course notwithstanding. Patience is key, because as is often said, the only way to eat up an elephant is to do it bit by bit.