"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Solutions Are Simple When These in Fact Address the Problems

In Einstein's Unfinished Symphony, thoughts of a genius while lying on his deathbed were dramatized. In the story, a beautiful mind was attempting to unlock the greatest mind of all. In one exchange, Einstein said, "I am not clever, I am merely curious. I believe that if you keep asking questions then the answers will come. And when the solution is simple, God is answering." Simple is relative. Things only seem complicated when the problem is not properly understood. Anyone viewing an answer key to a problem from a textbook realizes the approach that is necessary. When the correct solution is laid out in front of us, it is easier to see where one needs to begin to solve the problem. Oftentimes, solutions seem impossible to find when all we do is obfuscate and circumvent.

Above photo copied from Albert Einstein Picture Quotes

One must not confuse "simple" with "easy". Simplicity becomes evident when the answer clearly addresses the problem. That is the main difference between simple and convoluted. Philippine basic education presents seemingly insurmountable challenges. The shortages in resources appear impossible to meet. Take for instance the overcrowded classrooms in some schools. The fact that extremely large pupil to classroom ratios are seen mostly in urban schools is part of the problem. How the Philippine government is addressing the shortage problem in this area for example illustrates why conditions are not improving. The following article from Manila Bulletin by Ina Hernando Malipot explains in part how the Philippine government views the problem:

No more classroom shortage - DepEd

Philippine basic education is highly centralized to its own detriment. The Department of Education sees schools not as separate entities. Instead, all schools are lumped together into one basket. Statistics can be a real devil. One can add all the classrooms in the Philippines and one can add all the students enrolled. From these gross numbers, one can calculate the pupil to classroom ratio. And if the ratio hits the magic number, 45 pupils to each classroom, the Department of Education categorically declares that there is no more classroom shortage. When a patient has appendicitis and receives a surgery that removes one of the kidneys, it is stupid. Building classrooms in places where there is no need is equally stupid.

One number can not correctly describe the actual situation on the ground. Classrooms can be built where these are not needed. If the distribution does not properly address the needs, there would be schools that have ample classrooms and there would be schools where pupils are forced to go through multiple shifts or get crammed inside classrooms. The same holds for desks, textbooks and other learning materials. There is another equally unintelligent definition of classroom shortage. This one reflects the current obsession of the present administration on blaming everything to the previous occupants of the palace. In this scenario, shortage is defined as the problem left by the Arroyo administration. What this definition fails to do is, once again, not target where the problems are. If according to calculations, Arroyo failed to construct 66,000 classrooms, building 66,000 means the problem has been solved, never mind where these classrooms are being constructed.

Gimmickry does not stop here. Excuses come next. Schools have been destroyed by a strong typhoon in some areas. An earthquake has destroyed several buildings. And here is the clincher: Where classrooms are necessary, there are no spaces available. There is a reason why a government exists. A government is supposed to be manned by people who can solve problems. Avoiding the problem does not solve the problem. Merely stating the problem and not doing anything about it does not solve the problem. Worse, with circumvention, new problems arise. Deception and lying are problems we do not need on top of the serious shortages faced by Philippine basic education. If the government cannot solve problems the least it should do is not to create new ones....





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