Monday, November 28, 2011


(This is the fourth article in the board exam series)

I have been away for almost four years from USM. As such, I have no idea how the current administration have been doing with regards to steering the students towards performing better in the board examination. All I can offer here is my insights on how we could move forward in our quest. I will be using some strategies that may work in the USM context based on my experiences in observing other higher education institutions in the Philippines and abroad. This article is about the role of university management in nurturing academic excellence. I will divide this article into (a) support to teachers, (b) academic and student support, (c) administrative support.

Support to teachers. As I have illustrated in the previous article  (bored teachers), the management can enhance knowledge transfer my engaging with teachers through a relevant faculty development program (FDP). Several universities I have gone have this. There is a clear schedule for graduate studies by faculty members (who will take MS, who will take PhD this time, next year?). It is the duty of the college and the human resources office to look for scholarships for the individual faculty. Or the management will hire those with graduate degree already. Scholarships are expensive though. Alternately, the admin can send faculty members to seminars and convention. Perhaps a endowment fund for this purpose can be created. A faculty member who will actively participate in a seminar (say facilitator, lecturer, paper presentor) can seek funding. I guess we can ask help from the alumni to fund this. Add this to our bucket list.

The FDP also outlines the different skills enhancing activities for faculty members including but not limited to personality development (because sometimes professors forgot to comb their hair) and teaching skills (because some of our professors are busy talking to the chalkboard). This should be done for free. Or why not carefully examine job applicants with innate teaching skills? Psychologists are good at this. The management may also conduct motivational activities. For example, when I took my MS in the US, undergrads are encouraged to write a letter of thanks to their respective professors. And once the professor will submit his grades, he will receive the letters from the student (hopefully not curses). Of course, let us not forget promotions and incentives. Add this to our bucket list.

Academic and student support.  In the board exam performance the central figure is actually the student and their community. The administration has to make sure the university is an environment conducive for learning. There should be a regular review of the curriculum. The management has to constantly keep in touch with CHED and PRC to keep updated with new exam syllabus or policy standards. Sometimes, a student flunk in the exam because they have not been taught about the subjects covered in the board. It would be good for OSA to regulate activities to make sure these activities are really academically relevant. Add this to the bucket list.

Updated laboratory facilities should also be taken into account. Although personally, I doubt if  laboratory equipment is a major factor in the board exam (except perhaps for chemistry where they have analytical chem). A lot of schools in Mindanao don't have sophisticated equipment like we do have but they perform better in the board exam. The problem really is that we don't have money. And the laboratory fees are really not enough. Sometimes, the strategy is to pool laboratory fees and to prioritize a particular academic program and neglect the other.

I am just thinking if it is possible to borrow money from the bank to purchase laboratory equipment and slowly pay  it back through laboratory fees. In that way, students enjoyed the equipment instead of waiting to accumulate enough fund (after the students graduated?). They have done that when they constructed the hospital to cater our nursing program. I guess this bank can accomodate this weird idea. Or why not ask help from the alumni. I guess the alumni is willing to donate a laboratory equipment than donating money. Add this to the bucket list.

Administrative and fiscal support. We need to have a strong administrative support in sourcing out money and in resource generation. I am not really good in making money so I don't have idea about this. I leave it to the experts. What I know is PNoy is willing to add more funds to SUCs with academic programs matched with his priority areas (BPOs, agriculture, electronics, infrastructure and tourism) and have majority of the students in the low income category. Bucket list.

Is the bucket full? Some of these are difficult to achieve. But with our concerted efforts we can address them and our board exams will be smooth sailing. All we need is a guiding vision. So all acts are coherent.  Administration guided by a vision.     

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