Jan 12-18 2014

TaN: Adjusting the school calendar of the Philippines does not make it (globally) competitive.  Is the proposal or intention of adjusting the school calendar truly motivated by the desire to be globally competitive or is there another (ulterior) motive – like financial gains?

The problem with the predominant mindset is that conformity to the prevailing (regional educational) situation or system is being marketed as proof of willingness to compete at the global arena.  Erroneously, even the so-called experts fail to realize and understand that global competitiveness is not significant (or even totally irrelevant) to conformity to regional or even global standards.  If one produces a superior product – in this case, (true) quality education – not only is it unnecessary to conform to whatever are the prevailing standards but one can even be setting the standard for others to follow.

The only true beneficiaries of an adjustment of the school calendar to “mirror” those of one’s neighbors is the business bottom line – i.e., the capitalist or owners or stockholders – because the only benefit will be financial.  Proponents are trying to hide behind the claim that it will be easier for students of neighboring countries to switch because the calendar are synchronized.  Again, this only proves that it is the financial consideration that is the driving force and not the convenience for the students.  Always remember that, whenever money gets into the picture, It Will Always Be About The MONEY.

Furthermore, another equally valid and sensible argument is the consideration of the percentage of foreign or exchange students that will be “served” as compared to the local student population.  In the case of the Philippines, foreign students make up a miniscule percentage of the overall student population.  So, why adjust the school calendar to accommodate a tiny minority at the expense of the inconvenience of the much greater majority?  MONEY.  Outside of the standard tuition and other fees paid, a Philippine school stands to earn an extra Php10,000 (per foreign student) – as of this writing – as sort of a “privilege tax” for foreign students to study in the Philippines.  This extra payment does not really account for anything except to pay for that “privilege”.  It is pure and simple profit – nothing else.  That 10,000 does not provide the foreign student with extra courses or subjects, extra learning materials, extra dormitory or living facilities, extra food and drinks, extra uniforms, extra lessons or assignments – in short, absolutely NOTHING!

No wonder school owners – especially those who are already currently enjoying some foreign enrollees – are so eager to be “globally competitive”.  All that extra income for not doing anything extra.  So, please…don’t give me any of your Bovine Ordure!

TaN: One can never have profit or monetary gains and philanthropy simultaneously; one has to be of a higher priority or importance.  It is like intellectual property and the academe; they do not mix.  One is either in academe or one is for profit (because intellectual property is all about financial gain, while the academe is all about finding the truth and innovating for humanity), otherwise profit compromises academe.  Whenever education is run like a business (i.e., for profit), no matter how it began, it will eventually degrade into a matter of financial viability.  When the income drops below the break-even point (i.e., begins to exceed expenditures), the concern for financial gain kicks in and becomes the priority.  Then, the quality of education is sacrificed – a “natural” conequence of cutting corners – to restore financial viability.

In the case of business, this is usually seen in the effort to do CSR (corporate social responsibility), where the common practice is to implement some sort of a community outreach or social program to show “concern” and “gratitude” for the patronage of consumers.  Many a time, the CSR is in the form of a philanthropic endeaver, where part of the proceeds or income from sales is diverted or deidcated to an altruistic project – like donating to calamity or disaster victims, to indigenous and poverty-stricken communities or individuals, to religious or entho-cultural activities, or to other “worthwhile and noble” ends.

At first glance, one would be inclined to be impressed that a business would part with a portion of its earnings for such a good cause.  But, on later analysis, if one truly wants to give back to society for the continued patronage it receives from society, there should not be any “pre-conditions”.  If anyone truly wants to do something good to others, there should not be any “pre-conditions and requirements”.  Good work is only good if it is done sincerely, purely, and FREELY – absolutely no strings attached whatsoever nor any sort of intention except to provide true and sincere social responsibility.

No matter how noble the cause, no matter how sincere the intention, no matter how much the amount the funding or where it coming from, any philanthropic endeavor must be completely separate.  It is good (and wise) to remember the adage, Cæsar’s wife must not only be chaste, she must also APPEAR to be chaste [emphasis mine].  So, it is not only equally important but may even be more important that the public’s perception be considered than the reality.  So, business should avoid “contaminating” CSR efforts with a corporate “stain” that gives the public an impression that it is not sincere, that it is engaging in CSR because they are trying to clean their public image or it is trying to do a “double play” by getting rid of near-expiration or poorly-performing products while making the public believe that it is concerned and being socially responsible or that it are trying to boost sales (and income) by using altruistic to encourage consumers to patronize (more of) its products “for a good cause”.

CSR programs should try to abide by the following principles: (1) materials for CSR progran should avoid being from the business product line – like medicines (if the business is a pharmaceutical company) or food fast (if the business is in the fast food industry); (2) avoid conducting CRS activities during times when the company is having a public image or public relations issue; (3) avoid conducting CSR activities when sales are down as this will taint the intention that the company is doing it only because it wants to boost sales and improve its financial status; and, most important of all, (4) stay anonymous (or avoid using anything – like markings and labels – that can provide the beneficiaries of the CSR activity with the identity the good samaritan) and this includes publishing the CSR activities, except for internal and auditing purposes and to stockholders and employees (and government, for tax purposes).

As an addendum: extra care should be taken for CSR programs of companies that are part of a bigger business conglomerate – like being a subsidiary or one of many in a group of companies or was absorbed or taken over by competitor or from another industry and the like.  CSR projects, in this case, becomes more complicated and particularly challenging because an allied or fellow subsidiary company.  For instance, a fast food chain is sold to or merged with a pharmaceutical company and the former has been conducting CSR via medical missions that provide free pharmaceuticals.  If the free medicine is from the buying or merging pharmaceutical company, the public may be prone to assume that the medicines are being provided as a means to boost its market share (by making it more widely available and by making it appear that they are being a good samaritan).

Finally, the important thing to remember is to avoid conducting CSR during times when the public will be given the impression that you are not sincere – that there is another motive behind it – (deservingly or not).  In addition, avoid using or having any materials that may likewise provide suspicion that the company is trying to drum up business – due to poor sales or any other of the sort – or to dispose of items that may otherwise no longer be saleable.

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