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The Two Sides of Academic Institutions

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Note: This is a repost from its original publisher on this site: The Two Sides

The Client

The parents and students looking for a school. For instance, a family with three kids. One starting in preschool, the other one will be moving up to grade 1, and the other starting with the middle school. They searched the Internet and compared the facilities that appear on the different schools’ websites and social network pages. They contacted each of them and requested for relevant information on enrollment as well as the costs. They also checked online if there were some reviews and other relevant information that may help in their decision-making. They whitelisted a few that they decided to visit. As they entered one of the schools in their list, they were impressed by what they saw. They immediately admired the stunning physical appearance along with its facilities. They met with the administrative and registration officers, and were given a tour around the school. They were even more impressed on what they were seeing and considered this school at the top of the list of their options.

Then they started to ask questions beyond the obvious. What about the school’s system, the curriculum, teachers, accreditation, affiliations as well as other relevant information on its academic credibility and the actual learning inside the classroom? The officer provided all the information they wanted to know that they were satisfied with the answer to their queries. However, they still did not forget that they had other schools in their list that they needed to visit as well. So they thanked the officers and left to see the other schools. At the end after considering the cost, the safety, convenience and other factors, they decided to go back to the first school they visited. They enrolled their three kids in that school.

They were so excited and purchased other necessary items that their kids needed, including uniforms, books, electronic devices required by the school along with other relevant materials and resources. They also paid the required fees and visited the school once again for a final orientation a few days before the start of the school year.

The School

A new family visited the school. After completing the necessary evaluation and weighing the different factors, they were finally excited to enroll three of their kids. As they were stunned with the facilities, they were also satisfied with the officers’ answers to their queries. They completed all necessary paper works and paid the deposit.

At the first day of school year, the parents were excited to drop their kids at the school. The kids too were excited to wear their new uniforms and to be identified with the school. As all their doubts were cleared by the answers to their queries, they were all ready to start the year at, and, with their new school. As days went on, the excitement seemed to be fading from the students’ faces. The office phones are starting to ring and emails received. The parents were calling asking for clarifications as they had noticed, and their kids reported, that although the facilities were good, the academic side was not and most of those that were mentioned to them during their first visit as well as prior to the enrollment were non-existent. The administrator who was always present to welcome the parents at the outset is no longer available to answer their questions. Eventually, they had no options than to go to the school to personally speak with the concerned officers. Still the said officers were not around and teachers were the ones who were assigned to attend to the needs of the parents and students and to answer their questions.

A few weeks before the end of the semester, the oldest of the three kids informed the office that he was no longer coming back next semester. Only the two younger siblings will remain. Before the end of the second semester, the parents sent an email that the second child was no longer coming back the following year and only the third will stay. The third child completed two years and also moved to another school. No reasons were given and the school administrators did not bother to ask the family.

Why did this happen? The other scenario below can give light to this.

The Restaurant Analogy in Education

The above scenario can be explained by a situation that leads to a similar outcome. A family just arrived to live for the father’s long-term job contract at an area and was looking for a restaurant to enjoy their dinner and to help them decide on which to patronize eventually. They searched the Internet and found a few places. They checked the facilities through the photos on the establishments’ websites, the menus and the different presentations of the food.

They decided to try a few of them on the first week to see where they will go the next and try to establish friendship with. They went for a dinner at one of them on Monday and the following six days to six different restaurants during the week. The managers had different ways of welcoming their new guests and the family started to compare all seven of them. The food, the presentation, the treatment of the whole staff as well as the environment had differences which the family immediately started to feel.

They did the same thing the following week and started to notice that the differences are becoming noticeable and they had now come up with their theory as to which one was the best down to the worst. The process was repeated on the third week and the consistency between each shop’s website as well as what they were told at their first visits by the managers and the reality had become obvious. They repeated the process one more week to establish their conclusion and at the end, they were able to make a wise decision as to which of the seven they will patronize more.

Academic institutions, just like restaurants, serve what people need, and want. In some cases though the parents and students are not really aware or have no idea of what they exactly need. When prospective clients visit a school they expect the best from that institution. Although some of the parents and students may have little idea on what academic excellence means, everyone regardless of cultural background and social status in life have basic and common needs as far as education is concerned.

The institution therefore has the responsibility to help their clients understand what they need and to steer them to the right direction. Because restaurant customers have different tastes and likes, the establishment cannot also satisfy everyone’s want. But customers are always willing to go into a compromise especially where they have no choice, or when they realize it is not worth fighting over a small difference. As long as the discrepancies or inconsistencies are minor or are well-explained, a reasonable customer can understand and  is willing to overlook them.

When a restaurant displays a brief description of its menu such as Asian, American, Indian or Mediterranean Cuisine, the customers have an idea on what to expect. An academic institution’s menu is its curriculum and usually described as British, American, IB and so forth, which immediately give the prospective client a rough idea of what to expect. When students enroll, they expect to see and hear what is described in the school’s curriculum or menu. There are of course some variations on how these are delivered. Just like the food and ambience in a restaurant, the consistency between what the menu says and what the customers actually taste and experience determines whether the establishment or institution be able to keep its clients, or lose them.

In the scenario above, the clients initially believed what was explained to them and what they saw seemed to reinforce what they initially heard and felt. But when they had the actual taste and experience of being inside and part of that institution, they saw the inconsistency and failure of the school and its administrators to live by what they claim they are, both on their website and other digital as well as verbal presentations they had, as against what the reality was. The worse is that no one was there to entertain questions and needed clarifications when the parents personally visited the school after failure in their attempt to communicate through email and telephone which was not the case at the beginning. Just like the restaurants that lost their customers, the school also lost its client.


The above can be compared to another situation that you may find interesting on this link:
The Cruise Ship Analogy in Education

Note: This is a repost from its original publisher on this site: The Two Sides

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Existential Flexibility-The Ralston Principle

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Note: This is a repost from its original publisher on this site: Existential Flexibility-The Ralston Principle

In 2003, Aron Ralston was hiking alone in Utah’s Bluejohn Canyon when he was trapped by a falling boulder where his right hand and wrist were stuck underneath a massive rock. Ralston survived on minimal food and water even resorting to drinking his own urine. No communication device in his possession and no one knew where he was going, he had to use unconventional solutions to save his life. He used the limited tools he had to amputate his trapped arm, rappelled 65 feet down rockface and eventually rescued by a family who fortunately was passing by.¹

Ralston said later, “The lesson is that resilience is about flexibility.” However, there is another word (adverb) we would like to add to this: existential. What is existential flexibility², and how can this be applied to the current education system we have? We will focus on the education industry and we will see how such quality can be used to face the challenging times we are in today.

Simon Sinek describes existential flexibility  as, “The capacity to initiate an extreme disruption to a business model or strategic course in order to more effectively advance a Just Cause.” In other words, it is a drastic and most of the time offensive action one has to take in order to survive and continue existing. Contrary to the defensive adjustments one has to take to maintain his current course,  existential flexibility is resorting to a totally different approach and most of the time opposite the current course one has to take in order to survive and be able to reach the intended goal or objective. It is an unconventional and offensive maneuver one has to accept to take to continue floating and sailing as it were.³ 

Having existential flexibility means coming to terms with the fact that everything will go on with or without the one we perceive as essential. With such quality, one has to be willing to lose something no matter how precious it seems to be to achieve a just cause, be agile and willing to pivot and make a massive shift to something new or even into something he considered before as stupidity. Leaders in the education industry must let go of long held notions and ideas that no longer serve them. 

Most of the time however, the opposite is happening. Leaders tend to protect their current model and refuse to adapt the needed changes, not realising that such leads to a certain death of their organization. In Ralston’s case, he could have chosen death but kept his arm. But his “just cause” was to survive and continue living. He was looking forward to his becoming a father and other prospects he will enjoy if he will continue living even without the arm that he was about to amputate. His action and decision was in agreement with what one wise ancient king wrote where he said, “There is hope for whoever is among the living, because a live dog is better off than a dead lion”*. In this article and on other related topics and pages of this site, we will call this as the Ralston Principle.

Education industry leaders of any country, or on a smaller scale an education institution, cannot overlook the importance of a crystal clear “just causes” of the existence of their organization or institution. There are three of them. First is the quality of education to the citizens or students (their clients). Second is the affordability of the services, and third is the efficient delivery of the products or services.  These leaders should be willing to do the necessary offensive pivot even to the point of becoming stupid in their own eyes or standard to be able to survive and reach their just cause. Old school education leaders tend to stick to a system that they were accustomed to as young students and eventually educators, and is difficult for them to adapt a new system or innovate new ideas to keep up with the fast-moving scenarios their clients face. The Covid-19 pandemic is just one example that necessitates an abrupt change in a system to be able to continue providing the necessary services of education institutions to their students.  

We cannot deny the fact that institutions whether they exist for profit or non-profit causes need money to survive. The source of this money is of course from the enrollments, and many education industry players resort to different marketing strategies to attract more clients. They continue to keep abreast with the latest marketing strategies that other industry players are employing to attract more enrollments. But since marketing is only as good as the quality of the product, these institutions must also improve their products or services and innovate new systems that are appropriate or fitted in today’s conditions and client mindsets and needs. Adopting new marketing strategies without improving the quality of the products or services, or not adjusting according to the changing market trend, may have temporary and short-term benefits which leads to a stunted growth, and in the long run to the eventual death of the company or institution. 

So how can education leaders apply the Ralstone Doctrine? What scenarios and market trends Covid-19 and other events had brought about and what necessary existential flexibility is needed to face these challenges?


¹ Between A Rock And A Hard Place – by Aron Ralston
² Not to be confused with existentialism. This article never refers to that.
³ The Capacity for Existential Flexibility
 The Holy Bible, Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NWT)

Note: This is a repost from its original publisher on this site: Existential Flexibility-The Ralston Principle

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ETEEAP was introduced by the Philippine government purposely for Filipinos who were forced forego their college or university education due to circumstances beyond their control. It was  established by the Executive Order Number 330 (EO#330) signed by former Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos on May 10, 1996. But there was a precursor to the ETEEAP.

Prior to the signing of EO#330 was a part of the 1987 Philippine Constitution Governance Act for Basic Education otherwise known as Republic Act 9155 (RA955) which established the Alternative Learning System (ALS).

The official website of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Philippines describes the reason why these systems were established this way: “Many Filipinos do not have a chance to attend and finish formal basic education (Grades 1-6 and Year 1-4) due to many reasons. Some drop out from schools while some do not have schools in their communities. Since every Filipino has a right to free basic education, the Government establishes ALS to provide all Filipinos the chance to have access to and complete basic education in a mode that fits their distinct situations and needs.”

How does the system work?

The same source explains, “There are two major programs on ALS that are being implemented by the Department of Education, through the Bureau of Alternative Learning System (BALS). One is the Basic Literacy Program and the other is the Continuing Education Program – Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E).  Both programs are modular and flexible. This means that learning can take place anytime and any place, depending on the convenience and availability of the learners.”

The difference between the Formal Education System and the Alternative Education System is that “Formal Education system is classroom-based, managed by trained formal school teachers” while “ALS Non-formal Education happens outside the classroom, community-based, usually conducted at community learning centers, barangay multi-purpose hall, libraries or at home, managed by ALS learning facilitators, such as mobile teachers, district ALS Coordinators, instructional managers at an agreed schedule and venue between the learners and facilitators.”

In the above description the ALS has two sections. The first one is the Basic Literacy Program which is intended for those who have not completed their basic education (Grade 1 to Grade 10). The recent implementation of the K-12 system for the Philippines to comply with global standard added the senior high school level which is Grade 11 and Grade 12. The students’ qualification to graduate (In elementary, secondary or senior high school) is evaluated by series of examinations prepared and administered by the DepEd at designated place and time throughout the country. Outside the Philippines, these are mostly held at Philippine Embassies or Consulates. These examinations will ensure that the students are qualified to enter the next level of their education. As for the Continuing Education Program-Accreditation and Equivalency, the ETEEAP comes into play for students who wish to continue on acquiring tertiary education or higher learning.

In the Philippines the basic education is taken care of by the Department of Education (DepEd) while the Tertiary or higher education is under the supervision and implementation of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd).

To sum it up, ALS is intended for adults who have not completed their basic education (Elementary and/or Secondary as far as Grade 10). Then they can continue to take up senior high school. ETEEAP on the other hand is for adults who completed their secondary education but were not able to finish their college degree. There are minimum age requirements for these.

Who can benefit from the ETEEAP?

Anyone who has completed secondary education through the Formal Education System or the Alternative Learning System and did not have a chance to start or complete a college or university degree can benefit from the ETEEAP. But how does the system work? How much is the cost? What are the requirements? Other articles on this site provide answers and more information on these questions. You can find them on the links below.


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