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Posts Tagged ‘countering

I have scattered thoughts after weeks of reflecting on how the COVID-19 pandemic is fueled in part by an infodemic.

Consider the content of this tweet.

School authorities here will argue that all these (and more) are covered or integrated in curricula. This might be so [1] [2].

Here is a dose of skepticism: The devil is in the details. The tweet was about specific problem areas for which we might have no answers or only fuzzy frameworks.

This does not make the MOE ideas and frameworks invalid. It just means that frameworks tend to deal with models of reality, not the details and messiness of reality. Again, the devil is in the details.

Then there are adults who have long left school and are not exposed to such frameworks. These are the same adults who spread falsehoods on WhatsApp so much so that the latter had to prevent misinformation and disinformation from spreading virally. Who teaches them?

Our National Library Board will probably point out their SURE framework. Again this base seems to be covered.

It is important to recognise the nature and purpose of frameworks. They are models of reality just like a toy baby is a simple representation of an actual one. The real baby will do more and do so unexpectedly. Models provide simple algorithms or responses so that they are easy to remember. However, they rarely stand up to complex or nuanced issues because models are imperfect.

This tweet reminded me of how people in power play the numbers game to oversimplify complex issues.

In this case, the number (USD 5000) looked good because the mathematical average supported a predisposed conclusion. This is not how to analyse data or conduct research. The data might reveal one or more conclusions; bias or mindset should not dictate the analytical process.

One way to counter the misleading conclusion could be to use the median gain instead. This takes into account the number of beneficiaries and will reveal that there are many more ordinary folks receiving less than claimed.

Countering such a numbers game is relatively easy. Pundits on Twitter and news channels alike can make the same point as I have. But some activities-by-numbers are more insidious.

Consider the claim that the administrative load of teachers here has been reduced on average. However, they might have been lowered only from a policymaker’s or administrator’s spreadsheet, e.g., timetables, co-curricular duties, committee work, special projects, etc.

Such spreadsheets do not consider how school leaders and managers replace the “void” with smaller and more numerous tasks that do not look like administration. Consider how a teacher might be told to follow up on an event by writing a report, counsel a sensitive parent-student case, or chaperone an overseas trip.

All these can be quantitatively defined in a spreadsheet (if they are at all), but not qualitatively justified. A post-hoc report might involve gathering data, sorting though photographs, and drafting documents, all of which take more time than anticipated.

Dealing with a difficult parent and/or student can be emotionally draining and this affects all other work. One might bean-count a two-hour contact time and ignore the lasting effects of such an engagement.

The solutions for countering such a blind and cruel numbers game are not easy. They might include having empathetic leaders, conducting frank and open communication between teachers and their managers, and crafting policies that look into the quality of work and not just the quantity.

Many of our teachers a self-selecting because they are empathetic nurturers. They care for others, but in the process, forget to care for themselves. They do not care about the numbers game or know how to counter it when assaulted by unexpected responsibilities. Might their leaders and managers nurture these nurturers by not playing the numbers game?


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