Knowledge Management

Knowledge Management

NOTE: “Leadership Reflections” shares views of the different members of the University Leadership Council on matters related to campus life and the operations of the University. As well, it features opinions on issues of national and/or international relevance.


Dr. Betsy Joy B. Tan, Vice President for Academic Affairs

When Dr. Leopoldo T. Ruiz, the first Filipino president of Silliman University, defined what a true university is at his inauguration during the 1953 commencement, he pointed out what is one of the admirable attributes of the University.

“Silliman’s greatness…is its ability to turn out thoroughly trained men of Christian character…with the breadth that enables them to see a problem from all angles, the passion to serve their fellowmen…, the depth of conviction based on study and the discovery of what is true, …and the height of aspiration which enables them to set as their goals nothing but the highest and the best.”

British playwright and critic, George Bernard Shaw, when asked what the purpose of life is, gave a simple answer:  The purpose of life is a life of purpose!

‘Unity’ implies not only a oneness of vision among the faculty and staff; ‘unity’ also implies a wholeness of purpose, of a mission, as a journey along with our students.  Along the corridors of the academe, such unity of purpose becomes magnified when faculty and staff relate to each other, when faculty and faculty interact with each other.  In classrooms, such unity of purpose is more magnified when teachers interact with students, or when the interaction is between students  – creating a chain of interactions and relationships that spill over outside of classrooms, beyond the portals of Silliman University.

As we look back into ourselves to reflect on life’s purpose, Aristotle reminds us of the complexities in our careers as educators when he said, “The aim of education is to help people to become fully human…where there is an understanding of oneself and one’s emotions as a base from which to move forward.”

Indeed, the world of our youth today is deeply different from the kind of world we were brought up in by our parents and our many significant others.  Can you recall during our time if we had cloud computing, the “virtualization” of a computer that turns one machine into many?  I can safely recall that we only had black and white TV.  We never had TV that can turn into an internet access in seconds.  We also only had the walkman but never the sophistication of today’s mobile phone where one can listen to other sounds and music, record our thoughts, or play with video games.

What then has technology made of us or our students, today? 

Famous Filipino inspirational speaker, Francis Kong, in his desire to search for the poet as well as to give us an enlightened perspective of today’s youth – whom our national hero, Jose Rizal, looked forward to as the hope of our fatherland – published this short poem for our reflection in his Philippine Star column of April 16, 2011 on the question:


We read in the papers, we hear on the air,
Of killing and stealing, and crime everywhere.
We sigh, and we say, as we notice the trend,
“This young generation!  Where will it all end?”

But can we be sure that it’s their fault alone?

That maybe most of it isn’t really our own?

Too much money to spend, too much idle time;
Too many movies of passion and crime;
Too many books not fit to be read;
Too much of evil in what they hear said;
Too many children encouraged to roam,
By too many parents who won’t stay at home.

Kids don’t make the movies, they don’t write the books,
That paint a gay picture of gangsters and crooks.
They don’t make the liquor, they don’t run the bars,
They don’t pass the laws, nor make the high-speed cars,
They don’t make the drugs that addle the brain;
It’s all done by older folks greedy for gain.

Thus in so many cases it must be confessed,
The label “Delinquent” fits older folks best.


Indeed, to find an answer to our responsibility-accountability as adults, as parents, as knowledge professionals, who really is the real delinquent?

The stories and statistics about man’s state of becoming, the third major domain in life, are not inspiring either.  There is the story of a British scientist in the organization called, The Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health, who – when she was short of money while writing her Ph. D. dissertation – joined an agency and earned 300 pounds per session of sex.  What compounds her situation is the way society has responded:  her book became a best-seller now titled, The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl.  Moreover, Dr. Brooke Magnanti’s sexual exploits, as written in her weblogs, became a TV hit reality show, “The Secret Diary of a Call Girl”, that has circled the globe in 2009 and will undoubtedly continue to do so. 

Statistics-wise, society hasn’t fared any better either when there are many signs of emotional illiteracy around us:  teen crimes, including the recent shootings on Philippine school campuses; the popularity of drugs; babies who are already having babies themselves – and the attendant STDs; relationships labeled as partnerships, or living together arrangements now euphemistically identified as the throw-away culture; or the narcissistic behavior that TV evokes in one’s desperate hunger for fame and self-promotion.  Ego-tripping is then a product of the Knowledge Economy today.

Here in our country, the low turn-out of board exam passers is also another painful reality of classroom life.  Last June 15, 2011, when the results of the 2010-2011 Global Competitiveness Report of the World Economic Forum was released showing that the Philippines ranks number seven in education and innovation among nine Southeast Asian nations, the Philippine National Competitiveness Council (NCC) pointed out the severe disconnect between university and industry – where university research is only done for degree compliance; or when only 20% of high school graduates are ready and so proceed to college in a country with too many colleges and universities and where even LGUs compete with the private sector by opening their own schools and colleges.  A case in point is the existence of two LGU-run colleges in Mandaue City, Cebu who are still fighting for recognition.

The Philippine NCC then recommends that as a society, we should only have fewer but better universities and that, we should rationalize our educational system.

Education begins informally in homes; but is formally structured in our schools, our classrooms.  How then should we, as teachers, rise up to the challenge of American management guru, Peter F. Drucker, who coined for us the term, ‘knowledge work’, to formally mark our transition from the Industrial Revolution where wealth was capital to the Knowledge Economy where wealth now refers to one’s wealth of knowledge?  Bill Gates, who gave us the personal computer, has been a consistent model for wealth as knowledge – always on top or one among the top in Fortune’s list of the globally wealthy.

In spite of the home as the informal start of one’s education, we also know that schools and universities are the only institutions in society that train and prepare the human resources of a country; so that as an industry, schools and universities have to be managed just like any business enterprise.  And as schooling and learning are formally structured in classrooms, each classroom has therefore to be managed as a business – and not as an extension of one’s person like when a teacher tells the student, “Your grade is just on the tip of my pen!”  In our profession of knowledge work, classrooms are therefore places of knowledge-at-work where both students and teachers work together to assimilate, accommodate, and expand knowledge.

At Silliman University, the knowledge-creating community, knowledge must then not only be the fuel for thinking and innovation; but must also be”…the advocate of the view that knowledge is renewable and changing”.  Thus, in Knowledge Management, published by the Harvard Business School Press in 1998, Ikujiro Nonaka wrote about the practice of knowledge management that evolved in the 1990s when knowledge workers like teachers make up the support system of students who not only avail of knowledge but also see themselves as knowledge-seekers and therefore are also knowledge workers.

Like their teachers in the classroom, each of our students come gifted with the human brain.  They come to us with a pack of brainpower within their control and under our subtle but privileged influence through their imagination, creativity, intuition, discovery, memory, belief, and wisdom. 

Because media creates a passive world for viewers, the teacher as knowledge manager must always aspire and be conscious of competition in media – the beauty-enhanced faces; the controlled vocal quality, tone of voice and the coached vocal projection; the packaging and interactions of people we see on our TV screens, their studied poses and pauses, projected personas. The classroom teacher as knowledge manager must then teach not only their specific disciplines but also the knowledge and skill of discernment along with self-mastery and emotional competence.

Because studies have shown that too many video games, internet and TV addiction can sap our attention span, the classroom teacher as knowledge manager must seek the breadth and depth of creative ways to redirect each student’s attention away from the current Irrational Exuberance, the title of his book’s 2009 revision and the term that Yale University’s behavioral economist Dr. Robert Shiller, has labeled to describe our contemporary attention problems – which, by the way, are cumulative that build up over a lifetime.

Cognitive impairment or forgetfulness has also been identified as the first sign of Alzheimer.  Classroom teachers as knowledge managers must therefore always be in a state of passion, of constant states of learning to teach and teaching to learn.  In 1994, Dean Richard Arends of the College of Education, Central Connecticul State University, already wrote about the flow experiments of University of Chicago psychologist and educator Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as a key feature of classroom life. This theory of flow identifies “states of optimal experience in one’s total involvement, concentration, and strong feelings of enjoyment”.  Like an addiction to technology, being in a state of flow is like “being carried away by a current, like being in a flow” when classroom teachers are successful in putting their students in states of flow.  Successful knowledge management in this regard is then  the success in the states of being in a flow, in the total attention and involvement of every student in class.

After today’s unity of purpose retreat, it is then expected that both teachers and staff as knowledge managers, are fully equipped with the conviction that only their critical leadership can create productive classrooms and creative students in academic environments characterized by a climate where students feel positive about themselves and their peers; where students persist in academic tasks by doing their intellectual best in cooperative ways; and where the school itself is governed by orderliness and discipline, by respect for the dignity of man.  In such professional climate, the editor-in-chief of Harvard Mental Health Letter, Dr. Michael Craig Miller, expects professionals to always correctly read the “grammar of facial expression”.

There is no doubt then that the quality of knowledge work in classrooms or out of them are the natural nurturants of emotionally competent classrooms, of a knowledge organization like Silliman University.  Let me venture further too, that the true meaning of a university can be gleaned from Moshe Kai Cavalin, the 2009 11-year old Associate in Arts graduate of East  Los Angeles Community College when he said, “I feel proud, but not too proud, because pride is the enemy of learning”. Such wisdom from a very young arts graduate, a prodigy,  is food for thought for all of us in this campus by the sea!