School of Public Affairs & Governance

The Silliman University School of Public Affairs and Governance believes in governance that looks into the heart rather than at the appearance of things or phenomena (1 Sam 16:7). The school maintains that no facts exist except those that are disclosed in the interpretation of what is already understood (Salazar, 2001). As Salazar aptly puts it, “We can have a million facts in our heads and still remain uneducated.”

For the SU-SPAG, the goal of real education is to enable students to stand in the truth that manifests in our existence, not just accumulate mere facts through a predefined theory for practical considerations. Facts do not give us true knowledge, since true knowledge can only spring from a system of knowing wherein one is able to learn. The sense of this education, which is fundamental in our search for truth and which one can learn in SPAG, is ensconced in the words of Martin Heidegger (1987):

But to know means: to be able to stand in the truth. Truth is the manifestness of the essence (i.e., existence). To know is accordingly to stand in the manifestness of the essence, to endure it. Merely to have information, however abundant, is not to know. Even if curricula and examination requirements concentrate this information into what is of the greatest practical importance, it still does not amount to knowledge. XXX The man who possesses such information and learned a few practical tricks, will still be perplexed in the presence of  reality, which is always different from what the Philistine means by down-to-earth; he will always be a bungler. Why? Because he has no knowledge, for to know means to be able to learn.

Heidegger’s thought process exposes the obsolescence of the calculative academics whose thought processes have matured in the existing performance measurement approaches that rely primarily on financial accounting measures which, according to Kaplan and Morton (1996), are “becoming obsolete.” In the Philippine setting, the same thinking process paves the “ground of thoughtlessness” in NEDA’s penchant for constructing arbitrary macroeconomic and financial performance indicators which have led Philippine governance to nowhere but backwardness.

As an agent of change in governance, the SPAG has redirected its learning thought processes to a transcendental mode of understanding reality for strategic decision-making in governance. In this approach to knowing, SPAG’S calculative learning mechanisms are grounded on meditative learning, which enables students to stand in the self-showing of what is there to learn from reality. This self-showing of reality nourishes the calculative thinking of the students to develop key result areas for strategic action in governance. Following the logic of transcendental knowing and strategic decision making, the school expects to develop a new set of graduates who can overcome over-reliance on the financial accounting measures that are used in existing governance. These performance measures only encourage the development of what Heidegger calls “flight-from thinking” that grounds the prevailing thoughtlessness (Heidegger, 1967). Thus, SPAG’s calculative thinking in terms of established balanced governance KRA (Key Result Areas) measurement approach to learning for good governance is a meditative thinking articulation that will give its students “a system to communicate and to align good governance to new strategies (see also KPMG-NN Institute, 1990).

History

Started in June 2007 to provide formal training in the management of local government affairs, the School of Public Affairs and Governance offers three options for specialization: Fiscal Administration, Local Governance, and Criminal Justice System. The School aims to beef up the expertise of public servants to become more efficient administrators who can discharge their duties in the most economical way with maximum results. A distinguished panel of guest lecturers from Manila and abroad join the resident faculty of Silliman in teaching the courses. As a precursor to the opening of the School, Silliman offered a special program on Local Fiscal Administration mainly for city/town administrators, treasurers, and planning and development officers in Negros Oriental and nearby provinces. The focus of the specialization was improving the local government units? capability for revenue generation. Their final output was a Revenue Enhancement Plan describing the concrete steps to enhance tax collection in actual settings. The short course was timely as in 2007 alone, the national government released P193 billion to local governments as Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). Most local governments depend entirely on the IRA for their expenditures and need to be encouraged to work for fiscal autonomy.