imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

Unfair school press conference competitions

In My Eyes
Edward B. Antonio

When David killed Goliath, he set off a tradition that small people can sometimes beat big men; the underdog can pull upsets and the unheralded can give surprises nobody expects.

This is true, fellas, but not all the times.

When RP tried to upset China in the 2015 FIBA-Asia Championship match on October 3, 2015, every Filipino prayed silently for Gilas Pilipinas to win, only to fall short by 11 points in the end. We could have pulled off the big surprise had the PBA lent the players Coach Tab Baldwin wanted or Marcus Douhit and LA Lakers’ Jordan Clarkson were able to play.

Well, that’s the role of the underdog, always looking for remedies in order to win.

But in the case of school paper competitions, it’s different. For me, gone was David’s time. This is Goliath’s time in school’s press conferences. This is the patricians’ time stamping over the plebeians once more as in the early Romans.

In the division, regional and national schools press conferences, there is the so-called individual and group contests. Let’s forget for a while the individual writing contest and bring it out later, fellas. Let’s first tackle the issue on the group contests.

Group contests refer to the contest among school papers. Criteria are set and school papers (English and Filipino), are pitted against each other to award the best in news page, editorial page, feature page, science-health page, sports page and best in page design, both elementary and secondary. The guidelines say elementary entries must have at least 12 pages (up to maximum of 20 pages, size 9” X 11”) while in the secondary, it must be 12” by 18,” 12 to 20 pages. The front and back must be colored, inside pages are black and white.

Further, the news page must have at least 3 pages, editorial 2, features 2, science-health 2 and sports page 2.

Where do the funds come from?

They come from parents’ contributions. The memo says the school paper fund contribution (upon the approval of the PTA) can be as high as P90 (maximum). So, naturally, schools with big population collect more. If a school has a population of 2,000 students, that’s already P180,000, whereas a small school like Nagsuputan National High School with just 250 students can collect only P22,500. Naturally, bigger schools can afford to have a school paper of 20 pages. School papers with 20 pages have more news pages, sports pages etc. and that’s a higher chance of dominating the group contest in the division, regional and national levels.

So, there’s the big difference.

A Division Schools Press Conference (DSPC) lecturer who confessed that he is an officer of the National School Paper Advisers Association (NASPA), said the association had been suggesting that elementary and secondary school papers must be leveled at 12 pages only (regardless of school population) in order to level the field of competition, and not 12 to 20 pages. But he said that the DepEd Central Office won’t bite the idea and insisted on the 12 to 20 pages.

With this kind of ruling, I said that it is but natural that school papers with more pages will dominate the competitions, which he said he agrees 100%.

“So the association is powerless,” I quipped.

“We gave the suggestion, but the final say is from the DepEd Central office,” he said.

Either I believed him or I had doubts. I had doubts by saying that perhaps NSPAA officers from big schools like him (he said he is a school paper adviser from a big school in Bulacan) really decided that the competitions are like that so they will be of more advantage.

His answer was not clear and ended it by saying that it was a DepEd Central Office decision which the association could not do anything and was short by saying that the NSPAA is inutile when it comes to fighting for the majority of all school paper advisers nationwide.

If he was telling the truth (which I could not confirm), what’ the implication?

Since the field is not fair, naturally, small schools could not cope up with the competitions because it has become a battle of big versus small schools, the rich versus the poor, patricians versus plebeians. So definitely, it is unfair.

Aside from this issue, another controversy is that in the tabulation of presscon points to determine the ranks among schools (division level), among divisions (regional level) and among regions (national level), presscon officials said that the points earned by the school paper in the group contests must be added to the points earned by the individual contestants to determine the rank.

I do not like this idea, fellas. This kind of practice will only benefit the big and rich schools who can afford to have school papers with 20 pages and as Mr. Lecturer said, has the higher chance of winning.

Press conferences are supposed to be contests among student writers and the point system should be limited to the individual writing contests. That’s the main purpose of division, regional and national schools press conferences. The contest among school papers must be separated in order to level the field.

“Dinomina na nga ng mga mayayaman na eskwela ang group contests dahil mas marami silang pahina kasi can afford sila, pati pa ba naman sa individual writing contests sa mga press conferences, gusto pa nilang isampid ang kanilang school papers? Nasaan ang sinasabi nilang value of fairness?” said some school paper advisers.

And so the following suggestions cropped out in order to level the field of competitions among all elementary and secondary schools in the country.

1. Restore the bracketing of school papers. Those who wish to publish papers from 14 to 20 pages go to Bracket A and those who can afford only 8 to 12 pages compete in Bracket B.

2. Separate the competition among school papers and among individual writing contestants in order to level the field of competitions between big and small schools.

3. Increase the number of winners in the regional press conferences from 3 to 5 or 7. When the number of regional winners was still 10, many of those who ranked from 4th to 10th became national (National Schools Press Conference) winners and many of those who ranked 1 to 3 did not win.

4. Occasionally revamp the judges in the individual and group contests to prevent favoritism and regionalism judging

5. There must be a clear guideline on the school paper entry texture (whether newsprint, glossy or bookpaper) and the thickness (what substance number) and

6. National individual writing contest winning outputs must be posted in the internet in order to be transparent; likewise, the winning school paper pages must also be posted to give schools the idea on how to win in the competitions. When these are done, schools must be informed so they can be updated and

7. NSPC paper judges must be required to submit their comments and suggestions and must be posted, too, online for everybody to read.

School paper advisers have big problems preparing their school papers and individual writing contestants starting from the division level due to financial constraints and it’s just proper and fair that the voice of the smaller schools be heard.

But will somebody up there listen?