Friday, May 22, 2009

Sexuality Education in Singapore - did MOE botch it up?

There was a report in today's ST entitled 'Sex Education: Experts identify 2 weak links'.

The report prompted me the consider if MOE did make a mistake in managing this...and if it did, why? I have no insider insight into the workings of MOE, but certain patterns of events (some would say lapses) that have occured in civil service suggests perhaps that some systemic problem might underpin these apparently unconnected dots.

I am probably overstepping the boundaries of my expertise, but it seems to me as an observer that management in the civil service and many of the quasi-government organizations (including hospitals or course, and the universities) now heavily adopt the management style that is based on meeting various metrics. This is what management circles sometimes refer to as 'management by metrics' . The advantage of this kind of approach is that certain goals are set, and the management performance can then be assessed through their ability in meeting these emprically set goals. The disadvantage is that many important strategic goals may not be easily codified, and therefore can only be indirectly identified as a performance goal. Management then becomes artificially and wrongly fixated on delivering with respect to these proxy goals rather than the true goal (uncodified). (Read related posts on the Giraffe's neck.)

Take this sexuality education thing.

We all agree that sexuality education is important and long overdue. MOE sets goals to implement sexuality education. Timelines are set (checked). Get the vendors (checked). How many teachers do we need? (checked). Is there a curriculum? (checked). Anyone vetted? (checked). Which schools? (checked).

Yay!! Great work guys! Right on schedule! Somebody give the man a Tiger!

What could not be codifed were the softer issues like, content, appropriateness, acceptability, parent's buy in... So these don't appear on the radar screen.

So did MOE cock-up? I leave it to you to figure out.

Suffice to say we need to be careful about managing by metrics. Because efficiency isn't all there is about management. It's often really not just about how fast and expedient we are in getting to our goals.

No comments: