Aspirations vs. Priorities

“I give the institution of education as the agent of change. All of which, having a stimulus, the response relies on the interplay of the foundation of society, the tool for change and the agent, which is the educational system…Education pervades all other institutions of society.  That is, even Filipino values can be transmitted, interpreted, sensationalized, made or unmade in education.”  (“The Policy Way: Reinventing Filipino Society through Education and Communication-in-Development in the light of Jurgen Habermas’s “Discourse Ethics,” 2005)

These were my words when I was asked to write a proposal for a framework of development in my Socio-Cultural Change and Development subject in M.A. Sociology (CPU, Iloilo City). Some of my mentors criticized this theory as contradictory to Filipino context, stressing that the family is the institution that can affect change greatly since it is the basic unit of society.  I had that in mind, too; but as I continued on, I said, “The family though considered as the most important and highly valued institution, is a unit that exist in our society, but holds little control over the mind, heart, and sentiments of the general public – taking for instance in the national level. Each family has its own identity, given such conditions like geography, economic situation, choices of priorities, belief systems, subcultures, etc.  For families to have common identity, such that as a unit will be affected by the result of communication, should be informed in order to participate.  And by that, it is with and by education.”  Family is relative and subjective; education can be objective.  Education can overhaul a system.

The Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education, with the support of other government agencies, have implemented projects and programs to realize one of the millennium development goals of the United Nations dubbed as the “Education for All”, aiming a 100% participation rate and zero drop-out rate by 2015. During Secretary Jesli Lapus’ leadership (Department of Education), Open High School Program (OHSP), as an alternative mode of delivering secondary education for both public and private schools in the country, and the Alternative Learning System (ALS) were implemented.  The latter, ALS, was even encouraged, seemingly more, than formal schooling as it deemed relevant to answer the need for education of many poor Filipinos.  Now, Armin Luistro, the present Secretary of Education, endorses Special Program for the Employment of Students (SPES),” mandated under R.A. No 7323.  Here, it broadens opportunities for education as it “helps poor but deserving students pursue college education by providing income or augment their income by encouraging their employment during summer or Christmas vacations; their income, 60% of which will come from their eligible employers and 40% subsidized by the government in the form of education vouchers. (http://www.ro6.dole.gov.ph/fndr/mis/files/SPES.pdf)  Even drop-outs are given the opportunity to study again in this program.

I believe with all these measures done by the government, my theory for development, stands firm. Education is the key for social development.  For a Filipino mind, I believe, education is still a necessity.  Filipinos, no matter how miserable their lives are, still aspire to go to school, graduate every level from elementary, to high school, to college, even until post-graduate.  But of course, for many Filipinos, it remains an aspiration.  True indeed that, as considered in the provisions of OHSP, problems of time when students have to do household chores or help in the farm first before going to school; of distance, when students have to walk for kilometers on foot just to go to school; of physical impairment, as well as, financial difficulties and family problems, not so many receive the right for education. (http://www.deped.gov.ph/e-posts.asp?id=490)  And indeed, this does not serve the Filipino society well because, as Secretary Luistro has said, “Education is both an investment for an individual and his country.”

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As an educator myself, I believe, the surest way to a better life next to “swerte” or “kapit sa patalim” is education. The problem is, in the cycle of life, with the realities we have in our country, aspirations are blocked by priorities: food to fill the stomach, house to live, security of a life lived in “isang kahig, isang tuka,” etc.  No matter how much we work to provide quality education to Filipinos, the ideal of which “Education for All” policy and all its projects and programs implemented, not only here in the Philippines, but all over the world grapples with the real plight of the men, women and children suffering from poverty in all its forms.

Come to think of it, Darwin is still right until now when survival is still the agent of change and development in our society. DepEd and CHED, together with thousands of Filipino educators and those who are “informed,” should not rest.  We should be troubled and anxious of making this aspiration real.  By that, we should not be indifferent or complacent; we should not lose hope.  We should double our efforts all the more.  Knowing what ought to be, we are obligated, I should even say, morally.

“Being empowered in the Filipino society means being “informed” first of all. (I take it “being educated” in context.)  Such that one can participate in the making of a truly democratic discourse over the important things in our society – even governmental, economic, or policy concerns.  At present, most of the Filipinos are not educated enough to understand the situation (i.e. survival is endless; education alleviates them from it), even with the colors of words and actions heard and seen all over society – from credible to non-credible sources all over…not one should be left out and for one not to be left out; he must first be “informed.”  He or she must first be educated.

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