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Education – What they Taught Us and What they Didn’t

I am a graduate of Batangas State University (BSU) in Alangilan, Batangas City, the Philippines. BSU is home to board passers in engineering. Last April 2018, I was given the opportunity to enter the premise once again, after more than a decade leaving this institution to face the new chapter of life.




It was a Saturday. Students are also on vacation. Because my friend's father was a professor here, we were allowed to go in and use the gym to exercise. So in most of the photos of me and my friends you will see here, we are on our  jogging and walking outfits.




First thing I noticed, the school has transformed from a dusty ground in summer and muddy-floody during rainy days to now a modern-class venue of learning. Old buildings were renovated, new hallways were built and construction of more new buildings is underway. The main gate of BSU is far good today compared to when I was studying here decades ago. As if, in my mind, something better could have happened here – the system, the administration might be.





What’s also memorable in that short visit to BSU is that I was also given the chance to meet my ex-professor who’s now the president of the institution.


Me and Dr. Tirso A. Ronquillo

This experience of mine is one of the many things that inspires me today to dive deeper into education. I am a liberal thinker, mainly from a technological perspective, and I have that understanding that education is far different from what it was decades back, particularly here in the Philippines. I remember one of my uncle saying that during his time, in the 70’s, stepping elementary education in a rural setting is close from little to impossible. Parents would rather choose to send their children to the fields to help them grow crops instead of sending them to schools. But today, while such reality still exists, there is a sensitive government that encourages people to engage themselves in education.





Why am I writing this article about education?
There is a couple of reasons.

One, education is perceived by many Filipinos to be costly, that for a poor family, education is not for them. I want to share my insights that this notion is in some ways wrong.

Two, true that education is a business and therefore I want to give everyone a sensible piece of advice on how they can earn an affordable quality education. Well as a primer, the kind of school or popularity of a university will have no bearing at all if its about quality of learning.

Three, I believe that free education is possible in this present day. I want to share my thoughts on how free education, as an alternative to business-centered education system of the times, could work for the Filipinos.


Meaning of Education
Before we go further, let us be more aware of what “education” really is. With that, I want to borrow a few definitions of this word.

According to Dictionary.com,

noun

1. the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.

2. the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession.

3. a degree, level, or kind of schooling: a university education.

Source: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/education


In my opinion, this definition is more inclined to making us believe that education can better be earned if we seek a professional level or degree of it, merely by enrolling on colleges and universities.


Here’s another meaning of education taken from Wikipedia:

Education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits. Educational methods include storytelling, discussion, teaching, training, and directed research. Education frequently takes place under the guidance of educators, but learners may also educate themselves. Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Education


What is significant for me in this definition of education is that “learners may also educate themselves” and that “education can take place in informal settings”.


I did a bit more of in-depth research online and came across this striking discussion on education. Have a read of this excerpt.

When talking about education people often confuse it with schooling. Many think of places like schools or colleges when seeing or hearing the word. They might also look to particular jobs like teacher or tutor. The problem with this is that while looking to help people learn, the way a lot of schools and teachers operate is not necessarily something we can properly call education. They have chosen or fallen or been pushed into ‘schooling’ – trying to drill learning into people according to some plan often drawn up by others.

Source: http://infed.org/mobi/what-is-education-a-definition-and-discussion/


This third meaning of education reminds me of Sir Ken Robinson and his talk at TED.com. Here, he raised an intriguing yet timely question: Do schools kill creativity? Here is the link to that talk.

https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity


When I was in BSU, that memory of hardships and sacrifices of studying while working on a part-time job is still fresh into my mind. Day and night, I have to swallow the reality that to study, you have to pay the school for it. It takes investment to earn an education – this is very clear. While the first three years of my schooling was supported by a scholarship program, DOST-SEI scholarship, the whole 5 years of my engineering education is about that “hunger for money” to finance my studies.





I know, there are thousands of Filipinos students who cannot afford the price of education in the Philippines. Where would you get 20 to 30 thousand pesos for a semester-equivalent study financing if your parents have no stable jobs? Many are often challenged by the question “Should I stop or should I go”. Money is what it takes to graduate in the Philippines. I have proven it right, you might have proven it right as well.

Allow me to share my vision.


Education for the Poor
In the Philippines, poverty is a big hindrance to education. True. But it can be overcome.

When we approach this sensitive topic about poverty and the costly education, it is important that we extend our vision from the urban setting to the most rural places in the country. It is that poor families in the city is in a lot ways different from a poor family in the jungles, mountains, islands, and isolated tribes in the Philippines, even in local towns left behind by progress. It is the matter of accessibility to resources – water, electricity, technology, transportation, among others. Why can’t a poor child in the mountainous province of Bukidnoon avail the free elementary education provided by the government? Whereas a child from an informal settler family in Tondo can get one? Unquestionably, accessibility is a huge factor.

Being “poor” can really hinder one an education. The basic criterion to be considered literate is that ability to read and write, but when these are denied from someone, the effect in his or her future life can be devastating. Reality check: for one to go to school and learn, he or she basically needs food, energy, and time. How can these resources be given to a poor child?

The problem with today’s Philippine education system is that it is dependent on “school” as the main venue of learning. Children or pupils living off-grid are required to walk kilometers of roads or paddle boats over miles of seas just to be at school. And obviously, that would require them to spend - for uniforms, school projects, notebooks, bags, etc. How can that situation of millions of Filipino children be addressed?

My idea is simple.

The government should bring education to the homes where parents or educated members of the community (even if they are not professional teachers) would act as the facilitators of learning. Provide them the learning materials, budget, and consider this learning setup an acceptable way of learning in the country – even at least for a few selected areas. Bring schools closer to the homes in other words.

By the way, if you want to know more about the facts and figures of education in the Philippines, this material can be a good guide.

https://www.rappler.com/nation/politics/elections/2016/125903-ph-education-in-numbers


The Business of Education
Learning institutions, universities, colleges, nursery schools, training centers, whatever they are called for as long as they are private, they are there to make money. Even those who claims they are non-profit or not-for-profit institutions, they make money primarily out of the student’s pockets. Why do we pay for education in the first place? Well, the business model of education can better answer that question but in a more comprehensible level, we pay for education because knowledge and information have price tags on them. I know this for I have worked with a learning institution (a.k.a. education provider) before. I wrote their business plan, their programs, their processes on how to make money out of providing education. And obviously, there is a ton of online leaning provider today that asks you to pay them in exchange of “valuable” courses.

Let’s open our eyes wider on that reality.

What are the costs associated with education in a private school’s viewpoint? The curriculum or the course content is developed and therefore has cost in it. The books and resource papers are purchased from an education supplier and therefore has cost involved. The salary for the teachers or instructors comprises the bigger costs in education. Educational institutions cannot operate without capital and this is the reason why they offer education in exchange of tuition fees and other long-list of miscellaneous fees.

But why that expensive?

Branding is one of the major factors. If one learning institution is affiliated say with a US-based academy, expect that it has high tuition fee. It is basically the way they market it. But we cannot as well deny the fact the higher tuition fees can also be related to the institution’s facility, of it being advanced, complete, and sufficient. Often we are convinced that the philosophical foundation as much as the track record of the institution is based from the thinking of great people of the past. And of course, it is a business governed by shareholders or private investors.

But as a learner, we all have the freedom to choose or decide which school is the right one. Here in the Philippines, there are over 1500 higher education institutions to choose from. There are also multiple scholarship programs to apply on. There is an option between private or public university. So when it comes to cost, the means to alleviate it is just in front of you. You can ignore the psychological effect of marketing and instead, enroll at the school you can afford.

Alternatively, you can opt not to enroll in this business-as-usual learning institutions at all. Yes, there is a lot of them. We were fooled, made to believe by pricey ads that prestigious colleges and universities and their diplomas are the only way to find a good-paying job in the near future. How sad. 






I have to be clear here. I am not saying you skip those universities and colleges. If you have the means, take the opportunity to enroll at these institutions. But always do the due diligence. Continue reading and I will tell you the best alternatives to an expensive university education.


A Diploma-Dependent World
One might say, “I cannot be hired on a corporate job or even a factory job for I have no college diploma”. In the Philippines, and more likely in many countries, it is a reality that those who failed to get a college education will most likely be rejected on a job application. While many companies, small business usually, still hires highschool grads, it is a simple truth that most companies need college graduates.

Let’s understand the reason behind this.

Why require a college diploma for a factory job? Or why a college degree matters in the corporate world? I can see several reasons surrounding this ideology. First, it is a trend or a status quo in the 21st century business world. Many of the so-called “Human Resource Specialists” create a standard or policy in the hiring process and that’s it – at least a graduate of 2-year course must be seen in a resume. Second, the education system itself set the standards. That if you we’re trained in a university, there is a bigger advantage that you can perform well in a company versus those who were not. The third reason is that contagious belief that what is taught in school is the only knowledge that would fit-in in the business environment.

All these reasons created a school-dependent society where people’s minds are conditioned in such a way that college education is above anything else. You must have one to become a member of the professional-working class.

You may argue, you cannot become a doctor, a pilot, or an architect without the licenses issued by the regulating bodies, which in turn requires you to earn a degree. In my opinion, you can become one. Our forefathers practiced medicine by using medicinal plants and they have no licenses. Here in the Philippines, faith-healers are still everywhere. Building a house, in many places, still requires no architect but a so-called "foreman" with no formal engineering education. However, you cannot practice it publicly for there are laws that will prohibit you. With that, I think we cannot do anything more about that but comply, for it is the legality that runs this earth today. But the fact that you can read books about how treat diseases, fly an airplane, and build bridges - who says you can't become one like them?




In the classrooms of BSU, instructors are there to teach us lessons, give us examinations, assign projects, and meet us a few hours a week. When I was in my fourth year, I failed these 2 subjects and unfortunately put an end to my scholarship. I did not meet the score required after all that dedication to learn. But that’s how the education system works. What I know is I studied hard. And what I realized later in life is that failure can always be a good teacher.




Free Education for All
Now, let’s look into the other side , a brighter side – free education.

Search these keywords on Google:

college dropouts who are now millionaire 

The results are more or less showing these names:
  • Michael S. Dell 
  • Steve Jobs 
  • Bill Gates 
  • Mark Zuckerberg 
  • Larry Ellison 
Now, use these search keywords instead:

billionaires who never went to college 

What else should I discuss here? These are just valid proofs college can have no bearing to one’s success in business or life in general. Why are we conditioned to believe that college degree is great, and that we should not skip it?

How many times I hear a billionaire saying a college degree is not important. What matters is your skills, which you can develop thru self-initiatives and experience.

Let me be clear again. Going to college is a good option and that given the reality that many companies in the Philippines today prefer to hire college graduates (a standard), we or our children must therefore get one. However, I am also here to convince you that by not going to college, you can also become successful in business and in life. And here’s how.

Always remember this definition of education:


“Learners may also educate themselves” and “education can take place in informal settings”


If you consider yourself poor right now, I highly suggest that you practice self-education. You can borrow books. You can go to public libraries. You can read and master a craft of your own. If you want to become a good mechanic, go to an automotive shop and volunteer helping the guys there. If you want to learn computer programming, by all means you have, approach someone who’s passionate about computers and ask for advise. You can borrow his or her books. Go and talk to someone who is experienced in a field. Learn how to start a business by listening to the successful entrepreneurs. That self-initiative to learn outside of the traditional school, if you have that, you can master a craft and become the person you wanted to become. Believe me.




Despite all those difficulties I faced while studying in BSU, I was lucky enough to beat the odds and got my diploma in 2005. This institution is what molds me, somehow. But after several years, I could as well say that if dropping out of college or even taking none can make me successful too, I should have not go to BSU. But I know then, a non-college graduate will end up not getting a job in the corporate world. So that decision to enroll in BSU, nothing to regret about. I have over a thousand books with me today. I am now a blogger, a writer, a marketer, skills I did not earn from BSU but out of free education. You too can learn anything.





BSU is expanding its reach. The Alangilan Campus is soon to have a technology zone. While I cannot deny the fact the this university is a producer of intelligent people, this is also one of the universities in the Philippines that offers affordable quality education. And as I mentioned earlier, things obviously changed in this campus. The short tour inside was amazing and fun. I was able to speak with the president of the campus, my ex-professor. More importantly, I have these photos to share with you right now.


The Importance of Education
Education, ultimately, is the key to success. It is what will help us survive in this modern world. If we want to be the best in a certain field, we need to learn how it works. We have to master a skill. But erase in your mind that education offered by schools, colleges, universities, and training centers is the only option. If you have access to technology right now, there are more resources to tap into if its about education. The internet alone is a huge resource of knowledge and information – that are mostly free. Your initiative to learn is the only piece that could be missing.

In a more practical sense, given the reality that college education is still a requirement in getting a corporate job in the Philippines, my recommendation is that you still enroll at an inexpensive school. Get a diploma. And while studying there, teach yourself more. Tap into alternative sources - that are free. And even if you're in your 30's, 40's, 50's, whatever you age is, don't stop learning. Education is a life-long endeavor.

With this self-taught education, you can be hired on a job certainly. And the best thing you can do out of education yourself for free is to start a business of your own. Any business will do. And you can become successful too.



About this Post
Hope this blog written by Noriel Panganiban inspires you. If you want to discover more ways to learn for free or on how to get affordable education, visit www.knowriel.com. This website is created for learners like you. If you have questions or comments about this post, please type them below.

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