This is an excerpt from Conrado de Quiro’s column in the Inquirer dated July 31, 2007. He was reacting on Romulo Neri, President Arroyo’s socio economic planning secretary and chief economist, appointment as the head of the Commission on Higher Education.
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry that we have put higher education in the hands of an economist who sees its purpose as producing employable graduates. I grant education is also meant to give students skills to enable them to find work. That certainly is the dream of many, if not most, parents who scrimp and save to send their children to college. But that cannot be the dream of those who oversee education, let alone higher education. The purpose of education is not to provide jobs, it is to educate. The purpose of education is to make students think. The purpose of education is to make students dream. The purpose of education is to fill students, young and old, in or out of school, with imagination and ambition and drive. They begin to think of the Chinoy who, when he meets another Chinoy some years after graduation, asks, “What business have you formed?” and not like the proverbial Pinoy who, when he meets a fellow Pinoy, years later asks, “What job have you found?”
If the purpose of education were merely to enable the kids to find jobs, then higher education should be scrapped altogether. Indeed, colleges should be closed down except for those teaching vocational courses. Not including criminology since its graduates clearly do not learn how to stop crime, they only learn how to add to it. If the point were merely to match skills and jobs, the Department of Education should become a bureau of the Department of Labor and school lessons limited to teaching kids how to speak English preferably with an American accent (or for those targeting the European market a British one) since all the jobs the graduates are likely to land are abroad or in call centers.
The crisis of Philippine education is not that graduates are not getting jobs; it is that students are not getting educated. Education us not just imparting skills, it is imparting values. Education is not just imparting knowledge, it is imparting civilization. Education is not just producing employable kids, or worse exportable ones, it is producing decent human beings, or better honest Filipinos.
(I missed my other favorite columnists, Max Soliven and Teddy"the Man" Benigno. They are already gone.)