Education for the 21st Century

Article excerpt

Byline: MIRIAM DEFENSOR SANTIAGO

(Keynote speech at the international seminar on November 3, 2005, sponsored by the Filipino and American Educatorsa International Associations [FAME] at the Manila Hotel.)

THE Constitution, as a reflection of Filipino culture, recognizes education as the highest item in our hierarchy of values. It declares as a state policy: "The State shall give priority to educationa[bar] " It goes on to devote an entire Article to the topic of education alone, notably including the provision that: "The State shall assign the highest budgetary priority to educationa[bar] "

This is the theory, but it is not the reality. In the real world, the highest budgetary priority is given, not to education, but to payment of our foreign debt. For the 2006 budget of some R1.05 trillion, more than 30 percent will go to debt service. By comparison, education will get only some 12.3 percent of the budget. In other words, debt service will get some R340 billion, while education will get only some R119.1 billion.

I humbly submit that it is unconstitutional to give the biggest budget allotment to the debt service. The Constitution very clearly orders the government to "assign the highest budgetary priority to education." Hence, we, the citizens of this struggling Third World country, appeal to the international community: "Give us the debt relief that is our human right, so that we can devote more funds for the education of our children!" For, as the wise person said, education is the force that, more than any other, will change the future of the world.

New horizon

The new horizon in education consists of higher technology in communications, computer science, the Internet highway, and so-called virtual campuses. This horizon will include a new vocabulary, including: Internet, netware, group ware, body nets, hyper-organizers, digital libraries, virtual neighborhoods, chat rooms, automated tutors, cookies, portals, cyber cafA[c]s, e-commerce, and cyber schools. All of these features are becoming part of quality and relevant education.

Changing paradigms in higher education have ushered in electronic or e-learning beyond the traditional physical classrooms. E-learners pursue advanced training or even postgraduate degrees, without leaving their home or workplace. At present, developments in e-learning technologies in the world have spurred local higher education institutions to make use of the Internet for various purposes, ranging from the promotion of courses via electronic fliers, to delivery of full courses over the Internet in the context of programmatic web initiatives. Using electronic means in delivering education has provided wider access and custom learning. But it also limits time and physical restraints.

Our global civilization is changing at a speed no one could have imagined. It is driven by technology and the electronic tools of the 21st century. It is characterized by change, change, change. Some decades ago, trade negotiations never involved the topic of education.

Today, however, the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) has opened up negotiations on the education sector, because under GATS, education is now part of trade services. Global institutions of higher education seek approval from WTO members to set up branch campuses, conduct on-line educational programs, and send out their faculty to teach abroad. They invoke free movement of services, labor and capital under GATS for cross-border supply of education, consumption abroad, commercial presence, and presence of natural persons in higher education. The proposals are linked with the economic agenda and the free flow of trades and services.

Paradigm shifts

Education is the central part of the knowledge society, of which globalization is a key feature. The knowledge society is characterized by the growing use of technology, the development of the Internet as a marketing tool, and the global use of English as the medium of instruction. …