H.O.P.E. a Challenge to Education
Byline: Fidel V. Ramos
WITH the election campaign ending for our senatorial and local elections, responsible Filipinos - particularly those already or about to be elected with a mandate to serve the people - should reflect on the critical role of education in the electoral process in a democracy such as ours. There is no stronger proof of a country's worth, or a surer guarantee of a people's brighter future, than the quality of its electoral system. A cursory review of the political advertisements, party platforms, and candidates' advocacies show the usual motherhood statements for Honest, Orderly and Peaceful Elections (H.O.P.E.), good governance, poverty reduction, quality education, etc. But very few of the candidates can be credited with real clarity about the issues they consistently stand for - instead the great majority of them depend on sound bites, blaring jingles and showy celebrities to win voters. And that is really an insult to the intelligence of the average Filipino. A timely SWS survey (27 April) reveals that "Most Filipinos Deny Self-Interest, the Bandwagon and Political Machinery." Nevertheless, the same report states: "Adoption of social interest, rejection of bandwagon and belief in popularity over machinery are strongly related to the education of the voter, and giving importance to social interest over self-interest tends to be higher with those with higher education." Unfortunately, the average Filipino has not been empowered enough to know the difference. In the final analysis it is still the capability of making intelligent choices as well-informed individuals, instead of being like herded sheep, that should define a nation's level of modernization. Indeed, it is the principle of people empowerment through education that should underpin voters' choices.
Globalization, family and education
The great impact of globalization is not confined to the business corporation and the economy. Of this phenomenon, I have written extensively not only in the Manila Bulletin, but also in equally popular publications as the Philippine Graphic, BizNews Asia and NewsBreak. Already the weakening of family solidarity is affecting the educational performance of children. Customarily, family and peers exercise greater influence on the child's educational performance than the inputs over which government has control - education budgets, availability of classrooms, and teacher salaries. However, families that are disrupted or impoverished by globalization are unable to pass on their skills and knowledge to successor-generations. Asian - including Filipino - families, fortunately, continue to appreciate the connection between education, social equity and economic sufficiency.
What specific challenges does globalization, with its mass marketing and crass commercialization, pose to education? At the very least, globalization speeds up the flow of technical and scientific knowledge from the developed to the less-developed countries. The Philippine education system - from pre-school level to our universities - must therefore become the ready receptacle and distributor of this great flow of know-how. Education must work to close the gap between the rich and the poor in national society.
Globalization also intensifies every country's need to educate all its people. No longer is it sufficient to educate only a tiny elite that will then direct and manage the politics, the economy, and the culture of the masses. Elitism breeds dynastism, which breeds graft and corruption. On the other hand, our goal of sustainable development requires not only altruistic leaders but, more important, ordinary people with better capabilities than they have now. In the knowledge society, virtually every citizen needs to reach a higher proficiency in skills to function productively, and to make informed choices in a variety of situations - including voting for candidates for public office.
Developments in East Asia
Already, some East Asian nations are geared to equipping every young citizen with an optimum of life skills, beginning at preschool age. …