Sunday, September 25, 2011

Education is tricky business

To one coming from the private sector, the decline in education in the Philippines comes as no surprise. They face a similar challenge in the US, despite the tons of money they pour into education. Net, it is not only money . . . yet money helps? This blog talks about our economy, emphasizing investment and competitiveness – and clearly they are intertwined with education? And given that we’re economic laggards, we ought not to wonder . . . that we are underinvested in education and competitiveness? Action speaks louder than words? The bottom line: until we lift ourselves up and overcome economic lethargy, education – and the wellbeing of Juan de la Cruz – would continue a downward spiral?

The good news is we appear to have gotten over our love affair with OFW remittances? What we still need to recognize is the imperative of a broader-based economy, not one focused on a few interests? Our parochial instincts continue to get in the way of truly opening our economy to be in sync with the 21st century? Investment must be wedded with competitiveness – and given our economic history, we don’t have the capacity to drive competitiveness to world-class levels? For example, as economic laggards, we’re starved of technology and thus innovation. And absent these elements, our ability to educate and develop talent, by definition, is limited. (For instance, we need more globally competitive Filipino enterprises for our MBA case writers; our top-tier companies are principally domestic businesses.) These limitations are glaring given our inability to develop competitive products – and thus the inability to develop a broader market? (In the early 90’s, GE realized they were US-centric and reinvented themselves to be a global enterprise – which gave them the ability to pursue R&D without a US bias, i.e., they were parochial too.)

We have to stop thinking ‘Filipino abilidad’? It is synonymous to sidestepping reality? We need to stare reality in the eye? Until we lift ourselves up economically, we shall remain poverty-stricken? Because it is through a robust economy that we can generate the means to upgrade education – that will impact our competitiveness and our ability to attract investments. Our OFW-driven economy has created a true crisis, brain-drain? Instead of reducing poverty we’ve been afflicted with the ‘Dutch disease’, undermining the greater good? Our trained teachers are either maids or chambermaids – even in places unimaginable, from our conventional view of ‘must-destinations’. But the reality of our dire economy would explain why Filipinos will be anywhere in the world to eke out a living? And to add insult to injury, business interests run schools aimed at expanding our OFW contingent!

How does our economic model really look? We closed our economy thus limiting industry to a few, effectively controlling the economy, while supposedly ‘championing’ patriotism? And local industry sells products at affordable prices meant for local consumption (i.e., uncompetitive), while ‘promoting’ CSR? But for the elite, we have imported products – so everyone’s happy? The Central Bank proudly proclaims that their efforts to raise our forex reserves and fight inflation are spot on. And indeed the system works according to Forbes magazine: a handful of Filipinos are among the world’s wealthiest!

Our economic model was our problem . . . before we had an education problem? An open economy would attract . . . beyond investments, technology, innovation and talent, product and market development? It is not about subscribing to an ism, it is the reality of why our neighbors are prosperous?

It is understandable that we struggle to leave our parochial instincts behind. The writer was raised inside parish walls – where he went to school, played basketball, played softball, and had his first boy-scout camping experience, beyond going to church and being in the boys’ choir. The parish was our life, and in our psyche, it still is? And not surprising, a sister is a nun! And even in the suburbs of New York, the writer’s daughter went to a parochial school!

Cambodia may be in our rearview mirror – for now? In the meantime, Vietnam is leaving us in the dust? It’s the story of Juan de la Cruz? Let’s not blame our educators, but ourselves?

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