WITH more universities participating in this year’s European Higher Education Fair (EHEF), hopes are high that more Filipino students have broadened their options in pursuing a college course.
Boasting of excellence and diversity in their respective educational systems, European ambassadors to the Philippines joined forces in encouraging local students and their parents, as well government agencies involved in education to strengthen people to people relationships through learning.
Following a short cultural show inspired by tribal hymns, European Union (EU) Ambassador Guy Ledoux welcomed some 1,746 students, parents, academicians and local government officials to the whole-day EHEF event at the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Intercontinental Makati on November 15.
In presenting Europe as an option for educational growth, Ledoux enumerated three important aspects found in European universities and learning institutions.
“There are many justifications on the benefits of European education. First is excellence, and although there is no reason for me to elaborate on this, let me just point out that even the Philippines’ National Hero Jose Rizal went to study in a European university,” he began.
“Second is diversity. From the 22 universities that participated in this event when we started in 2012, there are now 44 institutions from different European countries here, and all in all we have 28 member-states. So there are indeed many other options available to you today. A number of alumni can happily share their valuable experiences in having had the opportunity to explore different cultures within Europe.
“Lastly, it is more fun in Philippines, and also in Europe,” he quipped.
Joining the EU ambassador to open the Higher Education fair were Italian Ambassador Massimo Roscigno, British Ambassador Asif Ahmad, Czech Republic Ambassador Jaroslav Olsa Jr., Spanish Ambassador Luis Calvo, Danish Chargés d’affaires Pia Heide Salman, Deputy Ambassador Ruth Emmerink of the Netherlands, German Deputy Head of Mission Michael Hasper, and Greek Deputy Head of Mission Spyridon Pagkratis, among many other diplomats.
Representing the Philippines on the other hand was Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Commissioner Minella Alarcon, who herself shared experiences from living in Europe for nine years.
Alarcon stressed the value of European education to the country: “We at CHED want to develop globally competitive Filipinos,” she explained. “In the larger scheme of things, we are preparing for the Asean integration that will happen soon in 2015. The Philippines is also hosting the APEC Summit that is already starting this December. So how do we achieve internationalization? By enhancing our higher education framework—pushing for curricular reform, enhancing credit schemes and exchange arrangements so we can accommodate European students in the Philippines, and have more Filipino students study abroad.”
Meanwhile, with the UK’s huge presence in the EHEF, Ambassador Ahmad expressed his government’s sincere interest in supporting the education fair, having done so for the past three years.
“We have a job in our hands. This is a highly globalized market and we realize that we have to compete with interests for Filipinos who look at the more usual destinations like the United States or Australia for studies. We want people to know that the UK is a viable option—that our degree courses are only three years long, and that while they are there, they also have the chance to travel in other European countries,” Ahmad told The Manila Times.
“What we are working on right now is the discussion on changing rules within the Philippines so that more foreign connections can be established in the education field—so that Europeans can join faculties locally; so that we can establish learning institutions. The real trigger we hope to address is foreign ownership—can we own a campus, and also, can we have independence in the curriculum,” the British ambassador elaborated.
Despite differences in educational systems between the Philippines and Europe, much interest has surrounded the EHEF this year. During pre-registration alone, there was a record number of participants tallied at 2,500 compared to 2013’s 2,000 count.
Aptly themed “Expanding Horizons,” the fair had representatives of European institutions in direct interaction with Filipinos interested to pursue higher education in the continent, which made for a very significant step in strengthening the country’s ties with the EU member-states in a very beneficial way, especially for the young generation.
For more information, log on to eeas.europa.eu/delegations/Philippines.