Our educational system does not serve the country. Our schools and training institutions churn out nurses, programmers, caregivers, and call center operators, not because country needs them, but because other countries do. Overseas is where the money is. Schools institutionalize the brain drain. Generations of Filipinos serve the development of other countries, yet are ill equipped to help their own.
Exclusive schools have not done much better. Some are little more than finishing schools for docile housewives and church-fearing salary men programmed to send their future children to the same schools, thereby maintain their coffers. Religion teaches them to shun contraception without a care for dwindling natural resources. Elitist attitudes divorce their graduates from the reality the majority of our countrymen live in. They don’t speak the same language; they don’t know how to cross the same streets; and they have no friends among the poor.
We are a consumerist society, craving all the modern conveniences and pleasures, but not an industrialized one. Ads, movies, music and other foreign influences tell us what we should want and who we should be. But Filipinos don’t know how to produce many of the goods for such a lifestyle. In the globalized economy, we offer only ever-cheapening labor and ever-dwindling natural resources. Our graduates either lack the skills to contribute to our industrialization, or lack the values to make them stay.
Education that matters
The Maximo T. Kalaw Institute for Sustainable Development addresses the need for a more relevant education. The Kalaw Institute, together with Haribon Foundation, one of the country’s leading environmental organizations, and Earth Restoration Corps, a global environmental network, form the Consortium for Human and Ecological Security. The Consortium formulates new curricula on environmentalism, nationalism and entrepreneurship.
Sixto Roxas, Kalaw Institute chairperson, explains, “The new orientation is community centered and not enterprise-centered. They are thought to find fulfillment in helping the community, not just themselves. The enemy is lifestyle. I feel the age group of 14 to 17 is very important.”
Roxas further expounds, “This calls for self-reliance, to find opportunities in one’s own community, even in fields such as artisanship.”
The real deal
These ideas translate to concrete actions. These include alternative programs on Human and Ecological Security (HES) for the National Security Training Program (NSTP), the expanded program for the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) called the Integral Citizenship Building (ICB).
The ICB offers theoretical frameworks on ecosystems and biodiversity on the first semester. This deepens their understanding of citizenship and national patrimony. Students discuss management schemes to resolve human and ecological security issues for specific communities.
The ICB offers supervised fieldwork for the second semester. These include community service, advocacy, educational campaigns and organizational work.
The Consortium formally launched the HES on October 19, 2004.
By Rome Jorge