I attended a graduation a couple of Saturdays back (I’m a governor of iAcademy). It was the first time I did so in a long time. Sadly, I seem to attend funerals more often than graduations these days, which must say something about my age, I guess. Anyway, I was touched. The students come from low- or middle-income families who have sacrificed to put their kids through college.
As the parents came onstage with their award-winning kids, the pride, love and affection for their children shone through. And the kids were happy, confident and relieved that they’d made it—and made it into a bright future. The degrees they earned will take them into industries where demand exceeds supply. iAcademy is an IT school, the skills learnt were in using computers in a range of areas from animation (which, with 3D movies, is becoming an ever-increasing IT sector) to software engineering (designing the systems for others to use). As my wife said, “In the Philippines education for your children is very important. You’ll sacrifice everything to provide it.” Eighty-two graduates were the result of that sacrifice. One young lady, Patricia Maliksi, won three awards. The look on her parents’ faces brought tears to our eyes. Pride, love, hope—it was all of that, it was beyond that. They became familiar figures on stage.
I thought Ronie Baltazar, the magna cum laude graduate, said it all in his speech. He started by taking a photo of the students from the stage, with his smartphone—a capability that wasn’t even in the science fiction I loved to read when I graduated. It was instant communication with the audience.
He suggested to his batch mates that there were two important things to succeed in life: to see the future but act for the present, and to be passionate in what you do and stay positive at all times. He added: “You only need one person to effect change, and that is yourself.” This is a young person that can only succeed in life. This is the Philippines of the future. This is an attitude we all need.
My son has a friend whose son is four years old (my friends have grandchildren that age). He’s a bright, inquisitive kid. He has an iPad, admittedly wrapped in a Mickey Mouse cover, but a real iPad nonetheless. He operates it better than I can operate mine. He’ll never read a book in his life—unless the government doesn’t move with him and scrap textbooks in exchange for computers. ICT—information and communications technology—is the future, a future the government must provide for, ahead of the need for it.
The graduates have jobs waiting for them. They are where the Philippines is succeeding beyond all expectations, yet, for reasons I cannot begin to fathom, the President doesn’t want to support it. I’ve talked before (read my March 14 and 21 columns) on the need, the essentiality, of having a Department of ICT to provide the high-level attention this important sector needs, to no avail.
The President isn’t listening, so we’ve written a more in-depth report (access it on www.wallacebusinessforum.com ) that I earnestly hope he will read. The future is IT, and we need the attention to it only a full-fledged department can provide. Over the past decades this is a country that has missed every opportunity to succeed, and others have raced past it to success. Is it now going to miss another opportunity the magnitude of which can only be imagined? The lack of a Department of ICT is not a legacy the President should want to leave behind.
We all agree that education is the key to breaking poverty, as it opens the door to getting a decent-paying job. So I’m pleased that the government has increased the budget for education to P293 billion from just P186 billion five years ago. The government is also building more classrooms, hiring more teachers, and paying them better, even improving the curriculum and providing 12 years of education. What’s needed now is to match education to business need. Graduates from 12 years must be qualified to go straight into a job, if they decide not to embark on further education.
And that’s great, and to be commended. But as Ronie Baltazar and his 81 batch mates showed, IT is where there’s a real future. Every one of those kids will immediately get a job where, as I mentioned, the demand well exceeds supply. iAcademy started 11 years ago with only 74 students; today it has over 800 and has just bought another building to add to its campus. That’s but a microcosm of the IT industry overall. Growth has been phenomenal, and can continue to be—if the government fully supports it. So I’m deeply puzzled as to why the President opposes it. Here’s one action that is easy to make, one that Congress has already made. Both chambers have approved a bill to create a Department of ICT.
Other IT colleges (lesser ones, of course) are a similar success story. They have recognized where the future lies. It lies in an IT-ready populace. Will the Philippines lead in it, or fall behind like in so much else? It’s up to the President. He needs to agree to the creation of a Department of ICT so it will be properly developed, fully supported and encouraged.
We want Ronie and Patricia to get all the support a government can give.