No Free Lunch

Education for entrepreneurship


We constantly lament how millions of our compatriots have had to go abroad to seek gainful employment, lacking opportunities for decent work here at home. While overseas employment has brought billions of dollars into the country (now amounting to about $28 billion a year), this has come at great cost borne by millions of Filipinos suffering the ill effects of fragmented if not altogether broken families. This is not to mention the physical and emotional hardship, and occasional abuse, that overseas Filipino workers must put up with where they work.

A foreign writer once described us as “one nation, overseas”—noting our seemingly peculiar situation of having a much more substantial portion of our population than usual working in foreign lands. One finds many explanations for this phenomenon, including our traditionally poor economic performance with the consequent lack of employment opportunities here at home, and a natural wanderlust among our people that has led Filipinos to establish a presence in virtually every corner of the globe. There is also our proficiency in the English language, coupled with our cultural adaptability owing to our colonial history, which makes it so easy for Filipinos to fit in anywhere in the world—more, it would seem, than most other Asians do. And so on.

My own favorite theory is that our educational system has traditionally failed to foster enough entrepreneurship among our citizens. That is, our schools have been training our people too much to become employees, rather than employers.  Surveys have shown that most of our young people aspire, once they finish schooling, to work for others rather than work for themselves and create work for others. I have always argued that if only more Filipinos were of the latter kind, then jobs wouldn’t be as scarce as they have been in our country over the years.

What is entrepreneurship-oriented education like?

First, it drives students to be creators, not mere replicators. One gets the sense that too many of our teachers think of education simply as a process of transferring information, which is good for turning out trivia quiz contest champions, but will not produce problem-solvers. Others see it a level higher—i.e., as imparting knowledge, which is of a higher order than information. Information pertains to facts, while knowledge pertains to concepts. But this is not enough. True education imparts not merely knowledge but  wisdom, or the ability to organize and make good use of knowledge toward improving people’s lives.

I believe that the emphasis on teaching science and mathematics in our schools can be carried too far, particularly if it’s at the expense of teaching the liberal arts, humanities and social studies including history. It is these latter disciplines that impart deeper wisdom to students, and must not be neglected in the pursuit of competitiveness in science and mathematics. As we pursue the K to 12 curriculum, our education planners would do well to keep this in mind.

One may even argue that in this age of information and communication technology, teachers should be less concerned about providing information, which students can readily access by themselves from books and electronic media including the Internet. But effective education stimulates in students the hunger for information and knowledge, and provokes them to seek these on their own. More importantly, it trains them to make good use of information and knowledge toward solving everyday problems and meeting society’s challenges.

Second, entrepreneurship-oriented education trains students for effective social interaction, which is key to successful entrepreneurship. This will not be achieved in a teacher-centered classroom where communication proceeds largely one-way from the teacher to some 40-60 students preoccupied with taking notes. More advanced educational systems promote student-centered classrooms where they are encouraged to interact and work as teams. The effectiveness of the educational system hinges not only on the content but, equally important, on the manner and process by which education takes place, whether in or out of the classroom.

Teacher training, then, involves far more than equipping them with technical competence (i.e., more information and knowledge). More importantly, it should also train them to be effective facilitators of gaining wisdom.

Third, entrepreneurship-oriented education encourages students to discover, experiment and take risks. Risk-taking is second nature to good entrepreneurs. A nation of seguristas cannot be a progressive nation. Many of us like to lament how too many Filipino businessmen seem content with imitating and copying others’ successful businesses, rather than creating and pursuing new business ideas. Our history of an import-substituting industrial policy derives from this attitude, and has led us to a tradition of protectionism whose continuing vestiges still slow us down today in the face of the impending Asean Economic Community. Risk-taking and innovation are not something one learns from books, but are fostered through the approach and manner by which education is delivered by our schools and teachers.

Most of us now recognize that our educational system is the first place we should look in seeking the key to inclusive economic development. As we constantly strive to improve the way we educate our children, it is well worth remembering that our objective is to create a new generation of Filipinos who will not merely be earners of incomes, but creators  of  wealth.

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  • farmerson

    In Short, “Don’t look for a Job,
    Create a job”. We need teachers who have expertise in practical
    applications not just merely relying on theory. Do away with subjects which are
    not relevant with chosen specialization. Many passed the Licensure
    Examination but where are they now?

  • dukaponte

    Saan kaya nakuha ni Napoles na gawin business empire ang PDAF?

  • ricelander

    Have you done some business ventures yourself, Mr. Habito? You should, so you know more about advising people to go into business.

    Some have the aptitude, some just don’t. Those with the aptitude should, those without are better advised not to. Doing business is a very demanding task.

    I lost my shirt on my first attempt many years ago. It was traumatic. Sometime ago, I tried it again. I lost not as big but heck I lost. I am thinking about another attempt maybe next year, hopefully more learned then hahaha. I really am not sure if I have it in me, but I like the challenge.

    Government should be more welcoming and encouraging. Just seeking a business permit can be a very tedious process. You find a series of hurdles that seem to say “no, don’t even dare!” not an open welcoming door when you seek permission from the government. It can be very discouraging.

    Local oligarchs could be your own problem, when your business could compete with theirs. Trust them to use their influence so that you perish by any means.

    BIR people and even LGUs can be a pest. You’re just a few weeks sweating it out and revenue collectors are already swirling around assuming you must be earning thousands when you can’t even meet the payroll and the bills. This attitude is killing private initiative. Give time for a business to grow roots naman.

    An anti-bankruptcy law. Do we have one? Bankruptcy is always a possibility. It does scare a potential entrepreneur because a failure could indeed bury one in perpetual debt and penury. Somehow there must be a safety net.

    Ang isa pa, ang Pinoy kasi ayaw malugi. Ewan, pero para bagang isang napakalaking kahihiyan ang malugi sa negosyo, kaya huwag na lang. Sus. It’s this attitude that should be changed.

    • Angelicus1

      I admire your risk taking. I think you have the business sense because you’ve lost twice and you’re still at it. I heard a millionaire business man who started the Residence Inn (concept of extended Stay Hotel) which is like a condo with kitchen, bedroom and workplace in a one or two bedroom units for overnight stayers, as alternative to unimaginative, drab, expensive hotel rooms.He said he lost his shirt not once or twice but 6 times but he kept going back for more because he loved the challenge. When there were regulations that didn’t make sense, he went to the bureaucrats to change them (some of them had no idea of the effects of their regulations because neither parties talked to each other). Bottom line, he never took NO for an answer and he never gave up. After the Residence Inn, he went on to Value Place which is another success, geared to the lower paying cheap people. His $199 weekly rates are in big neon lights you can read from the highway. To hear these entrepreneurs talk, I am motivated to follow their footsteps, not necessarily in making money but in changing minds.

  • Fulpol


    one, you got the heart.. then the skills.. the attitude.. the patience..

    assuming you got all those traits.. what is next?. the product or services to sell…

    you need to innovate.. the best criteria is: are you on the top of the pyramid if you create and sell those products or services?? if your idea is ukay ukay, you won’t succeed and not happy..

    creativity, innovation, imagination, analysis.. these are what entrepreneurs need to possess.. can they teach those in school? no, but the school can hone or polish or bring out those..

    assuming, you already have a great idea.. you think you are on the top of the pyramid, you need now to be resourceful.. resourcefulness is necessity in business.. funding, materials, packaging, employees and so on..

  • Fulpol

    universities should make a general rule to ask their potential graduates prior to finishing their courses:

    “if you can’t find a job here and abroad, what is your option to survive and earn money?”

    “how would you do it?”

    I guessed, that is a good starting point for student to dive into entrepreneurship..

  • TANYA22


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