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Education's goal

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:24:00 04/08/2008

Filed Under: Education

The current graduation period and the opening of school two months from now should prompt students, their parents, their teachers and education officials to think again about the goal of a university education.

John Henry Cardinal Newman, in ?The Idea of a University,? stated the aim of a university education clearly. He said it is to develop in the students ?the force, the steadiness, the comprehensiveness and the versatility of intellect, the command over our own powers, the instinctive just estimate of things as they pass before us,? which are the fruit of rigorous training and noble influences.

Educators say that the function of education is both social and individual. Its social function is to help people become more effective members of society by passing on to them the collective experience of the past and the present. Its individual function is to enable them to lead more satisfying and productive lives by preparing them to handle new experiences successfully.

In the contemporary world, the practical objective of a university education is often stressed; it is seen as a means for social and economic advancement. The presupposition is that people live in a competitive environment and that the aim of a university education is to help them become winners. This is now the predominant thinking in the Philippines: A university education is seen primarily as a means for getting high-paying jobs and an aid to social mobility. What is often forgotten is that a university education should also develop in the students emotional intelligence, a broad cultural outlook and the right moral perspective.

In the effort to obtain the all-important diploma, it is often forgotten that a liberal education in a university is supposed to have a liberating and liberalizing influence on the lives of the students. To be educated is not only to have private enlightenment but also to have the ability to reach rational public agreements and thus become a productive member of the community. When you come down to it, a university education should develop a mind open to truth and a heart which loves the truth.

At no time in the history of the country is the need to develop a moral perspective in the youth more urgent. The bad examples of many high government officials and politicians and the nation?s culture of forgetfulness and impunity could make the impressionable youth adopt the wrong values. Students may amass a lot of knowledge of facts, theories and techniques, they may acquire cognitive skills, but if they have no moral and ethical perspective, they will not be good members of society.

* * *

Career choices

A graduating high school student now has to answer the question: What course should I take? Different people will take different approaches. One graduate says, ?My father is a successful lawyer; probably I should take up law.? Another says, ?I want to avoid mathematics and science subjects; I will study journalism or mass communication.? A third says, ?Nurses make a lot of money in the United States and Europe; probably I should enroll in a nursing school.?

Students and their parents should face the reality that each person has his or her unique capabilities and skills. For instance, one cannot force a student who is poor in the natural sciences to study medicine. Graduates should also resist the temptation to enroll in a course just because thousands are doing it, and the opportunities for getting high-paying jobs are good. The latest report says the country now has an oversupply of nurses.

A socially responsible student will have to ask himself not just ?What is in it for me?? but also ?How can this course help me make my contribution to my country?? Nobel laureate Aaron Ciechanover recently said that serving one?s country and empowering others is one of the best ways to boost the Philippine economy and improve the quality of life of Filipinos.

Many graduates say that they would like to leave because they see no future in their country. But such thinking can result in a vicious cycle: Graduates leave because they see no hope in their country; the brain drain helps promote economic stagnation; economic stagnation gives graduates a sense of despair. Today?s high school graduates can start the process of ending this vicious cycle by choosing their courses well and staying in the country once they?ve graduated.

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