Saturday, January 7, 2012

Our Commercialized Education and the Mold that Creeps in It

artwork by the author

The other day, news coming from the Commission for Higher Education (CHED)—actually issued last 2010—created a lot of unease to many students and school administrators. The CHED memorandum order no. 32 series 2010 is aimed for the suspension on the opening of selected college programs (graduate and undergraduate) which will be effective for the school year 2011-2012. The reports said the department issued a circular that would limit the number of enrollees in nursing, business administration, teacher education, HRM, and IT. Their memorandum would either force the school to transfer their students to another school with the same program or by choosing a totally different program for their current students.

The good part is that this is only for schools with low passing rate of graduates in the nursing licensure exam that has been dropping through the years.  However, the passing rate was not the main basis of the said prohibition but of employment.

The unemployment rate of nursing graduates (I am using nursing in particular because they are of the main concern and at the spotlight right now) has reached an alarming number of 200,000 in 2010 and the numbers are accruing. To compensate, some nursing graduates—non-board passers and the registered ones—accede to jobs that are beyond their expertise, or should we say tasks that they have not specialized in during their collegiate years such as in call centers, sales, marketing, online teaching and so on. I know one who accepted a job as a private assistant for a Korean family in an exclusive village which later as I found out the title was a euphemism for a yaya. But the travails of our graduates—not only nursing—do not end there.

Apparently, there was also a roundabout in working in a hospital or for the many “getting experience”. They have to pay to be able to work as a trainee, volunteer, apprentice so that at the end of 50 to 100 hours they would get a certificate that they could present to their employers abroad. Another option is to look for recruitment agencies that have a direct link to employers internationally. And for some, they head straight to foreign lands to gamble in uncertainty for the hopes of a veiled employment.

It is true that we have a lot of manpower resources not only in nursing but in many other fields. Maybe too much.  Ironically, in sectors such as education and healthcare—where the needs are magnified—the scarcity of professionals that is in service to their own country have been decreasing steadily over the years.

Why is this menacing satire pervades? It is because the resources aren’t spread evenly. While the cities abound medical practitioners, those from the barrios are left out. The concentration of professionals is mainly in the metropolitan area where profit is good and where chances of going abroad are high. What could the barrio give them or compensate them with anyways? Surely, financial convenience would be the last of thought. And security of placement and of the place itself is veiled. Even the supplies and other means would be stiff and scant.

Would there be a logical person that would take up this burden? Where they could see their colleagues prosper. Where they could see them flaunt their Porsches or Mazdas while they commute everyday. Or while their friends have purchased their dream homes, they remained in their dilapidated apartments for rent. For sure, this is not what nursing has promised them.  
Let me digress.

I witnessed some years back the same department that is CHED to have promoted the nursing course. In fact they made a list of profitable courses that students should consider and at the top was nursing and this was so for years and years. The “promotion” was because of the high demand of the said professionals internationally. A news program aired before: foreign hospitals preferred Filipino nurses because of their virtues (or is it all because of that?). And true to that claim, most of the nurses sent abroad—with their astronomically converted monthly salary of 50,000-150,000 Pesos—became opulent. For sure they wouldn’t be so if they have worked here. They would be shuffling in their hands the meager salary of 8,000 to 15,000 Pesos to last until the next payout.

The promise of fortune was made even more forceful when DOLE also commercialized nursing jobs abroad. In result because of the high demands on the market and with the longing to move up in the dung heap parents encouraged, even forced their children to enroll in nursing programs. What could a youngling do anyways? They are not the ones sweating with blood for the payment of tuitions. They are not the ones who hassle with overtimes to pay bills. So in the end they follow the behest of their parents; such is the close ties of Filipino families. There are some who, with no clue on what they want to do, took up nursing because of their practicality and of the high demands across the globe.

With this craze, colleges opened nursing programs to accommodate this need. Nursing schools mushroomed everywhere with promos and packages for those who would enroll. While the computer colleges thirsting to fish some of the greens that the craze have brought, changed their specialty from computer science to nursing. How insincere and crass this is. And how terrible this commercialization can be. While this has sufficed for almost a decade, a sudden shift in the world market demands has shaken the government from their drooling slumber of remittances. They awaken to a nation of unemployed professionals who would do anything just to sail away from their motherland to earn a living. Some of them possess an adamant resolve never to return again.  

Who is to blame in this ballooned problem? Who is but the government itself for the policies they have created, for the dream they fed to the people, to the youth. And to the parents who was dazzled with stories of success and comfort. They have conditioned their minds to the promise of fortune in another country. And at the same time, they have encouraged the educational institutions to cater to this dream that they are creating.

Of course, part of this problem is burdened to the schools and colleges that allowed this. Why did they not predicted this when it is so obvious and common sense? Why? Because nursing—but not limited to it only—has continued to become their watering holes until now that kept their institutions ambling. They have become money-making corporations that profited from the hype than an educational institution. They have appeared more similar to fast food chains that appeared across the country without the thought of the by-product of their serving. Yes, nursing programs are questionable in some schools. In the end, aren’t they making a fool out of the students they are accommodating hiding in the cloak of education? They have made nursing more of a merchandise, a franchise than a profession—a degenerating form of consumerism that discounts choice because they are driven into a corner in which they are cornered to pick from a or b.

However, most importantly, the problem should be answered by the students, the individuals themselves for they are the ones face to face with it. They are in direct contact with this malady. They are the ones that will go through it. It should be a challenge for them to find what they truly wanted to do in life for in the end when the pressure is pummeling them this is what they would keep them going. When their stomach is murderously churning they could proudly say: “this is what I love to do! I chose this!” Let’s reject the formula that has been handed unsparingly. Instead they should ask themselves: what is it that I love to do? What are my passions?

It is a challenge to us to rethink our definition of education and what it represents. We do not go to college just to go through it. We do not study because at the end we would be earning, and profiting from it; more so it is not to gain social prestige and status. We go through college, pursue graduate courses, doctorates so that we could do what we want to do in life. We do not study just so that we could earn. But because by doing so we could have more power to do what we wanted to do in life. We have more freedom to pursue what we truly wanted to do.

It is a challenge for the students to go beyond the commercialized education. It is a dare for them to look through the façade that it is being presented to them. The reason behind this is that as soon as these demands are changed so too are the needs in the corporate world; we all could see once this need have been satisfied, the excess would have lost their supposed value; they are marked as "oversupply", and what a miserable tag to give to a candidate. Like a fashion trend that is due to expire. And by then the formula that the government has presented would have been junk.

What’s next? Culinary arts? HRM? Midwifery? Caregiving? We could not let the market demand to us what we want to do, but instead let us decide that for ourselves. For at the end of the day we will be before our own selves and we cannot hide the lies that we continuously tell ourselves.

The mold that creeps in our educational system is that it was paraded by the government without any reservation. Perhaps in their mind they said, “let’s get the most out of this.” Sure, we got billions of remittances from them. Sure they made the lives of people comfortable and the economy as well. But what they have not anticipated—what it seems their grave mistake—is that the need was, the demand and interest is, solely for foreign countries.

What they have silently done is to promote a diaspora of able workers, of qualified professionals to work outside the country (some would never return, the others view this country as vacation places, the others of course come back). This has stripped or blockaded the minds of the people to think more of our national demands instead those of another countries'. They have commercialized the American dream or nowadays it was transformed to an any-country-would-do dream.

More so, the reason why it perverted the educational system is that we—the students, the policy-makers, parents, officials, the people—have allowed it. We have accepted the concoction that they have given us. A band-aid remedy for a deeper incision in our ailing nation. We should go beyond what we could see.

Follow your passions. Follow your dreams. But more importantly, dream for this nation for you will be forever tied to it. No matter how much you wish to cut the umbilical cord to your motherland you are forever identified with it. No matter how many times your skin goes whiter, and your slang varies you are of this nation. We can never escape the warmth of its embrace and also of the pain that have been smothering it. We only have one mother no matter how much we renounce them.

To you out there, think of this nation. Act for this nation. Let your education be a shining light to the seemingly endless dark of the tunnel our nation is passing. And with the same light, with that same fire burn the mold that creeps!

copyright benjamin ryan rañeses, iii sailingontheclouds® January 8, 2012