The Arroyo Administration had a Philippine Task Force on Higher Education (PTFE) whose proposed “educational highway” led the student to “a job.” As important as the employability of one who runs the full distance of the education highway is, many educators, myself among them, were convinced that this fell short of the true goal Philippine education.
Much can be said to support this conviction.
First, considerations pertinent to jobs. It is not the case that a job is a job is a job. Some jobs harness the knowledge, skills, talents and creativities of those who have them, providing income, security, and the ability to start and sustain a family in human authenticity, freedom and happiness. Such jobs might be described as dream jobs, mediating the fuller development of the human being. Other jobs do almost the opposite. They are nightmares. They subject the human person to the dictates of an impersonal, productive “system,” that disrespects person and personality, and instead of mediating human fulfillment, mediates human alienation. Continued work at this job saps the humanity away from the person, denies him creativity, independence of thought, and self-determination. It denies him happiness.
Thus, if one were to say that the finality of the educational system is “a job”, the first question to be asked is: what kind of a job? Would the educational highway be considered successfully run if all of its sojourners found jobs, half of which however were dream jobs, the other half however nightmares? What if most of the jobs were nightmares, mediated by a global world that is kind to employees in developed nations and ruthlessly exploitative of those in developing economies?
The archcritic of capitalism, Karl Marx, had a problem with all jobs, eschewing any situation where human beings expend their creative human labor for abstract money, and miss the human vocation to humanize humanity.
Something for us at least to think about! The Philippine educational system is not just about equipping people with knowledge and skills so that they can sell these, no matter the content, no matter the price, no matter the market. It is not about educating drug pushers, gunrunners, and prostitutes, though these would be quite lucrative jobs.
Even if the Philippine educational system does answer for the appropriate training of professionals, doctors, lawyers, accountants, corporate managers, artists, the essence of the professional is not in how much money his or her services can fetch, but in how much service he or she can render to Philippine or global society.. Just as we err when we ask, “How much is Manny Pangilinan – or for that matter, Manny Paquiao – worth?” so too do we err when we educate professionals primarily with a view to “a job.”
It is a similar error to educating business students and entrepreneurs primarily to maximizing profit.
The Philippine educational system needs to produce not just jobs but must contribute essentially to the formation of the human being. There is a difference between a human being and a beast; there is a difference between a formed human being, one who is educated, and one who is not. I do not at all mean to insinuate that the non-educated human being is a beast, but when human beings are beastly I wonder about the flaws in their education.
I wish to God that we could say that all our Universities of the Philippines, our Ateneos, our La Salles, and our Assumptions have produced human beings for Philippine society and for the world, and not beasts! In thinking today about educational reform, we must be searching for the flaws. Do we educate for money, for ‘a job”, or for humane service? How do we form a person who sacrifices self for society, and not one who sacrifices society for self?
Philippine education is not just about jobs, it is about calling forth the human being, leading the human being out (educare) out of darkness into light, out of the realm of the possible into the realm of the real. It is not just about forming potential doctors, engineers, and lawyers, but about forming potential human beings.
People can be excellently trained in medical skills and legalese, in call center protocols or in information technology, but human beings stop to notice the flowers on the coffee table and the cobwebs on the altar. They are awed by the strength of the acacias and the ghoulish shapes of the elms, the heights of mountains, the vastness of oceans. Between the surprise of the sunrise and the fire of the sunset, they know the difference between the beautiful and the ugly, are sensitive to the needs of a grandmother, feel the insecurity of a child, or the lonliness of a grandchild. They have a healthy appreciation of the giftedness of themselves, and so are able smile when helped, or frown when wronged; they are delighted when others are blessed, and balk when an other is wronged. They know the difference between right and wrong, and grow wise in choosing the right, and repenting for wrong. These know the satisfaction of competent colleagues, the value of friends, and how in the depths of human love, there is the encounter of the Other that is absolutely beyond yet inescapably within themselves. And makes all the difference.