Society's Future in Basic and Higher Education

Significant efforts are made at the basic education level to engage students. At least, this is what one hears from education leaders and reformers. And research shows that engaging students and keeping them interested in their education is a difficult task especially when one is up against socio-economic factors such as poverty. Teachers and education leaders go to great lengths to instill the importance of education in the minds of the youth. Succeeding in this goal is usually elusive. It is therefore important that when we do succeed, we follow-up.

Higher education is expensive. And only a few countries in the world are able to provide free college education to all who qualify. It is not free in the United States. It is not free in the Philippines. College education is also not for everyone. Entrance to a university involves not only affordability but also academic preparedness on the part of the student. Thus, even when college education is free, there are admission requirements that maybe based on academic performance and interest. Basic education is a right since its purpose is to prepare society's youth to become productive and participating citizens. Higher education may be deemed different since its goals go beyond producing merely functionally literate citizens. So perhaps, extending the right to education to college means that students who do have the interest, the potential, and the commitment must be afforded higher education.

Future teachers and other professionals come from institutions of higher learning. Thus, in more than one way, the output of higher education has a great impact on the future of society. The society invests highly on education. From basic education up to college, these are numerous years of sacrifice from both teachers and parents. At the end of high school, all of these add up to a considerable amount of energy, resources and time from society. It is therefore foolish to deny college education at this point to those who have finished high school and have demonstrated that they are more than capable to pursue a college education. Doing so is a waste of effort and time spent on the previous years of basic education. With high dropout rates, lack of interest, barely passing standard exams, it is utterly stupid to deny a college education to a student who has survived through these challenges especially when everyone from kindergarten up till high school had worked tirelessly to make this dream come true. This is even more dramatic for a child coming from a poor family. Poor students have not been performing well as data have shown all over the world. Thus, every poor student who managed to excel in basic education is truly a rare gem.

Beverly Daniel Tatum, currently the president of Spelman College, America's oldest college for black women, recently wrote in the Huffington Post an article entitled "Failing Our Future".

Beverly Daniel Tatum, President, Spelman College

In this article, she points out what is gravely wrong in some of the education policies in America. She first cites the difficult hurdles one must pass to obtain a student loan. It appears that those who need most the loan have higher denial rates. Sequestration, forced by the inability of the US government to balance its budget, hurts work study programs. These programs greatly help poor but deserving students pay for college costs. She ends her article with the following paragraph:
As a college president, I know the importance of containing costs and we have done that, offering an excellent education at a fraction of the cost of most selective colleges. Our graduation rate - nearly 80 percent -- is well above the national average. Our students and families recognize the value of the investment they are making in a college education, and we deliver an excellent return. But, when families in need of help cannot find it, we all suffer the loss. The stock market may be rising, but the future of our most available capital - talented young people who were not born into families of wealth - is looking dim. Anyone who can change that will almost certainly have the votes of young people of color - and mine, too. It is time to make an investment in the future of America.
These words apply even more strongly to the current situation in the Philippines. I hope that those who can read, do listen....