Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Fridays - The White Collar Education Trap

I'm a writer and editor by trade. And I mostly work on Internet-based projects. I guess you could say that I'm a "white-collar" worker. When I was working in SM as a Marketing Officer, you could say that I was white-collar, officially.

But is being white-collar - that is, "professional" level in education, skill, experience and abilities - good for everyone? I seriously don't think so.

It's a weakness of Philippine society, that parents want their children to have an education aimed at snagging a white-collar job. The fact is, in order for the Philippines to move forward, we have to realize that the educational system we have should be two-tiered: one for creating administrative officers, and one for skilled laborers - and we're talking here "able to use modern technology."

The idea came to me as I was thinking of how I wished that my alma mater's grade school and high school had excellent "shop" classes. I now think of how useful proper basic carpentry, electrical, electronic and metal working skills would have been to me. I'm still one of the "handymen" in my circle of friends, but I wonder how it could have been if I experienced good shop teachers. For all we know, maybe my real skill wasn't in writing and editing, but in craftsman-level work in those areas (or is that artisan-level?).

In any case, it brought up a point in my mind. This sort of skill is what the country needs, in order to modernize the industrial sector. We need truly skilled workers. But no, Filipino families make it a point so say that that sort of work is just about as bad as actually being an unskilled labourer on the factory floor.

Perhaps part of it still is linked to our feudal background, which equates a good education with a rise in social rank. But this sort of thinking is coming under fire these days, thanks to the fact that many educational institutions in the country - the worst being the public schools - have become little more than epic failures in providing children with what their parents are hoping is an education for a better life as they see it.

There, too, is the primitive view of the blue-collar job - there is no separation between the skilled and unskilled.

The Philippines, it seems, still operates on the idea of Masters and Servants.

School Business
There's also the matter of schools themselves. Rather than providing a good education, many schools are simply providing for the wants (not the needs) of the students - more specifically, the student's parents. Although you can't blame them for wanting better "futures" for their children, but at the same time, they should be aware that when you have a limited job pool, only the top schools would get their people in, in general.

Add to that the fact that many schools in the Philippines are coming out with sub-par students, and you have a recipe for a disaster.

Self-defeating cycle
As one generation fails, so do they transfer their aspirations to the next. There's nothing wrong with them wanting their children to have better lives, but the frustrations are there, and this will practically force their ambitions on their children. That never bodes well. Children will go to college courses they hate, in schools that have dubious success rates for their graduates, leading to another generation of people who failed at what they studied for, settling for lower jobs...and starting it all up again.

Breaking tradition
I seriously think that the Filipino has to look deep into their cultural attitudes about education. Heck, even I don't know where to start, as the solution would probably take three generations and a serious, concerted and prolonged effort to change how we as a country train ourselves, our workforce and our children for a proper future.

In the end, perhaps I see it as a trap because I can see all these people who are suffering from our imbalanced and increasingly inefficient and ineffective educational system.