The Problem With Prioritizing Education Before Job Creation

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.     The Philippines has been mentioned by NY Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman as one of the countries where many factory workers have college degrees.  In his bestseller book, “The World Is Flat”, he briefly mentioned that one of the benefits of doing business in the Philippines is the large number of highly educated workers.  That is not a surprise, since college degrees, are something that has been valued in Philippine culture.

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.     Parents have taken it upon themselves to provide for college education for their offspring. Some who could not do such, their son or daughter takes up a part time job for funding education. Parents take great joy in telling their friends that their young adult has graduated.  Even for large families with 6 or more kids, finishing college has been a must. Countless college grants, free public college/universities, and private sector support has been available to those interested.

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.    Just for 2014, educational institutions had produced more than half a million graduates. With roughly that abundance of highly trained people each year, one has to wonder why the Philippines hasn’t progressed much. Is this not the way to progress?

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.     America and Japan for example, do not prioritize getting a college education as much. Their focus is more of getting a job, being productive. In first world cultures, the emphasis  is not so much on what you do, but rather, on being useful to society. This is in contrast to Philippine college graduates, where many of these are on the unemployed queue.  Filipinos enjoy the stature of a diploma in society, then again wealthy nations focus on getting a job first.

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.     Western cultures thrive on making businesses that even entry level people can get into.  People are free to move on to higher paying jobs as they’ve learned new skills, or gathered tenure/credibility. Small businesses sprout yearly in abundance.  Compared to Philippine culture, colleges and university are increasing in number.  Taft Avenue alone has several universities along its length.  Recto Avenue’s University belt is another area of thriving schools.

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.     Like a horse-and-cart analogy, westerners focus on getting a horse (business/jobs) while Filipinos decide on buying a cart(tertiary education). The western cowboy has a horse which is useful in itself. At any point, the blond fellow can choose (or not) to buy a cart.

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.     On the other hand, the Filipino in his toga finally gets a diploma. He mounts it as a proud display in the living room of his house. But that cart is no guarantee he will get a job.  Surprisingly he sees on Jobstreet.com that there are 200 people applying for the job he wants.  He sometimes has a hard time getting a job, since there are not enough businesses/ job postings.

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.     Jobs are like a horse, quite useful. But a cart would be useless without a horse to pull it. A cart’s worth is only seen when there are horses. This is why the Philippines has degree holders, taking life easy, being a homebody for a year or so.  Sometimes he lands a job, although it is not the best for his degree. Sometimes he ventures to work abroad, to where there are horses that can use his cart.

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.     Productivity is best when built upon something. Like westerners who opt to produce businesses, get a job, after some time, then they decide to study for a Bachelor’s degree. The mentality is, everyone should get a job. In their first-world culture, it is frowned upon to be unemployed.

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.     Hopefully we could improve the priority of the Filipino mindset. It is not productive to put the degree first, then have no job after. We have a lot of tertiary graduates who have no work for some time now. It is better to be working, than not, even if the job may be menial or boring.

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.     It is inherent in Philippine culture to tolerate unemployment. Reasons abound from, having “no connections”, being choosy, etc.  An absurd example is, people got it backwards thinking they need a girlfriend, but they will be fine without a job.  Believe it or not, the job is more important.  A guy who has gone through 5 jobs would be better than a bum having gone through 5 girlfriends.

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.     As a nation we have to prioritize businesses (job creation) over getting a degree.  More businesses have to be enticed to venture in the Philippines. More locals need encouragement to envision having their own business. Unless the available jobs are more than the unemployed people, count on more crime to be a venture for the idle.

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