The cool climate and relatively affordable tuition and related costs are the main reasons parents, as far as Mindanao, send their children to the City to receive higher education. When I was studying in St. Louis University, there were a considerable number of foreign students who were from Africa and the Middle East as scholars of their governments. This is one measure of the extent in which the university is known and trusted to deliver quality education. Of course, this does not only apply to SLU but also to the other universities in the City. The University of the Cordilleras (formerly Baguio Colleges Foundation) stole the nation’s interest when it produced a lady topnotcher in the bar exams, thereafter raising the University’s reputation in the study of law. The University of Baguio on the other hand is known for its Dentistry course. The University of the Philippines which has a campus in the City is known for it’s grassroots ethic.
But more than this, what I’d like to see is for higher education institutions to contribute more to the community by offering programs geared at educating the public. There is stark contrast in the accessibility of the World Wide Web relative to HEIs as places in which learning happen. As enrolled students and individuals with Internet access grow in knowledge, there are populations in the community without access to alternative learning platforms thus are left farther and farther behind.
This presents to HEIs a huge opportunity to step up its role in community development, perhaps via public-oriented education programs. To begin, HEIs especially exclusive schools need to set aside the exclusivity mindset replacing it with one which embraces all learners (inclusivity) which is consistent with the ideology of university education – freedom to think, question, discover. To me, when students and administrators in these institutions do not make an effort to re-direct knowledge toward community action beyond their campuses and gates, that school is only half a school. St. James said faith without works is dead so is knowledge without action.
Yes, illiteracy and ignorance are an individual’s problem but this eventually becomes the community’s. Parents’ literacy have direct bearing on their children’s education. Basic education in the country is generally in a sorry state and universities have much to contribute to it’s improvement. Universities could be more creative in their offering of literacy classes to adult learners. It isn’t the lack of creativity which impedes universities. I believe it’s mindset– of administrators. In education conferences, I met HEI administrators who seem not to know the connection of basic education to higher education. Generally, HEI administrators look down on teachers and administrators in primary and secondary schools. Turfing, I believe it’s called.
Also, HEIs could do much for lifelong learning to happen. I am thinking of Northern universities which offer public lectures on various subjects and issues, either in their lecture halls or as recorded media. Universities, given their mandate on research and libraries have much to contribute toward shaping and keeping citizens current on issues impacting the community. They need to open their halls to the public. In order to do that there has to be a change in mindset.
When I was a student in the university, I longed for a more vibrant and inclusive education. Walked to and from campus, I was discomforted with the realization that I knew more than the street vendors I meet on my walks and that if she knew more they may not be longer vending on the streets. Also, we are all citizens of this country. How could I know more about geography, say, than another citizen? Moreover, we are in the 21st century when gaps in inequality supposedly have been narrowed. As students in universities must and should, I questioned the existence of inequity, how come this is widening inspite of technology. I thought about what universities could do to bring the street vendor’s knowledge to level up with that of the university student’s at the same time the latter learning new things from the vendor. I would’ve liked part of my tuition to be pooled with other students’ and allocated for education and lifelong learning programs of those outside of the university classroom.