Education is for everyone. This is true if all of us have the interest for it and have the means to acquire the same. Undeniably, it is the right of each and everyone of us to go to school and learn. However, what is actually happening is that there are some who have been deprived of the said fundamental right mainly for economic reasons.
UN-MDG monitor for Goal No. 2 revealed that while there have been strides in enrollment in primary education (about 6% increase from 2000 to 2008), it is still not enough to be able to hit the target 3 years from now. Approximately, 75 million are still out of school, majority of which are girls who have neither been to school at all nor have been able to finish or complete school's requirements. To date, UN data estimates that there are about 800 million illiterate adults all over the world, roughly 67% of which are women mostly from the Sub-Saharan Africa (e.g. Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gambia, etc.).
It will be recalled that in “myusefultips” previous blog post, entitled “The Value of Quality Learning…." (http://www.myusefultips.com/?p=2237 ), it was mentioned that there are students throughout the globe who have been gifted with mental and analytical abilities but the problem lies on the needed finances for them to go to the best and quality schools and likewise the absence of certain interventions which Governments could have provided to its citizenry in so far as access to high-quality education is concerned. Each country has its own “best and brightest” boys and girls (poor and rich alike) and these privileged young minds could possibly build a brighter future for the next generations if their talents, particularly in science and technology, are unleashed, nurtured and honed.
UNESCO's (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) Budapest Declaration on Science stated, among others, that “….Science should be at the service of humanity as a whole, and should contribute to providing everyone with a deeper understanding of nature and society, a better quality of life and a sustainable and healthy environment for present and future generations.” Said UNESCO's declaration recognized that science has a role in alleviating poverty and stimulating economic growth. The world is full of natural resources to be explored and discovered through scientific research and its applications which are deemed essential to development, but at the same time the world is being attacked with huge problems (e.g. poverty, poor health, ecological degradation, etc.). Thus, there is plenty of room for improvements using the resources that are available around us so we can have healthy and productive life and a fulfilling and bright future ahead of us.
In view of this, Government leaders particularly in developing economies are being encouraged to put in much higher budgetary appropriations for education and invest in and assist the poor but deserving kids (boys and girls), most especially, to obtain the said scientific knowledge which is expected to yield benefits for the entire human race at the end of the day. Rather than delving more of their study and leisure time to social technology such as video games and frequenting to social networking sites, these young bright students should be motivated to focus on more productive scientific learning related tools to increase awareness and stir their passion on the "real" science and technology. However, these could be realized only if and when all the stakeholders starting from the students, parents, teachers, businesses and the Government are willing and able to cooperate and share their time, talents and treasures altogether.
One example of a Government which responded to the said call to formulate education related reforms is the Philippine Government. In line with one of the Government's agenda to invest in people thru provision of quality education and ultimately make the county be more globally competitive, the Philippine Development Foundation or "PhilDev "(a non-profit organization based in the Philippines and the United States), organized a forum with the theme, “Accessing the Global Markets through Science and Technology (Innovations in Education Summit), on November 7th at NYC 's Asia Society Museum.
The said forum was attended by various experts in the academe, business sector, philanthropists and ordinary people and media (including bloggers) who share the same passion and believe in the advocacy. It was also in collaboration with the Philippine Government with some cabinet officials as speakers in the said event.
As you may know, the Philippines ranks 75th out of the 142 countries based on the World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report, specifically in terms of technological innovations. Despite the country's positive economic growth, there is but a widening gap between the rich and the poor, where the latter (majority) holds the bottom portion of the pyramid, so to speak. Poverty and corruption related problems have worsened. Acknowledging these problems, the present Government's administration has avowed to correct and improve this situation by formulating and implementing a budget emphasizing on education, health, tax collection efforts, conditional cash transfer (CCT) and other revenue generating measures.
According to the Philippines' Secretary of Finance (Cesar Purisima) who was one of the speakers in the said event, the Philippine Government is bent on transforming the country (which is an archipelago in terms of its physical geography) as an “Island of Excellence”. He shared with the audience the proposed “Aquinomics” (named after the last name of the current Philippine President) of the present administration which has 4 pillars: macroeconomic stability, investment in people (e.g. CCTs, etc.), public private partnerships or private sector participation in some of its major public utilities and infrastructure building (e.g. schools, etc.) and the like. However, even if backed up with good policy and good intentions, there will always be skeptics along the way. As a matter of fact, the newly coined "Aquinomics" is even tagged by some as “no economics” or “no to economics”! But it didn't matter, he got a standing ovation from the audience, probably for his eloquence or his convincing powers!
Nevertheless, the forum was successful as it elicited some supporters to pledge and contribute to the “Super Fund” which was created for scholarship funds for the best and brightest Filipino youth to pursue studies and careers in the fields of science and engineering. Those in attendance were encouraged to pledge about $5,000/annum or $20,000 for a 4-year course to the said Fund to sponsor a a poor but bright freshman college student for his school related fees. So, if you wish to be involved in this endeavor by sponsoring a young Filipino child or college student to pursue studies in science and any technology related courses and who could possibly become scientists someday, please feel free to coordinate with any official of PhilDev at phildev.org.
The said Forum on Education was indeed relevant and timely as we are in the 21st century education. To cope with changing times, it is imperative for all Governments to respond to this challenge of developing young, playful and innocent minds into critical minds. Even if a student is incredibly bright, he can't simply do it by himself. He would require some guidance and support from all stakeholders mentioned earlier.
Thus, for a country to be more globally competitive and to continue to thrive, each citizenry should have to educate themselves, not just aim for the simple one but a better high-quality education. As further stated in the aforesaid Budapest Declaration, "Science and Technology should be resolutely directed towards prospects for better employment, improving competitiveness and social justice." As such, education in science and technology could serve as the focal point to achieving an end to world poverty.
1. After the Philippine forum on Education on the 7th of November, a gala show was held at the Lincoln Center with Filipino-American talents who have been successful in Broadway such as Lea Salonga who starred in Ms. Saigon, for one. The repertoire was mostly from the compositions of the famous American composer and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim.
2. On November 17 to 19, 2011, the Fifth World Science Forum shall be held in Budapest, Hungary
3. Above photos are not for reproduction. Thank you.