Saturday, January 10, 2009

How Young Filipinos Can Change the Philippines

How Young Filipinos Can Change the Philippines

By: Harvey S. Keh

January 11,2008 (Sunday)

The Manila Bulletin

In one of my classes, one of my students asked me what I think needs to be done in order for our country to move forward and finally move out of poverty. Without batting an eyelash, I told her that the two things that are necessary for our country to grow are access to quality education for every Filipino and the practice of good governance and ethical leadership by our government leaders. I said this since in studies on countries that have moved out of poverty made by the Nobel Prize Laureate Economist Amartya Sen, the common factors among these countries was they all invested to ensure that all their citizens had access to quality basic education and healthcare. In another study presented by our own economist, Dr. Solita Monsod of the University of the Philippines-School of Economics, she stated that as a person moves up the education ladder, his or her average income also increases. Given the problems that our public education system is facing, it is therefore not surprising why we continue to have more than 50% of our countrymen who continue to struggle to make ends meet. According to recent statistics such as the International Mathematics and Science Survey conducted among more than 40 countries worldwide, the Philippines ranked 4th to the last together with African countries such as Botswana, Ghana and South Africa. This ranking is more appalling given the fact that most of the countries which belonged to the top 10 were our Asian neighbors such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan. Another grim reality that we have to face is for every 10 students who enter Grade 1, only 4 will be able to finish high school and less than 2 will be able to finish college. In many areas in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), many children fail to even reach Grade 4 with only 3 managing to finish Grade 6. One should no longer be surprised at these statistics given the fact that many of our schools continue to lack adequate learning facilities such as classrooms and libraries while at the same time many students do not even have their own set of textbooks. Thus, I believe that good governance is critical if we want to reverse this trend in the hope of becoming more competitive with our Asian neighbors. According to the Transparency International, the Philippines is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, losing billions of pesos each year to anomalous dealings and other practices of graft and corruption. Imagine if these billions of pesos were instead put into good use to build new classrooms and purchase enough textbooks for every Filipino student then I think we would be able to slowly but surely inch our way closer to our vision of providing the best possible education for every Filipino child.

Yet, while the problems seem to be enormous in nature, there are also groups that are trying their best to help change our country one public school student at a time. At the Ateneo de Manila University, we have two student-led groups that are reaching out to the public schools in the hope to helping their students attain a much better future. One of them is Alay Ni Ignacio (ANI), the student volunteer group of Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines. ANI started in the summer of 2001 when a groups of 2nd year college students decided that they were willing to sacrifice their summer vacation to help students in the public high schools in their own small way. ANI is a summer instructional program which provides academic and non-academic formation to the academically-gifted but financially-disadvantaged students from the public high schools in Marikina City and Quezon City. The main aim of the program is to be able to help prepare these students for the college entrance examinations and hope that they will do well enough so that they will also be able to get scholarships for their college education. The college student volunteers of ANI provide these students with tutorial classes in English, Mathematics, Science and Christian Living while at the same time providing them with extra-curricular activities such as field trips, sportsfests and quiz bees. Since its inception, ANI has already helped more than 1,000 public high school students enter top-notch colleges and universities such as Ateneo de Manila University, University of the Philippines, Miriam College, Assumption College, De La Salle University and Far Eastern University. While ANI helps build the future of public high school students, Handog na Oras Para sa Edukasyon or HOPE helps public elementary school students by providing them with tutorial classes in English, Mathematics and Science. Like ANI, HOPE is also a summer program run by college student volunteers who study at Ateneo de Manila. HOPE started in the summer of 2006 and has since trained more than 300 public elementary school students. One direct result of the program is that students who participated in HOPE scored higher in the National Achievement Tests given annually to all public school students. These two youth-led organizations have shown us that it is not enough for us to just complaint, criticize and do nothing. Our young Filipinos are showing us that in our own small way we can make a difference towards nation-building. Let ANI and HOPE provide us with inspiration that if this is the kind of leaders our country will have in the future then we can rest assured that it won’t be long before the Philippines becomes a great nation once again.

If you would like to also become a positive Youth Changemaker, join Youth Venture Philippines, send an email to .

If you would like to support ANI and HOPE, you can call the Pathways to Higher Education-Philippines’ office at (02) 426-6001 local 4046 or 4048.

Comments are welcome at

Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.

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