One of the most heartbreaking trends, observe our Filipino service providers and youth workers in Canada, is how our youth, especially children of new immigrants in the last 10 years, are no longer encouraged or pushed by their parents and elders to continue their schooling beyond high school, or even to finish high school.
Heart breaking because this trend does not match Philippine social cultural norms that value good education. Remember the legendary persistence of parents, “Pati kalabaw, ibebenta ko, makapag-aral ka lang” (I will sell even the water buffalo to send you to school)? Whenever one enters a typical Filipino home, three things are noticeable in the living room – altars, family pictures, and diplomas – valuing God, family, and education. So why do our youth lose interest in studying or staying in school?
There are many reasons why Filipino-Canadian youth have the lowest post-secondary participation rates compared to other Asians. These include dropout rates in high school, pressure to work in “McJobs” and other survival-type work beyond the fast-food industry in order to bring additional income, busy parents who could not be involved in or become effective advocates for their children’s education, or lack of interest and motivation to study further. These are big reasons discussed already in the literature, and not the focus of this article, which mainly brings our attention to the incentives, rewards and opportunities that staying in school brings. Here are my 13 reasons why we should encourage and support our children to remain in school.
(1) Human intelligence is diverse, interactive, unique, and creative that can be stimulated further through life-long learning. Learning can occur within or outside schools. Currently, our school systems offer concrete and useful complementary enriched learning opportunities for children, complementary to the internet, TEDtalks videos, travel, libraries and galleries.
(2) Staying in school is a requirement for high school graduation, which is required for post-secondary education and training. When we graduate from high school, we can take further studies in college or university, or go into trades, or shorter specialized training, which sometimes give higher pay-offs than some university degrees. Very few post-secondary institutions would accept students with no high school or GED diploma.
(3) Post-secondary education and training allow us to acquire the necessary skills, knowledge, values, capabilities needed in the workplace and marketplace for the 21st century. While there are other avenues where we can acquire these essential skills, knowledge and values, such as churches, non-government organizations, volunteering, Youtube, there is no better systematic but flexible ways to get these than through our schools, colleges, universities and other higher education institutions.
(4) Post-secondary education and training enables us to enter the professions and get the professional accreditation or credentialization necessary for us to succeed in our careers. While some have lambasted university and college education for being out of touch with what industries and the job marketplace require (the so-called education-job mismatch), it is still our higher education institutions that provide the “gatekeeping” and “quality control” functions for our professions.
(5) Higher education institutions provide education that simulates real-world careers and job environments. Colleges and universities offer students a whole range of courses (on-line, in-class, or blended learning) as well as career mentoring opportunities (e.g. internships) that are increasingly connected to industries and the workplace. Various student organizations, career development networks, as well as specialized, career counselling offices within post-secondary institutions also fill in any gaps that students need in preparing them for their life of careers, entrepreneurship, management and leadership after college or university.
(6) A college, university, or any post-secondary degree or diploma can offer the better job or career opportunities compared to a high school dropout. In a competitive job market and fast-paced acceleration of knowledge accumulation and technological change, where a Bachelor’s degree is becoming the new high school, we must give our children the most basic tools and ammunition to survive.
(7) Better job or career opportunities for college or university educated students offer tickets to achieve our dreams, life goals and social contributions. What are your goals? What are your dreams? How are your goals and dreams contributing to the betterment of our society? Do not hold yourself back from realizing these because you do not have at least a high school diploma.
(8) Dreams of travel and life goals of travel and adventure are possible through post-secondary educational opportunities. Most colleges and universities these days offer chances for students to travel within and outside their cities, abroad through various work-learn, community and international service learning, local or foreign internships, or study overseas programs. Some of these occur through university-based research projects, community and international partners, university consortia, or with “sister university” arrangements.
(9) Dreams of higher income and financial security are best served when we have good jobs acquired because we have post-secondary work secured by our degrees, work experience and credentials. Money cannot buy happiness, of course, but money and financial security can keep us out of real physical misery, isolation, and loneliness. Though our incomes, we can create real personal assets, including more education through graduate school that can help us even advance our knowledge, update our skills, or enjoy career mobility.
(10) Attending post-secondary education and training institutions expands our social networks and develops our social and emotional intelligence needed for success. At any given day, when we are at college or university, or even when we are studying outside, we are forced to socialize, meet people, get to know others who are also fascinating and interesting people. The company we keep transforms us.
(11) The social networks and multiple intelligences we develop throughout our post-secondary education also prepare us for a life of giving back and exercising our civic rights duties. We learn how to be kind, compassionate, giving to others and our community in our schools and universities that instill in us that civic spirit. We become avid volunteers who think of the larger good and what is in the public interest. As we become more stable and secure financially, we contribute time and money. We donate and become philanthropists in our own little way. We learn that we feel good when we help others and our society.
(12) Real money and income can come out of attending post-secondary education and training institutions. Yes, attending college or university can cost money. But do not forget, you can also find money and income in colleges and universities that offer scholarships and awards based on merit, or need; provide employment to students who they prioritize in hiring for contract and short-term positions; grants for research and projects. So, if you are fascinated by how universities and colleges work, there is no better way to find out than working for them while you are studying with them.
(13) Our social networks developed while attending post-secondary education and training can introduce us to life-long friends, life companions, and potential marriage partners. I concede that an increasingly higher percentage of people now meet their partners online. However, before the explosion of on-line dating and marriage websites, guess what are Top 3 on the Top 10 ways people met their partners? Yes, # 1 workplaces; #2 schools and universities, and #3 the laundromat! As they say, universities make great “fishing grounds.” Your future partners are likely to be also well-educated, likely to earn higher income, to be financially secured in the future, to have good social networks, just like you are.
So if your child, niece or nephew, yourself or someone else close to you had lost the interest and internal motivation to continue their education beyond high school, please let this article convince us that no external set of incentives or motivation will work if we do not find that internal drive, want, passion, desire to learn and prosper.
Parents can be the mirror of life-long learning for their children. Our children should see us reading books and newspapers (print, analog or digital), discussing what we read with them and others, going to libraries and galleries, browsing through websites and brochures on university and college options, and letting them know we are saving or preparing to support them throughout their post-secondary schooling. Our children need inspiring role models and support to be inspired themselves to learn continuously and prosper successfully, not just for themselves and their families, but for our communities in bother their country of heritage and their new adopted country.
(Leonora C. Angeles is Associate Professor, University of British Columbia School of Community and Regional Planning and the Institute for Gender, Race, Sexuality and Social Justice.)
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