Batuhan: The ‘pork’ and education

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Friday, August 30, 2013


IT HAS been a hectic time for the family. Since the last week and a half of August, we have been helping our son to settle into his new school at the University of Kentucky.

College move-ins are a big thing in the US, with whole families accompanying their freshmen to their new residences and new lives as responsible adult citizens.

For someone like me who spent his university years in the Philippines, it is a new, and I have to say, fairly exciting experience. The University of Kentucky is a beautiful campus, set in the equally picturesque city of Lexington. The place is known as “the horse capital of the world” and is internationally renowned as the host of the Kentucky Derby, arguably the most famous horse race anywhere. The university itself, aside from its reputation as a highly-respected center of higher learning, is also known for its sporting prowess. Its Kentucky Wildcats basketball team is the winningest in the history of the NCAA and has produced some of the most famous names ever to play in the NBA.

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During move-in week, our family met with other families of new students to the
university. The people we got to know came from all over the United States, and some from other parts of the world. All of them shared in the excitement of their college debutantes, and everyone was as excited as we were in sending their young sons and daughters into their new lives as university students.

If there was one thing that impressed me during the time I spent with my son in his first few days at UK, it is the seriousness with which new students here seem to be taking their education. Move-in week is filled with activities to ensure that students really get the most out of their academic experience.

In order to ensure that students are properly guided as to their choice of courses, there is 1:1 interaction with a dedicated college adviser, who can answer individual students’ questions on the areas of study they wish to pursue.

There are also various sessions catering to students’ various interests—from such topics as pre-professional courses, to subject-specific programs related to areas like mathematics, the sciences and languages.

Of course, the whole university experience is not solely about academics alone. Which is why there are also a number of activities geared to introducing students to other areas of life in the university—from sports, to religion, and student organizations like fraternities and campus politics.

So what did I take away from all this?

Well, the realization that a country is really only as successful as the quality of the students it produces. After all, without its professionals, scientists, and educators of the future, it could not possibly sustain its level of success and affluence.

This bears a lesson for the Philippines that is worth remembering for those responsible for the education of our youth. I think that too often, we take higher education for granted.

The level of support our young college students get when they enter university is nowhere near what I witnessed here. As a result, the failure rate for those entering higher education is quite high, and even then, those who make it may not really have had the best educational experience they should otherwise have received.

Dare I say it now amidst all the controversy, but if there is one place where “pork barrel” funds could best be put to good use, it is in the education of the young.

After all, it is with their hands that the future of this country will be shaped, for better or for worse.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 31, 2013.

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