My son celebrated his third birthday today, and when I think about how much it will cost to send him to a good high school and college, I kind of die a little inside when I look at the figures. Heck, I don't even have to look that far ahead into the future because just a quick survey reveals that the private schools near us have tuition fees ranging from Php80,000 to Php150,000 per year for pre-school, elementary and high school. Double ulp.
However, I've been representing my boss in various state universities and colleges (SUCs) board of regents meetings this past year and doing so has opened my mind to the fact that we actually have a lot of good PUBLIC schools in the country. Prior to joining the Senate, I was under the impression that there were only a handful of schools that mattered, namely: UP, Ateneo, La Salle, UST, FEU and San Beda. All the other schools were mere blips and produced unremarkable graduates who could not be counted to contribute anything substantial to our society. Yeah, I was a full-blown, ignorant snob.
Imagine my surprise then when I found out that there were 112 SUCs all over the country and most of them were ran by passionate educators who tried to make the most of what they were given budget-wise. I don't want to play favorites but I have a soft spot in my heart for the past president of Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) and current president of Bulacan State University (BulSU),* Dr. Cecilia Gascon. Under her helm, SLSU became ISO certified for Quality Management System, research output increased, student performance in licensure exams improved etc. But what really impressed me was her dedication to SLSU and her talent at administration. When Dr. Gascon's term ended with SLSU, I was ecstatic when I found out that she was short-listed for the presidency, and eventually became president, of BulSU, because if there was any one who could turn around that problem plagued institution, it would be her.
An officemate who sits at the Philippine State College of Aeronautics (PhilSCA) board also has nothing but praises for the school and its administrators, so much so that I'm encouraging the son of our laundrywoman to enroll in PhilSCA when he graduates from HS in two years (and if my son shows an interest in aeronautics, then it's off to PhilSCA for him as well). Because as it turns out, most PhilSCA students already have jobs waiting for them from local and foreign airlines even before they graduate. That's how well regarded PhilSCA graduates are.
I could go on and on with anecdotes about how sitting in the SUCs board changed my perception about education in our country, but this post will already be too long, so let me just say that a public tertiary education is not necessarily inferior to its private counterpart. I used to think that the higher the tuition fee, the higher the chance of success or even guaranteed success, but it's simply not true. The most successful people I see are those who radiate happiness because they have embraced their calling in life, be it in the private or public sector, and have found fulfillment in what they do. You don't get that from a fancy school.
One of the biggest reasons my husband and I have for sticking it out in the metro is our son's education. But this is apparently no longer an incentive to stay, since good schools are located all over the country and not merely concentrated in the metro. With that, my husband and I are now hatching a plot to relocate to the province and raise our brood away from the congested city. Fresh air and lots of space for our family to roam in, while giving them a good education, talk about having it all!
*Incidentally, a BulSU student ranked tenth in the 2015 Bar exams.