Importance of Higher EducationIn the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” As an iconic world leader whose life demonstrates the power of education to change the world, we look to his example and know that what he says is real. For many of us who have been fortunate and blessed enough to benefit from the rewards of higher education, perhaps we too can provide some leadership to ensure our young people will take advantage of the countless opportunities for schooling beyond high school.
We are sadly aware Filipinos are underrepresented at the college level. As a way to assist youth and give them motivation and incentive to pursue higher education, many of our local Filipino community organizations continue to provide small scholarship grants to deserving high school graduates. In recent years, scholarships have also been awarded for students in the Culinary Arts program at the University of Hawai‘i Maui campus. There are some successes but it has been slow progress.
As we face this dilemma, some of us wonder what else we can do besides giving these small scholarships. Before we examine some other avenues for assistance, let us look at some of the positive results that come from attaining higher education. In today’s job market, being a high school graduate does not open the doors to as many rewarding careers as it did for past generations. Instead, the U.S. has turned from being an economy that was once manufacturing-based to one that is knowledge-based. In our current economy, career options are declining for those who have not furthered their education after high school. Technology is fast changing the trajectory of our economy. As an example, artificial intelligence (AI) is taking over many of the jobs that were previously handled by people. These new emerging technological advances like robotics are transforming many of our workplaces that now require higher education.
One of the practical reasons for earning a college degree is it prepares you for an eventual career. Because higher education allows you to pursue a career that interests and inspires you, that freedom to choose your career makes it more likely that you will enjoy it. Even more significant is the reality higher education provides a competitive edge in the career market. As employers recruit for their needs, applicants are ranked by educational standing and their specific fields of expertise: post doctorate (specialization), doctorate, masters, bachelors degrees, in that order. In other words, not only is higher education recognized as a major factor, the completion of higher degrees of education is given commensurate value.
Financial security is everyone’s goal, a basic need. In the 21st century, education plays an even more significant role in other aspects of our lives. It is a proven fact gaining a higher education can increase your opportunities in the work world and can improve your overall quality of life. However, not every reason for pursuing a higher education is financial or monetary. Some of the best reasons are related to the personal growth of each person, a way of self-development, to better yourself, to strive always to become the best that you can be. Another option for taking courses towards credits for higher education is online, sometimes known as distance learning. There are many reputable universities and colleges offering this option by providing specific instructions for students on their websites. These online courses may be more financially feasible as compared to the traditional onsite learning. You do not need to leave home to earn a higher education. Perhaps it is also beneficial to mention here that for our young people who grew up on Maui, there are other reasons for studying away from the comfort and easy support near family. Many now believe that spending some years of learning, working, and living elsewhere results in a broader perspective about the world and that travel is a powerful educational experience. Travel is, in fact, sometimes a source of unexpected discovery of places we have only read about or seen in movies or newscasts, as well as about self, especially in the presence of many who do not share our values, experience or observations, and whose upbringing make them all the more interesting to us.
During this pandemic of COVID-19 many adjustments are being made by everyone about the things we once took for granted. Family and friends have become more precious. Self-reflection has led more people at a younger age to examine their own thoughts about legacy and what is profoundly important to pass on to the next generation. Life itself takes on a new kind of urgency to fulfill personal goals. Dreams for our children and their children have become increasingly intense and focused. In some ways, awareness about every aspect of daily living is seen with a higher, deeper sense of gratitude and that is definitely a good way to push ourselves to become the best that we can be.
Finally, we return to the question of what we can do to encourage and inspire our young Filipinos to seek education beyond high school. In order to maximize our efforts to encourage our youths to pursue higher education, we need to work together as a community. In addition to the scholarships, how about mentoring, career shadowing, leadership training, tutoring, to name a few. Our united mission to encourage our youngsters to strive for education beyond high school will give a clear message that as Filipinos, we give high priority to education as a value and goal for all our young people. We remind ourselves again that the main genesis of building the Binhi At Ani Center is to be a catalyst for higher education of our youth, not only as a wonderful place for social gatherings but more importantly, a place for learning. When we unite collectively in helping our young people in their pursuit of higher education—our potential is limitless, and our community will be a better place!