HONG KONG-based Filipino parents still give premium to education in the Philippines; testament to this was their positive response to EDU@PH, the First Philippine Education Fair here last Oct. 22.
Parents, with children in tow, visited the one-day fair at Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association in Wan Chai, where eight top Philippine universities participated.
“Now is the best time to consider the Philippines as one of the leading educational hubs of Asia,” Vice Consul Charles Andrei Macaspac said.
The fair was organized by the University of the Philippines Alumni Association-Hong Kong (UPAAHK) and the Philippine Consulate General.
Macaspac told fair visitors that college education in the Philippines is less expensive but is on a par with college education in Hong Kong.
The eight participating institutions were Arellano University, Assumption College, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, Miriam College, St. Mary’s University, University of Asia and the Pacific (UAP), and University of the Philippines (UP).
UPAAHK President Vic Bautista said proof of the kind of college education that Philippine schools offer are Hong Kong residents who studied in the Philippines and are now working here.
“They easily integrated in the Hong Kong job market, and they’re successful in their own fields,” he said.
Fr. Nemesio Que, S.J., director of Ateneo’s Office of Admission and Aid, said Philippine schools are recognized worldwide for academic excellence; adding that Ateneo has continuously been ranked as among the world’ best universities.
“Proof of this is the kind of graduates that we produce like Manuel Pangilinan, who is based here. We are very competitive, that’s we want to emphasize,” he said.
UP assistant vice president for public affairs Jose Wendell Capili said top Filipino universities are “more creative” compared to schools in Hong Kong.
“Our courses especially in the arts and social science-related disciplines (e.g., creative writing, comparative literature, theater, music, architecture, dance, interior design, film, broadcast communication, journalism, etc.) enable our students to think outside the box and to problematize the contexts and nature of things,” he said.
In UP, students and faculty members enjoy “academic freedom, which is not underscored in many schools and universities in the region,” Capili said.
Another alternative for HK-based secondary students is St. Mary’s University, which has a campus in Hong Kong. It is registered with the Hong Kong Education Bureau’s Non-Local Higher Education and Professional Courses Registry since 1997.
It is also the only Philippine school accredited by the Hong Kong Council for Academic Accreditation.
“We are a unique alternative. We are legally operating in Hong Kong so students have a choice whether to study here or in the Philippines. There’s no need for parents to worry about their children in the Philippines,” Angel Ramos, Kabayan Center of the Philippines president and general manager, said.
Filipino parents who carefully assessed programs offered by each school had one conclusion: they were impressed by the “caliber” of participating schools.
“I wish there were more schools and larger area. But we’re very interested. We’re looking at Ateneo, La Salle, UP,” Grace Bea-Oddie, a mother of two kids in high-school, said in an interview. She has lived in Hong Kong for 22 years. Her daughter is entering college next year.
“This is our first time to send our child to a school in the Philippines. I want them to be on their own so we’ll look for a place for them to live,” Bea-Oddie said.
Maria Fe Calaranan, an overseas Filipino worker, said her daughter, a valedictorian in elementary, already passed scholarship examinations at the UAP and Assumption, but they are still considering Ateneo, UP, and La Salle.
“All of them naman, the best. Namimili na lang kami,” Calaranan said. She is a domestic helper for almost two years.
For Charito Dionisio, a Hong Kong resident who has lived here since 1992, safety and availability of courses are among her top concerns.
“Nagustuhan ko na itong Miriam kasi may residence hall. That’s my top concern kasi, safety,” she said.
Her daughter, HK-born Danielle, is entering college next year. She speaks and writes Cantonese, and is considering a course in Tourism.
Asked whether she’s ready for the challenge of living and studying in the Philippines, her answer was brief: “not really.”
“She’ll be living with my parents naman. Nandoon din panganay ko pero iba kasi ang buhay dito sa Hong Kong. Convenient lahat. Sa atin ma-traffic, mahirap ang transportation, mainit, hindi ganoon ka-safe. Pero okay ang quality of education,” Dionisio said.
A fair to remember
Bautista said UPAAHK will wait for feedback from parents and participants before deciding to make the education fair an annual event.
“But it’s a good start … the Filipino community here would be aware of the advantages of studying in the Philippines,” he said.
Fr. Que urged other foreign posts to do the same to promote Philippine education globally.
“We always hear about negative news about the Philippines but this is something positive. I hope other places will consider doing this also, otherwise we’ll do it on our own,” he said.
For Capili, education fairs allow people to be more familiar with academic institutions that may offer a wider array of quality but affordable education for children.
They also promote the nation’s cultures and societies.
“Students with (Filipino) blood should realize that wherever they go, they cannot erase their Philippine roots. They must know more about where they came from in order for them to understand where they truly stand and where they are directed to be,” Capili said.