Some Filipino parents expect ROI from educating kids

30 Sep

diploma

For some families, a child graduating from college means an additional breadwinner (Image from school.discoveryeducation.com)

[This article is originally published in UPIU.com]
The UPI mentor provided feedback by saying that this is a very interesting story because it “provided some insight into Filipino culture and the demands placed on children by their parents. It helped expressed my opinions but if I want it to become a feature story, I “would need to interview some college students and their parents about their expectations, financial pressures, etc.”

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Filipinos place a premium on formal education. It is generally viewed as the stepping stone for upward social and economic mobility. Some parents think of putting their children through school as a matter of life and death. We often hear stories of parents selling their property or borrowing money from friends and relatives while others opt to work abroad. No sacrifice is too big just to send sons and daughters to school to eventually acquire a college diploma.

There is nothing wrong looking at education this way and seeing it as a sure way to a better future, getting a decent job and achieve dreams that would help ease poverty especially in a developing country like the Philippines. What is bothersome is when parents impose formal or informal obligations to their children to return what they have invested in them, just like a businessman or businesswoman expects a return on investment (ROI).

Yes, education is also viewed as an investment. Some parents see it as putting down capital and expecting profits in the future. It’s like depositing money in the bank and expecting it to accrue interests after some time. In many Filipino families, children are expected to land a high-paying job after graduation to help support the rest of the family.
It is also expected from those who graduated to share if not shoulder themselves the responsibilities of the parents. In return, they should send their siblings to school. Some parents are very vocal about their expectations, imposing on their working children to upgrade the family’s lifestyle. A few, unfortunately, think that the next step would be to buy a car and new appliances, renovate the house or even start a family business. The list goes on and on and never seems to end unless the daughter or son gets married and make their own family. Even then, some parents and siblings still expect to be provided for.

The expectations and demands seem to be natural and even part of Filipino tradition. Although there is nothing wrong with giving back what you got, being forced to do it is a different thing.

Why would parents have a child, nurture it, provide for its basic needs and then expect a return on investment? Why do some parents have more children than they are capable of feeding, clothing and putting through school? Why are the eldest children or whoever graduates first expected to take over their parents’ responsibilities? Why is it wrong for a daughter or son to simply make a life of her or his own after graduating from college instead of becoming a breadwinner?

It should always be the child’s choice to help the family out after graduating. The key word is “help”. This means it is a voluntary act done wholeheartedly and not out of obligation. Parents who demand “help” from their kids rob them off the initiative and true gratitude and genuine appreciation. Simply put, parents should put their kids through school without expecting them to return the favour. When something is imposed, it no longer resides in the realm of helping but rather, becomes obligation.

Education is every child’s right and providing it is every parent’s duty. However the child chooses to use it is his or her choice. No couple should decide to start a family without being prepared, financially and emotionally.

Putting a child through school should not be treated as an investment in which a return is expected.

The family is first and foremost a support system, a source of love and protection, warmth and good memories. If a child is nurtured this way, maybe parents will not have to demand help in return, after the child has graduated from college. The initiative will come naturally to the child. After all, as Kahlil Bibran wrote, “Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

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