ISKOLAR Scholarships, Philippines – It’s Not Easy!

ISKOLAR-Calbayog Scholarships

Since arriving here to live during the early summer of 2013, one of our nieces has been placed on the endangered species list, or so it seems. Since she has graduated from high school (under the old 10 year education system) in 2014, she has only been making rare appearances these days. Reason? She is a college student now. Not just any college student, but a scholarship recipient under the ISKOLAR-Calbayog Scholarship Program managed through the City Arts and Culture Office (CACO).

While the ISKOLAR ng Bayan Act is a recent law (2014) that appropriates funding for and provides scholarship grants to top graduates of all public high schools in state universities and colleges, the ISKOLAR-Calbayog Scholarship Program has been providing tuition assistance and education grants since 2001. Effective governance involves not only programs for poverty alleviation and economic infrastructures, but likewise, it involves a strengthened social infrastructure through an effective human resource development program. Because Calbayog City recognizes that its people are one of the most potent factors in the area’s social development and effective management, the local government established the ISKOLAR-Calbayog Scholarship Program through the City Arts and Culture Office in 2001.

ISKOLAR-Calbayog is a LEADERSHIP and a SCHOLARSHIP program provided to Calbayognons, who are poor and deserving, and who posses a talent inclination to arts and culture. It is felt that because Calbayognons are unique individuals and because they excel in many things…especially in the arts, ISKOLAR-Calbayog, like any other established leadership organization, is culture-centered. Calbayog City feels that the most decisive factor in the development of human character is culture.

As ISKOLAR-CACO grantees, students are exposed to the following areas of concern: (1) leadership, (2) academic excellence and (3) arts and culture. ISKOLAR-Calbayog therefore is resolved in producing leaders and art managers who performed well in the academic field; who shall eventually help in strengthening the human infrastructure which is a factor in our progress and development as a city.

CACO Dancers perform and the Super Metro Grand Opening

CACO Dancers perform at the Gaisano Super Metro Grand Opening.

Culture First, then Educate?

As far as our niece Jeremie goes, this program does pay for her education. And she thoroughly enjoys the cultural and social aspects of CACO. That is the upside. The downside, she has sold her soul to CACO. Evenings, weekends, and summers. The family doesn’t see much of her these days because she is so busy. Some evenings she does not get home until close to midnight. Some days she can be spotted in the wild, like a reclusive endangered species of the third kind, and she looks tired and worn. Teenagers should not look this way! I catch up with her every once in a while and suggest that she should slow down and she always replies “I can’t uncle, we have this performance to get ready for,” or “we have practice coming this Sunday.”

In any case, I’m sure this is a great program. But how effective can it be as an instrument for higher learning when the City’s Art and Cultural “activities” appear to come at the expense of student academics and school work? In my honest opinion, academia has taken a giant leap forward here recently with the much-needed educational expansion into “Senior High School” (two additional years added to the 10 year system) and becoming aligned more with standards of western education. The smaller provincial communities however find it difficult to comply with the educational expansion due to lack of qualified teachers and facilities. While the community might feel that the most decisive factor in the development of human character is culture, I have to respectfully disagree. There is no denying that character building takes from many life experiences, education should always be the foundation, first and foremost. It should not have to be a balancing act. 

While I’m sure that the community’s cultural spirit is uplifted and maintained with programs like this, these kids are learning to focus on entertainment first with scholastic excellence taking a back seat. When paying for college through mandatory participation in extra-curricular events holds a higher priority than devoting time to attending college and studies, then maybe it’s time to give these kids a little time off, to say… be kids! I really believe that while culture is important, academics should always be the first priority.

From time to time when I do get to talk to Jeramie, I can get exhausted just hearing about her schedule. But I suppose staying that busy helps keep them out of trouble, hopefully. And maybe she will be a little smarter when she graduates… but we sure miss watching her grow up.

Kids need some time off too!

Kids need some time to be kids!

Note: The Iskolar ng Bayan Act does not cover the University of the Philippines System