Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Leveling Up

Last weekend, I was asked to award certificates to the Filipinos who completed the Basic Computer Course offered by the Embassy. I was very happy to do so. I'm a big fan of education as a means of personal development.

The Embassy has several courses offered throughout the year that aim to introduce new skills to Filipino migrant workers in this part of the world. And it brings me great joy to see that there is a significant number of people who avail of these classes. Education is the great equalizer in Philippine society. Though it's not as if we're offering bachelor's degrees here, but any new skill they acquire, I hope, brings about two things: (1) a higher market value for their services and (2) greater self-confidence.

New skill leads to improved capacity at work, which may lead to bosses thinking that they may just be ready for bigger things. The better paying professions of today now rely on computers in their work operations. To lack knowledge of computers is courting unemployment. Not having basic computer literacy to brag about while job hunting is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

And it can be downright embarrassing, too, which was my other point. Looking for the "any" key when prompted to "press any key to continue" can create social stigma. I'm exaggerating here, but I hope my point came across. Okay, our lolos get a pass for fighting foreign invaders and being the boogie woogie bugle boys of company B. Fine, so does our tatays and tiyos- they've humiliated themselves enough by once sporting Beatles hairdos and dressing up like John Travolta from "Saturday Night Fever." Other than them, it's just not good.

The class that graduated had an odd mix of students. There were the normal office-going people. There were parents who probably wanted to know just what their kids are doing that keep them in front of their computers all day (I can already foresee a Facebook friend request sent to the kids from mom and dad). There were grandpas and grandmas who joked that they wish to leapfrog from the agricultural age to the digital age (who knows? these grandparents might just be the next Youtube sensations). There were the domestic helpers, who relished the opportunity to attend classes and take a break from work (now they've learned that their barrios are a Skype away). There were also kids who attended the course, though I think they already are computer savvy- mom may have just wanted someone to copy answers from during exams ("tell me the answer to no. 5 or no dinner for you").

Unfortunately, almost half of those who signed up did not graduate due to various reasons. Some just got lazy. Some may not have been able to accommodate the schedule of classes within their work life. C'est la vie.

Another nice thing about the program was that it was a labor of love for both the students and their lecturer. The course's lecturer was generous enough to devote time off from his busy work schedule to teach for a song. Bayanihan spirit is indeed alive.

The lecturer joked during the graduation ceremony that the Advanced Computer Course may be a bit far off from now as he's still fixing the computers used during classes because of the amount of computer viruses that entered their systems. Apparently, the class on how viruses are introduced to computers and how to get rid of them didn't turn out as planned.

I'm just really happy that those who took the course were determined to develop their potential, whatever reason drove them to do so. Here's hoping those viruses don't stop future information transmissions, digital or otherwise.

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