1. The Ilustrado Model of Development

    I’m still synthesizing the Time article on Senator Noynoy “The Great Yellow Hope” Aquino (errr…not really, I’ve just been lazy tonight), but one thing did strike me:

    He talks with ease and intelligence about his plans to expand the country’s middle class with microcredit programs, to boost industry, universalize health care, fix education and shake up the judiciary. 

    Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1982219-3,00.html#ixzz0lHAhQysq

    While I may be supporting Senator Aquino, a-politically speaking these are items every candidate needs be developing policies for.

    Right there are four of the five things that I’ve felt very strongly about, in terms of rebuilding the Philippines.  The fifth of course is targeted protectionist trade policies modeled after the Hamiltonian/American System that Singapore/Korea/Japan/Malaysia have adopted.  But, hey, four out of five ain’t bad.

    The only way to quickly reduce corruption involves a two-prong approach:  

    1. Increasing basic salaries to allow government officials to live a more comfortable life (for an example of how this helps, in reverse, look at England and what has happened since they removed MP salaries).  
    2. Strong deterrents.  We already have good laws on the books.  Our judicial system needs to be strengthened and cleaned up.  If people are prosecuted, the perceived freedom to act with impunity disappears.

    Truly, the development of a middle class has to mirror the development of the ilustrado class in the 19th century.

    The development and exposure to higher education, coupled with increased access to capital, allowed that class to grow philosophically and intellectually.  Of course, educational interventions do not stop at improving primary school enrolment, improving infrastructure, fixing the textbooks (seriously, this has to get done), moving the cycle from 10 to 12 years, and training/increasing the competence of our teachers  Our curriculum, overall, needs a dramatic overhaul.

    I just found out two disturbing things this week:  1. The Ateneo has dropped its honors courses. 2. UP has dropped its 1st year history course.

    Over the last week Dr. Alejandro Roces has been touting the importance of culture and history being infused into social and educational development (Here and Here) More so, multiculturalism and multi-disciplinary frameworks needs to be re-introduced into our basic and higher education system.  In other words, bring back liberal arts.  For the importance of liberal arts, look no further than Jose Rizal:

    A fundamental part of liberal arts is philosophy, literature, science, sociology, culture, and history. Consider what Jose Rizal would write of his first encounter with the liberal arts: “the eyes of my intelligence opened a little, and my heart began to cherish nobler sentiments…”

    This is very key to social and intellectual development on a national level.  Liberal arts introduces students to a broad array of influences, domestic and international. It widens their world-view and allows them to understand the connections between things as superficially disparate as…well culture and politics.  Ethics and myth.  

    We brag about the Renaissance Man aspects of Rizal, but do nothing to inculcate those intellectual virtues in our youth.  But what is important is that our education system and new educational ethics needs to be grounded in a Philippine-ccentric view.  Our culture and ethics need to take a central role in basic and higher education.  The international perspective needs to be in addition not in place of, our culture and history. With regards to our Founding Fathers, they have left us more than enough in terms of material to work with.  More so, than many other countries.  We have a treasure trove in intellectual and educational development materials, and have done nothing with it.

    The UNESCO and other educators have been calling for this for years.  My hope is that Senator Aquino is the first to listen.

    The micro-credit aspect as well is a welcome discussion point. What has often been overlooked is not the income disparity between the rich and the poor, but the asset disparity.

    Access to assets (like land or stocks or bonds) creates additional sources of credit; credit that can be used to fund entrepreneurial enterprises and higher education.  This was part in parcel of what occurred in the Philippines leading up to the Revolution.  Filipinos for the first time had access to capital and were generating personal wealth.  That wealth, in turn, allowed them to break free of the Philippines and travel the rest of the country and, in turn, the world.  The specific beneficiaries of this new found wealth were their children.  Men like Jose Rizal were now able to travel to Manila for education, and from their the rest of the world.  We forget, but the Propaganda Movement did not develop in the Philippines, but outside our borders.  There they were exposed to new ideas and were able to apply these new critical frameworks to identify the flaws extant in their homeland.

    The Enlightenment entered in the bags of the ilustrados.  The ideas, once they entered the country, spread like wildfire.  Access to higher education and new economic prosperity prepared the country for Revolution.  Today, with the internet and new modes of information sharing disseminating ideas is even simpler.  But, the underlying education necessary for people to be able to synthesize and apply these new ideas to their daily lives is missing.  The economic component that will allow them to implement opportunities for personal and familial growth (without accessing graft/corruption/illegal means) remains missing in action.

    Coupling improvements in education with increased access to credit will help create what we really need:  A new Ilustrado Class requires:

    1. Liberal arts education + technical education (for those who want it as an elective) + improved free basic education across the board
    2. Access to microcredit and reducing the asset inequality disparity.
    3. Creating protectionist targeted trade and investment policies and mimicking the broad development of agriculture and industry that took place in the 19th century.
    4. Strengthening the judiciary and making sure there are real and verifiable deterrents to law-breaking
    5. Basic and limited universal healthcare (I’m not a socialist, but I understand that at a certain level of society, access to healthcare needs to be free.  However, there must be a system in place to keep track of those in need).

    You do that, you do it well and you do it right and the Philippines will begin to redevelop.  Just look at the rapidity within which change took place in the 19th century.  Today, it could happen even faster.