Friday, September 10, 2010

On getting a foreign scholarship

Former dean of the UP Law school and nominee for the UP presidency, Raul Pangalangan writes something on foreign scholarships in today's Philippine Daily Inquirer that should be interesting reading for students.

The Philippines has been sending students overseas for more than 200 years. The first students sent were clerics during the Spanish period. In the closing decades of Spanish rule, a more moneyed Filipino upper class was able to send their kids to school in Europe. This is the generation that founded the nation which included, Rizal, del Pilar, Lopez Jaena and the Luna brothers. The less financially able were not able to study in Europe but imbibed the radical, nationalist and enlightened attitudes of Rizal and company. To this generation belonged Mabini, Ricarte, Manuel Quezon and one of my ancestors who attended at the UST.

After Republica Filipina collapsed, the American occupiers sent government scholars or pensionados to the USA. To this class belonged people who would later teach and practice medicine, the first women physicians, educators, nurses, scientists and lawyers. This continued through the commonwealth period and the only surviving grantee today is 99 year old Dr Fe del Mundo who was sent by the Commonwealth government to Harvard Medical School. She is considered to be the first woman doctor to train there although she was not the first woman medical student.

During the Japanese occupation in World War II, the Laurel government sent pensionados to Japan and my uncle and dad were sent.

After the US recognized Philippine independence more scholarship grants were offered by the US mainly  through the Fulbright program. As the Cold War progressed, it was deemed that sending Filipinos to the US would be a deterrent to communist ideology. My own parents were recepients of these grants.   The scholarships continued on to the 1960s to the 1980s. By this time it was not only the US that gave grants but the European countries, Canada, Australia, Russia and Japan.

But with an expanding student population, grants became very competitive.  For example the Fulbright program gets more than a hundred applications each time the competition is announced. And so do too the EU and Australian schemes.

Funding realignments and the fact that the Philippines is now at a near developed status reduced the number of full grants available to Filipinos. Grants were directed to Africa especially in the 1990s. Students will have to be more creative and determined to look for grants.

As Dean Pangalangan writes there is still a residual colonial angst when Pinoys apply for foreign scholarships. But the world now is more linked and it is unlikely that one can get ideologically brainwashed in a foreign school. Some also assume that the scholars won't return, while many haven't in the past, much more did return. Many did their theses and dissertations on Philippine topics and this guaranteed that they will continue their careers in the Philippines.

What then is the benefit of a foreign scholarship? Of course it broadens horizons. For many Pinoys it is the first experience of being completely independent of family and friends. One has to make decisions by him/herself and be accountable for these. As Prof Butch Dalisay of UP's English department famous quip to departing scholars "The Pinoy student abroad finally learns to tie his own shoelaces!"

Of course the scholar will carry on cultural traits of the host country. But one must be sure that these traits should make one a better 1) Human being, 2) global citizen and 3) Filipino. In my own case, I have been infected with a dose of Australian larrikinism and southern American hospitality. And when these combine with an unwavering love of country and people, the results are.....:-)!

1 comment:

fidget said...

I have been wanting to get a foreign scholarship ever since. However, i'd like to know how could i avail of it. any preliminary steps you could give me will really be appreciated.

I am a law graduate with good scholastic standing. I graduated cum laude.

Looking forward to your response.