SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Invest in science, please. By H. Marcos C. Mordeno

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/28 April) – On Monday, April 23, I accompanied my daughter Anthea to Cagayan de Oro City for an orientation for scholars of the Department of Science and Technology. She has decided to avail of the scholarship and take up chemical engineering at MSU-IIT.

Roughly 3,400 incoming college freshmen passed the DOST scholarship, 132 of them from Region 10. It used to be called the National Science Development Board scholarship, and later the National Science and Technology Administration scholarship. NSDB and NSTA were the precursors of the present DOST.

I don’t know about the scholarships being offered by the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila and other institutions. But of the scholarships that Anthea passed, that of DOST offers the best benefits and incentives, although a grantee can only enroll in specified science and engineering courses, and only in colleges and universities accredited by the department. Those who will enroll in BS Physics will even receive a higher stipend.

Parents who wish their children to finish nursing and other courses that promise plenty of greenbacks if one gets to work abroad, this isn’t for you.

DOST regional officials who spoke at the orientation emphasized the need to produce more and more graduates of science and engineering courses, as many of the country’s scientists have been drawn to proverbial green pastures abroad. Our best scientific minds are now working in foreign laboratories and corporations.

Nationalism is a virtue. But if Filipino scientists can get no local support that will encourage them to pursue studies and inventions, who can blame them if they decide to go to countries that offer huge rewards for their brilliance? A few have chosen to devote their time and talents here. Nonetheless, we continue to suffer from that malaise called “brain drain.”

It’s time perhaps to put some sense into our college system. For instance, impose a limit, if not a moratorium on certain courses that are already oversubscribed, including nursing, education, hotel and restaurant management, information technology, accountancy and other business related courses. Months ago, I heard on TV that the country has at least 200,000 unemployed teachers. Why not absorb them first before producing more education graduates? As for nursing, close down nursing schools that have performed poorly in board exams.

If this country aims to get out of the economic rut it’s in, the best way – if not the only way –  is to invest more and more resources in science. One way is to encourage students to take up physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics and engineering through scholarships.

DOST deserves a pat in the back for sustaining its scholarship program that dates back to the 1950s. But if I get my figure right the budget for every scholar who enrolls in a five-year course like engineering is only around 10 percent – maybe less – of government’s allocation for every Philippine Military Academy cadet. According to Dipolog Bishop Jose Manguiran, he learned that government spends P3 million for each PMA cadet.

Isn’t this an example of misplaced priorities? (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno writes mainly on the environment, human rights and politics. He can be reached at [email protected])

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