For us, the race is (not) on

I remember reading an article a while ago on Newsweek and according to it, the race is on between universities around the globe in getting the most number of foreign students. That means now it’s not just between US institutions like Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. According to London’s Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), although the Western universities are still the clear winner with the US taking all the top 8 slots, the rankings are more diverse. No less than 30 countries are represented in the top 200. Unless US colleges keep reinventing themselves, they will lose their lead in the global game. Beijing University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Tokyo are all in the top 20.

A friend of mine from high school is now studying in Japan. She’s very lucky to get a higher education in one of the most competitive countries in the world. It’s not hard to envy her. Sometimes I wonder how it’s like to study in a global university, where facilities are the most modern, faculty is top notch, and the environment is most conducive to learning. Sadly, we don’t and I doubt if we will have – even in the next 100 years – universities like Harvard nor Yale. Even in Asia alone, we are lagging behind our counterparts. And unless the government wakes up and makes education its number one priority, we’ll keep lagging behind. Today, other Asian countries are pouring resources to homegrown schools in a bid to prevent brain drain. China is planning to spend a portion of its annual GDP (that is higher than Europe’s or US’) on higher education. Earlier last year, Malaysia announced that by 2010, they will become an international education hub with 100,000 foreign students. India plans to create Vedanta University which they claim will raise standards throughout Asia with 100,000 students and 40,000 faculty.

If you remember, last year’s THES rankings showed that 4 institutions from the Philippines (University of the Philippines, La Salle, Ateneo and UST) made it to the top 300. Yes, it’s something to be proud of but it’s not something to be complacent with. While other Asian countries strive to have a cutting-edge global educational system, the Philippines is still yet to make education a top concern.