January 25, 2012
January 25, 2012

There are three very interesting lists posted on DLSU’s help desk that grabbed my attention. These would be the lists of three types of scholars for ID 112: the would-be Star Scholars, Vaugirard Scholars and Gokongwei Grantees.

There are compelling reasons why many of the scholars on these lists will not go to DLSU, and instead go to UP, or other universities. But let me enumerate, first, the opportunity costs.

Star Scholars are the University’s highest priority scholars, given that they are the top performers of the DLSU-CAT whom the University pays special attention to, and for good reasons. They are, more often than not, the best and the brightest, having scored high scores in the entrance exams while presenting excellent academic standings from high school. The University offers special ladderized undergraduate-to-masteral level courses to these scholars, provides them full tuition and fees, as well as other special benefits such as seminars, workshops, laptops, among others. I noticed that most Star Scholar candidates come from well-off private schools in Metro Manila.

Next, the Vaugirard Scholars. The Vaugirard Scholars are those scholars who belong to the top 50 public school students who have taken the DLSU-CAT, and whose needs will be fully catered to by the University, including full tuition and fees, allowance, food, boarding, and formation. The Vaugirard scholarship was implemented only this year, with DLSU spending at least P1.8 million per student. These public school students, as the list shows, mainly come from Philippine Science High School.

Then there are the Gokongwei Grantees. When John Gokongwei Jr. donated P250 million to DLSU last 2011, a part of the amount went to scholarships, through the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation, for students who have applied for the grant and shown an aptitude for science, technology and engineering. The Gokongwei Science, Technology and Engineering Scholarships are for these students, and will fully sponsor tuition and fees, as well as provide a monthly stipend.

The lamentable part: less than half of the scholarship candidates will go to La Salle! They will prefer to go to the UP, where they will become scholars for the country, iskolar ng bayan.

The University of the Philippines is scoffed at for its generally left-leaning demonstrations, Kafkaesque processing, subsidized operations and absentee professors. But we must ask ourselves why both private school and public school scholastic achievers and top performers, these Star, Vaugirard and Gokongwei scholarship recipients, choose to study in UP over DLSU.

To come off as less judging, let me pose some hypotheses:

They choose UP because they know that it is in UP that they are exposed, and with exposure comes learning.

The University of the Philippines is the community that accepts, nay, learns from people from all walks of life, and expression is the freest. For one, there is no dress code in UP, because students know that their performance goes deeper than skirt length and type of strap. The dress code there is the quality of mind, where a failure to concretize arguments would be the more ultimate humiliation, the reparable punishment. Does it mean that they would not dress appropriately in job interviews to multinational corporations? I think that it’s not really the dress but the quality of your Business Process Improvement plan or the fact that you are an Engineering Board topnotcher. I think Unilever prefers that to an expensive tie.

When it comes to discipline, they have a University police that apprehends based on crimes that actually do matter, like arson, hazing and murder, not just simply wearing slippers or eating along corridors-slash-study-areas.

Then there is diversity. Despite comments that UP’s student population is gaining a larger middle class demography, it is still in UP that your seatmate might well be someone coming from a place like Maguindanao, who has seen in her eyes conflict, the death of loved ones by M-16, the injustice of the world. Somehow, being in the same class as that person makes you want to fight for something bigger, be heard by solons and policymakers.

At DLSU, your seatmate is probably someone who has never had to run away from the bullets of insurgents or mercenaries. And you fight for lost IDs and the technicality of an absence.

I suppose these would-be scholars also have a greater certainty that at least in UP there would be more scholarly people like them, who actually enjoy learning, which is of course a rash generalization on my part, but say not that it is unfounded. It shows, at least, in the way that people from UP think and not merely how they behave in the classroom, in the confines of school. Iskolar ng bayan: bayan, meaning country. The Philippines becomes their responsibility. They become more practical, more open. It becomes an intrinsic drive to excel. I think we have that, too. Somewhere. Yup. I think.

Once, while chatting with some security guards and construction workers, they said that they really look up to people from UP. Ibang klase, they said. A different caliber. When I mentioned DLSU, they said, Ah, pangmayaman.

Why is it that Lasallians have to defend the reasons that they are in DLSU, retaining sentiments of not passing UP or other Universities? With the billions of pesos that DLSU is allocating for scholarships that are ignored by these brilliant students whom UP siphons, why are we letting such resources go to waste? Why not be afraid to reject those who should not make it to the list of the best and brightest that DLSU claims to accept and filter more stringently the students we get?

Because we are not iskolar ng bayan. We are just bayan. Bayan ng La Salle. No, not even bayan ni La Salle. Bayan ng La Salle.