Why we are ‘rich’ in wrong graduates

By Herbert Vego

BY “wrong graduates,” I have in mind people who have finished college courses and yet are either jobless or in vocations they have not prepared for.

I remember that day when outgoing Central Philippine University (CPU) President Teodoro Robles, who would be retiring come November, guested on the defunct talk show “Reklamo Publiko” on Aksyon Radyo.

The host, the late Danny Fajardo, asked him whether CPU was offering a Journalism course.

“No,” he answered. “We only offer Mass Com.”

Without belaboring what Robles had in mind, Fajardo confessed that the local newspapers were having a hard time accepting reporters because most graduates of writing courses could not write news.

Unbelievable? Yes, but it’s true. Some graduates are the kind who write only “pag may time.” This means that they should not have passed the course in the first place.

That has been the case since the late 1960s when I was a journalism student myself.

In those days, our professor would often remind our class, “If you can’t even write simple news, you have no right to be here.”

After our graduation, I could not even count on 10 fingers my classmates who had landed a newspaper job.

On the other hand, I don’t have enough fingers to count my lady classmates who have resorted to post-graduate “MD” – “marriage degree,” that is – after failing to get a job.

Conversely, most of our active newspaper reporters today who have had no formal education in journalism. They are here because they have the talent and the aptitude.

One of them, my friend Casiano Mayor, now 80, was only a high school graduate when hired by the defunct Evening Post in Manila in the 1960s. He has since then worked for news agencies here and abroad, including the prestigious Reuters. He was sub-editor of the Saudi Gazette when he retired.

Anybody with writing aptitude may only attend a one-hour lecture in journalism to know how to write a news story. It’s just a matter of articulating the five “Ws” and one “H” – which refer to who, what, where, when, why and how.

I don’t believe that the so-called “K-12” program introduced by the Department of Education in 2012 is the key to post-graduation “excellence”. I wrote against extending basic elementary/high school education from 10 to 12 years because it would only extend the financial agony of poor parents and delay the entry of the students into the job market.

The only sane “advantage” the K-12 gives as far as the schools are concerned is added income from tuition and other school fees. Not really surprising when one realizes that the then Education Secretary Armin Luistro was connected with the elitist Ateneo de Manila University.

Have you ever heard of a school that discourages a student from taking a particular course because his heart is not in it? I have not.

A personal experience I would like to impart occurred in my first year in college. I was enrolled as a Veterinary Medicine student at the University of the Philippines-Iloilo to appease my late father who had attempted to lure me into the course because of the “big demand” for veterinarians.

However, fate altered my direction. I had to proceed to UP-Diliman for my second year.  But when I got there, enrollment for Vet-Med had closed. My dad had no choice but allow me to shift to AB-Journalism at Manuel L. Quezon University (MLQU) in Quiapo, Manila.

Even then, Tatay remained pessimistic about my financial future because of my “wrong decision”.

As a parent myself today, I still justify that decision with the thought that I would not have become a good veterinarian. I consider myself successful in the past 52 years, since 1970, of writing for a living. To me, it’s not just the money that makes one a success.

May I cite the moral lesson behind two flashlights? Two men walk the road late in the afternoon. One of them shows an expensive metal flashlight while the other keeps quiet, hiding a cheap plastic one in his pocket. When the night falls, the two switch their flashlights on. The rich man’s flashlight happens to be defective and therefore fails to light up while the poor man’s cheap flashlight shines brightly. So, which of the two flashlights is the successful flashlight?

Indeed, our worth lies in our capacity to exploit our God-given ability.


  1. Excellent article…Many of my classmates with degrees are working from home on dead end jobs…My folks noticed I was a good at auto repairs at 17 years old. A few vocational schools later I hired on with a large US railroad. I eventually became number one technician in entire Western USA. Had a few luncheons with the CEO! I just followed my dreams…

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