By Philip N. Haruo

KOROR Palau (Palau Horizon) — We live in a society that actively endorses institutionalized education. We have passed laws to ensure that all children in Palau are in school. We have, I strongly believe, been very successful with the achievements of our schools as compared to other schools in the region. Our schools, despite lack of funding and all other shortages, and the occasional disparagements by national leaders down to misinformed ordinary citizens, are functional and produce literate students at the end of each year; and I think it is fair to say that the schools will continue to improve and so will the success of our children – even if we remain on a continuing resolution for the next decade.

We have failed, however, to provide for the protection and preservation of our heritage; and have altruistically given precedence to the successful educated individual over that which without a written curriculum had been passed from generation to succeeding generations. Education is now our raison d’être. This is very evident in the process in which we encourage our children to succeed. We have gone to great lengths to achieve this.

We are encouraged to enroll our children in the Head Start program when they turn three. From then on, for the next 14 to 16 years, they would be taught, coached, instructed, mentored, and tutored in a system designed perfectly for the western world. Our children would know more English vocabulary words than Palauan. They would learn to speak the English language fluently more than they do Palauan. They would be able to write their thoughts flawlessly in English rather than in Palauan. They would be able to express themselves so much better in English than in Palauan.

By the time they are successful – having gone all the way through the system – the demands of daily living will prevent them from ever acquiring what they should have learned at a younger age.

This is just the way it is. We can’t blame anyone. We simply do not have the time. Most of us are busy with work - work we’d like to believe guarantees that all the essentials to our children’s educational success is provided. Our children are also swamped with homework and schedules and we most definitely do not want to undermine their success by stealing their time. We can, however, change our perspective and take a break.

We should take a break from work to be with our children. Children should take breaks from school to be with their parents. We should break from moving forward and review what we have. We need to be who we once were as a people, not individuals. Let us take a break and breathe our culture, not for show and tell but for survival.

Philip N. Haruo is a staff writer at the Palau Horizon.

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