Monday, February 18, 2008

Parental respect opens doors for diligent youth

In most scholarship programs, few are chosen.

A good number of the academic scholarships offered by the government, private firms and foundations are limited to “poor and deserving” students who belong to the top five percent of their classes.

The Thailand-based conglomerate Siam Cement Group (SCG) says it believes everybody deserves an education, even the “average” ones, and has launched its Philippine corporate social responsibility program with high school scholarships accessible to most students.

Called “SCG Sharing the Dream,” the scholarship program to be conducted in partnership with the Philippine Business for Social Progress, will assist 200 high school students in and around Bulacan, Batangas and Metro Manila where SCG has its paper and ceramic tile manufacturing facilities.

To qualify, students need to record a general average of only 70 percent. This is a failing mark in private schools, but still a grade to aspire for in most public schools, considering that the national average in the achievement tests is 57 percent.

The SCG assistance, at around P7,800 a year for each scholar, will cover uniforms, school supplies, miscellaneous expenses for school projects as well as allowance.

“SCG believes that our most important asset is the individual. When we talk of sustainability, we not only refer to the company’s growth or profits but to people and values as well,” says SCG president and chief executive Kan Trakulhoon. “The scholarship program is one of the ways for us to extend that sustainability to the communities where we operate.”

The scholarship will be initially extended to public high school students who have finished their first year in high school to give SCG a better idea of the quality of the high school students.

Uncommon criterion

SCG may have set a low hurdle as far as the average goes, but it has come up with another criterion for selecting the potential scholars: They must be grateful for their parents’ sacrifice.

SCG country director Chartchai Leukulwatanachai says in an interview that SCG wants to benefit students who are grateful to their parents, because the company believes that it is such students that will most likely finish school.

There are no hard and fast rules to measure gratitude, as nebulous a concept as it is. SCG and Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), a nongovernmental organization supported by large corporations, will look for clues in interviews and application papers to get the type of scholars they seek.

Leukulwatanachai says SCG feels strongly about the requirement for “smart and grateful” students because of the belief that students who are not grateful do not have as much of a future as those who look up to and respect their parents.

“If you cannot love your parents, how can you love others?” he says.

Leukulwatanachai adds that SCG applies the same principle in its own offices across Southeast Asia because it believes that it is not enough for people to be smart.

They have to show respect for their fellow man in order to foster harmonious relationships, not just in the office, but at home and in the general community.

SCG and PBSP will accept scholarship applications until March 7 and the 200 scholars will be announced on April 11, 2008.

The scholars will then go to a scholarship camp -- where their leadership skills and family values will be enhanced -- after which the grant will be turned over.

Leukulwatanachai says the “SCG Share a Dream” is just the first of a series of projects that the Siam Cement Group wants to implement in the Philippines, the first country that the group expanded to outside Thailand.

SCG operates four businesses in the Philippines -- United Pulp and Paper Co. Inc., Mariwasa Siam Ceramics, CPAC Monier Philippines Inc., and SCT (Philippines) Inc.

“We will definitely do more because we are in the Philippines for the long haul,” Leukulwatanachai says.

One project SCG is exploring is the grant of scholarships specifically to children of overseas Filipino workers.

SCG just thought of starting with education and getting the scholarship program off the ground because it believes that much still needs to be done in the public education system.

Aside from the scholarship program, the group will also extend master’s degree scholarships for Filipino students to study in leading Thai universities, such as Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

SCG has also partnered with the Knowledge Channel to allow elementary schools to gain access to the cable TV station’s programs. By Tina Arceo-Dumlao - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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