This paper discusses findings from research that explores the role of higher education in the emergence of developmental leaders and the formation of networks among leaders in the Philippines.
The study uncovered highly complex relationships between education, family background, politics and religion, which combined in a range of ways to determine positioning as a leader of reform. However, participants all saw their own education as having played a significant role in their trajectory to becoming a leader, albeit sometimes in unexpected ways.
- Educational experiences alone were not sufficient to pave the way to a leadership role. Navigating the Philippines’ elitist system requires a mixture of talent, determination and opportunity.
- Extra-curricular activities and political activism were far more significant than the formal curriculum and pedagogy. They provided valuable political leadership skills, and enabled future leaders to share and discuss different conceptions of development and reform.
- Emerging leaders were able to draw on a range of educational and other networks as they navigated elite positions and powerful roles.
- Higher education was for many of the leaders their first opportunity to mix and create networks with people from other backgrounds (‘bridging’ capital), and this proved a highly significant asset for changemakers aspiring to successful leadership of democratic reform and pro-poor movements.
A key implication of these findings is that the purposes of higher education need to be seen ‘in the round’, beyond the current emphasis on teaching and learning.