Friday, February 6, 2015

BSU-Open University Culture. (Collectivism vs. Individualism, why Neither is "Best"?)

BSU-OU culture

I am an MDC student at Benguet State OPEN University. I started to change my points of view and be more aware of its culture when I enrolled here and met my classmates and professors. We all know that Open Universities aim to extend educational opportunities to all. We also call it as “distance-learning”.  In an open and distance mode of learning, the students do not attend classes in classrooms regularly.  At BSU-OU, students are given course modules and they meet their professors and classmates once a month.  Additional consultations with the professors are also done by any modes of communication, i.e. through email, telephone or text messaging. With this arrangement, students are therefore able to gain new knowledge and skills wherever they are whether at work, at home or even while on travel, and at their own pace and time. Though, we only meet each other once a month, I can say that our one-to-one connections with each other are the foundation for change. I had a chance to understand how this culture affected my whole life. I noticed that most school improvement plans concentrate on academic achievement goals only. But Benguet State University is far from that, it is focused not only on the improvement of the students academically, but also socially. This school has a “welcoming atmosphere”.  Our professors treat us as professionals. I remember one of the professors said that, “you are professionals so we have to treat you as professionals”. They are so approachable and they make us feel more comfortable.  In some schools professors act “mean” or “arrogant” in the classroom just to show how knowledgeable they are or portrayed that they are so much smarter than us, I know that’s just a part of their teaching style but I think students will feel intimidated by them and it will be hard to ask something in confidence. Students want professors who are like-able and can authentically motivate them. One more thing that I like about the culture in this school, the staffs are very friendly too, they greet “good morning” to everyone who enters the building. They even offer free coffee and Pandesal as well. Ha-ha. This kind of culture and school environment has created a cordial atmosphere in Benguet State Open University. Since we seldom meet each other, exchanging messages became more common. Unlike in other regular schools that you will really need to work hard on your own to achieve better grades, here in Open University, we treat each other as “friends” and not as competitors. It made me realize that relationship is very powerful. This kind of culture was discussed to us on our first day. They told us about the Open University system. So I therefore conclude that Culture should be uncovered, openly and purposely discussed, assessed, and developed. I learned a lot of things since I enrolled here. I learned how to be more sociable, confident on expressing my thoughts and Ideas. I will never regret studying Development Communication in this school. I know that despite the obvious advantages of distance learning, there are problems as well. Perhaps it could be the quality of education and the attitudes of the instructors, students and administrators, but in my case I am fully satisfied with it. I know that they are doing their best to update us and give what we deserve.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

In BSU-OU, We have a common goal; we help each other so that we can finish our Master’s degree “together” after 4 semesters. We can consider this as a practice of collectivism, but Individualism is still more important. We can’t graduate if we don’t have self-determination. We can’t depend on our classmates but we always show concern to each other and give a hand if we could. In our

Communication and Culture subject with Mr. Dacawe, we learned about Collectivism and Individualism. According to him, Collectivism is the practice or principle of giving a group priority over each individual in it while Individualism is a habit or principle of being Independent and Self-reliant.  I have also read that Collectivism is a social psychological term that relates to the manner in which humans identify themselves and prioritize their goals. Collectivism, which is the opposite of individualism, focuses on the priorities of the group and not the individual. In a collectivist society, people identify themselves with the goals of the group much more so than the goals of individuals. Collectivism also focuses on things such as fitting into the group, behaving in ways that are line with social norms, group solidarity, and gaining a sense of identity from being part of the group.  I have also researched about the advantages and disadvantages of Individualism and Collectivism. One of the advantages of Individualism is a person can foster his ability to perform well individually and find strength within themselves to overcome obstacles. On the other hand it has disadvantages as well.  Individualism does not allow other people to experience a person’s talent or creativity. They have more problems with finding good friends because they don’t care about other’s opinions. It can lead to difficulties with social life. I think Learning to cooperate with others is what builds character, friendship and important life skills. While individualism has advantages and disadvantages, Collectivism has them too. Collectivism allows each person to take care and help one another to fulfill a certain goal. It can help with the achievement of the whole community but because of this practice some people tend to be lazy, they become dependent to the other group members. In my opinion “neither is best”. As I said before, Collectivism is important because it associates with socialism. It is necessary that everyone supports each other so we can grow as a community. On the other hand Individualism is required as well; we also need to flourish independently.  They both have their benefits and detraction. 

A collectivist society

In my hometown in Pampanga, we live in a compound residence together with my mother’s relatives and neighbors. I can say that the practice of collectivism is being applied there because the sense of belonging is very important. The people in this compound residence are willing to make sacrifices for the betterment of everyone. I can still remember when I had my 18th birthday party 7 years ago all of our neighbors helped in the preparation. Some of them donated money; some bought beverages and decorated our place. We also do the same thing when others need our support. We often ask others opinions as well and let them give their realistic advice when it comes to decision making. It might be right because I believe in the saying that “Two heads are better than one”. Some people also say that sometimes collectivism might be better than individualism if it is being applied correctly. Different people have different strengths and point of view. Hence, more people share their ideas that must concern more dimensions and aspects. Two people working together have a better chance of solving a problem than one person working alone. I admit they had a good point on that, but honestly speaking, I didn't enjoy this situation that much; I felt that I wasn't free. For me personal freedom is certainly something to be appreciated and enjoyed. When I was in my hometown, I always think of what other people say. It seems to me that I am responsible of all of them. If I don’t include them in my plans, they would say that I am so ungrateful. I want to feel less pressure and judgment and have more ability to feel free but I guess it would be difficult if I stay there, so I had to move on.  I need to stop worrying about them for the mean time because I should start worrying about what is best for me “I’m not getting younger you know”. I know that the practice of collectivism helped me become a better person, but I have to build self-determination to be able to succeed in life. That is one of the reasons why I decided to move here in Baguio City. I want to decide for myself, I need others’ advice but of course, I always consider myself as the master of my own fate and the captain of my own soul. Since I experienced being a collectivist and I learned a lot from it, now I think is time for me to become an individualist and strive harder on my own. 

My opinion about Individualism

As I mentioned, in my hometown in Pampanga especially in our compound, people are collectivist.  Here in Baguio city, since most of us came from different provinces and cities and we don’t know each other that much, people tend to be more individualist. We often greet each other but we tend not to have a long term relationship. Here, everyone is "on their own" because we are too busy doing our own activities. Actually, we live close to each other but we have different lives. I don’t care about them, they don’t care about me. Life is simple because of the practice of individualism. I don’t need to impress or please everyone, and I shouldn't expect something in return. My experience here in Baguio city helped me to become a Liberal person; in this place I felt the sense of freedom. I will not rule or be ruled, I will not be a master or a slave. Being an individualist doesn't mean being selfish. It made me realized that every one of us has individual rights and I learned to understand and respect it. Of course I know that “strong” Individualism has disadvantages, Individualist could have smaller social support networks, lower emotional competence, lower intentions to seek help from a variety of sources and poorer mental health that can lead to suicide. I am not a strong individualist, because I believe that we should know how to balance collectivism and individualism. The reason why I chose to be alone for now is because I don’t want to be dependent on anyone, I learned from a collectivist community and I appreciate it a lot, but now I want to experience facing and solving my problems on my own, I am definitely sure that I can be a better person and It can make me feel stronger. I want to find out what makes me unique and develop it. If I am in a group of people I think I will never be noticed since all of us are just the same. I have to set myself apart so that I can discover myself more. Naturally we need to be surrounded with people who know our worth, I guess, I don’t need too many people to be happy and successful, just few real ones who can appreciate me for exactly who I am, will be enough for me. And one more thing, I can accept advice but I will never let anyone run my life, even my parents who spent money for my education. 

Individualism is congruent to Egoism

We also have different meaning of individualism. For some, the meaning of individualism is being selfish. Have you noticed? When someone needs help, especially when it comes to financial support, a good example for this is the Ice Bucket challenge, we are aware that it is a practice of collectivism, but since many people are selfish, they showed an act of a “strong” individualism. If you can still remember the Facebook newsfeed was flooded by those people who filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads. Most of them didn’t donate, how did I know? My friends did that!!! But when I asked them if they donated money for those people who are suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), they said NO. They can only give sympathy not donations, and we are not even sure if there is sincerity in their action. According to Mr. Joey De Leon, Don’t nominate if you don’t donate. Perhaps, some were not serious about it; they only did it because they wanted to get other’s attention in other words “Pour to impress” ha-ha. That was for their own benefit, they wanted to be noticed and not because they desired to support that ALS foundation. Individualism is similar with egoism (the celebration of the individual for his efforts and abilities) they don’t want to help, they just promote their desires. For Americans, they also have other meaning of individualism. For them, Individualism is liberty; it is the freedom of everyone but it doesn’t mean that they would not give a hand to those who are in-need. 

Philippines’ setting

As a Filipino, I find it difficult to describe us as either collectivists or individualists given the way some of us behave and think. I assume Filipinos tend to follow a religious belief, like Christian philosophy and Christianity is more on a practice of collectivism. One more thing, there are so many Filipinos who depend on the government. They are expecting that the elected leaders will be the one to lift the status of the economy and the status of their lives regardless of what they need to share as individuals. This action can give the people a habit of trying to get something for free, that’s why many Filipinos are Lazy. On the other hand I can also see that most of the Filipinos care about their own interests first before others. I therefore conclude that “Neither is BEST”. We need others and we also need self-determination in order to succeed as a whole or as an individual. 


Collectivism, n.d, Psychology Glossary, retrieved from
Individualism, n.d Psychology Glossary, retrieved from
Scott, Gregory, N.d. Disadvantages of being an individualist in an individualistic culture: Idiocentrism, emotional competence, stress, and mental health, Selected Works of Frank Deane, retrieved from
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Biddle, Craig, n.d. Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice, the objective standard, retrieve from