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I entered college thinking that the sizes of my books from high school like Biology and Filipino will be doubled. True, readings are thicker and meaner, but it wasn’t books. It was all photocopied material.

I’m not an expert in copyright laws nor do I know all the rules pertaining to plagiarism, but I know this: after 4 years of more than 10,000 papers worth of handouts and readings, it’s not only the trees I feel sorry for. I feel sorry for how education, even in the university level, is administered in the Philippines.

Let’s face it. We live in a poor country. Not everyone is given the right to education, although that’s part of the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Those who can afford to go all the way to the university have their hardworking parents to pay for. For lack of a better English term, ginagapang ng mga magulang nila ang pagpasok nila sa eskwelahan. So whatever miscellaneous spending have to be cut or at least minimized. One of the biggest money-eaters is books and handouts.

However because of lack of copies at bookstores or because teachers don’t really need the whole book to teach the course, students opt to photocopy reading materials. Universities do not encourage this, yet at the start of the semester you find students lining up at photocopy booths around campus harassing photocopy agents to get readings so they can proceed to ring binding. Even laws prohibit illegal duplication of copyrighted material but still, it’s how students learn. It’s the only way this poor country can afford some sense of prestigious education in an attempt to match those of First World countries. You see legislators saying no to this culture but honestly, how can they expect students to turn into brilliant minds if we are not given proper materials for school?

Books, or at least those that we use, are not made accessible to the students themselves. I study at one of the top schools in the Philippines, but I still find it difficult to get access to these expensive books. I can’t even bring myself to buy an outrageously expensive book for the sake of additional reading (which may help me gain more knowledge) because I know I can just photocopy it.

If this photocopy culture is to be eradicated, the whole nation must walk the talk: make scholarly materials accessible and encourage buying of original material.