Drivers License

Illustration by Anastasiia Zubareva

Discriminatory Driver’s License Policy

Why should driving be dependent upon a high school diploma?

I am a passionate driver who misses his car. I am also a social media person. While I was scrolling through one of my social media feeds, there was a particular article that struck me. Recently, Romania’s government approved the finalized version of the Road Safety Strategy that requires aspirant drivers to complete their compulsory education until the eleventh grade before they can get their driving licenses. Seemingly, the aim of this law is to decrease the number of deaths caused by road accidents.
The argument for compulsory education as a prerequisite to attain a license is an uncommon approach that was also adopted in the U.S. for minors. Though these laws may aim to combat accidents, I don't agree with them. I personally do not believe that someone who has not gone through compulsory schooling would be any less capable of being safe on the road.
As someone who got his license at 17 years old, I can attest that the Philippine road code doesn’t impose a certain education limit. One can start taking driving lessons at 16 and get a non-professional license at 17. However, one must be 18 or above to get a professional license.
I remember taking my driving test with a boy who had placed his future in getting his driver’s license. He was only 18 years old, and had not finished high school. Talking with him, I learned that due to his financial situation, he was forced to rely on driving as a means of livelihood. The pressure was heavier on him to get the license than on me, and I pitied him. I was in my junior year of high school, I was studying hard to get my grades and I won’t hide that I felt superior to him.
The highest-scoring person among us was this guy who hadn’t completed his studies. In fact, I was impressed to see that he had a broad understanding about cars and driving. I realized that although I knew how to solve mathematical equations, I had no advantage over him when it came to driving.
When I first learned how to drive a car at the age of 16, I was extremely lost about what I had to do with my feet and hands — especially when it came to changing gears for the first time. It was an entirely new experience for me to not have any lessons in biology, math or English to help me. In fact, even if I read all the books about driving and all the road laws I had to follow, none of that would have helped once I was behind the wheel. It’s an entirely new system that anyone, educated or not, would have to learn, constantly practice and get used to: it’s just like learning how to walk all over again.
I don’t deny that there is some logic behind asking someone to prove their level of education for getting a job or a driving license. Illiteracy may be one legitimate reason. However, I have a problem with the fact that people who don’t finish their education are put in a corner. For so many unlikely-to-be-true reasons, they are deemed as not being valuable to society. The idea that only people who got a high-school diploma are of any worth is a common stereotype nowadays. When did this ever become fair and just? For the well-being of society, we need truck drivers and janitors and cashiers as much as we need doctors and police officers.
Now, they may not be prodigies, but they might have impressive knowledge and expertise in other fields. No matter how much I studied road legislation for my tests, I couldn’t get over this guy that was talking to my instructor about internal combustion engines. And if this law were to pass in the Philippines at that time, this man would have been restricted from making a livelihood in which he had invested everything.
Unfortunately, we have created a social hierarchy by praising the capabilities of those who possess diplomas and awards, while simultaneously undermining the capabilities of those who haven’t gone through formal schooling. We have created the misconception that only people who get a diploma are competent enough to drive, when, in fact, we forget to treasure the human values and the true skills that are not recorded on the back of a sheet of paper. No one is immune from making bad decisions on the road, and being educated does not mean you’re less likely to make bad decisions as compared to those who aren’t.
Kirk Edward Mariano is a contributing writer. Email him at
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