In the Name of What? By Beata Carolino | March 2, 2016
“Sa NgalanngTubo”was the name of the first documentary that I was able to watch in the university as a student. It exposed the untold story about the Hacienda Luisita (HLI) Massacre where several peasants were killed with impunity. We watched it during a General Education (GE) class. Our professor back then told us that the last word was a homonym. “Tubo” means both “profit” and “sugarcane,” to a certain extent it can even mean “crop.”
That documentary, along with other lessons presented during our GE classes, was one of the reasons why life took a huge turn during the transition period from high school to college. Views drastically change when one enters UP. It was like baptism by fire. Many accepted truths suddenly became deceits and we were exposed to the omissions in the story of society. In GE classes, we learned about why we studied numbers and words and how these seemingly basic things have contributed to the growth of humankind.
That is, in fact, the point of having GE classes: to provide holistic academic growth.
However, in a dynamic society, changes are bound to happen (ideally for the betterment of the majority, if not everyone). For instance, ideas of cutting the GE units emerged after proponents expressed the importance of optimization and specialization to catch up to changing times.
The recent GE curriculum revision was a consensus reached by the representatives of each UP unit during the 2014-2015 GE conferences. The Board of Regents (BOR) similarly supported the idea of amending the GE program in order to “modernize” UP’s curriculum, leaving the discretion to the hands of individual units.
The proponents of the curriculum change themselves know the importance of GE subjects. Various statements and articles echo that the minimum of 21 required GE units is to keep the “Tatak UP” brand amid the current world trends.
The execution of K-12 was one of the reasons for the GE curriculum change as said in a statement released by one of the GE reform proponents. Since particular units are expected to be taken in senior high school, they are no longer deemed to be necessaryin college; so for the sake of efficiency and pragmatism, it is best to cut down on the units of GE to give way for more specialized classes.
Another reason given was the production of graduates with primacy on specialization. The country seems to be falling behind the international standard (whoever sets that) of producing graduates that have more specialized knowledge and skills. Additionally, five-year courses may be trimmed down to being four-year courses if the less necessary subjects will no longer be required to take.
In a nutshell, the abovementioned reasons state that while GEs have an important bearing in the classic UP experience, they are merely hurdles in one’s educational race for a diploma. Yes, they are necessary, but not necessary enough to fit the needs (or wants?) of the modern world and the changing times, or whoever set that standard.
One must remember that the Department of Education (DepEd) itself said that the rationale for (the contentious) K-12, aside from gearing high school graduates to be able employees especially for work abroad, is to “decongest” basic education. It has, therefore, nothing to do with tertiary education. In fact, many lessons in high school get debunked in college, especially in UP. The (contentious) K-12 therefore should not be used as a reason to pursue the GE reform.
Moreover, the university must not be seen as merely a factory of capable employees. Colleges are not just gears that produce skilled laborers to fit the needs (or wants) of particular companies and ranking agencies. As the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND-UP) said in their statement, the ultimate goal of a university is to“create independent and emancipated human beings with an innate sense of social responsibility.”
Through GE subjects, the university hones students to become critical citizens armed with holistic knowledge about the world around them. We get to read the likes of Renato Constantino’sMiseducation of Filipinos and TeodoroAgoncillo’s The History of the Filipino People. These are things that we do not get both in high school. We are also able to study relatively widely the scope of other fields that we will be able to apply in our future practice or in our participation in the public sphere. This is something we are not able to do in our major classes. We get to watch alternative productions such as “Sa NgalanngTubo.” This is something we do not get in the dominant media.
The rush to create licensed professionals may be viewed as a feed to the abusive world of labor after the university. Proponents even compare the GE curriculum change to the likes of nearby excellent universities. While the technicalities have been rebutted by UP Sagip GE, the comparison game must be played down on the note that our national context is far from what Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan are experiencing. Filipino labor is cheap compared to other countries’ standards which is why many foreign investments pour in and it is also why labor is one of our strongest comparative advantages, hence the OFW phenomenon. This may also be a consequence to the dismal state of national industrialization and weakening state of agriculture, especially as compared to the service sector, despite our agricultural roots as a country. If the changing world aims to take advantage of a developing country’s endless potential and talent in the form of cheap labor and discouragement of national industrialization, is it really “Tatak UP” to respond in tolerance? I doubt so.
Pining after international rankings is also not very “Tatak UP.”There are many things that we can look after and “imitate” from other excellent universities abroad such as proper funding and the creation of more dormitories, among others. Moreover, why not follow a standard set by the marginalized sectors of society, or in accordance to the continuous struggle for genuine societal change that we all thirst for more than an improved international ranking?
In the name of what?Sangalanngano? To adapt to changing times, we must “modernize”—that was an idea. Change is inevitable, but not all changes lead to growth and betterment. We are a university with a particular mandate: to serve the people. We see that in various documents such as the USC constitution and the UP Charter of 2008. And it is just to say that over other mandates of the university, the Filipino people that pumps its blood without choice, should be its priority.
Education should liberate, not to limit. It frees us from preconceived notions or beliefs about the world around us, instead of making us pawns of a chess game played by the status quo to checkmate any resistance.
If any change should be done, it should be towards a more community-based and nationalistic curriculum, both in the GE program and in our specialized subjects. Our education should inspire is to stay and serve the forgotten parts of society, and consequently question why such livelihoods are not given importance by the national government as proven by their salary, instead of dusting us off any particular peeves that will make us less attractive in the international arena—both as employees and as a university.
It is the kind of curriculum change that will make us see that every field and every discipline has a stake in events such as the HLI massacre—that it did not affect just the peasants who participated that earn some ten pesos a month. It affected journalists, economists, scientists, public administrators, lawyers, doctors, engineers, and even students because the same level of impunity may be done to them as citizens in an oppressive society that they can both abhor and change because they are armed with holistic knowledge about the power of the people.
We study GE courses in the name of expanding our cultural and intellectual horizons. We are introduced to the wide vista of knowledge in different domains in the name of learning about society. We learn about society in the name of serving the people.
Note: The GE reform was approved instantly by other UP units such as UP Manila and UP Baguio without student consultation despite resistance. Moreover, the GE reform also has implications to the employment of several GE instructors who may experience even more problems with contractualization and even large class policies.
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