Strengthen Filipino, Panitikan, and Constitution instruction in basic and tertiary education

The
Supreme Court’s (SC) upholding of the removal of Filipino, Panitikan (literature), and Constitution as core subjects of the
college curriculum is the latest assault of neoliberal standards on the
Philippine education system. Alongside the K to 12 curriculum at primary and
secondary levels, the fundamentals of nationalism, patriotism and constitutionalism
are being replaced by market criteria of corporate and foreign employability,
efficiency and profitability.

It
urgently brings the debate back to the call for the K to 12 curriculum to be
scrapped altogether due to its impact on public education serving only foreign
economic interests and the need for an alternative curriculum that will shape
critical, patriotic, and progressive nation builders who will lead the
Philippines out of the neocolonial and market-oriented quagmire.

For
global competitiveness?

The
SC argues that Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum 20 only sets
the minimum standards for the general education component of all degree
programs, and does not limit the academic freedom of universities and colleges
to require additional courses in Filipino, Panitikan and the Constitution. But
this actually negates the 1987 Constitution, which stipulates that the State
should be setting the standards. The study of Filipino, Panitikan and the
Constitution best tackles the mandate of the State.

The
Philippine Charter’s Article XIV, Section 3 stipulates that “all educational
institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the
curricula”. It adds that these institutions shall inculcate values including
patriotism and nationalism, love of humanity, respect for human rights,
appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of
the country, embracing the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthening
ethical and spiritual values, developing moral character and personal
discipline, critical and creative thinking, scientific and technological
knowledge, and vocational efficiency.

Without
a CHED requirement, universities and colleges may easily drop Filipino,
Panitikan, the Constitution, and even History, which can hone the
above-mentioned values in progression from the basic to the tertiary level. But
with the pretext of supposedly employing Filipinos but practically deploying
cheap labor to foreign companies and institutions, these subjects lose equal
importance to Science, English and Math. Neoliberal education has championed
the latter subjects as the necessary learning areas to arm students with “21st
century skills” to achieve “global competitiveness.”

What
is missed out is the holistic goal of education, in which all aspects of learning
from scientific and mathematical, to language and humanities are developed to
advance the society – people and economy – to a better context. The young
learner must be nurtured as a human being and a citizen, part of an
ever-changing community and society. Filipino, Panitikan, the Constitution and
History are critically important subjects in building young Filipino learners’
humane consciousness with as much critical thinking and social commitment to
their nation and its sovereign development as well as to the entire world and
its brighter future.

For
national development

If
the objective is to produce generations of Filipinos that will work locally to
build and strengthen the Philippine economy, then a nationalist mindset in
education is all the more needed. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and
Mathematics) subjects can also be taught in Filipino to better locate
their  significance and applicability in
the local context and towards national development. English proficiency must be
placed within the context of general language proficiency to help young
learners connect with other cultures and nations towards greater understanding
and solidarity.

Panitikan
provides students with an understanding of the literary traditions of the
Filipino people, being vessels of our values and aspirations that are precisely
social foundations for any nation-building objective. The Constitution enables
students to remember and embrace their basic rights as a people, and the basic
principles by which our society has been organized. Minimizing the teaching of
Filipino, Panitikan and Constitution thus robs young learners of their soul as
citizens and future leaders.

Rendering
second class status to Philippine history in 2014 likewise took away from high
school students the opportunity to more deeply embrace their Filipino roots and
to draw lessons from the nation’s past and continuing struggles. By virtue of
Department of Education Order No. 20, S. 2014, the subject was removed from the
secondary education curriculum in favor of Araling
Asyano
(Asian Studies).

In the short-term, the recent SC decision makes it more urgent to amplify the call for a strengthening of instruction and research on these subjects in universities and colleges.  But in the long-term, Filipino educators along with parents and students must call for the scrapping of the K to 12 curriculum and work for the reversal not only of the market-orientation of education but of all neoliberal economic reforms. These need to be replaced with a nationalist, progressive curriculum truly supportive of a genuine pro-people development program.

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