Critical thinking under government attack, transformative education at risk

October 5, 2018

by IBON Foundation

Recent government statements including by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) aim to stifle critical thinking of educators and students. By trying to censor ideas it finds objectionable, the State is violating the public’s right to free expression and academic freedom. This will stop education from being truly transformative.

As teachers and members of the Educators’ Forum for Development (EfD), we believe in and advocate the importance of education. Education is not just about equipping students with basic competencies and skills. It is also about building their social consciousness and capacity to participate in and lead the process of social change and transformation.

Thus, we strongly condemn recent efforts by the State to intimidate educators and students away from thinking critically about Martial Law, the government and the conditions of the nation. These are damaging the academic environment for freely exchanging ideas, confronting social realities, and developing new frontiers of learning.

The AFP’s statement that students in at least 18 Metro Manila universities are being recruited by the Communist Party of the Philippines to oust Pres. Rodrigo Duterte is meant to create a “chilling effect” in schools nationwide. Worse, it endangers the safety and sanctity of the academe and by extension all those seeking to objectively study the country’s situation.

In particular, the AFP’s call to stop “teaching of rebellious ideas” can be used as blanket grounds by repressive university and school administrators against teachers and other educators perceived to be critical of school policies.

What counts as ‘rebellious’ is open to interpretation and evidently includes understanding the lessons of history and ongoing social realities to be able to contribute to the country’s progress. Educators who embrace the transformative role of education must not be subjected to villification or attack.

As it is, the AFP has already attacked Lumad schools in Mindanao apparently to stifle the education of Lumad children which they fear will strengthen their communities’ resistance to large-scale corporate mining and logging.

EfD joins the increasing chorus of resistance by the academic community for the Duterte government and the AFP to stop the red-tagging of students and repression of critical thinking. This is on top of our continuing opposition to the militarization of schools and the intensification of neoliberal dictates on curriculum and the entire education system.

We mark this year’s World Teacher’s Day with our call to fellow educators to oppose attempts to stifle academic freedom and protect the safety and right of our students to free expression and pursuit of learning towards making Philippine education transformative and responsive to social change. ###