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

June 24, 2019

by John Paul Andaquig

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.