Adding two more years to the basic education curriculum, shifting the beginning of the academic calendar from June to August, and removing Filipino from the required general education subjects for college students: it seems as if everything is changing in the education system except its place in the annual budget.
These changes may be reasonably explained in the context of an increasingly globalized world: in response to the ASEAN integration program, for example, with respect to its goal of “enhancing competitiveness for economic growth and development through closer economic integration”, the Philippines is honing its students to be more “mobile” and “at par” with their counterparts in other parts of the region. This is seen in a different light by critics, however, saying that such reforms reflect an increasingly commercialized approach to education: it seems as if its only goal is to manufacture workers to satisfy the demands of foreign entities.
What the critics fail to realize is that the kind of education we give reflects the kind of society we have. According to the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century, education “serves as a vehicle for cultures and values, creates an environment where socialization can take place and is the melting pot in which a common purpose takes shape.” It is believed to be important to society as it is an agent of social cohesion: a means by which values and activities shared in the community is passed on to the individual, for one to find his or her proper place in society. And what better way to effectively pass on traditional Filipino values to the coming generations than with these changes? At least we can rest easy knowing that our children and grandchildren may look forward to a better, brighter tomorrow as either overseas contract workers or overworked call center agents. Just like their parents, and/or their grandparents.
I do agree, however that these reforms are not enough, especially as we should not lose sight the primary goal of education more than giving the Filipino individual a sense of belonging, that is,perpetuating the social relations which serve the interests of the economic and political elite. This is why to aid such reforms in serving their true purpose, I propose to add these three elective subjects which should be added to the tertiary level curriculum:
- Introduction to Patronage Politics. Fundamental to surviving and rising through the ranks of Philippine society is valuing people. Or more specifically, the right people. In this subject, students shall learn not only the value of networks of possible patrons and clients, but also which groups and which positions should one aim for in order to get the connections which matter.
This course shall give a survey of Philippine history so that the student may have a firm appreciation of how the practice of patronage has defined and moved the formal institutions of law, government, and civil society through time. It shall also provide a deeper understanding of patronage: not only as it exists in the local and national level, but how subordination and influence moves the international political economy through financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank and other multinational corporations.
- Advanced Public Relations and Practical Bullshit. If one aspires to become a success in Philippine society, one cannot rely on the mastery of one’s network of personal connections. One must also learn how to maneuver his or her way out of criminal prosecution and interrogation once those avenues fail. Even if you can earn millions while remaining anonymous to the general public, it helps to build a good rapport with the masses just in case political enemies, the Left, or God is running a smear campaign against you. And sometimes, lawyers charge too much.
In this subject, students will learn practical ways of surviving investigations regarding their alleged involvement in political scandals and money-making scams. They will know which constitutional rights must be cited when faced by the scrutiny of a Senate committee, which diseases should one be diagnosed of in order to qualify for a hospital arrest ,and which countries to flee towards when all else fails. They will also learn intermediate skills such as mobilizing rallies for alleged “supporters”, enlisting the help of religious institutions and media corporations in spreading propaganda and of course, Photoshop and video-editing skills to help produce an appealing audio-visual presentation. Also, singing lessons.
This subject will not only teach individuals, especially the youth, the importance of money, popularity and a privileged status in being immune to the consequences of treachery and political conspiracy. It will also aid in our increasing problem regarding overpopulation in our prison facilities. As more and more individuals are equipped in getting away with anything, less and less money will be spent constructing comfortable detention facilities for those convicted for white collar crimes and purchasing wheelchairs for those guilty of graft and corruption.
- Basic Subordination. Last but most certainly not the least is the most fundamental skill of all: the ability to say yes to anything. Its reading materials shall comprise of articles regarding the benefits of blind obedience, looking the other way when in the presence of corruption, and the proper appreciation of a headline regarding Kris Aquino’s love life, as well as a list of numerous ways to say “yes” and “thank you” in different languages.
This subject shall not only teach future overseas workers to be optimistic in spite of maltreatment from their employers, but also deter pesky progressives who seek to destroy the Filipino dream of being a success in one’s own country and enslave other people, or finally getting out of it and being enslaved by other people. While increasing the quality and competetiveness of our workforce by numbing their dignities and sensibilities, we also prepare them for further social conditioning through the media by dumbing them down. After all, as professed by the best president in the history of the entire universe, Ferdinand Marcos: “Sa ikauunlad ng bayan, disiplina ang kailangan!”
While the movement of educational reforms point towards globalization: the relinquishing of local customs and values to make room for more cosmopolitan, market-friendly values, this is not to say that our way of life is under attack. It only means that we must double our efforts as a nation to spread the values which have defined our culture and practice so that it will not be annihilated in the process of a shrinking world. We must fight to retain the values which make us truly Filipino: our dependence on patrons, impunity towards the corrupt, and our utter disregard for change and social justice.
This is why finally, even if these subjects are all very practical and useful to society, namely the political and economic elite, it should be noted that we must be careful how we offer these courses through educational institutions. I suggest an income-based bracketing system should be put in place to determine if one has the financial capability and necessity of learning such subjects. After all, if anyone regardless of class can learn any skill of their choosing, and in doing so transcend the limitations of their economic status, what is the point of education?
About the Author:
Arvin Buenaagua studies Political Science in University of the Philippines. He is a writer, composer, singer and activist. He is a member of the SixWillFix movement, a campaign to allocate six percent of the country’s GNP to public education.