Filipino in college: What are you afraid of?

Rebecca T. Añonuevo

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The new General Education curriculum is an opportunity for teachers to work together to draft courses that will make the future generation of students proud. But school administrators have lagged behind

Nobody saw it coming, not the premature pains of transition because of the K to 12 program of government. 

We didn’t  expect the self-destructive panic of many a head in the administration of schools, some of them Catholic and private. In at least two women’s colleges in the country, an Early Retirement/ Separation Package has been offered to all members of the General Education (GE) faculty, if not the entire faculty of professional programs. 

The outcry of the Filipino teachers is arguable at the least, but significant to consider; in reality, the sector of educators is under attack from all sides. 

The short of the long story is that we in the Higher Education Institutions are confronted with the scare of zero enrollment of first year students in school years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. 

But as early as now, even before the school year has opened in some schools, the devil in the mandatory Early Separation Program has been grinning ear to ear, take me, take me. Such an attractive package, I may not be available anymore next year, or later. We are told that we can’t spread the word around about the “generous” offer: other schools could not afford the same.

The devil apparently has encroached upon school administrators, and, certainly, the teachers who have been dealt the blow, below the belt and too soon. 

The devil is called fear. And it seems to be successful in mocking and insulting the dignity of teachers and the teaching profession as a whole. 

The K to 12 program made effective by Republic Act 10533 adds two years of Senior High School (SHS) to the basic education. On one hand, it gives options to Filipino families and individuals whether to pursue an academic track in a university or college, or go technical and vocational; or settle into sports and arts. On the other hand, critics are saying K to 12 is acquiescence to the western capitalist hegemony (rabid critics use “imperialist” to describe it); they say the additional two years is not panacea to the low quality of education, which has become commercial business in some institutions. 

Amid all this debate the administration of President Benigno Aquino III is adamant to pursue K to 12. This President, who stands above all other presidents in modeling Filipino as language of power, says,  “Naninindigan pa rin po tayo sa ipinangako nating pagbabago sa edukasyon: ang gawin itong sentral na estratehiya sa pamumuhunan sa pinakamahalaga nating yaman: ang mamamayang Pilipino. Sa K to 12, tiwala tayong mabibigyang-lakas si Juan dela Cruz upang mapaunlad—hindi lamang ang kanyang sarili at pamilya—kundi maging ang buong bansa.”

(We stand by the educational reforms we promised: to make it the central strategy of investment in our most valuable resources: the Filipino people. In K to 12 we are confident that Juan de la Cruz will be given strength to uplift – not only himself and his family – but also the whole country.)

There it is clear: education as a form of investment in the country’s human resources.

It is not as if the consequences of K to 12 will endure forever. The period of transition is obviously transitory, between now and the years when conditions in college will have been back to normal. By then, teachers, if they are up to the challenge, will not have only grown older in years, but more excited and more passionate in the new GE curriculum. The debate should have ceased: ituturo sa Filipino, o ituturo ang Filipino (teach in Filipino, or teach Filipino)? 

As teachers we have a big say in the direction of education in the future. Although descriptions of the new subjects are already available in English and in Filipino, then technical panel of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) is leaving it up to the schools to draft their own syllabi. Huge task, but also an opportunity. If we are true to our mission of uplifting the quality of education especially on the tertiary level, now is the time to work together, brainstorm, debate with colleagues, sit down to draft the contents of the courses that will make the future generation of students proud, and show administrators that we are their most important resources for sustainability and relevance.

Now is the time for teacher participation and governance. We shall steer the nation with our ideas, knowledge and wisdom, creativity, and boundless energy. The workshops on syllabi will expose the philosophy or lack, the foresight or narrowmindedness, the freedom from or adherence to, the remnants of colonial education among school administrators. 

The new GE curriculum demands an interdisciplinary attitude and content. This new thrust has been clear to us early as teachers, and we are ready to undertake retooling to be at par with the standards and objectives of the new subjects. In at least two workshops we participated in, teachers were so elated with the results of the contents of the courses, even as these were only drafts, that we wanted to enroll in each other’s classes!

But administrators of schools have lagged behind. 

If we are to reflect seriously on the new GE, there is no way but to teach it in Filipino, the language of our blood, the national language enshrined in and protected by the Constitution. 

If at all, we should settle the debate. We in ORYANG* urge the government and school administrators, respect the Constitution. The choice to teach the GE subjects in Filipino—and we must, if we can – should be left to the discretion of teachers. No administrator, no school president, no vice president, no dean, no department chair shall prevent the teacher from teaching the subject in Filipino.

And as Filipino to us means making use of the languages of the regions to facilitate the learning and strengthen scholarship as early scholars and teachers have proven, let the teacher use Filipino without prejudice to his or her position, rank, security of tenure, and all other rights as a citizen of the republic. 

Unfortunately, some school administrators – and we challenge the members of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) in particular – seem to have reacted more in panic and dread of anticipated losses, instead of boldness and creativity, instead of faith, hope, and love, the 3 abiding virtues that we as Catholics have been taught by Jesus, the Supreme Teacher.

We urge the CHED to require all administrators to undertake review and retooling in terms of educational philosophy, and attitude toward Filipino as a language of national pride, the language that can lift us to true progress and freedom as a people.

Despite the hard work and dedicated service of teachers, some administrators in leading private schools have chosen the convenient exit for us, without consultation: an early separation package, effective May 2015.

They have reduced us, their teachers, to 110% to 120 % of monthly salary per year of service for the separation package, which they are shameless to call mandatory.

The devil is saying, take me, take me. 

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

We are teachers, and together with the poets, and most especially the youth on whom Rizal pinned his hopes, we shall lead this nation. – 

*Rebecca T. Añonuevo, PhD, is president of ORYANG, or the Katipunan ng mga Gurong Filipino para sa Bansang Filipino, a gift and remembrance of teachers who share the spirit of the Filipino – as a people, as a proud national language, and as true intellectual. She is a poet in Filipino, and the 2013 recipient of the SEAWrite Awards from the Royalty in Bangkok, Thailand. 

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