Filipino professors decry SC ruling on K-12
Excluding Filipino and “panitikan” (Filipino literature) from the core subjects in college is a blow to nationhood and Filipino identity, educators said on Monday.
They expressed dismay over a recent Supreme Court ruling that did not only declare the K-12 program constitutional but also made Filipino subjects optional in tertiary education.
Longtime professors at the Filipino departments of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, University of Santo Tomas (UST) and De La Salle University (DLSU), who were among the petitioners, said the high court should have afforded them a chance to argue their position through public consultations and oral arguments.
Along with other teachers from various universities, the Filipino professors convened an emergency meeting at UP Diliman in Quezon City on Monday to discuss the impact of the ruling on their courses and students.
Sense of nationhood
“In our classes, we do not only teach grammar, but we [also] give students a sense of nationhood,” Vladimeir Gonzales, chair of the UP Departamento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas, said in an interview.
“In the national university, we teach values to our students … They learn about the Filipino identity through the use of the Filipino language,” Gonzales said. “This is what we stand to lose.”
Contrary to comments online that Filipino classes were unnecessary in college compared with English and more “practical” courses, the teachers said their lessons went beyond syntax and grammar as these covered Filipino culture and society.
Critical thinking skills
David San Juan of DLSU, a convener of Tanggol Wika, said the high court’s decision removed the “little space” that remained for students to learn critical thinking skills.
“[The decision comes at] a time when the West Philippine Sea is being occupied by the Chinese and the universities can be foreign-owned,” San Juan said.
“The removal of these classes takes away the spaces where students can think critically about our nation and about patriotism,” he added.
10,000 teachers affected
San Juan said at least 10,000 Filipino teachers may be affected by the ruling, as they may either receive reduced teaching load or be laid off due to lack of students in their classes.
In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court said the changes in the general education curriculum under the Commission on Higher Education’s Memorandum Order No. 20 Series of 2013 ensured that there would be no duplication of subjects in grade school, high school and college.
But Gonzales said the students who went through the K-12 program were still lacking in the appreciation and understanding of Filipino and its literature.
Challenge to DepEd
At a press briefing also on Monday, Education Secretary Leonor Briones recognized that it would be a challenge for the Department of Education (DepEd) to strengthen the existing panitikan subjects under its K-12 program.
At least four such subjects had already been integrated in senior high school.
“Even as we continually monitor the sciences, mathematics and even robotics, we also have to monitor classes on the Filipino language,” she said. “This is a challenge for us to increase [these subjects] in our curriculum.”
For Roberto Ampil, former UST Department of Filipino chair, the ruling was a wake-up call for Filipino educators to show the significance of their classes.
“While other countries show appreciation for their language and culture, we ourselves kill our own,” Ampil said.
“But perhaps they had to kill these classes so we can revive them … We have to let them see that the Filipino language is a symbol of our identity,” he added.
San Juan said Tanggol Wika, which petitioned the Supreme Court, would file a motion for reconsideration.
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