What’s happening to UP’s Gen Ed?
If you ask me what I learned in college, these would be among the top answers: I learned how to read, what made good writing, how to ask questions, how to think, how to argue; I learned about possible answers to the meaning of life, why people were different, why they were the same, what was so genius about probability, why Physics was more fun than Chemistry, how to appreciate a good painting, why I loved classical music, etc.
All these I learned from the General Education (GE) courses I took in the mid-1970s when I was an
undergraduate at the University of the Philippines (UP).
That GE curriculum, the 1958 version, required a minimum of 63 units: nine units of English, 12 units of Spanish, six units of Mathematics, three units of Logic, nine units of Humanities, nine units of Social Sciences, six units of Biology, six units of Physical Sciences and Physical Education 1, as required.
These days, on top of pressing issues relating to calendar change, graduation, the K-12 (Kindergarten to Grade 12) basic education reform and the UP College Admission Test (UPCAT), each college unit at UP is being asked to decide how many GE units should be required of its students.
We at the College of Education received copies of the minutes of past meetings, with a table appended, comparing the past GE programs (1958, 1986, 2001 Revitalized GE program or RGEP, 2010 Hybrid GEP) and the present proposal (2015).
I got quite excited to see what the program objectives were for each version.
In the 1958 version the first objective was to develop “the ability to write and speak English effectively and to read with understanding materials with some complexity.” The second objective was “development of the ability to think critically.”
It took 28 years before the 1958 GE was revised in 1986. Another 15 years went by before the 2001 RGEP version. There were only nine years before the 2010 hybrid version. After merely five years, we have the 2015 proposal.
From 28 years to five years—like no knowledge and understanding of what makes good education is ever going to last!
When the GE was revised in 1986, the first objective was “to lay the groundwork for the fullest development of the student’s potentials and sense of responsibility as a Filipino by attempting to broaden the student’s intellectual/cultural horizons.”
Understandably, after the People Power Revolution, nationalism was the foremost aim.
The 2001 (RGEP) version continued the 1986’s objective of “broadening the student’s intellectual horizons,” with additional statements on method of inquiry and competencies while the 2012 (hybrid) version retained all the objectives of the 2001 version.
With the 2015 proposal the new objective is: “To develop leadership characterized by integrity and honor, excellence in scholarship, and public service—the hallmarks of a UP education.”
I do not have a problem with the objectives. They all sound good and noble.
What I am concerned about is the decline in the number of GE units required.
The GE program in UP had been reduced from 63 units (1958) to 42 units (1986). Then there was a slight increase to 45 units (2001) that was retained in 2010.
The 2015 proposal is now down to 21-36 units.
When our college faculty met for a decision, we were given only two options: 21 units or 36 units. (I believe it was only the College of Arts and Letters that was bold and wise to insist on 45 units.)
The lesser of two evils, how can 36 units hope to give our freshmen and sophomores a feel for all the possible interesting fields they could get into? Many of them barely know themselves—what they are good at, what the world is like, what is the meaning of life, what stages of life can do to their choices in life, etc.
Furthermore, in the democratic UP, each college unit will determine which courses, from an array of courses, their students should take. With the varied departments or areas of specializations in each college, each endorsing its importance, that should entail more long discussions.
What was troubling for me was the disparity of the premier university to the other top-notch universities in the country with regard to the weight placed on General
Ateneo de Manila University requires 92 to 105 units for its core curriculum: 24 units in languages (12 in English, nine in Filipino and three in a foreign language), 36 units in Humanities and Social Sciences, 15 units of mandated subjects (life and works of Jose Rizal, Western or Asian History, Philippine History and six free electives) and 17 to 31 units in Math and Natural Sciences.
My son was a graduate of Ateneo. Although a Science major, he had to take up 12 units of Philosophy and 12 units of Theology, which my husband and I quite appreciated. College education is not only for a livelihood; it is about life.
De La Salle University requires its students 63 units of GE courses, as mandated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), plus another 18 units of La Sallian Core Curriculum in the academics, which makes a total of 81 units, not counting another 12 units in the nonacademics.
What has happened to UP education? Why is it skewed toward specialization? Are people and professionals so different that we cannot come to common subjects of interest and interaction?
What makes humanity? What are Humanities subjects for? Read Part 2 next week.
The writer is a professor of Educational Psychology graduate courses at the UP College of Education. E-mail the author at [email protected]
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