"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Saturday, July 14, 2012

When Cooking Becomes Part of Schooling

Mak Paranjape, a professor of Physics at Georgetown University, has been offering a course on "The Art of Cooking: Practical Science in Action" to first year students. In Leyte, where pilot K to 12 programs are being implemented in Palo and Merida, school and local government authorities have met recently to discuss the current status of the pilot schools. For Palo National High School, there is a need for materials and equipment for the skills training chosen by the school. The school needs cooking equipment as well as a regular supply of cooking ingredients since the skill opted by the school is cooking. In addition, the teachers for this course come from universities so transportation for these trainers is also necessary. 

A cooking course in a university is not common. At Georgetown, Paranjape's course uses cooking to illustrate concepts in science. It is an attempt to impress upon students that science is everywhere and that it affects all of us in our daily lives. Paranjape explains:
"So I combined cooking with some science background, and the first 'Art of Cooking: Practical Science in Action' course was conceived. The course also allowed me to show that science is truly everywhere, and that by understanding the underlying principles in something as common as cooking, anyone can become an expert chef."
The students become "expert" in cooking by seeing the connection between normal daily routines and principles in science. It is a course that utilizes something that is common to teach something abstract or something that is generally considered as out of the ordinary. It is one way of teaching science. It makes the course enjoyable at another level especially when the food cooked at the end is truly delicious.
Cooking is both an art and science.
Harvard, by the way, also teaches a course on cooking. Physics professor David Weitz has a course entitled, "Science and Cooking from Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter". This course presents an introduction to soft matter physics plus visits from world-renowned chefs such as Jose Andres, Ferran Andria, and Heston Blumenthal. 

The Department of Chemistry at Georgetown likewise offers a course on "Molecular Gastronomy", which focuses more on the "chemistry of cooking". This course is described as follows:
"This course will examine the interconnected relationship between food and chemistry. Ever wonder why an egg solidifies when you cook it? Or why fruit turns brown when it’s cut? Or why certain dishes are prepared in certain ways? Or why recipes have the ingredient lists they do? These questions are all rooted in the science of the food components and the chemical reactions and/or phase changes that occur during their preparation. Relevant concepts and language surrounding the chemistry behind proteins, fats, carbohydrates, beverages and other food products will be developed during the semester, using examples from Italian cuisine wherever possible."
DepEd's K to 12 is different from the above. While schools in other countries do include crafts, home economics (see Finland curriculum, for example), these subjects are not solely meant to impart these specific skills to the students. To have a glimpse of what a home economics subject in Finland includes, one simply has to look at the courses that are taught in the universities that prepare the teacher for this high school subject. For example, the training course at the University of Helsinki is described as follows:
There are two alternative major subjects in Home Economics and Home Economics Teacher Education: Home Economics and Education (Home Economics Pedagogics). Thus, from the perspective of Home Economics, education is vested with the role and responsibilities of a subject-specific department.  Key contents of studies include 
  • nutrition education and selection of food 
  • domestic and international food culture
  • consumer, family and environmental education
  • living and everyday technology
The Home Economics Teacher education qualifies the students for the profession of home economics teacher. The students can choose either Home Economics or Education as their major subject. From 2005, it has been also possible for students to choose home economics education without teacher education. This degree programme alternative has an annual quota of three students, the selection for which takes place during the first year of studies. The aim is to educate versatile experts in various fields of home economics and research.
When I was a child, my parents had this impression that those who do not finish high school do not have that much of an option for jobs. These people usually end up as domestic helpers. In DepEd's K to 12, there are now courses in high school that will specifically train students to become domestic helpers. How does that sound?
Congressman Palatino shares his opinion regarding the new curriculum of DepEd with Abante-Tonight:
Tinuturuan na ng Department of Education (DepEd) ang mga estud­yante sa mga pampublikong paaralan na maging domestic helper at maging tagapag-alaga o caregiver... (The Department of Education is now teaching students in public schools on how to become domestic helpers or caregivers) 
...“Pipili ang isang school ng 8 sa 24 Voctech subject,” ani Palatino kung saan kabilang dito ang caregiving course o pag-aalaga, household o domestic helper, masonry, tailoring, dressmaking, electrical course, aquaculture, agriculture, aircon technician, nail care o manikurista, paggugupit at kung anu-ano pa. (Schools will choose 8 out of 24 Voctech subjects which include, caregiving, domestic help, masonry, tailoring ....) 
Sinabi ng kongresista, walang ibang pupuntahan ng mga kursong ito kundi sa ibang bansa kaya hindi makakaahon ang mga Filipino lalo na ang mga limitado ang pinag-aralan kundi magpaalila sa ibayong dagat. (According to the congressman, these subjects have nowhere to go but supply domestic labor to foreign countries.)
Congressman Palatino apparently can tell the difference between the cooking subjects in the Philippines and those of other countries.

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