"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

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

General Education in College

With the new K to 12 curriculum of the Philippine basic education system, questions are now raised regarding how tertiary education should be modified to fit the changes in Philippine high schools. The focus is on general education requirements. Currently, as Isagani Cruz explains in his MINI CRITIQUE, The Philippine Star, March 22, 2012
There are two General Education Curricula (GECs) – GEC-A and GEC-B. 
GEC-A (taken by students majoring in the humanities, social sciences, or communication) requires 63 units (that is, hours per week for a semester or trimester) divided into 24 units of language and literature, 15 units of mathematics and natural sciences, 6 units of humanities, 12 units of social sciences, and 6 units of mandated subjects. GEC-A was promulgated by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Memorandum Order (CMO) 59, series of 1996. 
GEC-B (taken by all other students) requires 21 units of language and humanities, 15 units of mathematics, natural sciences, and information technology, 12 units of social sciences, and 3 units of mandated subjects. GEC-B was promulgated by CHED Memorandum (CM) 4, series of 1997.
Unlike in other countries, apparently some of these general education courses are meant as remedial work. It is then claimed that some of these subjects need to be taught in college because these are simply not covered in high school in the old ten-year basic education curriculum. The new general education curriculum is being drafted by the technical panel of the Commission on Higher education and as reported by the Inquirer, it now includes:
Sources involved in the drafting said the new GE curriculum consisted of 12 subjects, including the mandatory subject on the life and works of national hero Jose Rizal. 
The eight GE subjects are Understanding the Self, Contemporary World, Purposive Communication, Art Appreciation, Ethics, Readings in Philippine History, Mathematics in the Modern World, Science and Technology (ST) and Society.  
The students are allowed to choose three elective subjects.

12 subjects with 3 units each add up to 36 units, a drop of 27 units from the previous 63 units of GEC-A. At this point, it may be useful to compare this against the General Education curriculum of a university in the United States, which of course has a K-12 curriculum. I will use Georgetown University, for this purpose:

Source: http://college.georgetown.edu/academics/general-education-requirements/

At Georgetown, some of these courses take 3 sessions (50 minutes each) a week while some have four. These are indeed smaller in quantity compared to the General Education Curriculum in Philippines' tertiary education. Another major difference is that these courses are not found in high school. The math/science courses are not the same as math/science courses a high school student can take. The departments of math and sciences at Georgetown have developed (and continue to develop) special courses for non science majors. Examples are:

  • BIOL-007 The Brain and the Evolution of Behavior
  • BIOL-008 Ecology and the Environment
  • CHEM-020 Environmental Chemistry
  • CHEM-023 Molecular Gastronomy
  • PHYS-013 Science of Sound and Music
  • PHYS-015 Modern Astronomy
  • COSC-011 Introduction to Information Privacy
  • COSC-015 Introduction to Computer Science Using Ruby
  • COSC-101 Introduction to Information Technology
  • MATH-004 Mathematics in Society
  • MATH-007 Introduction to Math Modeling
For science majors, the math/science general education requirements are met by taking the introductory courses in the major. These courses, unlike the ones listed above, can be found in high school curriculum. Thus, the K-12 subjects that can be used to place out of college courses are usually courses in the major. Clearly, there is a huge contrast between tertiary education in the US and in the Philippines especially in how these relate to their corresponding basic education curricula.

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