"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

Thursday, June 19, 2014

What Is a College Course?

A college education can mean a lot of different things to people. The most common impression out there is that a college education can lead to a better job and higher pay. Thus, people look at college education as an investment. With a utilitarian perspective, higher education gets weighted against economic measures. It is, of course, not a myth that college graduates do have better employment opportunities. But one must not confuse this outcome as the primary goal of higher education. Higher education is a place where a person is not only free, but oftentimes forced to think critically. It is a place where new ideas are introduced and considered. It is a place to meet people. A university is a place where scholars and researchers converge. It is a place where human knowledge is pushed beyond its frontiers. It is a place where a student can fulfill a love for learning. It turns out that individuals who have learn to love learning are also good problem solvers. It turns out that individuals who can consider new ideas and think critically are also more productive. For these reasons, a college education is correlated with better employment opportunities. Still, one must not take this correlation as an objective. A classroom filled with students whose eyes are only focused on future employment is a nightmare. A classroom in higher education is supposed to be filled with students whose eyes are set on learning.

The scholarship level that distinguishes higher education from basic education defines what courses could be offered in college. The courses can be divided into two groups, those that fit the student's concentration or major, and those that provide general education. A concentration is necessary so that a college education can provide both breadth and depth in one field. Courses in the major include both fundamental as well as advanced topics. These courses affect only the students who intend to specialize. These are designed and decided by the experts in the field and are usually not controversial. The other but equally important part of college education is General education. Its purpose is to make college education holistic. Across universities, this is where one may find large variations. College courses under this category may indeed come in different flavors, but all of these courses have one thing in common. These are not supposed to be identical to subjects taken in basic education. After all, in universities, these courses are likewise taught by PhD's. To illustrate this more concretely, here is an example from Georgetown University:

Above captured from BoomBox
Does a rapper like Jay-Z really warrant a college-level course? If the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the Philippines is removing Filipino from the required courses in college, a misplaced nationalism may argue that the subject Filipino is far more important than a rapper's music, yet at Georgetown University there is a college course on Jay-Z. At this point, it is important to look at what the course on Jay-Z is really about. First, the course has the following requirement:
Final Research Paper: To cultivate your knowledge of sociological research and to allow you to pursue research in a specific area of interest, each student will be writing a short research paper. The research paper has a page requirement of 10-12 pages and must incorporate 7 traditional academic sources (a combination of journals and academic monographs). Your research paper must include a thesis, and it will be graded on organization, inclusion of academic texts and grammar.
The above requirement carries specific details like incorporating 7 traditional academic sources. The course also comes with a brief description of what grades entail:
One last note on grades: ‘C’ is “Average.” A grade of a ‘C’ indicates that a student has completed the assignment in an ordinary manner. In all likelihood, the assignment probably does not meet all requirements but is not so deficient as to warrant a ‘D’ which is, of course, below average. In contrast, a ‘B’ signifies that the assignment being graded was merely sufficient in its completion. All requirements were fulfilled. (Yes, even though “all requirements were fulfilled,” this does not automatically lead to an A). A grade of an ‘A’ on any assignment means that the student went beyond the requirements to present an interesting sociological insight, or a high level of synthesis of course material, which reflects sophisticated analysis.
Seeing the above example, it may help understand a recent article in Rappler by Lisandro Claudio, a professor from Ateneo de Manila University:

Above copied from Rappler
Language instruction is part of basic education. College courses are beyond language instruction. Colleges are not meant to teach Filipino. Colleges are now supposed to nurture and develop Filipino. This distinction is very important. Languages like Filipino require attention from higher education, but not along the same vein as teachers in elementary or high school. The faculty in colleges are required to push the boundaries of human knowledge. If college courses are no different from those in basic education, then there is no need for university faculty. There is no need for professors. Those in higher education have the obligation to cultivate and nurture culture and language. The obligation to instruct language belongs to basic education teachers. As the country embarks on its K+12 program which includes an ambitious mother tongue based - multilingual ingredient, guidance and direction are so much needed from university faculty. Research and studies on this area are sorely lacking. Colleges should be the one leading the way. This could only happen if colleges in the Philippines start acting as bastions of higher education, and not as mere expensive repeats or copies of high schools.

CHED is not abandoning Filipino as an academic language. The memo at the heart of the current protest describes the new core courses in Filipino:




2 comments:

  1. The protest against CMO 20 of course is not about the use of Filipino as language of instruction. It is more of the removal of Filipino as a gen-ed subject for college students AND MORE OF THE EXPECTED DISPLACEMENT OF TEACHERS HANDLING FILIPINO SUBJECTS IN THE UNIVERSITY. As of now, there are really no clear and certain safety nets to address their removal/retrenchment when the program is fully implemented in 2018. Of course, there is the other issue about what will happen to university gen-ed teachers in 2016-2017 (when there will no incoming first year and/or second year students), and in 2020-2021, where there will be no 3rd year and/or fourth year students. From these considerations, it is no wonder why university gen-ed teachers seem "emotionally-charged." Are they not thinking of the predicaments that come with CMO 20 and the K12 program? Don't their contentions have merit at all? It may sound so easy and unproblematic for Ateneo Professor Lisandro Claudio to speak of team-teaching, say 2, 3 or 4 professors, for one university subject like Psychology of the Self, but again most universities in the Philippines are not as financially-capable as Ateneo. What I know is that an Ateneo professor is paid about 85 (or more) Thousand pesos per month for a 30-units load for the entire year. That's a whopping more than a million pesos for the whole year for a 30-units load! In most universities, a university professor must have 24-30 units per semester plus 9-12 units during the summer term, giving her 57-72 units for an average of 25 Thousand pesos a month. Team-teaching in their universities? Ah, students in these universities pay about 25 Thousand pesos per semester ---certainly the collected tuition fees will not be able to pay the teachers the same benefits that Ateneo proffesor Prof. Claudio gets, more so with team teaching. At Ateneo? Students pay at least 90 Thousand pesos a semester ---surely Ateneo professors will be paid, come what may with K12 and the revised college courses.

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  2. Higher education is distinct from basic education. Realizing the huge difference between the two makes the arguments or concerns you have raised somewhat irrelevant. Higher education is not just a right work. It is a right tp do scholarly work.

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