"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, April 23, 2015

CHED Respects Supreme Court Decision

With regard to the temporary restraining order placed on one of its orders, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in the Philippines is preparing to respond within ten days. The Supreme Court of course has the final say on how to interpret the highest law of the land. The issue at hand, however, touches on principles that are not specific to the Philippines. These are academic freedom, tenure in higher education, labor protection, as well as rights of learners and instructors.

CHED has issued the following release as its initial response to the Supreme Court ruling:

Source: Commission on Higher Education
The Philippine Constitution does require something to be present in the curricula of schools; "All educational institutions shall include the study of the Constitution as part of the curricula." One would imagine that what verb follows the word "shall" in the Constitution has been chosen carefully. The combination "shall include" means a requirement. Another section says "Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning." Again, in this instance the provision states something that is specifically required. The phrase "shall be enjoyed in all" provides a clear instruction. Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that subjects other than the study of the Constitution be required in higher education.

The State is indeed mandated by the Constitution to develop and enrich Filipino. The State is likewise mandated to support science and technology. The State is also required to foster the preservation, enrichment, and dynamic evolution of a Filipino national culture. The State is enjoined to promote physical education. With these provisions, it must be clear that the State cannot do something that goes against what needs to be promoted, developed and encouraged. Obviously, doing nothing to promote, develop or encourage any of these items is also against the law.

It is easy to argue why the study of the Constitution is required. It is likewise easy to see why the Constitution does not require any other subject and simply settles on providing general guiding principles for education:
They shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency.
In my opinion, the wisdom is simple. Requiring a certain course to be taught in higher education is not necessarily promoting or encouraging. In fact, it achieves the opposite. Only scholarly work can promote a given field in higher education. With specific courses being required in colleges and universities, academic freedom is lost. Along with freedom, so does responsibility. With a guaranteed stream of students enrolling in required courses, there is no longer any incentive for both faculty and the State to promote and enhance the field, the discipline, or area of study. Academic freedom must be an absolute in higher education. Otherwise, the word "higher" is likewise lost.


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