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General Education

January 6, 2011

In 1996, Cynthia Bautista, Edna Manlapaz, Mona Valisno, and I put together what is now known as General Education Curriculum A (GEC-A), also referred to as CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 59, series of 1996. GEC-A is still followed by all college students majoring in humanities, social sciences, and communication.

A year later, Mona Valisno and I worked on GEC-B, which is a condensed version of GEC-A. GEC-B is also referred to as CHED Memorandum (CM) No. 4, series of 1997. GEC-B is still followed by all college students majoring in subjects other than those mentioned above.

GEC-A requires students to take 63 units (not counting Physical Education and National Service Training Program). These academic units are distributed this way: 24 units of language and literature, 15 units of mathematics and natural sciences, 18 units of humanities and social sciences, and 6 units of government-mandated subjects.

GEC-B requires students to take 51 academic units, distributed this way: 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.

In both curriculums, the subjects are defined, even coming with sample syllabuses and titles of recommended library holdings. That was, after all, the 20th century – the last century. (By the way, curricula and syllabi follow Latin, not English, grammar.)

Enter our century, with its knowledge economy, globalization, technological revolution, and paradigm shifts. Four developments, in particular, have rendered both GEC-A and GEC-B obsolete or (more charitably, since I was partly their author and I have to save some of my pride) overtaken by events: the Bologna Process, the UNESCO World Declaration on Higher Education for the Twenty-First Century, the Aquino government’s K+12 program, and the creation of the CHED Technical Panel on General Education (TPGE).

Among other things, the Bologna Process is forcing us to specify Minimum Learning Competencies (also known as Standards, Qualifications, or Outcomes) for each subject in GEC, and to include graduates, employers, and faculty of other universities in syllabus development.

DepEd has articulated MLCs for every subject for almost a whole century now, but CHED has not really gone through such a detailed exercise. It is one thing to say that the objective of a subject is to have a student know and do certain things, and quite another thing to say that, after a student passes a particular subject, the student should be able to do something measurable and concrete that will be useful to self, as well as to society as a whole.

Even our best universities rarely, if ever, include graduates, employers, and faculty of other universities in curriculum committees, but that is what Bologna requires. The idea is to make education relevant to the world outside a particular campus. In fact, since Bologna is aimed at making national degrees internationally equivalent, curriculum committees in Philippine universities should have not only Filipinos as members, but a lot of foreigners as well.

UNESCO represents the current thinking of the majority of university administrators. To remain in step with the rest of the world, we have no choice but to take UNESCO seriously. After all, the Philippines signed the Declaration.

Among other things, UNESCO demands that general education must respond to national and international challenges, have a strong research component, focus on values (traditional, scientific, and spiritual), and be multi- and inter-disciplinary. In other words, UNESCO demands that our GEC must radically change.

K+12 should bring down to the high school level such subjects as Calculus, Statistics, Inorganic Chemistry, Literary Theory, Filipino Linguistics, and Research Paper Writing. Current GEC subjects in Mathematics, Natural Sciences, Literature, Filipino, and English will obviously be too elementary for college.

TPGE (which I headed since it was created in May 2009, until December, 2010, the end of my term) started out thinking about Pre-University, shifted gears because of K+12, and is now proposing major changes in general education. (To be continued)

SPECIAL THANKS. I want to give my very special thanks to three very special people who saved my one and only grandchild from severe pneumonia during the Christmas holidays: JUN DE CASTRO (F&B manager of El Nido who managed to get seats for us on fully-booked return flights to Manila when we had to cut our vacation short), JULIET GOPEZ-CERVANTES (who personally went to the Emergency Room of St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City to check on my grandson, even though she was extremely busy; she even stayed on as Attending Physician), and MARIA IMELDA V. BAUTISTA (the pediatrician who did not just treat the four-year-old apple of my eye, but explained everything patiently to all of us). By the way, after staying five days in the hospital room, my daughter and my son-in-law, both Americans used to Stanford University Hospital (one of the world’s best), now view St. Luke’s Global as world-class or truly global.

TEACHING TIP OF THE WEEK: Anne Sullivan taught Helen Keller not just reading, but good manners. If you want to be known as a great teacher, teach your students good manners and right conduct (to use the old phrase). If your students rush into an elevator even before people inside can leave it or if they break into queues or if they shake somebody’s hands while looking elsewhere, you had better rethink your teaching philosophy. –Isagani Cruz (The Philippine Star)

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