UP General Education Program: From 45 to 21

I haven’t quite clearly explained on my UP Prof Review what my Fil 40 professor said about the importance of General Education (GE). With the recent news about the University of the Philippines truncating of the number of GEs from 45 to 21 units, I felt obliged to share my own sentiments regarding the matter.

When I entered college (circa 2011), a UP student is required to take 45 units of GE– that’s equivalent to 15 GE subjects. (In the School of Economics, we only got to choose 13 subjects since Econ 11 and Math 17 were required courses.) We had to take 5 Social Science and Philosophy (SSP), 5 Arts and Humanities (AH), and 5 Math, Science, and Technology (MST) courses. We were allowed to choose any course as long as 1) we take 2 Philippine Studies (PH) and 2 English Communication subjects (at least for my degree), and 2) we fulfill the 5-each-domain count. A year after, UP decided to tweak this scheme a little: students enrolled 2012 onward are to take the following required GEs:

  • Under AH domain: Eng 10, Comm 3, Fil 40
  • Under SSP domain: Kas 1, Philo 1
  • Under MST domain: Math 1, STS

Colleges are to decide the third required SSP and MST while the two remaining slots for each domain would be the student’s prerogative.

A few days ago, the University Council decided to reduce the number of required GEs to more than half its original number. Their argument? The K-12 program is already implemented, hence we do not really need that much GE subjects.

This is why I disagree.

As I recall, GE subjects were never meant to supply you with knowledge you didn’t learn in high school. Disregarding the fact that it actually could, the philosophy of GE was to supplement a UP student with a “a broad perspective that would enable them, outside their own field of specialization, to engage with issues and realities of their own times as citizens with sturdy moral and intellectual integrity. That broad perspective implies various approaches or ways of looking at things, concomitant with discernment and good judgment, whereby is enhanced the ability to create, innovate, and communicate for the production of knowledge and the actual implementation of advocacies and projects.” GE programs are to hone UP students to be holistic and integrative. GEs are meant to transform your worldview, allowing you to appreciate beyond your field.

Say Senior High School subjects have the same syllabi to our GE courses, why not then improve and level up the GE courses so it can still serve its purpose? The K-12 argument answers the 1958 purpose of GE as what President Sinco had in mind:

…a curriculum that would develop the student’s ability to effectively speak and write English and read and understand materials with some complexity, have the ability to think critically, the understanding of the present status and past history of the culture and society of which the student is a part, and the understanding of the nature of science as an intellectual process.

This, however, disregards all the revisions it has undergone: the 2012, 2011, and even the RGEP. Moreover, are we saying that the quality of UP Education is comparable to that of high school teachers? No. UP Education is far different. UP has always prided itself with academic freedom and academic excellence. This isn’t something you can easily find in other institutions. Coming from a private Catholic school, I have witnessed how more effective learning is when discourses are not repressed due to possible inconvenience to political and/or religious groups. Let us also not forget that UP, unlike other institutions, is committed to national development. We were instilled with a social responsibility:

UP is committed to serve the Filipino nation and humanity, and relate its activities to the needs of the Filipino people and their aspirations for social progress and transformation, and provide venues for student volunteerism.

If UP does inevitably truncates its GE program, I could only hope that they are able to come up with something that could match or even transcend what they are unthinkably trying to ruin– it is more than a collective number of units, but the essence and value in learning, in being holistic, and in being integrative.