Re-engineering Tertiary-level Teaching in the Philippines

A quiet revolution.


October 31, 2013

A quiet revolution is afoot in the Philippine tertiary education sector. Two years into the implementation of the K-12 program, my home University is swimming amidst policy and program reviews intended to prepare us for the twin task of redesigning undergraduate and graduate education that has been adjusted for K-12,  and complying with international (i.e. ASEAN) tertiary education level standards. The most obvious change is the General Education course offering-- reduced to 36 units from a high of 45 (since some GE courses are already taught at the junior and senior high school levels) and completely overhauled to emphasize cutting across knowledge domains.  Another change is the switch from a June-to- March calendar to an August-to-June semester calendar. There is also a pressing challenge to standardize program curricula across the autonomous units (which means the BA Political Science offered in UP Visayas will be the same as the one offered in UP Diliman).


All of these have implications to teaching. Already grumblings are surfacing. Two junior tenured colleagues who have been getting by teaching Rizal and Philippine History courses lament-- what will happen to them? The teachers of under-populated programs getting fewer than ten (!) enrolled students  per year-- will they survive the cut? All of the workshops the History program cluster have offered presumably to revise their 20-year old curriculum to have a Maritime History focus-- all wasted because of new policy imperatives. And the new BA level graduate Instructors hired into tenure-track positions-- what use is there for this excess personnel when you are facing a long-term specter of reduced GE offerings?


From a personal standpoint, I see these changes as opportunities for growth. I welcome the idea of being re-trained as a teacher. In fact, I am buoyed by this news, particularly after the national Commission on Higher Education Technical Committee for Political Science (of which I am member) finished the work of re-engineering the Political Science undergraduate and graduate program standards to be in line with outcome-based education. Going through the revision process gave me a foretaste of how major courses should be designed towards concrete competencies, starting from assumptions about what jobs our Political Science graduates will likely feed into. As future researchers, policy analysts, foreign service personnel and employees at various international and national government agencies, I want my students to come away with not just knowledge, but also skills and attitudes that will help them get to where they need to go. Following Bloom’s taxonomy (remember, understand, apply, analyze, evaluate, create), I now have a better grounding of how I can design courses with this mindset. More importantly, I want to incorporate building correct ethical mindsets into my teaching goals. There has never been a more critical time than now, with all the media revelations about pervasive corruption in the government and discriminatory attitude towards minorities, to learn how about how to be a good citizen and human being.


I have never been one to reflect on how I teach and whether what I teach sinks in, particularly with this y-generation of young adults who have access to so many other knowledge sources and shorter attention span (hence the premium for performance-based, nay, theatrical teaching renditions just to get them interested). But now, I seriously do take time to reflect. Having taught undergrads in the US and with sustained encounters in other foreign teaching environments, I think I have solid grounding. Teaching should pay less attention to content (students can get this independently, provided you direct them to reliable, academic sources) and more on imparting skills-- higher level abilities in Bloom’s taxonomy. What makes teaching skills at the tertiary level supposedly more grounded is that the teacher herself must have a wealth of experience from which such skills are derived. She must be engaged in research-- create proposals, design methods, analyze and evaluate data. She must have done a fair share of “creating”--writing peer-reviewed publications or manuals.


I have twenty odd years more to go in the teaching profession. I can do with some more re-tooling to get better at it.


Iloilo, Philippines


Rosalie Arcala Hall is a Professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas and a founding member of the editorial collective at University of Venus


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