By Nacho Domingo
In condemnation of the University Council’s (UC) approval of the General Elective (GE) reform, the Sagip GE Alliance, composed of faculty and students opposing the reduction of minimum required GE units from 45 to 21, held a press conference March 28 at the Palma Hall steps to fight for holistic UP education.
Speakers hailing from different college faculties in UP united in the belief that the GE reform will deny UP students a well-rounded education and instead, will funnel them into employment for international corporations.
“Kailangang pagtibayin pa ang GE program, pagyamanin at di ito mapapayaman sa 21 units,” said UP Professor Vlad Gonzales of Tanggol Wika.
Currently, the university follows the Revised General Education Program (RGEP), which was first implemented in 2012. It requires students to take 15 units each of Arts and Humanities, Social Sciences and Philosophy, and Math, Science and Technology subjects.
According to journalism professor and member of Sagip GE Alliance Danilo Arao, the importance of GE units lies in providing students with a broad skill set, rather than one that only focuses on subjects directly related to the career paths offered by a degree.
“Ang layunin nito ay mapalawak ang ating isipan. Kailangan natin ma-expose sa iba’t ibang disiplina anuman ang ating spesyalisasyon,” said Arao.
On the other hand, Professor Mico Panis of the Industrial Engineering department defended the reduction of units, saying it will allow engineering programs to be completed in four years instead of five.
“In my opinion, this allows us to stay competitive and attractive with other engineering universities,” Panis said in a separate interview.
Panis also said, “[The] GE reform also removes redundancies ng ibang subjects na natuturo na dapat sa K-12,” adding that GE units are not the only ones to be reduced but also major and cognate subjects.
In contrast, Arao believes that part of what Sagip GE calls “Tatak UP” is how the program develops students’ critical thinking and interrelational skills.
Despite many of the students branding these subjects as unnecessary and a burden to enlist, he said, Arao believes in the values that these develop in the students.
“Ang kailangan lang natin tandaan nung nangyari noong March 20. Nagwagi ang pro-21 proposal para bawasan itong sinasabi nating hybrid general education program,” Arao said.
This was in reference to the poll held among UP professors on March 27. During this meeting, 302 members of voted for, 31 voted against, and 41 abstained the implementation of the reform.
He also said the votes in favor of the reform coming from the Colleges of Science and Engineering played a big hand in its approval, as they account for over 46 percent of the UP student population.
Nevertheless, Arao believes that despite the decision, the fight for a well-rounded education is still ongoing.
“Tuloy-tuloy ang laban, at sa kasaysayan ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, malaki ang posibilidad na marereverse ang mga desisyon lalo na’t mayroong malinaw na public pressure mula sa estudyante at alumni,” added Arao.
Meanwhile, USC Chairperson Bryle Leaño described the reform as a neoliberal attack on education that continues to exploit the students.
“Sabi pa nga ni Chancellor Michael Tan na tayo ay narerestructure ng GE reform upang matapos ang ating pag-aaral sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas,” said Leaño.
“Tayo ay matutulak na maghanap ng trabaho sa mga malalaking korporasyon hindi man sa loob ng Pilipinas kundi sa labas.”
Leaño then described how GE program’s restructuring does not suit the needs of a country like the Philippines, which is heavier on agriculture than science and engineering fields.
He concluded his speech by stating the importance of instilling an educational program that suits the needs of the country.
“Dapat alamin natin kung ano ba ang pangangailangan ng Pilipinas upang tunay na mailapat natin ang ating kagalingan at tunay na magspecialize tayo para sa sambayanan,” said Leaño.
The official approval of the GE reform will take place in a Board of Regents meeting at Quezon Hall on April 5.
Along with progressive student groups, Sagip GE has called for another mobilization to take place in protest of the reform’s implementation.