Why removal of Filipino, ‘pantikan’ from college curriculum is being criticized

November 15, 2018 - 2:22 PM
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School students
Students of a public school in Metro Manila attend their flag ceremony. (Interaksyon/Bernard Testa)

The Supreme Court’s decision to exclude Filipino and Filipino Literature or ‘Panitikan’ as core subjects to be taught in colleges has been criticized by those who believe in the necessity of including the critical study of country’s native language in core curricula.

The high court voted in a decision dated October 9, 2018 to lift the temporary restraining order placed on a Commission on Higher Education Memorandum that excluded the said subjects as well as the Constitution subject from the required core subjects in colleges, reducing the minimum of core subject units to 36.

The assailed memorandum released in 2013 was assailed by groups of educators, writers and other Filipino advocates, claiming that it violated Organic Act of the Komisyon on Wikang Filipino, the Education Act of 1982, and the Organic Act of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

The court in its ruling said that the allegation that the subjects were removed from the general education curriculum was incorrect as Filipino and Philippine Literature were already taught in the elementary and high school level.

It also ruled that Section 13 of RA 7722 which created CHEd gave it the power to set the minimum required units for specific academic programs, determining the general education distribution requirements as well as the “specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.”

CHEd welcomed the court’s decision and said that it would respect the opposing groups’ filing of a motion for reconsideration.

“The Commission will continue to uphold the rule of law, study the issues raised by education stakeholders and await the final decision of the Supreme Court,” it said in a statement.

The commission also clarified that colleges and universities may still add the subjects in their curriculum.

“To be university-ready, graduates of the basic education curriculum should have taken Filipino, Panitikan and the Constitution. Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) may enhance these competencies by including additional subjects in Filipino, Panitikan or integrate these into existing subjects in their curriculum,” it added.

National Artist for Literature and National Commission on Culture and the Arts chair Virgilio Almario, a poet and author known for his contributions to Filipino literature, has also opposed the ruling.

“Filipino as a national language should be used in the lowest to the highest level of education. This is the way for it to be cultivated, he said during an interview with GMA news.

Others have also questioned the purpose of removing the said subjects from the college curriculum.

A brewing debate

Since the CHED memorandum came out in 2014, several arguments defending the necessity of Filipino subjects in the standard college curriculum have been forwarded. Almario, then chair of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, that year said that the memorandum violated the constitutional edict that declared Filipino as a national language.

Professor David Michael San Juan of the De La Salle University meanwhile argued that the memorandum would threaten the employment of at least 10,000 Filipino instructors.

University of the Philippines Chancellor Michael Tan defended the use of Filipino in educational institutions in a column published in 2016 citing its role in building a national identity.

“If we want a national language, and respect for all our Philippine languages, our young must grow up hearing and using these languages as part of daily practice—not just for casual conversations but as the language of transaction for science, business, the arts.  It must be a daily practice that becomes part of us, part of the way we think, and live,” he wrote.

Journalist Cito Beltran in a column meanwhile said that the SC’s decision may change how the Filipino language is regarded.

“The Supreme Court decision effectively making Filipino optional in college may just be the sacrifice needed to give the language a rebirth,” he argued.