Neocolonial Philippine Education

 

Much of the recent outbursts by the predominantly middle class online community against perceived wrongdoers.

For while today’s endeavor aims to popularize a fundamental issue, that of education, and help mobilize for next week’s offline collective action, the recent outbursts have all too often taken the form of a futile acting out over the most superficial matters.

One case in point is the uproar caused by James Soriano’s Manila Bulletin article “Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege” last month.

Most reactions on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs have so far ranged from attacks on Soriano’s intelligence – even going to the lengths of proving Soriano’s very lack of mastery of English, the ridiculing of his affluent upbringing, to melodramatic professions of love for the Filipino language.

What much of the online intramurals directed against Soriano’s person misses is the way Soriano and majority of the country’s people have been victimized by a decrepit educational system that is designed to serve the needs of foreign imperial masters rather than the interests of nation-building.

Miseducating Filipinos

Our common childhood experience of being made to pay one peso for every word that we utter in our native language during classes is just one facet of this colonial setup. The continued use of English as the primary medium of instruction follows a long history of what Renato Constantino called “miseducation.”

The US colonial government first established the Department of Public Instruction, and with it the seed of a public school system that sought to “civilize” the natives and remold them in the image of their colonizers as “little brown Americans,” in 1901.

The propagation of the use of the English language and the inculcation of the Americans’ way of life and culture – from American songs, beliefs, to history – became an effective way of colonizing Filipinos.

Presently, our education exemplifies the neocolonial domination or the indirect foreign control over a country’s economy, politics, and culture that continues to impinge on the country. It functions today as a factory that supplies millions of fresh graduates that can be maximized by foreign corporations.

Curriculums are designed to cater to the demands of the advanced capitalist nations – from nurses, domestic helpers, to call center agents.

This setup is exemplified in the World Bank’s spending of $767 million in the 1980s for textbooks that taught how the United States occupied the Philippines to teach it democracy while concealing the horrors of the genocidal Philippine-American War.

Even the recent implementation of the K+12 which adds two more years for basic education is also part of the drive to rapidly produce an army of employable high school graduates that will serve as cheap labor for foreign markets.

Loans and aid by institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank are tied to conditions that reinforce the fundamental colonial character of Philippine education.

The Aquino government’s slashing of the allocations for State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), for instance, allows it to spend more for foreign debt servicing and acquiring antiquated American war junk from the World War 2 and Vietnam War eras.

James Soriano’s Manila Bulletin article therefore comes out as another symptom of decades of this most virulent “miseducation” and the ingraining of class distinctions.

Limits of Clicking

The recent brouhaha over Soriano also exposes the limits of clicking as a tool of empowerment. Instead of advancing democracy, the incessant flow and ebb of each new tweet, status, or link sometimes end up as restive activity that does not change anything.

The emergence of the internet does give people with access to it the ability to raise their voices on any issue they deem worthy of comment. But instead of impelling engagement, it sometimes mislead us into becoming content with having stated one’s opinion or poured out one’s feelings of outrage online.

Ultimately, all the effort at vilifying many more Sorianos at Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, Tumbler, or WordPress would be better spent promoting the national language by fighting to dismantle the present colonial, commercialized, and fascist educational system.

This can only be done by transforming the underlying socio-political structures that benefit and form the basis of the present type of educational system.

Our challenge is therefore one of going beyond the limits of the virtual world and anchoring our cyberspace outrage to real world movements for to pursue the overhaul of the present social order.

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