Thursday, September 15, 2005

Understanding Nation Building (Part 7)

We continue with our series on Understanding Nation Building. The whole premise--- is to get people to contemplate and understand with a clear mind where the Philippines is at the moment and perhaps with this, people can come out with creative solutions on how to improve its condition. This is a series in answer to the Blueprint for a Viable Philippines, a document published largely by people from the University of the Philippines.

In today's post, we discuss several points--- Education, Envionmental Protection, Cultural Communities and Autonomous Regions and Media.

On Education


The Situation: The Philippine education system has been the subject of intermittent reviews. While other countries have worried over the relevance of their educational curriculum to the demands of modernity and globalization, our concerns have remained basic: the chronic lack of classrooms and textbooks and teachers. Not enough attention has been paid yet to the quality of instruction and the relevance of the curriculum, although no doubt these are equally pressing problems. Curricula do not foster love of country nor nurture a strong sense of national identity. Compounding the basic problems brought about by the paucity of resources allotted to education is the extreme poverty of our people at the bottom rungs of the population. Poverty results in high dropout rates at all levels and poor performance at school. Pressing economic need also forces many highly qualified teachers to seek alternative employment abroad.

BLUEPRINT Recommendations: Double or triple the current budget for education. Develop a new curriculum that is strong in history and culture to foster patriotic and social values and nurture a strong sense of national identity. Tap the private sector and the local communities for a comprehensive program to upgrade basic public education throughout the country. Make the salaries of teachers and professors competitive enough to draw the best and brightest minds to the teaching profession. Raise professional standards for all teachers. Retain Filipino as the principal medium of instruction at the grade school and high school levels. Teach English and Chinese as second languages at all levels. Reduce the number of state colleges and universities and establish instead a National Open Virtual University that will offer high quality and affordable college education to as many people as possible, especially working adults. Develop non-formal education as a primary component of the educational system. Establish community based day care centers. Offer adult education programs in every community center.

Big Mango

Education. It is indeed a chronic problem in the Philippines and an important aspect of our culture. Call this my exit interview, since I left college just shy of five years ago and with a relatively fresh experience, can give an objective view on what it was like with the balance of hindsight and some maturity.

My experiences you see has always been with the La Salle Brothers beginning in Kindergarten and ending in their University along Taft Avenue, so that is the benchmark by which I measure good education, because they gave back my parents money's worth.

Looking back, the curriculum that I was exposed to has always been a balanced one. It didn't matter whether or not one new how to play an instrument or paint--- we still had a healthy dose of music class and of painting or of drafting class. Since it was an all boys school during my younger days, we certainly enjoyed pulling apart a car engine and bringing it back to life with some measure of success. This was all on the side of a healthy dose of math, English, science, Filipino (which I greatly detested, for some reason) and the Social Sciences. We studied the concepts of economics (basic, without the heavy math i.e. Calculus part of economics) beginning in grade school and that was greatly enjoyable.

As younger man, I loved world history--- seeing battle fields fly off the pictures of my incredibly dull text book. Our teachers encouraged it, as much as they encouraged our mathematics and science. Though I do remember our class chastised for doing incredibly terrible on one final exam for Physics. You see our class was suppose to be on top and, looking back I guess it was kind of humiliating not performing on that level, on the level that they expected of us. At that point we were all thinking about girls and collage, still not an excuse.

Admittedly, my University performance was not as reliable as my formative years, excelling at classes where my interests were top notch and doing terribly on classes I had zero or very little interest in. The challenges that they offered of course were up to the task--- though I must say for science research we could do a little more.

At home, my parents reinforced those school lessons by exposing me to music, to computers and when I speak of computers--- the business kind, programming, systems management as much as they encouraged me to dial into bulletin boards (the web was just a science experiment back in the early 90s when I was 14, with a 386, Windows 3.1 and a 33 kbps Hayes modem and a number to Clark Field) and to play Test Drive and Sim City.

The Brothers and my Parents opened a world of prayer, but not just prayer, a glimpse at the world of other people in equal doses of those less and more fortunate and this has helped give a balance world view.

Looking back, the training that they gave me--- the ability to think, to discern, to contemplate, to love learning in general, to continue reading and challenging, and to balance that with creativity--- that has been key to being a balanced human being and that is a good Education. Education has been a tool for my own delight, and for the ability to do my work. When I see my peers--- they have balanced and good lives because of the very same education.

Today, the resources of the Internet is at the disposal of educators should they choose to utilize it, the Wiki, the free encyclopedia, Project Gutenberg and many more resources out there--- through peer interaction, through different variety and degree of study, open your eyes.

To spell it out: education is not just about reading or writing, or knowing history or being able to do Calculus. Education is the ability to think, to discern, to determine, to conclude, to innovate, to be creative in both sides of the brain, and its end goal is easy to determine, as Francis Bacon put it: “studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability”.

On Environmental Protection

Blueprint Recommendation: The government shall encourage the judicious use of our natural resources, support community-based conservation efforts, and ensure the equitable and rational sharing of the fruits of their use and development. It will enforce a strict logging ban on all remaining natural forests, and rehabilitate severely degraded critical watersheds. It shall institute a new land management policy to supplant the Public Land Act of 1936 and the Property Registration Decree of 1978. It shall uphold the ancestral rights of indigenous communities at all times. It shall determine the country’s mineral resource base. It shall require mining companies to link up with mineral processing industries in the country. It shall rationalize small-scale mining and identify areas exclusively reserved for small-scale miners. The government will jointly manage and monitor projects undertaken by foreign firms to safeguard the government’s share and protecting the environment. It shall immediately stop the dumping of toxic wastes into Philippine waters. And finally, the government shall adopt and implement a comprehensive waste management system for each town and city. It will likewise initiate a national program to clean up the country’s lakes, rivers, bays, and coastal areas, and rid them of fishpens.

Big Mango:

The preservation of natural resources particularly non-renewable resources is an important aspect of sustainable development. Likewise the preservation of the rights of indigenous communities is equally important.

Though it is questionable how great is the human race's impact on the sustainability of life on Earth, it is important that hand in hand with economic development is the goal of preserving the non-renewable resources of the country, if only to ensure the continued use of those resources. But there should be greater effort in finding new solutions, new technology to eventually move away from reliance from those resources as it is a national imperative to let go of those shackles.

On Cultural Communities and Autonomous Regions

Blueprint recommendation: Concrete steps will be taken to actualize the indigenous peoples’ constitutional rights to preserve and develop their own way of life. The ancestral areas from which they draw their livelihood and in which their cultures are rooted will be respected. The remaining obstacles to the full recognition of the right to ancestral domain will be removed. The concept of autonomous regions shall be given flesh in full consultation and coordination with the indigenous peoples of Mindanao and the Cordilleras. All practices reminiscent of internal colonialism will cease.

Big Mango

Historically, we have been a divided people. The Tagalogs, the Cebuanos, the Ilocanos, etc. Why then have we not established a Federal Government? The 1987 Constitution has allowed for the creation of Autonomous Regions--- in Mindanao, in the Cordilleras for the sole purpose to preserving the peace, of allowing indigenous peoples to grow. We have likewise established special administrative regions--- Clark Field, Subic and in many ways, Metro Manila.

Its kind of crazy that many believe we are not ready for a federal government, when we have dabbled with it already. Why not bring the other foot forward? The only way we can stimulate economic growth in the country side and to preserve the cultural traditions of our people is to establish in every region based on identity, by culture, a federal system.

Our people need to understand their roots--- for us to take the next step forward. In order to do so, we must strengthen our ties to the past through our rich heritage and weave a tapestry of our identity. It goes hand in hand--- the formation of a strong republic can only be realized through the understanding of bonds between ourselves.

On Media


The Situation: The Philippine mass media has become little more than the handmaiden of advertising companies, the principal instrument of a consumerist culture. Its principal goal has been to gather audiences, sort them out, and deliver them over to the lords of the world of consumption. The mass media has played, in contrast, a minimal role in the formation of a mature polity, in strengthening a sense of national identity, or in the development and promotion of a national culture. In short, it has abdicated its essential public functions. Instead, what drives it is basically the quest for private profit and political influence.

BLUEPRINT Analysis: The mass media is an important extension of the educational system. It is not only a source of information; it also forms tastes and promotes certain types of values. Its autonomy from the state must be preserved, but at the same time, it must be made to assume its obligations to society.

BLUEPRINT Recommendations: Establish a Board of Governors for Media consisting of media professionals of unquestioned integrity that will function as media’s own watchdog and regulatory body. The Board will not only monitor media abuse, but also will more importantly recommend measures that align media programming and content with social objectives.

Big Mango:

Mass Media--- television, radio, newsprint exist because of advertising revenue. Mas Media is also the staple resource of information by people. And yes, after nearly a century of radio and television, advertising has indeed been able to drive consumerism to its height--- not just in the country but elsewhere around the world.

On one hand, material goods and services drive the economic growth a nation for example--- how else can factories build more toothpaste, if no one buys them? On the other hand, too much materialism and greed is likewise not a good thing, but isn't that why we have ethics, religion, faith, social norms and laws--- to balance it all out. At the end of the day, it is we who decide on the path we take--- thats where thinking and deciding for ourselves come into play, doesn't it?

Blueprint is correct in its determination that to some degree Media has become an extension of our education system, since people have made it their staple source of information and that the growing lack of choices, of quality programs, of things to read is alarming. But most people don't know that because like beauty, they need something to compare it against.

In many aspects, when television programs and radio programs and newsprint become so tasteless as to discuss the loves, loss, petty fights and estrangements of politicians, actors and actresses, doesn't that dull the senses? But it is also clear from polls made all over the world that people have had enough of these things yet the ratings of these media bodies also are on the rise. Its all about people to a certain degree--- their taste what they want to listen to. Sex and Violence sells. Can you social engineer that?

When we look at the Internet technologies today--- blogs, podcasts, TiVo, peer-to-peer networks, RSS, Wiki, webpages, Chat, VoIP (Voice Over IP) they have transformed the way the world receives, produces, interacts, interprets, and delivers information, and entertainment. The world in general doesn't yet understand that the line between producers of information and entertainment and consumers of it are now one and the same thing. This alone will transform the mass media in the Philippines as access to the Internet and its technologies will rise over the next decade as it transforms the rest of the world.

There is a Clear and Present Danger when information and entertainment is aligned and socialized in such a obvious degree and to an unspecified purpose and degree, people's tastes. Let people decide what they want to read, listen to and watch and that will determine programing.

There is no need to establish a Board of Governors for Mass Media. There is already an existing system--- the KBP and similar agencies both government and non-government. Our media already does self regulation and this is a healthy thing. And as Internet Technologies become available, and as people become even more busy, they will face stiffer competition not just for advertising revenue but people's attention, thus driving content to higher quality.