October 7, 2022

Trade and Industry Sec. Alfred Pascual recently called for the removal of general education (GenEd)courses to make years in college shorter. He said GenEd courses should be taken up in the K-12 curriculum and college should primarily focus on the field of specialization of the student.
This is also the sentiment of the majority. Students and parents questioned why GenEd courses, such as ethics and history, are offered. In fact, they are not directly related to the student’s college program. Significantly, this only adds to the tuition. Moreover, GenEd courses have been deemed a burden to the student’s workload. Some argue GenEd courses are exhausting than major courses.
However, the removal posits some danger. The removal manifests what Henry Giroux, a proponent of critical pedagogy, stated: We are leading to Dystopian Education. We focus too much on that specialization, however, it also leads us to be robots. Too much specialization in education leads to alienation on the part of the students. If the removal is implemented, students are deprived of the chance to grasp other knowledge and skills offered in other disciplines. Moreover, students are robbed of the values such as critical thinking and social awareness offered in general education subjects, especially under the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS). Even without the removal, the K-12 curriculum already manifests this problem. The K-12 curriculum pre-sents that only a few students are interested or enrolled and are not exposed to HUMSS. This is why many people are misinformed and fall for historical distortion. People rely more on “fake news” from social media than articles published in journals.
For instance, if Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics-related GenEd courses are removed, we will see an increase in the number of anti-vaxers and people who do not believe in climate change. Sadly, there’s a rising number of hostility among our scientists and professionals, leading to a world of anti-intellectualism. How can we move further as a nation if science and knowledge are not just being deprived but are also defied?
Without discrediting the disadvantages of GenEd courses, what should be done? If one of the intentions of the K-12 is to keep up with global standards, a three-year college program would be useless since most countries are employing a four-year system in their bachelor’s degrees. I wonder why the Philippines was not able to duplicate all that the American system does.
The American college system offers a major-minor system. The major subject is intended for the student’s field of interest. However, the American system also requires students to acquire minor subjects, and usually, they are almost half of the major classes. Regarding minor subjects, American universities value liberal courses like history, literature, and philosophy, as well as mathematics, social, and natural sciences. This system ensures students are not only prepared for their field but also develop other essential skills such as critical thinking and communication.
Moreover, minor subjects are a bridge between general and specialized education. I call it allied education. Unlike the GenEd subjects in the Philippines, the topics are already prescribed by the Commission on Higher Education.
The American system allows students to choose any minor courses and subject matter. This is advantageous because it is not just for personal interest; the minor is preferred since the student believes it is related to their field and professional interest. The minor subject system will not just save the faculty members’ threat of losing teaching loads and employment but also give a student a chance to be interested in other disciplines.
Minor subjects or GenEd courses remind us to be humans. Simply, this is what Robin William in the Dead Poet’s Society said, “Medicine, law, business, engineering: these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love: these are what we stay alive for.”

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