CHASING THE WIND - Felipe B. Miranda -
Of course it was bound to happen. In many Philippine colleges, semi-literate students now clutter the classes, unable to hold or pursue a thought, much less to critically assess it. In practically any language, be it English, Pilipino or mathematics, they are pitifully most tentative, dazedly groping their way around, fumbling and stuttering through their mostly nominal, tertiary education.

Indeed, even in one of the nation’s top universities, at most one in three may pass for a functional — not necessarily bright or brilliant – college student. Assuming the ability to analyze as a necessary college attribute, most students in this institution would have done well if they had spent an extra two to three years in high school. Legitimate college instructors would then be less traumatized by their students’ academic performance.

Practically all students in this particular university took and passed a college admission test. That being the case, no question may be raised about their ability to pass exams, especially those that rely much on rote learning, on factual familiarity and non-analytical reasoning. These are precisely what they were nurtured on in their elementary and high schools. These are also the staple items of fairly expensive review classes that many of them invested in prior to taking their college admission tests.

If college education were simply a ritual of academic spoonfeeding by mechanical teachers and periodic regurgitation by equally mechanical students, there would be little point in going beyond high school or even elementary education for that matter. The nation could save a significant portion of its meager educational resources by closing most colleges and universities. (It might be prudent to show absolute impartiality in abolishing inept state and similarly handicapped private "institutions of higher learning". This way, most of those that deserve to be terminated would really go and charges of partisanship or favoritism might be better avoided.) Following the national administration’s preferred strategy for economic development (sic), the country’s better teachers could then join the growing legion of Bagong Bayani, find gainful employment abroad and thus expand the base of patriots dedicated to increasing the Philippine GNP whatever their personal costs might turn out to be.

However, if Filipinos were to truly prize tertiary education and associate it with building capabilities for both analytical and critical thinking, little in the current crop of college students may be considered satisfactory. As noted earlier, even the country’s reputedly better colleges harbor too many students that should have stayed in high school. (The evidence for this statement is situated in several official reports on the state of Philippine education across the years, in various international probes ranking the comparative academic performance of students across countries and, inferentially, in a recent study by the Department of Education assessing the readiness of the nation’s high school graduates for college work.)

The authorities and those administering the nation’s educational system have to explain a most embarrassing anomaly. Unless they would take refuge in the canard that most of the country’s high school graduates and college students are genetically flawed, saddled with intellectual abilities and potentials that only morons and idiots regularly display, they must clarify how naturally curious, presumably bright and functional children become unimaginative, inarticulate and mechanical college students as they go through the various stages of formal education.

A public accounting by the authorities and their cohorts is in order for a crime that is arguably worse than genocide. When a people suffer physical extermination, a horrible crime necessarily is committed. The horror, however, is a bounded one as it is not physically possible to obliterate a people more than once.

It is tragically different when the authorities put together an educational system and craft educational policies that result in the predictable dumbing of millions of young Filipinos, generation after generation. No boundaries are set by those who would repeatedly exploit their idiotized victims.

Robbed of their analytical potentials, deprived of their critical faculties, most of the nation’s college students cannot possibly be "the fair hope of the motherland". Embedded with the authorities, they lose their critical edge. With bonsaied analytical capabilities, they become superficial and fail to develop a capability for the deep understanding of their nation’s gruesome realities.

Either way, the ruling authorities can feel secure in the company of their victims.

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