Political class faces values test
Are Catholic schools failing the Philippines?
Why is the Philippines so dysfunctional?And, if most of the country’s leaders have been educated in Catholic schools, why then is Philippines society so dysfunctional under the lead of Catholic school graduates, observers ask. Dominican Father Rolando de la Rosa, president of the Association of Catholic Universities of the Philippines and rector of the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas (UST), acknowledges the paradox. He suggests that economics plays a part in the choice between starting at once on a well-paid career and a life of service. Most of the country’s 40,000 students at UST are middle or lower middle class, he points out, so many of them aspire to improve their living conditions right after college graduation. The goal of Catholic schools is to produce "men and women of service" he says and the schools provide the coursework to support it. They teach moral and other theology classes, hold Masses and recollections, administer sacraments and provide chaplain services. But that can only achieve so much. Students and the school community must also engage with a variety of sectors and communities. Even some Catholic teachers acknowledge that past pupils do not always put what they have learned into practice. Jesuit Father Romeo Intengan, who lectures on morals and ethics, admits the Philippines political system shows "a chronic inability to effectively attend to society's economic and cultural problems." This “deeply dysfunctional” society which has caused "a major worsening of the quality of life of its members" is fueling discontent, he says. By any measure the country has failed its most vulnerable. Nearly 21 percent of Filipino families or 26.5 percent of the population live in poverty, social inequality has prevailed, corruption is rampant and charges of human rights violations by the state are common.
|One priest has said President Aquino’s “conscience is not formed”|
|Father de la Rosa says schools should not take all the blame|
“The Catholic university is only one factor in the total formation of the individual,” he says.Unlesss family, Church, and government work with schools, Catholic education cannot transform society, says the priest, a former chairperson of the government's Commission on Higher Education (CHED). In the age of globalization and material and moral poverty, "What values students learn in school are contradicted by what they see in their families, in media and situations outside school," he says. Some see the problem lying in education system itself where education is only compulsory up to high school and the heavy lifting in education is left to private schools. "We (private schools) are the biggest providers of professionals to society at no cost to government and we get no support from government," Father de la Rosa says. “That’s the biggest anomaly in the Philippines.” But with annual tuition fees ranging from 79,000 pesos to 200,000 pesos (US$1,800-$4,600) access to top Catholic colleges and universities is limited to the realtively well-off. This reduces the opportunity for people from poorer sectors to gain positions of influence in society.
Congress has become 'landlord' territoryAs a result, the Philippines Congress has come to be known as landlord territory. Father de la Rosa believes that the government should subsidize private school fees rather than putting money into lower quality state institutions. He is also critical of the Church hierarchy, which could do more to help Catholic schools, he says. "When a Catholic school faces problems, for example with unions demanding too much, bishops do not even issue any statement of support for the schools. Many Catholic schools have closed down because of these problems.” A lack of parental supervision also leaves young people vulnerable, Father de la Rosa says. Nearly half of more than 2,000 youths surveyed for the McCann Erickson 2006 inter-generation study on the youth reported that they lived away from one or both parents, with 23 percent living without the company of any parent. Without the guidance at home, most spent more time on technology-related activities after school than sports or face-to-face socializing. "With diminishing family life, many students turn to television, Internet, 'barkada' (buddies), drugs and boyfriends. Teachers now also serve as surrogate parents, guidance counselor," and similar roles, Father de la Rosa says. Ateneo graduate Ezra Capucian says that parents' absence is not all bad.
Young people study harder than before"There were times I felt bad when I was younger, but I eventually understood they (parents) had to be somewhere else to work, and now we live comfortably," the award-winning young entrepreneur said. Her situation drove her to be independent and spend wisely money her parents work hard for. It also helps one tackle challenges once outside the comfort of school or home. The data tend to support that view. The survey reported that young people spend more time studying than they have in the past. Most of them reported practical reasons summarized as "learning is equivalent to earning." In moral formation, Father de la Rosa says that teachers have vital role to play as well. He cites reports about some faculty members’ stand that differs from the official position of the Church hierarchy on social issues. He said he is not surprised that graduates favor contraception when their teachers do the same and wonders why bishops are not "more vocal in criticizing Catholic schools that are not toeing the line.” But a former Ateneo president highlights the occasional conflict between following Church principles and teaching critical thinking. Jesuit Father Bienvenido Nebres, before stepping down as university president, said that a group of teachers who backed the reproductive health bill did not speak for the university. The school leadership, he says, "stands with our Church leaders in raising questions about and objections [to the bill].” Nevertheless, he expressed appreciation for the faculty members' "efforts to grapple with serious social issues.” While Ateneo de Manila, as a Jesuit and Catholic university, ensures teaching Catholic faith and morals in classes Father Nebres reiterated the school's support for critical study and discussion. Looking forward, Father de la Rosa sees some concrete steps that can help Catholic schools better to fulfill their mission. First, he says, there is a need to expand access to education and break the cycle of poverty. He supports a genuine “Ladderized” education program, where student can progress from technical studies to a degree course.
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