by: Adrian Laserna
The advent of K-12 not only gave rise to the synchronization of the Philippine educational system to the international academic standards, thereby paving the way to achieve the program’s pursuit of global competitiveness but also brought forth an unexpected yet not surprising development: a brewing rivalry– nay competition amongst the students taking up the different Strands –namely ABM (Accountancy and Business Management), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), GAS (General Academic Strand), and HUMMS (Humanities and Social Sciences).
Maybe it is endemic, sociologically, in our culture as Filipinos tend to have a skewed sense of competitiveness. Look no further for a practical basis of this observation, the endless pissing contest among the alumni of the so-called Big Four of the country’s premier institutions of higher learning, the highly yet overrated publicized results of professional licensure exams, among other things.
It’s literally a number’s game. Traditional computation-heavy subjects earned the notoriety of being a nerd’s realm. Analyzing balance sheets is way too brain cell-consuming compared to interpreting a classic Elizabethan-era prose, or so they claimed.
Statistically speaking, there is a dearth of schools offering HUMMS courses compared to the close to saturated ABM and STEM classes to satisfy the demand. This is an apparent manifestation of the traditional mindset of setting up a career geared towards affluence… a game plan promoted by parents driven by economic situations.
The aforementioned competition amongst the strands has elevated to social media level debate about the “eliteness” status of each area of discipline: the more difficult the course of study, the higher the level of “respect” the strand gains. What is non-debatable is the fact that each of one of them has its own merits. The sad reality, though, is that liberal arts courses suffer at the opposite end of the respect spectrum. Yet in a practical sense, graduates of Liberal arts, Social sciences and Humanities are equipped with skills (analytical and communication) honed by rigorous reading, writing and recitation, versatility due to exposure to various academic demands and intellectual capabilities to be employable members of the country’s workforce.
But beyond the pragmatic reasons, what drives these young men and ladies to pursue a road traditionally less travelled by, to quote Robert Frost, in making this choice?
Being a product of Humanities and Social Science education myself, I can only hazard a guess – a speculation that hopefully rings true for the disciples of Humanities:
The field of liberal arts education is a path in pursuit of perfection of passion, a zeal so profound in commitment and too captivating in its vibrancy. History is not just a recollection of significant past events, but a recreation of meaningful memories. Philosophy is not just a simplistic love of wisdom, but an inquiry to our very own existence. More than being a mirror of society, Literature is a mode of consumption… to satisfy the hunger of our brains, to quench the thirst of our souls.
We, the offspring of this discipline, had an upbringing that belies the financially-motivated reasons used as a marketing tool by the other academic strands.
These, among other things, are reasons to take this road usually not taken. Financial success, material things and physical comfort are not the only demands of the flesh. There are other things in life worth pursuing. These young men and women are ennobled by the virtues instilled in them, attributes that give soul to a materialistic, money-driven society that seems to have forgotten what makes life worth living, the core precept that gives real meaning to our own…….Humanity.
Adrian M. Laserna is a corporate slave by profession and teacher by vocation. He earned a degree in Political Science, succumbed to the demands of Capitalism, got disillusioned, went back to his alma mater and taught History, Social Science and Politics and Governance subjects.