"Of Over-Dressed Monkeys
and a centuries-old defect"
It was 1937 when Jose P. Laurel, then as secretary during the Commonwealth period went to Japan in an Educational tour. In that country what he impressed at first was that he sought most Japanese, young and old able to read and write. Once, he asked one of his friends, a professor from Tokyo Imperial University the reason for such apparent universal literacy, and replied:
"We have cumpolsory education in Japan which you do not have in the Philippines..."
Laurel accepted the fact that with the lack of facilities, especially schools made Education not able to accomodate those whom yearning to study.
"Do all Filipino children of school age go to school?" Was the professor's next question.
Laurel simply replied in the negative. "If that's the case, there is some defect in your school system in the Philippines." He remarked.
The said anecdote shows how Philippine education failed to produce professionals in spite of its programs that actually pegged to the interests of the ruling few. Japan's education is somehow cumpolsory and geared to national interest as contrary to the Philippines' blatant antipatriotic policy of using education as part of its labor export policy. It also shows that in spite of the so-called developments given by the United States, as well as the puppet commonwealth during the interwar period, as well as today, that Education failed to cultivate Filipinos a sense that was, and is different from mere flying of the flag, singing the anthem, anything that treats patriotism as a mere cosmetic whilst emphasising unjust wholesale westernization and cheap labor.
In fact, despite what was happened during the pre-war period, same old issues such as in this state of Philippine education remains at-large. And right was the Japanese professor to say that there's a defect that has to be deal upon. Yes, there's a defect that continues to aggravate in spite of reforms merely used to support neoliberalism and commercialization instead of patriotism and popularization. Few years ago, Nursing became an in-demand course but there are still shortage of Nurses, Doctors, Medical personnel especially in the countryside; it is quite ridiculous why on earth that course was in-demand yet still there's shortage? The course and the professionals created are "made" to be "exported" in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom; while its own countryside, in its medical facilities like those of still-suffering Eastern Visayas is still suffering from lack of what is needed, be it medicines and those who have the license to administer.
However, the system will still insist how the education system has been improved, that literacy has been increased, all inspite of the prevailing problem such as what Mr. Laurel said decades ago. But actually, the defect aggravates as the system emphasise profit over service to the community with schools increasing tuition and other fees, as well as gearing towards the demands of the market such as forcing the youth to take courses that are in demand by the profit seeking interests, much more that as they reduce patriotism into a museumified pieces, they wanted certain subjects, such as in tertiary level to reduce their units if not be moved to the senior high school levels like today's issue on the Filipino subject. Sometimes, this person would say that Japan did study Japanese from primary to tertiary levels, that they use Japanese in other subjects although they also apply other languages such as English if not German, yet still they emphasise the importance of their national language as part of their identity; the Philippines, on the other hand, in taking American-made contributions too positively, rather sacrifices its own as if the former as superior, modern and gearing towards progress no matter how exploitative it is as a Capitalist society.
As according to Ernesto Ponce, in his writeup "What did American Democracy give to the Philippines?" Said:
"Someone said that 'in the Philippines, a territory of the United States for the past Forty years, America taught Democracy, constructed roads and built fine buildings, popularised education and introduced modern conviniences like ice-boxes, electric fans, sewing machines and motor-cars.' Because of these activities, there are some Filipinos who believe in 'America's friendship'. But was this friendship a true one? No, of course not! A certain high official of the United States government once branded the Filipinos 'Over-Dressed Monkeys."
Yes, Filipinos had acted like Over-Dressed Monkeys just to show its nonsensical cosmetic pride yet failed to realize the true, self-mold potential of the Filipino as the latter continues to just copy for chrissakes. An economy that misemphasise production, a culture that museumifies yet misemphasise patriotism, a military that presents as 'patriotic' yet fails to protect national sovereignty yet acts as a security for the privileged oligarchy, the Filipino continues to be miseducated by the system knowing that the latter is able to generate profits by fooling them and presenting it as "literate."
Worse, having a common man afford to call a fellow one a stupid voter not knowing that there are no other politicos presented by the present rotten order except those whom they called as 'hindrance to progress'. Counterreactionary if one had afford to clamor for changes yet they reduce social matters into those as if only a single person has the 'guts' to face with as well as misrecognizing the importance of mass struggles as part of bringing changes to a community such as those of insisting genuine social justice. Yes, these people whom are whining yet apathetic are miseducated than those who are really clamoring, they are by-products of a defect that continues to aggavate the problem not just in education but the entire society as well. Ponce's statement also continues to creep, that the United States, as well as the system has to act benevolent, paternalistic with all the infrastructures being done yet actually made merely to appease, acting as a holy water to consecrate their soiled hands than to support the people as driven by their conscience.
Remember, it is the same entities that thunbs down industrialization regardless of assuming they are industrializing the country; they also thumbs down land reform also regardless of assuming that they had declare the farmers having the right to till for themselves. So is education, they thumbs down what is Patriotic, Scientific, and Mass oriented regardless of assuming that their education system is for the country, progress, and for the people.
Admittingly speaking, Laurel's anecdote continues to be relevant as of this day. The system may continue its short-term, 'band aid' solution than to make a massive overhaul for it 'sacrifices' their so-called 'hardships' such as profit. They would say time and again the importance of education and hard work as gears towards progress and remolding as an individual, but as policies continue to serve the interests of the few then what's the use of that importance other than making them as slaves driven by promises of high pay and yet ridden by crisis? They would say that the Philippines increases its literacy rate, yet how come salaries for teachers, facilities, books, materials are inadequate in spite of having an "budget" that is allegedly "increased" compared to last year? Still, compared to Laos and Vietnam, the Philippines has lot more ideas to think of its own, far from the dictates being imposed in exchange for a loan; and failing to meet the demands fails to lessen illiteracy, much more if it is treated as a profiteering enterprise than as a social responsibility towards to the 99% of working poor an a suffering middle class combined.
Right was José Maria Sisón, as well as other educators to say that in order to improve education is through a Patriotic, Scientific, and Popular one knowing that the Philippines has to rebuild and renovate as a nation. Neighbouring countries like Japan, China, Singapore had used education to create professions geared towards National and social interest like Engineers, Entrepreneurs, Doctors, Lawyers. Call it repititious the mandatory study of one's native tounge, Humanities, Logic, as well as Social Sciences in the tertiary level, knowing that the Philippines itself, through its educators swore that its subjects has to have a correct orientation, discipline, and at the same time flexibility of thought, and creativity in the formation of the desired mould of citizenship.
Rather than keeping policies that aggravates a centuries-old defect and be justified by today's Over-Dressed Monkeys.