u.p. naming mahal: anong nangyari sa ‘yo?

UP Diliman's Oblation statue as viewed from th...

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TANAUAN, Philippines – The release of the QS World University Rankings earlier this week showed a continuation of the decline of Philippine universities relative to their global peers. The University of the Philippines was the top university in the country based on the rankings, coming in at number 332 out of 742 schools in the ranking list. This was from a ranking of 314 in the precious year. Ateneo de Manila University – the top-ranking Philippine school last year at 307 – declined even further in the list to number 360. De La Salle University and University of Santo Tomas fell into the netherworld of the rankings coming in below number 550.

U.P. President Fred Pascual commissioned a study which included a focus group discussion, of which I was a part of, to find ways to address the seeming decline of the State University. I was, in a sense, surprised by this action of the U.P. President. First, it seemed like a good start to admit that there may be deficiencies whereas in the past something like this would have been quickly dismissed with this and that rationalization. Second, I was surprised by the speed at which the university administration acted to at least look at this issue.

In news articles citing the study, the key ingredient cited for the decline in the rankings was the lack of money or investment in our schools. While it is an important (indeed, a very important one) component in arresting the relative decline in our higher education system, money alone will not be able to solve all this. It is time for us to go beyond the superficial and look into a more honest understanding of the problem and hopefully come up with a workable solution. The problem with just looking at this from a money angle is that people will just point blame at government and cite the insufficiency of the government subsidy, specifically for U.P. This ends up being counterproductive as alam naman natin that hindi naman talaga kaya ng gobyerno ang pagpundar sa lahat ng pangangailangan ng Unibersidad. So it ends up being a circular argument as the lack of funds from government begets a decline in the relative quality of higher education which begets complaints about the lack of funding which begets…well, you get the point.

Let’s step back a bit and agree that we need to find out more about the criteria for the rankings. There are six indicators measured by the  QS World University Rankings – Academic Reputation (40%), Citations per Faculty (20%), Faculty/Student Ratio (20%), Employer Reputation (10%), Proportion of International Students (5%) and Proportion of International Faculty (5%). So now that we know, what do we do about these?

I would argue that rather than focusing on using these rankings as a benchmark for success, let us look at these rankings and our place in them as a guide and not the end-all, be-all of our quest to improve the quality of education. I would further argue that U.P. look inward and conduct an honest assessment of its reason for being. This should be more important than some external ranking of quality.

Tinayo ang U.P. para maka-produce ng leaders para sa bansa. U.P. should not separate itself and indeed should acknowledge that the ultimate benchmark for its success lies in the question of how instrumental it has been in improving the country and improving the life of each Filipino. The U.P. student and U.P. graduate should always remember that our education was paid for (and/or subsidized) by the Filipino people.

So kung mag-isip tayo – ano na ba ang estado ng Pilipinas ngayon? Ask the question – have U.P. graduates really made a difference in improving the lives of the Filipino? Yes – U.P. has produced leaders in politics, in medicine, in the legal profession, in government service and other arenas. It is one thing to get to be a leader, it is entirely another to judge the results of one’s leadership. Nung nasa tuktok na tayo ng ating profession o larangan – naging matagumpay ba tayo sa pag-angat ng buhay ni Juan de la Cruz?

Having been educated in U.P. is both an honor and a privilege. Having been educated in U.P., however, comes with strings attached. May utang ka sa taong bayan at ang kabayaran nito ay ang paggamit ng iyong natutunan at talino para sa ikabubuti ng lahat. This sense of obligation has never really been inculcated in many of us U.P. graduates and it should be. Like it or not, there is a greater burden on U.P. graduates that needs to be acknowledged and acted upon.

At the end of the day, it is up to each and every one of us to help U.P. fulfill its mission. It is only when we have uplifted the lives of our countrymen can we say that U.P. has been a success and not when we become number one in some survey which is meaningless to the people whom we are obligated to.

Kaya tanong ko sa inyo mga kapwa kong Isko at at Iska – may nagawa ka na ba ngayong araw para kay Juan de la Cruz?

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