What kind of graduates do we want?


Ano ang Pilipinas na ating adhika? We keep talking about schools and teachers and principals, especially during graduation time, questioning the goals of education and complaining about the perennial lack of good teachers and classrooms, but we have to talk first about our society and ourselves. Schools are reflections of our society since we can choose what we teach our children.

Schools operate under assumptions about society and education that influence their understanding of educational aims, methods of instruction, and the content of the curriculum. If they come from dysfunctional families, it is next to impossible to teach children good values. If high government officials are often accused of dipping their fingers into public funds, it would matter little for teachers to teach their students that honesty is the best policy. If hardened criminals and drug lords live a life of luxury inside the national penitentiary, there is no use telling young people that crime does not pay. If students are hungry, it is difficult to teach them anything.

What is taught in the classroom reflects who we are as a people. We cannot change the educational system without changing our society because we cannot separate social assumptions from the way children are taught. A relationship exists between our society’s beliefs about knowledge and knowing, how we teach our students to know, and what kind of ethical behavior we should prefer them to espouse after they graduate.

“This Sacred Synod likewise declares that children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.” This is what the Second Vatican Council declared in Gravissimum Educationis regarding the right to education and the importance of teaching them moral values. The Church is concerned, not just about the kind of education given to children and young people, but the kind of society they are being raised in.

Schooling is a process with profound implications for the social, cultural, political and economic dimensions of life. Learning flows out of the experiences and activities of a person in interaction with society and the world. We first have to figure out what kind of society we really want: a Filipino society populated by responsible persons who thrive on interdependence and community, or a nation of narcissistic consumers unwilling to take full responsibility for their actions in a culture of greed who feel dependent on products, services, and corrupt authority figures.

The school is an institution connected to and relating to the society of which it is a part. It is the ideas and beliefs of society that gives its members a sense of belonging, or identity. It holds them together, and provides their agenda for action. A dysfunctional society will result in a dysfunctional educational system which will produce dysfunctional citizens.

Schools and our future
What is happening in our schools today will determine the fate of our society tomorrow. Educational systems are mostly about replicating and perpetuating a social order constructed within horizons of meaning, habit and practice, a specific range of historical conditions, and discursive boundaries. Schools are communal institutions that embody ideological, political and economic interests. Educators should be interested not just in how the individual student’s mind works, but how individual minds in society work together to create an aggregate outcome.

We have to look at the educational system as a whole, in its proper context, and inquire into the configurations of relationships which structure the whole system. And then we should take a long, hard look at Philippine society as a self-organizing whole in which the educational system converges with its cultural, economic and political features.

How do we promote among young people the ethical commitments that make it possible to have a better society? How can the educational system teach an integral vision of the human being with the right values?

A 2014 study by Julio Teehankee, Dean at De La Salle University, showed that 178 family dynasties rule 73 of the 80 provinces of the Philippines. Thus, the people elected to government positions do not represent the people but their families. This ruling class is determined to use their wealth and political clout to maintain their privileged position through a corrupt system where many can get away with stealing billions from government coffers.

A 2012 study by the World Bank showed that 25.2% of Filipinos are living below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. In this culture of poverty, environmental destruction runs rampant and rebellions are brewing. The marginalization of the majority of members of society means the best, brightest and most creative have been shut out of the process of building the nation for the 21st Century. Educators cannot ignore the impending catastrophe this state of affairs will wreak on the nation.

The dominant culture will always try to produce knowledge consistent with its own interests. Is our educational system perpetuating an unjust society described by Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium: “The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule”? Are our schools only compounding the advantages of the upper class, since the children of the rich come better prepared to school and more able to pay for better education?

The set of meanings and values that young people today are learning, in homes, in churches, in schools, from media and their peer groups, will have a long-term and fundamental bearing on the way Filipino society will face the future. Their meanings and values will eventually redefine who and what the Filipino is. Educators have to integrate their teaching with the needs and interests of their students to nurture a flexible way of thinking that could be applied to solving the problems that plague Filipino society.

What kind of society do we want?

We first have to ask: What kind of society do we want? What kind of education is most likely to bring about that kind of society? What kind of curriculum will most likely produce that kind of education? And only then do we set about making that kind of curriculum. We have to understand first why we learn, how we learn, what we should learn and how to implement all that we learn in our communities and society before designing a new curriculum that matches society’s needs, revamping class design to improve interaction and collaboration among students, and re-imagining a teacher’s role in classrooms of the future.

Schools are among the important ways in which a society’s beliefs, values and rules of conduct are passed on from one generation to another. Learning must be a way of becoming – an ongoing set of attitudes and actions by individuals and groups they employ to try to keep abreast of the surprising, chaotic, recurring events in history. We need a shared framework about what Filipinos as human beings are “for” and how we might act and what we should strive for or resist. We need to look back at our past in trying to figure out what kind of society we really want. Who are we as a people?

For the longest time, educators have struggled with the question of how to change the educational system to serve the needs of Filipino society. How do we transform teacher preparation programs, curriculum design, textbooks, parent expectations and relationships with schools, and student expectations about learning in such a way as to benefit society?

Karunungan (wisdom) is needed here with its moral component – wisdom as the application of information worth remembering and knowledge relevant to understanding not only about how our society works, but also how it should work. And that requires a moral framework of what should and should not matter, as well as an ideal of the human being at its highest potentiality. Ethics or moral wisdom helps us tell the difference between the right direction and the wrong direction in building a just and peaceful society in a world that is changing fast through globalization – Nasa mundo ang utak, sa Pilipinas nakatapak.

We need to redefine today what it means to be human and why we are in this evolving universe. This new definition should frame our educational aims and policies. The transformation of the education system has to be rooted in the values and poli tics of Filipino society in the context of a dynamic cosmos. Piecemeal approaches will not do. A renewal of education shall have to draw from, as well as contribute, to a larger exercise in national renewal.

Paradigm shifts in educational philosophy
Human beings dwell in a dynamic universe, where everything evolves and converges. As organisms become more complex and more conscious, they also become more integrally whole and better connected. Inhabiting this evolving cosmos, human beings are continually evolving too. Enhancing the quality of life and the ecosystem on which life depends is the primary goal of education in the light of the innate human yearning for wholeness and rootedness in a convergent cosmos.

What would the effects of the unfolding of the new vision of the cosmos be for the set of meanings and values that inform the life of the Filipino people?

This new understanding of reality should be the context of the needed transformation of Filipino society. It should enrich, nourish and challenge us to become more fully what we can be, contribute to the vision of who we are and what we are becoming, and help other members of society to become truly what they are meant to be. The human project is never finished and each person needs to be empowered to undertake their own self-determined project in the light of a dynamic universe.

In an evolving cosmos, the classroom should be a place where vision and reality collide. Reality should have primacy over ideology. Schools must be institutions for creating a social order consonant with the realities of the world, places for possibilities of human flourishing. The task of the educational system is to help members of society draw on their particular resources and deep insight in order to modify their behavior, and make intelligent moral choices so that the presence of the human race on earth will once more be life-giving.

The only way to really transform the educational system is to change the fundamental conditions of economics and politics. It also means to change the system of meaning and values that inform Filipino society, in order to dignify and empower the totality of what each Filipino can become.

Fr. Benigno P. Beltran, SVD, heads the Sandiwaan Center for Learning, based in Smokey Mountain, Tondo, Manila, a technology-based non-formal education provider for out-of-school youth.


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  1. Primer C. Pagunuran on

    The good priest seems to be advocating a change in the educational system that will trigger a change in society, in politics, in economy.

    However, he is yet to be clear and concise on what that reform is and in what way it can reflect on the graduates that are to come.

  2. My simple wish is this…..someday not necessarily in my life time the Philippines will have graduates that are educated enough to transform a morally corrupt Filipino Society to morally good one.

    Currently, the Philippine masses are so uneducated so ignorant so corrupt themselves they keep selling their votes to corrupt Filipino elite families, to anyone who has a pretty face or movie actor.

  3. Leodegardo Pruna on

    We want graduates who are capable to run their lives with human dignity and respect and make this capability work for the good of society and people. God bless the Philippines.

  4. Teachers now have the opportunity to try teaching online with companies like
    They can earn up to $1000/month, with on-the-job training fully provided and a flexible working schedule and location – no wonder more and more are taking the leap into the 21st century education system. But wouldn’t this experience add value to what they can offer in the classroom?

  5. @ Benigno Beltran

    Your suggestions seem like a presidential state of the nation address wishlist destined for failure in the real world. That is not to say that good things happen only in a perfect world. After the second paragraph up to the conclusion of your article, incoherence of ideas seem to abound specially your statement regarding the evolving human race as it relates to the evolving universe.

    My own wishlist would be the elimination of the study of evolution in science because modern science have now proven that Charles Darwin’s theory is wrong. Secondly, there should be a “pre college analytic exams” to determine where a student actually fits on what college course he or she qualifies to take. We know that too many people are in the wrong career and as a result society at large suffers for this misdirection. A good example is Nancy Binay who was elected senator. Having listened to her on TV, I think her ability qualifies her as an office clerk not a senator, Lito Lapid as a carpenter, Grace Poe as an entertainment manager and Bongbong Marcos as a car salesman. I think they are not qualified as senators.

  6. Amnata Pundit on

    This question is too irrelevant, if not too deep, for the present powers that be. The fact that they are not addressing the problem means they are not uncomfortable with the status quo. If you believe in the insidious science of social engineering as I do, then you will know that our country has been and continues to be engineered by foreigners. Your last paragraph says it all: as long as we do not have a government that truly represents the will of the people, questions such as these are of very little importance. As implied your article, the first task before any other reform question can be faced is to install a government of the people, by the people and for the people, by any means necessary.

  7. Pope Kiko had the right words when he gave his homily addressed to the newly-appointed cardinals (and by extension, to all bishops and priests). Pope Kiko asked the priests to be helpful to the citizens — do less of this preaching and being “holier than thou” and just be helpful. Teacher-priests and nuns have a good chance to do so. Teach the students with skills so they can help themselves to better jobs. Job skills… job skills…. job skills. And when the citizens are less hungry, then they will be in better position to evaluate if Bise Binay is good one president or if Erap, Walden Bello, Duterte or Iqbal is better choice.

  8. Vicente Penetrante on

    Instead of teaching the value of money, Catholic schools should teach the ‘lives of saints.’ That is the moral value we need. Instead of fear to be poor, to be poor with dignity should be welcomed.
    Strengthen with more programs the Student Catholic Action of every school to include teaching and care for street children.

  9. Carlo L. Adan on

    The answer to the question — What kind of country and society do we want? — should be the first item in the discussions of any group–in the Cabinet, in both houses of Congress, in PTA’s, in the boards of corporations, and in schools. The answer shuld be the premise of any law, action we take as a people and as a government or government institution.
    In the most well-run countries, that is the case.

  10. Simple lang ang problema sa edukasyonkung ang mga taong may kayamanan at edukado at ang gobyerno,baguhin ang sistema ng pagtingin sa lahat ng tao!magiging mabuti ang lahat!
    Alisin ang private at public school at gawin itong isa,walang mahirap at mayaman,isa lang ang dapat ituro sa buong mamamayan!
    Magagawa ba ng tao ito,yung paulit-ulit na nagsasabi na makadios,itutulong ba nila ang kayamanan meron sila!upang gumanda ang kalagayan ng mahihirap nilang kababayan!
    Hindi na magbabago ang sitwasyon,dahil pakitang tao lang ang ipinakikita ng mga tao na maykapangyarihan upang baguhin ang mali!
    Katulad ng nagtuturo ng religion!hindi nila alam na kapag mali ang itinuturo mo sa tao,hinahatak lang nila sa impyerno ang kaluluwa ng million tao,kawawa naman!
    Si kristo tiga pamagitan na,tiga tubos pa ng kasalanan ng tao,siya pa rin ang dios!saan ka nakakita ng ganoong turo!!
    Mabuti ang layunin gustong ipaabot dito,pero ang tunay na sulusyon ay hindi hinahanap!

  11. Mark 11: 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see:
    5  the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepersh are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and ithe poor have good news preached to them.

    The work of the Church is defined by this verse. Yet our bishops and archbishops go into politics with the rationalization of expressing their rights as private citizens. They exchanged the more important work proper to their office of clergy for the work of the laity. Misplaced priorities. Since they have committed their lives to serve the Lord, their personal agenda should be subordinated to the agenda of God. By using their ecclesiastical titles to expound their personal agenda they are dragging the church down into the gutter. This indicate in the belief of their own power, rather than in the power of God.

    I honor Cardinal Tagle for sticking true to his vow of obedience to God, not to the god of this world.

    • Carlo L. Adan on

      So, Jesse, you agree with Cardinal Tagle that we should wait until the 2016 elections to choose our new president (he said “leader” not “president”)? But, Jesse, the people will nt be able to choose any one during the elections because the evil–EVIL and CORRUPT– Smartmatic PCOS machines will choose the leader not we the citizens. And you cannot remove the Smartmatic PCOS machines before the 2016 elections if PNOY continues to be president?
      Is that so hard for you and Cardinal Tagle to understand? That is why as a MORAL issue the bishops who are with the National Transformation Council are asking Aquino to step down and for the Smartmatic PCOS machines to be banned!!!!
      Please love our country and our electoral process a little bit more INFORMEDLY.
      Kasalan sa Poong Maykapal ang tumulong sa KASAMAAN ng gobyernong Aquno, Mr. Jesse. Siya ang nagtulak sa RH Law. At nagproportekta sa Smartmatic!!!

    • Justaskingseriously on

      I need to be categorically clear. My foregoing commentary on your post may not be clear enough.

      The role of the church that you claim to know. The laity that you claim should take charge of political matters? You are correct. Church Canon Law prohibits the clergy from running for political positions in the government. The clergy are prohibited from holding political office. That is clear.

      You have fallen for the yellow journalism that sensationalize the presence of prominent clergy in the movement to transform philippine political processes to truly strengthen democratic institutions by straightening the crooked set-up. The yellow journalists who have sold their souls to the powers that be pompously and jeeringly write that the catholic bishops are out to grab political power away from those who were given the mandate to govern. Of all people bishops know Canon Law. And as shepherds, they know that their flock is in imminent danger. As shepherds, they have to ward off the wolves from ravaging the flock.

      At the time they decided to join the formation of the National Transformation Council, the PCOS smartmatic machines had been discovered to have been tampered with. Concerned citizens who spearhead the NTC are not members of the clergy. They are members of the laity. Their concerns were roused by BSA who was governing as an autocrat: He bought the Senate with the DAP in order to remove the Chief Justice of the Judiciary. He bought the House with the PDAF in order to push his agenda. By bribery he weakened the Legislature. By bribery he weakened the Judiciary. When the Judiciary through the Supreme Court declared his PDAF and DAP were unconstitutional, BSA threw a tantrum! It was getting crystal clear that BSA is a Brat. He selectively picked the opposition by jailing them. Selectively because bribes in the millions through the DAP and PDAF were widespread. So widespread that congressmen and senators are now held hostage by the brat. Meantime, the brat’s Hacienda Luisita is merrily defying the agrarian law. Meantime his secret negotiations with the MILF come to light. Like a brat, he now feels he is entitled to the loyalty of the whole congress: he wants to collect on the bribes he had given by demanding the the BBL be passed by congress on such and such a date.

      All the while, the brat’s mandate was actually based on the rigging of the elections. Highly irregular. Made everything blatantly outside of the law. And the yellow journalists claim that the bishops are out to grab power? As if that power were legimately conferred on the brat!!!

      So how do you strengthen the democratic institutions? By letting a brat continue?

      By divine providence as everything happens by divine providence, the Mamapasano debacle happens on the brat’s Mama’s special day!

      And now it comes out that the chief negotiators who are leaders of the MILF who also bratly demand that the BBL be passed or else–Iqbal and Murad may not really be Filipinos but Malysians traveling under malaysian passports. What a mess! Talk about letting the wolves come in!

      Hope you grasp the immediacy and the urgency to set matters straight: not strengthen but straighten democratic institutions. Was Cardinal Tagle complicit in having ABS-CBN do the interview in London instead of at home? Or was it providentially decreed to show how far the Cardinal is from his flock, that his flock is left without a shepherd?