State of Science and Technology Education in the Philippines
Zenaida R. Guillasper, Ph. D.
Jocelyn B, Cruz
Countries wanting to improve their people�s quality of life cannot escape the demand to harness their science and technology capability. As such, it cannot escape the demand of global competition and to aspire and effect a higher level of economic development. It is, therefore, imperative that the country be guided by its past and present experiences on science and technology education to be able to recognize the turning points for the country�s future.
Science education in the past was focused on science with health orientation. The launching of the first spacecraft, the Russian Sputnik, in 1957 made the nations of the world, including the Philippines, to examine their development programs and decide to put emphasis on Science and Technology (S & T). The importance of science and technology was made implicit in Article XIV, Section 10 of the New Philippine Constitution, to wit:
�Science and Technology are essential for national development and progress. The state shall give priority to research and development, invention, innovation, and their utilization; and to science and technology education, training, and services. It shall, support indigenous, appropriate, and self-relevant scientific and technological capabilities, and their application to the country�s productive system and national life� .
The emphasis on science and technology education had been reinforced in the 90�s by the creation of the Education Congressional Commission (EDCOM) which made study of the entire Philippine educational system and recommended solutions to issues, concerns, among others, inadequacy of the science and technology curricular programs, poor and inadequate R & D infrastructure/facilities and limited number of qualified R and D manpower. The said Commission recommended the designing of existing curricula with emphasis on science and mathematics to prepare the learner for world class education requiring quantitative precision and adaptation to new technologies.
Responsibility for S and T Education
There may be other agencies of government with the mandate of providing support to science and technology education but the major responsibility for science and technology is with the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). Agencies like the Department of Science and Technology, particularly the Science Education Institute which is attached to this department, the Department of Education, private universities and colleges, foreign funding institutions, and the private sector are expected within their respective mandates and missions, to continuously provide support fr improving the quality of science and technology education in the Philippines.
The Philippines as a developing nation is obsessed by the kind of development copied from western counterparts. I science, this type of development obsession resulted in the over-emphasis on the so-called mission-oriented research which has been detrimental to the breeder or basic sciences that are vital to the country's gaining scientific and technological self-reliance and upliftment. This very remarkable change in the Philippine higher educational sub-system which was an evident response to the cheap manpower requirement of the adopted development model was the alteration of its mission and thrust. Instead of attempting to fully develop the high level professions and basic research for which the higher learning should be all about in the first place, Philippine development mandated the SUCs t devote more efforts and more resources to develop middle-level skills.
Concerns Affecting S and T Education
The situation in science and technology education is critical because of the different challenges confronting S and T education in the Philippines. The absence of a science culture is often cited as one of the major causes for the current state of science and technology education in the Philippines. The result of the Third Science International Studies showed that the Philippines ranked among the lowest scoring countries. The average school and the larger society do not nurture science - oriented students. Science is taught in elementary grades primarily as absorption of information from textbooks and the teacher with little emphasis on observation, information-gathering an the sense of discovery.
The high schools, experiments, if at all done. are focused on getting the laboratory reports done without the thought of why an experiment was conducted. Many graduates of science high schools do not pursue careers in science and technology. The pursue medicine, business, or other medical related courses. This is a reflection of the poor employment opportunities for S and T graduates. Careers in science and technology in the Philippine context are not very rewarding. The absence of a science and technology culture is evidently seen in the way we look down upon graduates of technical courses, a compelling reason why there are very few high school students who would like to pursue technical courses.
In the tertiary level, the introductory science courses do not serve to recruit students into science and technology careers. The usual perception that science and technology subjects are difficult has been carried over and perpetuated in college. This is the very reason why we do not produce a critical mass of scientist and technologist for the country.
The SUCs are now faced with the challenge of improving the current state of science and technology education in the Philippines. It is now the role of SUCs to be the implementing arm of the government in re-engineering the science and technology education in the Philippines. This is a gigantic ask for all SUCs to improve the quality of science and technology education in the Philippines.
However, the SUCs are faced with the following concerns in its effort to improve science and technology education in the Philippines.
� Minimal allocation for Research and Development (R and D) - The minimal allocation for research in public universities is an indication that the SUCs have not made research as a priority area of concern.
� Few qualified manpower trained to conduct research
� Small financial allocation for SUCs.
Albeit, the Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology (NEUST) has not been spared from these concerns. To uplift the S and T awareness, the University joined the Luzon Science Consortium, a voluntary organization of SUCs in the Luzon island of the country whose objective is to promote the quality of breeder science education.
Current SUCs with S and T Programs Mission
All SUCs in the Philippines have science and technology as their development mission. Despite their small budget allocation, the SUCs have accepted the challenge of improving the status of science and technology education in the Philippines. The Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology, my university, has focused it five �years development program towards excellence in science and technology education. Its total development strategy is to become a center of science and technology education in the Central Luzon area (Region III).
S and T Courses in SUCs
At present, there are 112 state universities and colleges in the Philippines with science and technology program. There are SUCs, which have other line of specification but science and technology courses are made a major part of their program offerings. It can be noted that majority of the S and T courses are focused on engineering and information technology. Only very few SUCs offer courses on pure science such as BS in Physics, BS in Chemistry, BS in Biology, BS in Mathematics, and others.
The Nueva Ecija University of Science and Technology started as a technical school, later on became a polytechnic college, and eventually a science and technology university. As such it has enriched its curricular programs by offering courses in BS in Physics, BS in Chemistry, BS in Mathematics, BS in Biology, and others. It has also offered Doctor of Philosophy in Science Education and Doctor of Education in Mathematics. My university is already finalizing its curriculum for Bachelor of Science in Teaching. This is alternate Teacher Education Program which will not only prepare the students in all aspects of teaching but they will also be prepared in the use of the different technologies in teaching.
Government Allocation/Support for S and T in SUCs
SUCs play a major role in the country�s science and technology endeavors, and research and development activities. These institutions are mandated to conduct research activities from developing technologies to be used by the country in propelling its economic development. Hence, the government must allocate funds to support these activities.
It is very ironic that a country such as the Philippines has appropriated a very meager amount for S and T and R and D development activities. Of the total budget allocation for a SUC, only 1.75% is allocates less than one percent of its Gross National Product for R and D. This explains why until this generation; the Philippines is still in a developing stage. There is a close correlation between the allocation and investment of a country for S and T and R and D and the level of its economic development.
Suggested Government Policies in S and T Development and Promotion
The development and promotion of science and technology education must be supported by government policies which will guide and support the SUCs in the performance of their functions/roles as developers and implementers of science and technology education in the country. Such government policies should focus on the following.
� Increase budget allocation for SUCs;
� Increase allocation for R and D of SUCs;
� Employment opportunities for science graduates;
� Cultivation of science culture in the country;
� Scholarship program; and
� Funding assisting for researches and researches and technological innovation
Areas for Assistance and Cooperating
Considering the state of S and T education in the Philippines, the following are possible areas of assistance and cooperation for SUCs:
� Conduct of research and development projects;
� Scholarship grants for undergraduate, masteral, and doctoral, dectree on science and technology;
� Library books grant;
� Laboratory equipment grant;
� Continuing Education Program from Science and Technology teachers;
� Provision of employment opportunities for science graduates;
� Maintenance and upgrading of Science and Technology programs and R and D centers; and
� Faculty Exchange Program.