Reports from Isabel Cañaveral
The K-12 system brought many changes to the previous Basic Education Curriculum (BEC), moving General Education (GE) subjects to the Senior High School level and adding two extra years of schooling. This alone means that universities and colleges in the Philippines can no longer offer the same curricula as before. Taking this as an opportunity to “reimagine and reboot higher education,” the University launched the RevEd Project in order to redesign Lasallian education to meet the needs of post-K-12 students.
With a primer on the new curriculum launched and an initial batch of post-K-12 students expected by September, The LaSallian sat down with Dr. Gerardo Largoza, Quality Assurance Office Director, to discuss RevEd and its changes to the Lasallian brand of education.
How will the University handle the transition to the new curriculum and how will it affect the current students?
It’s business as usual for the University. In terms of the current students, it won’t affect them [adversely] because everybody will still follow their flowcharts and whatever administrative machinery required will be handled to guarantee that students follow their programs. It’s not like this is the first time the University experienced a curriculum change. We underwent a transition from a semestral to a trimestral system. We shifted the academic calendar back in 2015, and para sa amin, katakot-takot na problema iyon (and for us, it was a terrifying problem). Things really get messed up, but DLSU always has a way of figuring things out.
In the RevEd primer, it is indicated that students will have more opportunities to minor and that courses will be more modular. Does this mean students can now mix and match minor degrees like what they do in other universities, especially abroad?
Well that’s the aspiration: to allow students more opportunities to minor than what is presently given. We also want them to be more flexible with their majors, with fewer restrictions on what courses you can take. Like all things that we do for the first time, it’s going to be a gradual process, but that’s the aspiration. However, we should also pursue a balance. I don’t think anyone in higher education believes in a cafeteria-style college degree, where you can just take whatever you want. There’s got to be a balance. For the University to create something that’s distinctively Lasallian, there still has to be a core. We always have to think of that core. If a department designs a new major, they have to make sure that the core is intact. But outside of that, we want to give students more choices than what they presently have.
The RevEd primer mentions “Interdisciplinary Electives.” Could you elaborate on them and give examples?
I can’t speak well for every other department, but I can authoritatively speak about economics and say there’s currently no such thing as a minor in economics. Also, the kind of electives you get in the School of Economics (SOE) are still pretty close to economics. But here’s the thing. In our [faculty] research, we get to interact with disciplines that are very far from economics. I actually have researches with people in the College of Computer Studies (CCS), and my colleagues work with their colleagues in the College of Science (COS) and the Gokongwei College of Engineering (GCOE). If we can do it, why can’t you? All we have to do is build some kind of protocol—and that’s the interdisciplinary electives. We’ll allow you to do one out of maybe three options: a “soft option” where you can take one or two subjects outside of your degree, a “hard option” where you can take 12 units of subjects and minor in a degree, or a “harder” option where you could do a double major. So far, only students from the College of Business (COB), SOE, and the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) can double major. The logistics of it is a nightmare, but we have committed to making it happen.
Speaking of Interdisciplinary Electives, how do we bridge the language barrier and information gap between students and courses outside of their discipline?
Well, there are many options but this is the one that strikes me immediately. If you ask the Chancellor, this is probably also his answer. If you look at the course profile of a subject, it will have to indicate the readings that you should have already read. If you’ve taken the necessary material, then by all means you can take the subject. You can maybe have a list of maybe five journal articles that are considered classics in the field, and this will prevent students from being mindless shoppers. Although it places more burden on the students’ shoulders, malaki na kayo (you’re already grown up). We don’t need to inject you with knowledge anymore. Students should be able to read things on their own, and if they have read the necessary bridging material, then they could take whatever course they want.
The primer speaks about a new “Global Enrichment Term.” How is it expected to work? Will everyone be required to go abroad or take longer internships?
The concept of the Global Enrichment Term is that we could have one term where students can do whatever they want to gain what I call “meaningful life experiences.” There used to be a time where the main priority of a college student is getting out and finding a job. These days, companies and recruiters don’t just look into your credentials, but they also look for “meaningful life experiences” you had in college. These experiences could come from a lot of places, and that’s the point of the Global Enrichment Term. Going abroad and studying is obviously one of the more obvious answers, but it’s not the only option students have. No one is required to go abroad. You can have longer internships in a company that you want. We usually get feedback from companies where they say that the number of hours student spend within their offices isn’t enough. The normal 150 to 250 hours isn’t enough anymore for students to learn as much as they can. Other than these two options, you could also build a startup, engage in community activities, do immersions, and the like. All degree programs will have this term somewhere in the flowchart, the departments just have to indicate where it is most ideal.
Considering the option for students to study abroad, will the University have enough opportunities to supply the demand?
There is actually no way to say for sure, but our External Relations and Internationalization Office (ERIO) has a long list of partner universities and institutions that students can go to, not to mention our partners in the ASEAN University Network (AUN). It’s not like all 16,000 students will leave at once—again, not everyone is required to go abroad nor is it proper to assume that everyone wants to leave the country. We do recognize that there might be a number of a thousand or so, and we can assure you that ERIO is doing their best to make sure everyone gets accommodated. In my home department—economics—we immediately try to know what freshmen students want to do in the future. This gives us two years to figure things out, have Memorandums of Agreement (MOA) signed, and the like.
The primer says “learning in a Lasallian classroom is problem-based and research oriented.” How will the new curriculum encourage students from non-research intensive and non-STEM courses to do research?
First, I’d just like to point out that research isn’t just a scientific endeavor, but a human endeavor. Research is about learning the workings of the world and it isn’t discipline specific. In the University, our curriculum has been heavily research-based and outcomes-based for around a decade now. In communications, we don’t spoon-feed you and say what a good photograph is, right? We let you explore on your own and find your own aesthetic. There will always be room for research, students just need to seek it out.
Does the new curriculum provide more opportunities for students to do their own research work? Research that may bring them to international conferences and beyond?
Yes. If the question is about having more, then yes we ought to have more. That’s the standard of higher education these days here and abroad. It’s not like it’s still the 20th century where we can just lecture to you for one and a half hours every day, give you a quiz every now and then, and expect you to have all the skills you need when you leave the University. Although we do hope that we don’t start from scratch with this, we hope that there are already departments practicing this and allowing their students to engage in more research opportunities.
Considering the cost, how do we incentivize or encourage students to do research? Are grants available for aspiring researchers?
My direct answer to that is, it’s not a question of “is there money?” but “does the student know what he or she is doing?” I can name so many think tanks here in the Philippines who have so much money, but they don’t know what to do with it since there aren’t any takers. My point is, if the student demonstrates that he or she is competent enough and knows what he or she is doing, there will be money. We welcome the interests of students in any kind of research they want to undertake, but they should first be able to demonstrate that they are capable. There has to be a standard.
The RevEd primer mentions that it will equip students to be more prepared against job automation brought about by advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI). How does it do this?
You need to think of the jobs that AI can’t do well. Back then, we used to think that robots are only limited to the assembly line, assuming that they can never be as creative as us. These days, AI has become so powerful and advanced that we can no longer take it for granted. In higher education, we have to identify the things that only humans can uniquely do and invest in them. It may not be longer before they overtake us and do what we can, but so far machines still aren’t good at managing emotions, governance, empathy, basically things that humans find it natural to do. Those skills are what will make a human more relevant in the workplace for years to come, and thus, we need to invest in them.