Lying to Gods and Goddesses

I have been a student of a state university in Northern Luzon, Philippines, for nearly four years.

The school is a fairly prestigious one. It’s no University of the Philippines (UP) or Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM), but it does produce competent graduates. We get a few topnotchers in licensure exams every year, from the Nursing Licensure Exam (NLE) to the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). Graduates find good work in both the province and in the National Capital Region (NCR), whether they are skilled engineers or simply outstanding in their “non-board exam” field, such as the AB English Studies and BS Development Communication graduates. Even in sports and cultural or artistic competitions, the university is considered a leading institution.

Do not misunderstand this post. It is a good school. A worthy university.

However, for several days every year, a transformation comes over the different colleges… No, not a transformation. Not something you can associate with the words “change” or “development.” It’s more like a masquerade ball. A collective charade. The entire university polishes its face and puts its best foot forward.

Classes are suspended for college-wide cleanups. Instructurs forgo meeting their classes to prepare certain documents. Bulletin boards are furnished. Department offices and lounges are tidied up and rearranged. Seat plans are crafted, and PowerPoint Presentations are created to make lectures more conducive.

For several days.

I do not know if this is the scenario in all other institutions who undergo visits by the Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (AACCUP), but this is the reality at my school.

Which would not be much of a problem if the facade we are all forced to put up during “accreditation period” contrasts so starkly with everyday realities—the actual classroom scenes, when no one but the instructors and their students are looking.

I cannot generalize, though I have heard much hearsay and personal accounts of perennially tardy instructors, professors who grade like a lottery machine, countless class syllabi not even half-done at the end of the semester, and teachers who are, “so intelligent, none of us can understand her.”

All I can do is narrate my personal experiences.

I am enrolled in a Bachelor of Arts degree program. The course has no cut-off score in relation to the university’s entrance exam. There is no board or licensure examination for graduates of this course. It possess a reputation of being a “ground floor” program—a course that students enroll in or shift to, only because they did not attain the cut-off score of their desired program, or because they garnered failing grades in another course.

That is partly true. In our freshman batch, back in 2011, there were only four of us, out of around 50, whose first choice was this said course.

Now, in our senior year, only two of us remain. One guy went off to Canada; the other transferred to another school.

Out of the original 50-or-so first-years in 2011, only about 13 are still in the program. It is true that our numbers are sustained by shiftees.

So, here is the situation. Here is the starting point of this particular degree program. You would think that the department chair, professors, and instructors be doubly vigilant to heighten the standards of the course and at least develop high-quality students.

Bzzt. WRONG!

Even something as basic as emphasizing the fundamentals of our field—a social science—seems to be missing from their goals (if there are any to begin with).

I first noticed this in my second semester in college. During the first semester, we had taken an introductory subject to the course… Let’s call it SocSci 101. I did okay. Our class was cut in half, as the subject has a retention policy for those of us majoring in the field.

Enter the second semester. Our professor in SocSci 102 starts doing a recall, asking us to define certain concepts and theories.

“You should have learned that in your SocSci 101!” she exclaims, shocked at our clueless silence.

She expected us to know the basic characteristics of what we consider a “family.” And the syllabus for SocSci 101 did include a section on The Family.
But we never even reached that chapter.

She expected us to know five grand theories of our field.
Our SocSci 101 instructor only told us about three.

She asked us if we had even read our SocSci Coursebook yet.
We had never even been informed of the coursebook’s existence until that point.

Basics. Fundamentals. Lost on us.
It continued to happen, major subject after major subject. Instructor after instructor. All claiming that we should have learned (insert concept/theory here) in SocSci 101.
It even happened between major subjects, showing a lack of coordination and consistency within the curriculum and among the instructors.

And in retrospect, in my last semester of college, I realized that there are more than just a few subjects I feel I never actually learned.
I reached the end of those semesters, formally “done” with the subjects but not truly having a deeper understanding of that branch of our field.

I have reached my final semester here, and feel I still do not deserve to be called… a sociologist.