OBE a bane on academic freedom

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SIGMUND Freud has warned against super egos, the internalized ideals that mechanisms of the society use to “control” us. When the super ego is too strong, the self becomes alienated, stuck in a routinary life.

Interestingly, Freud posited that the school is one of the super egos in the society – a cage where one’s desires are suppressed and tamed.

Today, Freud’s assumptions remain relevant especially in the educational system in the country. In 2012, the Commission on Higher Education ordered the implementation of Outcome-based Education (OBE) in Philippine universities and colleges which ushered the revision toward “student-centered” course syllabi. Soon after, UST shifted to OBE curriculum in Academic Year 2013 to 2014.

But more than four years after OBE has been implemented in the University, it seems as if education has become a manifestation of a super ego that commodified the minds of students. OBE disregarded quality over quantity and has been time-consuming for both students and professors.

OBE lays down a set of well-defined processes and results that students should be able to deliver by the end of the program. This approach to education becomes problematic when the system becomes obsessed with the quantity of outputs, ignoring the substance and content of the actual work done. Clearly, the number of outputs does not guarantee the efficiency of the teaching method nor the competence of students. Being able to produce an output does not mean that students actually learned something.

As to the student-centered activities themselves, OBE encourages group works so students would learn how to deal with other people, which they say is one of the traits employers look for. However, group works do not always meet the desired outcome because, for instance, of freeloaders in a group.

Some professors in the University also argued that having more activities gave them more outputs to grade which is time-consuming, when in fact, outputs should not be the only basis for assessing the efficiency of the teaching strategy.

Signature pedagogy

Because of OBE, strategies of teaching are now constrained in a so-called “signature pedagogy,” which mandates the use of traditional and online approach in teaching. But then: Is UST even ready to be a “cloud campus,” and how would a cloud campus assure that students will learn more efficiently?

Pedagogy defines the process of teaching, which, in the higher education setting, should be relative to the specialization and course of professors. Unfortunately, with OBE, the pedagogy became overstructured and overly-defined. This type of curriculum is not applicable to higher education institutions since programs vary in specializations. And with specialization, not all can be measured according to one criterion. As these processes become overly defined, the academic freedom of professors has also become limited.

Research activities as outputs are a good example of implementing OBE but others fear that blended learning would be similar to performance tasks of high school students, where activities have the tendency have minimal substance in content. This has also been proven in the research paper of Department of Philosophy Chairman Paolo Bolaños which stated that the OBE curriculum lacked the “qualitative” character of learning.

Furthermore, OBE may be useful for subjects that are measurable. In this approach, students are achieving a specified a well-defined outcome. This means that there is a process that should be followed. For instance, this will be difficult to pursue in humanities and liberal arts colleges where the subject matters are speculative or subjective.

Market slaves

Thomasians entered the University with high hopes that their talents, skills and potentials would be honed. But in reality, students have become livestock, butchered and processed over years until they are ready to be sold to the market. OBE has reduced students to marketable employees.

Education should not be a butcher of geniuses. It is definitely not a business. There is more to education than following a system that steals the luster of students’ potentials. Do not need to butcher the artist in them.

Innovation in education should never be discouraged but Universities must be careful on the system they try to implement. These systems should not diminish the real essence of education because universities are not mere factories of diplomas. Knowledge, studying and learning should still be sought for its own sake, for the students to explore their potentials through their respective specializations. UST should be reminded that it is the embodiment of the Dominican pillar of study. We contemplate and study, not for money, but for the good of society. It should not turn to be Freud’s superego or the cage that produces students with lackluster and butchered potentials.

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