Critical thinking can save the Philippines

University of the Philippines (UP) Professor Gerry Lanuza recently caused an uproar on social media when he was accused of attacking UP summa cum laude biology graduate Tiffany Uy on his Facebook post as being merely a “puppy of her parents” after she was lauded for achieving the highest weighted grade average obtained in the school’s history since World II with her score 1.004.

UP Professor Gerry Lanuza is upset over Filipinos' obsession with grades.
UP Professor Gerry Lanuza is upset over Filipinos’ obsession with grades.
After receiving his share of bashings from Netizens who thought he was suffering from a bad case of tall poppy syndrome, Lanuza has since clarified in a full article that his short Facebook post was not intended to put down or mock Uy’s achievements but rather, to raise what he thought was a concern – Philippine society’s obsession with grades and credentials.

While the timing of Lanuza’s Facebook post was quite suspect (he didn’t state the “real” intention of his post immediately after Uy’s defenders started posting their outrage) and a hint of arrogance can also be detected in his tone (he was unapologetic for causing useless anxiety – stating “it is not his problem”), we can’t ignore the fact that he has a point about the way some parents are pushing their kids, sometimes over the edge, just to get the perfect score or grade at school. To be fair, it’s not just a phenomenon unique to Filipinos. Asian parents in general have been known to push their kids too hard just to excel at school.

The problem is, it seems despite the number of students who excel with their grades in Philippine schools, we have yet to find a Filipino student who can inspire innovation or defy conventional wisdom in Philippine society. As I have pointed out in my previous articles in the past, despite the many brilliant students produced each year by Philippine universities, the country has yet to produce someone who can inspire “greatness”.

Where can we find the great Filipino inventor? Where is our own Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg? Where is the next Jose Rizal who is going to wake the majority of Filipinos from their long stupor? They are not in the Philippines because the society does not encourage individuals to stand out from the crowd and be unique. Everyone has to put their head down lest they get ostracized for being too “different” or in the local vernacular “walang pakisama”.

UP professor Lanuza forgot to mention that Philippine society also discourages individuals from expressing their dissenting opinion. I know this because I get accused of being a “paid hack” for criticizing Filipino politicians. It would be hard to find a teacher or professor who doesn’t limit freedom of expression in the class. As a matter of fact, students are taught to show deference to older people or people who are in authority and that can include the teachers or professors. Young kids are discouraged from questioning authority. This is precisely the reason why timid behavior is especially prevalent in Philippine society. This is also the reason why a lot of Filipinos are too sensitive to criticism and people who have differing opinions.

The Philippines' premiere state university may be failing to produce innovative thinkers.
The Philippines’ premiere state university may be failing to produce innovative thinkers.
Filipinos’ obsession with grades and credentials is an issue that I have encountered as a political blogger so many times while engaging in discussions with people who cannot take my opinion seriously because they are what I call “credentialists” – people who tend to focus more on the person and not what the person is saying.

Lanuza prides himself in how he encourages his students to “protest, dissent and criticize” Philippine society. He wants the students to ask the hard questions. However, as his profile on social media seems to reveal, he has his own set of beliefs that have been known to produce sheep behavior. Lanuza is a proud communist. That’s quite ironic considering he is desperately trying to encourage his students to break out of the mold and to be different. This contradiction was evident in what he wrote, “Why do our schools foster fierce competition? Why define our schools as jungles rather than as crucibles for creating cooperation and collective solidarity?” He should realize that competition is part of the process of producing innovative and unique individuals. Without it, individuals will lack the motivation to strive harder to succeed.

Lanuza’s concern about parents dictating what course their children should take in university is valid, indeed. There must be hundreds of parents who forced their children to take up nursing just because it is in “demand”. At least it used to be. The parents should realize that even if their kids pass the marks or get good grades, if their kids are not passionate about their jobs, they will not be good employees and will not excel in their work. Worse, they will be unhappy with their lives.

My conclusion is, Lanuza and many others like him do not really understand that in the Philippines, students are told what to think and not how to think. He should not be surprised that the use of critical thinking is not so common in the country. Unfortunately, the issue he raised flew over most people’s head because of his approach – it was too authoritative. I do hope he will welcome this criticism.


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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35 Comments on "Critical thinking can save the Philippines"

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Ebola Ray
Its too bad that outside of the ‘Republica de Pilipinas’ the rest of the world scoffs at and does not recognize the ‘Degree’s’ and ‘Licensing’ of Philippine Schools/Universities. A Business Management degree in the Philippine school system (CDO’s ‘Xavier University’ for example) requires the same ‘advanced Trigonometry’ and ‘advanced Calculus in the business world’ classes/credits/hours as a degree at ‘Georgetown University’ in the USA.(I KNOW coz I looked !), both schools in the top 20 Academic Institutions in their respective countries and yet the degree from Xavier will not get a Filipino hired in the USA for a job pertaining… Read more »
This is the Failing of the Filipino mindset. We are too obssesed with High Grades. Knowledge coming mostly, from textbooks. No innovative thinking. No original ideas. No inventing/development of new things/methods that would benefit your fellowmen, community and mankind, as a whole. This is the reason; we cannot, or will never produce a: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Thomas Edison, Nicolai Tesla, etc…besides the brains in our country already migrated to foreign countries. Parents take hold of the thinking of their children. Children are not allowed to think/decide for themselves. It stultifies free and original thinking. Prof. Lanuza has some points… Read more »
Angelica Hopes
Critical thinking, creative thinking and progressive actions matched with strong values can save our country. Sir Lanuza’s observation on the Filipinos’ obsession on grades is true. Also from my own personal experience, I did hate the fierce competition in academics in my younger years. Instead of creating teamwork and more on creativity, academic competition harboured walls not only in school but many have not outgrown it as they carried it in their adult life. In Switzerland (CH), I like how my daughters grew up without the jungle of competition in the class because they were taught to be curious, to… Read more »

The Rat Race, as it’s called. Parents push their children over the edge to have something to boast. It’s the Wiwi Height contest again. “Look at my son’s grades, ang galing-galing, no?” I remember Kate Natividad has this article, Should parents be bragging about their kids’ academic achievements on Facebook? I said there that parents should never be narcissistic, and don’t have a right to use their children for selfish purposes.

Forget the Failippines and Failipinos. They exist and put there to give you the idea you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. Failippines and Failipinos have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations that’ve long since bought and paid for, the Senate, the Congress, the politician’s houses, the city halls, they got the judges in their back pocket, and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and the information you get to hear. They got… Read more »

Playing devil’s advocate here, but to me based on his beliefs and profile, he strikes as nothing more than a contrarian. Being a communist yet encouraging individualism is kinda contradictory don’t you think? Then again, he might be basing it more on the economical aspect of it, rather than the political which is more totalitarianism in practice.

Virtual Vigilante
“Where can we find the great Filipino inventor? . . . Where is the next Jose Rizal who is going to wake the majority of Filipinos from their long stupor? They are not in the Philippines . . .” We do have an abundance of sari-sari stores–from the inner slums of Manila to the boondocks of Tawi-Tawi. We have seized to aspire for greatness. Just as a teacher would settle to be a chambermaid in a cruise ship or a doctor would settle to be a nurse in the United States. It is as if our dreams have been reduced… Read more »
mrs s rttn says: July 5, 2015 at 3:43 pm Stupid Thinking! Try to reconcile then why do many people from foreign countries have to bother themselves, have to trouble themselves, to travel a few or more hundred miles to this country to study, just to be stupid? As always you will think that you’re still correct and not capable of being wrong! Foreign critical thinking or just plain stupid rubbish arrogant thinking?! I’ve always believed that some foreigners traveling to the Philippines have some sort of concealed interest in something..hahahaha..because some Filipinos are sooo naive and tooo hospitable and… Read more »

hahahaha! i’m having a great time laughing at this article! someone gets straight 1’s in hard sciences like math, biology and statistics. she’s bashed. and people here charge this episode to society’s failure to consider dissenting opinion! wahahahaha!


The closest person the Philippines had to compare with Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg is Diosdado Banatao but he made his fortune in Silicon Valley California USA. I hope that his foundation will produce innovators and game changers that we badly needed,


They’ve got to get rid of multiple choice tests and downsize the number of students in a class. Then of course, employ exceptional teachers who who refuse to just feed information . Teachers who can make students learn for themselves. What credentials and grades measure at this point is COMPLIANCE. And we wonder why the innovators were dropouts.