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.

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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.

35 Replies to “Critical thinking can save the Philippines”

  1. 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 to that Business Management degree. Also, there are some Filippine schools who do not prepare their students for licensing in first world countries and when the Filipino gets there they are either paid less than 1st world ‘licensed Nurse’ from the E.U./USA (Kuwait ,as an example) or are just not trained enough to proceed to the actual licensing exam for that job title .(Example:in the USA few Filipino Nurse’s can pass the exam for job title ‘Registered Nurse’. Either they lack certain course’s due to short ciriculumn in their home country schooling or just do not get enough hands on training to get a passing grade at the licensing board, of the specific state within the USA, where and if they are even admitted to take the test. AGAIN: I know this from first hand experience.)
    And the same reverse thinking applies within the country as well(albeit for different reasons), a Doctor from the USA can not be licensed in the Philippines….(seen it with my own eyes,again !)
    So as far as anything educational saving anything in the ‘Republica de Pilipinas’ goes, Critical re-evaluation of the cirriculmn and more stringent measures of actual learning may be of more importance(Critical thinking being a part of that).

    It is often said that ‘in the 3rd world, everything is broken and nothing works’, and it seems true to form.’Republica de Pilipinas’ as a prime example.

    Finally, what will the achievement of Ms.Uy get her in terms of a job offer in or outside the country , money-wise ? for such an achievement anything less than P100,000/week is paltry….waste of time.

    1. Outside the Philippines, this girl will undoubtedly make 100,000P+ with no problem. Not so sure if she stays here.

    2. Just wanted to share a perspective here.

      A professional board of one country, say medical board, engineering board, or law, cannot just hire a professional from a different country. Because local exposure is crucial to be able to practice in these professions. Its not so much a credentialing issue.

      Same with MBAs. It’s not wise to simply hire someone as CEO while still green in the business locale, no matter what credentials one presents.

      That’s all.

      1. Green or not, the point is the point. Not the not-even-mentioned experience. An education in an area of expertise (nursing, for example, of human beings)does not change across imaginary lines on a map……that is the point of the comment(along with some other ones). Do I have to spell out everything? it has little or nothing to do with ‘locale’,OMG ! Example: the number of bones in a human body doesn’t change when a nurse in one country goes across another countries border.
        The reason duh Philippines does not license foreign Dr.s in the Philippines is because they do not want to put Filipino Dr’s. out of work.It’s called ‘protectionism’.

      2. You’re right about the MBAs, but frankly MBAs aren’t equipped to manage anything, anywhere.So had example.

        Filipino doctors are allowed to practice anywhere in the world.

        Do Filipinos know something those silly foreigners don’t? Or could it be that Filipinos don’t want to be exposed to foreign competition because they will be forced to up their game?

  2. 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 in his criticism. Although, I don’t agree with his ideology.

    1. agreed. i remember Sir Ken Robinson’s talk at TED. schools kill creativity. however, he argued that though education is important (of course), teachers should spark curiosity in each children. teach them to be creative and practice critical thinking.

      Like me, i learn more when i’m curious about things. then i google it. hence, i get educated the way i like it. if you force information on my head, i will not learn. lol!

  3. 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 investigate, to create, to produce, to question (not simply follow like a sheep or a puppy). In CH, there’s no such stuff as honour rolls or special titles like valedictorian or salutatorian in primary or secondary school, but only in the university to reward the efforts of very hard working, diligent students. Majority of Filipinos should remember that the grades in school will not decide how successful you’ll be in life.
    Grades and achievements are icing of the cake only. What matters most is what we do for the others and for the positive growth of the society we live in. Being “grades conscious/fanatics, achievers with flying ego & title fetish” are not everything in life & one cannot only measure success from awards/titles/status because true success varies for everyone.
    It is wise to remember what Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

    1. agreed. a good friend of mine was a college drop out (UP College of Music) and left the house to pursue business. now he has 2 condominiums and 2 vehicles.

      a living example that hard work and passion is the key to success. though he still plays drums. we’ll be jamming anytime soon.

      1. And luck of course. You can be the most hard working sob in the world, but if no opportunity arises or you don’t have the connections, you’ll never get out of the grind.

      2. Chris: no, not really. There is an American quote (whose origin nobody knows):

        “I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have”.

        It’s true that hard work and diligence is usually punished in the Philippines, rather than rewarded. That’s because there are far too many people who hate success: it reminds them of their own failure, and perhaps they’re jealous of the other’s “luck”.

  4. 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 you by the balls. They spend millions or billions of pesos every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else.

    But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them.

    1. In fact, a well-informed and thinking population could spell doom to their assets and potentially their lives. Remember how the French Revolution came about. It wasn’t from the dirty and dumb poor, but rather the educated and disgruntled bourgeoisie.

      1. Absolutely. I’ve seen how the education system works in the Philippines, and it’s quite obviously set up to make people stupid. Filipino kids probably start off quite intelligent. And then they go to school …

        1. 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?!

        2. Pinoy pride strikes again, according to mrs s rttn, since foreigners come to visit here anyway whether its for tourism, education or as imports for some pinoy sports team, that means pinoys are suddenly the “greatest.” As if comparing themselves to great educational institutions like Harvard or Oxford; “see foreigners come to learn from us pinoys.” Yet another example of pinoys rationalizing mediocrity, feeling arrogant, and still wallowing in dysfunctional thinking.

          It seems pinoys will say anything just to ease their own guilt.

        3. Right, WR 🙂 There we go with the Pinoy Pride again. Certainly there are foreigners studying in the Philippines: people from other third-world countries, where a low price is more important than quality of education.

          I’m absolutely sure they all are taught to react this way in school. Your education is the best in the world! Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise!

          Look, Mrs S. If your education system was so great, your country wouldn’t be classed as a failing state, would it? There’s nothing wrong with recognising this simple fact. Once you do, you can fix it. If you don’t, the oligarchs will keep your poor and stupid, and laugh at your complete lack of awareness.

        4. @marius, @WR
          Among other reasons why Indian student Mandeep Kaur decided to study here is that she feels much safer here than there with your Indian compatriots!

          Marius’ India wouldn’t be “The most dangerous country in the world to be a girl” for nothing!

          See how their education and the Indian collective goes into action as they try to rape a CNN reporter on a Live TV broadcast:

        5. But of course. Pinoys always need to point out that something or someone else is as bad or worse than them at something everytime they’re targets of criticism. It’s their instinctive excuse for not needing to do anything about their faults.

        6. Ah yes. Well done, Mrs S. You’ve found a country that’s worse than the Philippines. You can therefore sit back and relax. All is well.

          Isn’t that a relief?

          Nothing needs to be done because you’re not the ABSOLUTE worst on the planet (yet). Are you taught that in school, too?

        7. @ mrs s rttn

          that is a complete BS:

          – the video is spoken in Indian for the most part and cannot be understood what the man is saying

          – its actually worse for a Indian man to live in India than a woman. India already passed feminist laws; the likes which allow false accusation by women(rape!) to men without fear of legal consequences. Regular Indian men are gynocentric same as regular men here or anywhere influenced by western culture.

          This is proof : gynocentric savage Indians


        8. marius says:
          July 5, 2015 at 11:44 am
          Filipino kids probably start off quite intelligent. And then they go to school …

          hahahahaha..yes marius..go ahead..

    2. d_forsaken says:
      July 4, 2015 at 4:42 pm
      But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well informed, well educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them.

      right-o d_forsaken.

  5. 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.

    1. “it was too authoritative.”

      Hit the nail in the head. One of the many bewildering contradictions Filipinos suffer from is their willingness to choose which situation and person to play servant to. In public, they’ll take something like this with “grace” but online all bets are off.

  6. “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 to measly sachets of toothpaste and shampoo, just enough to tide us over from day to day.

    1. “Remember, remember, the fifth of november . . ”
      nice avatar you got there. i haven’t finished watching it though i have it in my notebook. XD

  7. 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 it just has to be taken advantaged… XP

  8. 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!

  9. 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,

  10. 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.

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