“THOSE who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it,” according to George Santayana, a renowned Spanish historian. That’s a lesson that carries extra significance this week as the nation marks the 48th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law by the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
There’s something thrilling about knowing what happened in the past and its implications to how things are at present. Simple questions like, “Why is the Philippines a Christian country?” and “Why are Filipinos so in love with basketball?” and “How did Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio become national heroes?” can eventually lead to robust classroom discussions.
Unfortunately, high school students of this generation no longer have meaningful opportunities to learn Philippine history. Although, it is still taught during Grade 5, there is no Philippine history subject during junior and senior high school. That means that for most teenagers, they will have to wait until college to have another Philippine history class.
Why is this so? It’s because of Department of Education Order 20 series of 2014, which mandated that instead of Philippine history, those in Grade 7 will instead study Asian History. Meanwhile, World History and Economics will be taught in Grade 8 and 9, respectively. And lastly, a subject called Contemporary Issues was introduced for Grade 10 students.
While doing these adjustments is in lockstep with the objective of making Filipino students more globally competitive, the setup diminishes their ability to have a basic understanding of their own history prior to going to college.
While supporters of the current setup will argue that Philippine history is being integrated already in the different Araling Panlipunan subjects in JHS, it is still essential to have a subject specifically dedicated to understanding the contexts and implications.
We also have to mention that strengthening the teaching of Philippine history among students can also be an effective tool against the misinformation and historical revisionism being peddled by certain parties to serve their political interests.
In recent years, there has been a strong campaign on social media advocating for the restoration of Philippine history either in junior or senior high school. One petition pertaining to this in Change.org now has 46,000 signatures while a Facebook page meant to promote this advocacy has nearly 12,000 likes. The Department of Education must now listen and do its part.
(Mark Pere Madrona owns The Filipino Scribe blog. He recently completed his master’s degree in history from the University of the Philippines-Diliman.)