THE removal of minor or GE (general education) subjects from college is an old issue that Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual has revived days ago. Pascual was quoted to have said that “... [t]here should be no more general education courses in college. General education courses will be taken care of in the K-12 curriculum. College should focus on the major subjects.”

For clarity, GE courses include among others: Filipino, Social Sciences, General Ethics, English, Rizal, Art Appreciation, and Theology (for those studying in a Catholic school).

I am in favor of reducing but not totally removing GE courses in college. I share the sentiment of some students that Rizal, for example, should be taught in high school. The same is true with Filipino and Art Appreciation.

However, I would still prefer to retain some GE courses depending on their relevance to the student’s degree program. If you are a Political Science major, you still need a few courses in Writing, Mathematics and Philosophy. These are preconditions for a Political Science major to have a well-grounded grasp of his major subjects. After all, Political Science is "not an independent discipline." Its methods are not even its own. For example, it would be too much an expectation for a senior high graduate to fully master Statistics. Similarly, I do not think it would be good for Pre-Med students not to have any background in Ethics.

If I have understood Pascual correctly, he envisions all Filipino senior high graduates to possess sufficient learning competencies before entering the university. But this expectation is unrealistic on several counts and for various reasons. I would like to mention that the Department of Education's (DepEd) “no child shall be left behind policy” literally prevents us from achieving “quality control” in Senior High School.

Pascual’s desire to make students focus on their major courses requires a major review of the practices and policies of the DepEd. Students who cannot exhibit the skills at the most basic level should not be moved up to the higher level. By delaying them to proceed to college, the State is sending the message that one should not go to Higher Education if one is not serious about it. This may sound “exclusivist,” but this is a way of saying that “not everyone” needs to go to college, and precisely, the Senior High School Program should serve the purpose of providing all students “the general” and most basic qualification for employment.

Moreover, the country needs to overhaul its Schools of Education if it wants to improve instruction in Basic Education. Some senior high teachers in our country are not really prepared to teach their courses. How can Philosophy be taught properly to senior high students if it is handled by a Values Education or a Social Studies graduate?

Many Teacher Education schools in this country are antiquated. College students taking Education whether elementary or secondary are “woefully fed” with inadequate diet. Some of the things that should be taught to Education majors are not in the curriculum. Or perhaps it is there but only for the purpose of nominal compliance.

Teacher training still does not include enough concepts in management, law and the Decision Sciences. This is unfortunate because teachers in the “real world of their profession” would encounter problems related to issues that are within the domain of the said fields.

If we go by Secretary Pascual’s suggestion to move GE courses to senior high, this must not be done merely through the strike of a pen. The Commission on Higher Education and DepEd must seriously address the inadequacy in the training of most of our senior high teachers throughout the country.

To some extent, I see the wisdom and the merit of Pascual’s proposal. I hope he won’t be the Don Quixote of Philippine Education.