15 January 2010

On Large Class UPLB: A Resounding “No!”

On Large Class UPLB: A Resounding “No!”
by Randwin Francis Cea Mercado

In one of my MA classes in Diliman, I once shared this plan of the UPLB administration to convert Eng 1, Eng 2, and Eng 10 large classes. A large class has 160-250 students while the status quo lecture class has 30-40 students. My classmates, ESL teachers and Call Center trainers were shocked and appalled. My teacher, a student of Noam Chomsky and an initiator of key subjects in Diliman, chuckled because the plan was absolutely crazy.

(According to a DOH survey, 3 of 10 government employees suffer some form of mental condition. I can think of 2 way up in the UPLB administration who might belong to those 3.) As early as a few months after Chancellor Luis Rey Velasco took office, there have been rumors that the GE subjects offered by the Department of Humanities will be converted to large class format. On September 4, 2006, Prof. Ruperta Asuncion, who was then the English Division head, called for an emergency meeting. The administration told her to tell us to alter the syllabus of Eng 1, Eng 2, and Eng 10 so that it can be taught as large class. The administration expected it the following day because large class was to be implemented next semester. (As if rewriting a syllabus was as easy as making a cup of coffee.)

Several concerns were raised in our meeting: first, because Eng 1 and Eng 2 are GE courses approved by the BOR shouldn't the BOR be informed first; second, what was the reason for the implementation of this scheme; and third, because all existing studies on ESL claim that small classes produce more competent students, aren’t we sacrificing our quality of education?

Instead of a syllabus, we submitted position papers against the large class scheme. One of my sources later told me that the administration just laughed at our papers. “Pa-position-position paper pa kayo,” one of them reportedly said.

Every semester, the administration would tell us to convert to large class. Every semester, our division head would present our reasons against it. When Prof. Asuncion stepped down as head (and later retired), it was Prof. Emerita Cervantes’s turn. And she defended our cause just as her predecessor did. Someone form the administration reportedly said: “Sawang-sawa na kami dyan.” If I was there I’d tell that person: “Kung
sawang-sawa na kayo, ba’t di nyo pa kami tantanana?”

January 2010. A memo from the chancellor reached the Department of Humanities and the Department of Social Sciences. The memo came with a verbal instruction: Large class will be implemented for all GE classes next school year. It also came with a verbal threat: Take it or leave. (In the case of temporary faculty it’s take it or no renewal.)

On January 18, 2010, 9AM, the faculty of the Department of Humanities will be met by RGEP council head Panopio and Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs Laude not to consult but to tell us that we can’t do anything about it. It’s curious why Laude would be there. She’s the one who endorses our renewal to the chancellor.

Technically, it is the administration that is proposing the large class scheme. But so far, we have not been provided the rationale for such a move. (The situation is a far cry from Velasco’s promise of transparency when he took over from Chancellor David.) The rumor is that it has to do with money. Large class means fewer teachers. Fewer teachers means more items. More items means more money in the bank. More money in the bank means more interest. More interest means more savings.

(What is an item? Each department has a set number of items. Items correspond to the number of teacher you can hire. I’m not sure, but I think the government budgets salary according to items and not necessarily according to actual number of teachers. Therefore, even though no one is being paid for that item, there is money being set aside for that item. If no one uses it, the money goes to the bank. It’s an elaborate version of the 15-30 scheme in baranggays.)

This is the worst time to be a member of the Academic Personnel Committee. Because few teachers are needed, it pains me to know that I would be one of the people responsible for determining who among my colleagues will not be renewed next school year. (In our division alone, there’s some 20 faculty members. The Department of Humanities has some 60.)

If you ask me, only one person deserves the boot. If money is the problem, our Chancellor shouldn’t be
squandering UP’s precious budget on sidewalk displays (those infamous three-coat painted solid concrete Oro can sized bangas littering the sidewalks), 60-foot Christmas trees, and life-size Nativity scenes. If money
is the problem, our Chancellor should be creative enough to think of ways to tie up with international research
institutions and earn money by simply being a university in the truest sense. Or have the balls to demand a bigger budget from the government. Elections is just around the corner anyway.

Fire Velasco and hire someone new. Preferably someone who understands that the one thing every UP student is proud of is quality education.

January 15, 2010
Los BaƱos, Laguna

Mr. Mercado gave his permission to repost this.

1 comment:

  1. I was blockmates with this guy back in college. Wow.


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