How many Filipino Nobel laureates can you name? That was a trick
question because there aren't any—despite the fact that the Philippines
is now the 12th most populous country in the world. There are now more
Filipinos than there are Germans, Britons, or French citizens. In fact
add up the populations of Portugal, Canada, Libya, and Australia and
you'll still come up 25 million short compared to the Philippine
population. So we have the numbers, why then don't we have the Nobel
we further narrow our focus to just Nobel prizes awarded for science,
Switzerland a country with a population of just 8.3 million has 20 of
those Nobel laureates. In Asia, Japan leads with 21, Australia has 11,
China has 5, New Zealand has 3 and Taiwan has 1. The Philippines with a
population more than twelve times that of Switzerland hasn't managed to
produce even one.
Here's why. The Roman
Catholic church has essentially "hijacked" Philippine education going
back to the Spanish colonial period. Serious science education in
Philippine Catholic schools is almost nonexistent! Those schools worry
that students might begin to question things like "Genesis" or other
deeply held beliefs of the Catholic faith. And as we stated in previous
editorials, the primary mission of Catholic education is the
indoctrination of the youth. The Church after all must insure its
continued existence. And what better way to do that than to mold and
control the minds of the country's next leaders. Catholic schools and
universities are among the most expensive schools in the Philippines and
families of wealth and power make sure their children all attend
Catholic schools the likes of Ateneo, De La Salle, Assumption, Xavier,
Miriam, and St. Scholastica's.
Teaching science for
those schools is really just an afterthought. And they offer only the
barest minimum needed to "show" that they have an internationally
accepted mix of science courses for their students. Add to that the now
ingrained remnants from 4 centuries of Spanish colonization where the
Catholic Church, working hand-in-hand with colonial authorities actively
worked to make sure Filipinos (or Indios as they were then called)
remained less learned—and more compliant because of their faith—than
their vastly outnumbered Spanish colonial masters.
The prime example of
this repressive policy at work can be gleaned from what happened to
Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal. He and a handful of Filipino "illustrados"
managed to get around the limited educational horizon imposed by local
schools by going abroad to study. Rizal then became too smart for his
own good as far as the Catholic Church and the Spanish authorities were
concerned. So they ended up having him executed.
University of Santo
Tomas (UST) brags that it is the oldest university in Asia. Supporters
proudly point out that UST is even older than Harvard, America's oldest
university. What they don't point out is that UST is, and has always
been, a 'lightweight" by global university standards. There is no
world-class research conducted there, and it's faculty is largely
unknown inside or outside the Philippines. The closest this university
comes to offering an above-average science-based degree is its degree in
architecture. Much younger universities in Japan, South Korea,
Singapore, and China have quickly surpassed this "oldest university in
Asia." UST instead prides itself in being a "pontifical university"
offering degrees in "the sacred faculties, such as Canon Law,
Philosophy, and Sacred Theology, in the bachelor’s licentiate, and
doctorate levels" as they point out on their website.
The under-education of
generations of Filipinos is nothing short of criminal. Unfortunately,
the country's ruling class is currently made up of mostly Catholic
school graduates. So don't expect things to change anytime soon. Yet
sadly, as we move through this second decade of the 21st century, it is
becoming increasingly clear that a country's skill in technological
innovation will determine whether it moves ahead or gets left
behind—relegated to the backwaters of perpetual poverty and the
exploitation of its citizens.
What needs to happen
Filipinos are a smart,
resourceful and innovative race and they can easily stand toe-to-toe
with the smartest people on the planet. But they need the education, the
training and the environment that will allow them to reach their full
potential. Filipino legislators and government executives—themselves
products of Catholic school education (and indoctrination) must reach
outside themselves in order to take control of Philippine education
from the Catholic Church and put it back in the hands of the government
and the people. Love for science must be fostered from an early age. The
government must also be ready to fund the entire schooling of young
Filipinos interested in a career in science. There must be nothing short
of a paradigm
shift from the focus on mysticism and superstition so prevalent today,
to science-based learning and scientific inquiry.
universities are finally conducting world-class basic science research
on their campuses; when scientific breakthroughs are occurring on a
regular basis within the country; and when Filipino scientists and
researchers are being nominated and awarded Nobel prizes; then and only
then can we Filipinos honestly say we are hitting our full potential.
Short of that, Filipinos can just hope and pray for a miracle that will
likely never happen.