Just a few days ago, we volunteers got some very interesting insights into the University of Mindanao. The UM is the most popular university in Mindanao. It has around 42,000 students and is open to new students. Unlike the more “elite” like university Ateneo de Davao, which is runned by the Jesuits, the UM is non sectarian. It offers all mayor academic programmes such as the bachelor, master and PHD in the most important subjects like engineering, administration, science and education.
Jinky Grace, who is an UM student and MARIPHIL scholar invited us to explore the Matina campus in Davao City together with her. She diligently studies English for teacher education and wants to become a highschool teacher.
“For me the MARIPHIL Sponsorship is a great opportunity”, she explains. The tution fees are relatively low compared to European standards. However, if you need to pay between P 34,000 and P40,000 (680 EUR to 800 EUR) per year, while having no family support it is hard to gather the funds. The MARIPHIL Scholarship not only cover those fees but also helps with additional expenses for textbooks, costs of living etc. This support is essential because the higher education system in the Philippines is dominated by the private sector. The UM for instance is a private university, one out of 1573 compared to only 607 state-run colleges. The enrolment numbers confirm this trend: In the semester 2012/2013 almost 1.9 million out of 3.3 million enrolees and graduates from the last three years visited a private institution. Moreover, it is very hard to get access to study loans, as Jinky tells us.
Of cause one could argue, that the local labour market doesn’t demand that many bachelor graduates. However, the numbers show potential for significant growth. Compared to Germany, where the ratio of pupils who enrolled at the university after leaving school was at about 43% in 2009, the Philippines this rate is at less than half considering the secondary school enrolment figures.
In principle, the Martina campus is open for any visitors. However, you need to get some kind of document, either from the administration or from a person of authority, that makes to guards let you in. The office of the dean also provides small tours and insights to the class rooms in case you are interested in studying at the UM. The campus itself looks well maintained, equipped and gives a nice kind of “college” feeling even though, most of the students are relatively young, between 17 and 21. The reason is, that the K-12 program of the Filipino government just starts to introduce the senior highschool. With this implementation, the secondary education system will be similar to the US and Canada. We couldn’t find numbers about how many Muslims are enrolled, but the subjective impression was that it could be close to 10 to 15% which wouldn’t be far to the 22% share of Muslim population in Mindanao.
Before we went to the classroom, I followed up with a goal I aiming for since I came here: Get a book of Jose F. Sionil. The wiki article is very promising and I am keen to read contemporary Filipino point of view literature about the social injustice and inequality in the Philippines.
I searched all book stores in the SM Lanang Mall, Abreeza Mall and smaller books stores. I found nothing but textbooks, novels for entertainment, biographies of celebrities and religious literature. So I though the UM might help. However, I once again didn’t find it. In a German university you’ll find plenty of sources for any kind social science and art subject. In contrast, the UM focuses on subjects that are “more relevant” for the local labour market, thus textbooks are sufficient “sources”. This impression also confirms in the classroom. The lecture is similar to what you’ll find in the secondary schools. The class size is about 30 and the teacher talks straight to the students. Even the group work seemed very formal, not to talk about the presentation of the results that sounded like memorizing the textbook. It is quite interesting to see this way of learning while the topic is how to adjust the curriculum to the needs of the students. Perhaps they just were excited about the four visitors 😉 Anyways, it is amazing how many women are enrolled in the teacher education program!
In summary, the university system really needs to offer accessibility for poor students – access to education should be based on merits and talent rather than on money. The lesson are probably too “school-like”. Nevertheless, the campus showed an inspiring learning environment and the facilities seemed to be well equipped with computers and projectors. I know that this insight might not be representative for the entire system, but it was quite fascinating to have a look!