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[OPINION] Mullings and Musings on Academic Reform

By Earl Guen Quiñones Padayao | March 28, 2021

As someone who has exposure to universities in the Philippines and the United States — I can say one thing for sure: The academe should humanize. This is the reform we need.

Humanizing the academe

By humanizing, I mean to make academic conversations simple, understandable, and bite-size — enough for the common tao to relate. ‘Human’ in the sense that they are no longer alien to those who do not similarly walk universities’ hallowed halls.

The crux of my critique towards our current set-up is the improper presentation of ideas to the public: It is too academic, technical, and couched in expert-level language. This type of presentation is a departure from the realm of practicality. It is, in fact, distancing from the primary goal of sharing knowledge.

To my mind, we need relatability — which comes with the object and meaning of true education. That is, in the eyes of Paulo Freire, an education which “liberates” the oppressed and gives them a chance to lead a fulfilled life at their chosen community roles. At this point, the academe must be reminded that its primary thrust, as the repository of knowledge, is to serve humanity. In effect, it is an underservice to our race to keep the academe distant from the general masses it was meant to serve.

The role of the academic elite

The academic elite — is composed chiefly of professors, highly published authors, researchers, exemplary students, the Latin honorees, topnotchers, and generally, those who find shelter in university faculties. Gargantuan achievements seem to be commonplace among them.  

While I must concede that it is proper to grant respect and authority to these people: We still have to strike a balance between what’s due to them and their place in the general scheme of things. Their opinion and stand on many social issues of our day are well-acknowledged among those who can, at least somehow, understand what they’re trying to say. But how about those who cannot?

I admire experts who take the time to explain concepts to others, but I dare say this is not enough. We must totally reframe and restructure our presentation of ideas to keep them at-arm’s-length of the ordinary people — the average Filipino.

The academic elite should also be collaborative — able to work with people from different walks of life. They should not be confined on the walls of comfortable classrooms and campuses but instead work elbow-to-elbow with community developers, activists, civil servants, artists, poets, among others. It is exposure and engagement with diverse people who will make the academic elite less intimidating but more human — more relatable to the masses.

Thus, the academic elite must take on the cudgels with and for those academically less privileged than themselves. They should walk among the common tao. They must exert a conscious effort to humanize intellectual conversations, reach out to others, and make knowledge available to everyone.

Gone are the days of thick books

The rise of a younger generation who cry convenience also raises the call for a new method of transmitting and generating ideas: A simpler method accessible to all. Especially the marginal poor.  

We are faced with an academic generation who is fond of making things convenient and cheaper. For example, the greater reliance on digitized instead of traditional thickly printed books. Well, times have changed — and with the greater convenience of our times comes the call for academic innovation. Indeed, asking students to rummage through libraries of old and dusty books are relics of the past.

Long and boring university lectures, exam-centric, score-obsessed, and competitive classrooms are also things of the past and must be abandoned. Truly enough, we must keep the academe crisp and exciting. This can be done through simple yet meaningful academic activities, viz: interactive brainstorming sessions, community immersions, practical exercises, and the list goes on.

A call to arms

Challenging centuries worth of academic culture — a culture that enables the academic elite yet disenfranchised the common learners is a daunting task. This is a task I dare lodge to my fellow young academians. This is our call to arms: Reform the academic community one student, one classroom, one campus at a time. Who knows what we can do in a few years?

About the author:

Earl Guen Quiñones Padayao is the former COMELEC Chairperson and a forthcoming Justice of the Silliman University Student Government (SUSG). He is a young academician. He started at the age of 21 his Juris Doctor studies at Silliman University and a philosophy teaching stint at Negros Oriental State University. He is also currently teaching philosophy at Bukidnon State University.

He graduated college with Latin Honor, harboring a 97% Grade Point Average (GPA), and graduated as salutatorian during high school. He also studied environmental leadership at Northern Illinois University, U.S.A. as an international exchange student.

He is a recipient of multiple local and national recognitions — including the prestigious Mga Bagong Rizal Award of the Philippine Center for Gifted Education. He is a decorated youth leader and a reputable parliamentary debate adjudicator — with multiple medals during his prime. He occupied various positions in socio-civic and academic organizations in both Visayas and Mindanao.


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