What Are You Made of, the Role of Faith in Social Identity
What Are You Made of, the Role of Faith in Social Identity
What are you made of? This is truly a difficult question to answer if one would really take the time to ponder it. How would you arrive at the conclusion of describing who you are and the things you believe in? What are the things that made you as an individual? Inevitably, there will be several social, spiritual, and political issues that one may have to battle with to arrive at a sound conclusion. Life is complex and that is a certain fact. The complexity life offers for various people with different political affiliations, religious views, and socioeconomic status may be one arena of conflict.
How will these differences be reconciled by the government who must develop national consciousness among its citizens? How will the Philippines become united amidst of these cultural differences? It is also the same question for the people, are they willing to compromise their values and beliefs for the unity of the country? These are questions which have no certain answers. For years now, there have been efforts made by the government and educational institutions that are geared towards resolving this conflict.
However, it will take time before the country would experience such desired changes. The Philippines is a largely diverse country. Not only is the country multicultural, it is also multilingual. This situation makes it all the more difficult for the educational system to cater to the different needs of each sector. On the national level, the Department of Education has issued memorandums pertaining to ‘generic’ programs addressing these issues. However, the lack of material resources and the lack of interest from stakeholders are the factors responsible for hampering envisioned improvements.
While on the community level, there are also initiatives from the teachers themselves who make their own changes and adaptations depending on the needs of their students. By the age of four, most Filipino children go to school to study. They learn about their own identity and the roles as expected from their identity, their being Filipino and duties of citizenship, the community they live in, and certain cultural beliefs and values. All these form the foundation of their beliefs about their identity and the country at large. This ‘indoctrination’ goes on until college.
From here we can see that the life of one student is virtually fashioned inside the school. Thus, the school can be said to be a ‘breeding ground’ where various social identities are shaped. And so the question now is, “How will schools mold Filipino identity? ” and at the same time reconcile it with other social identities such as ethnicity and religion without marginalizing cultural or religious beliefs. This process of molding holds much importance for educators because I think that one of the most significant functions of Philippine education is to inculcate Filipino identity and nationalist consciousness.
As a teacher, I believe that a person’s religion bears so much importance in how that person thinks and behaves in the social context. It serves as the guiding light or reference point as to which decisions regarding experiences are based. Seeing that the Philippines has several religions, it becomes one social divider in the nation. Believers of certain faith have their own teachings that should be strictly adhered to regarding the political system and cultural beliefs and practices that may sometimes coincide with the rules of the state.
For instance, believers of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not pledge the Panatang Makabayan because they believe that they should only place their faith or for that matter, state their allegiance in the god that they serve. Moreover, I believe that religion really matters for the majority of the Filipinos. And this is the root of conflicts, discrimination, and prejudice between Christians and Non-Christians that are manifested in different areas such as the political and economic system. The values certain groups of communities hold are important for them that they desire the next generation to also believe to these values.
In addition, cultural practices are also passed on from generation to generation. This process is evident in the articles discussed in class where indigenous peoples argue for a system of education in which traditional knowledge should be included and given more emphasis. More so, the lessons provided by the public education system are starkly different from indigenous knowledge systems and practices. This creates a conflict because the significant values and practices are not learned by the youth of the community. Hence, elders develop apprehension toward the public school system.
Although they acknowledge the beneficial effects of having to go to school, what matters most for them is the sustainable development of values and traditional cultural beliefs and practices of their ancestral community. This case is also similar with Islamic education. There is a problem for Muslims in Mindanao pertaining to the choice of schools for their children. For Muslims, spiritual growth in their children’s religious faith is a more important factor in choosing a school. However, Islam is not a subject offered in the public school system.
As a conclusion, I think that the belief and value system is the most important factor in the formation of social identities. An individual’s social identity is intimately tied to the religion he is a member of. This also becomes the primary basis for the further development of his social identity. Because of these conflicts, educational institutions have been classified into sectarian and non-sectarian to cater to the different needs of their clients. Parents who are Catholics want their children to study in a Catholic school to ensure that their children would grow up with values they believe in.
Furthermore, members of Iglesia Ni Cristo also do the same as well as members of the Christian community. This system is also the same for nationalities. Chinese parents prefer to enroll their children into Chinese schools. Muslim parents prefer to enroll their children to Madrasah. Based on this observation, membership to certain groups or having to identify with a group’s belief and values system becomes one important factor in parents’ decision regarding their children’s education.
Thus, educational institutions become an agent in the processes of indoctrination of certain beliefs and practices that may marginalize other religion and cultural practices. Inevitably, they also reproduce existing social structures that up to the present time is unfair for many. Another problem with the present curriculum is its exclusion of local knowledge systems that bears much significance with the country’s indigenous peoples or with a particular group. In my opinion, the curriculum had put too much emphasis on global literacy or keeping at par with international standards.
There is nothing wrong with this proposition. The only problem is that local knowledge systems have been marginalized for a long time which should have been a part of the curriculum in the first place. One goal of Philippine education is to mold the ‘Filipino’ identity in its students. If this is the goal, then it also follows that local history and cultural beliefs and practices should be an important part of the curriculum beginning in the elementary. The present curriculum has the Makabayan subject (Sibika at Kultura and Heograpiya, Kasaysayan, Sibika) as one way of teaching students
Philippine culture and history. In spite of this, I think some of indigenous knowledge systems and practices are important so it should be included in the national curriculum. The inclusion would make students understand and appreciate more their being ‘Filipino’ and would be exposed to various local histories and cultures. Hence, they would become appreciative of the diversity of Filipino cultures. I also think that the national curriculum is a ‘colonial make-up’ of foreign education.
The current system of education here in the Philippines especially the private schools are more inclined to producing students who are equipped with the skills needed for globalization but are alien to their own country. Yes, academic and professional competence in the global village can be beneficial to the country in terms of economic advancement. However, the problem is that there is no balance between what Filipinos truly are as a race and what they need to know as part of a larger global community.
As an observation, I think that students nowadays are not rooted in their own culture and history as Filipinos. Most often than not, the kind of students schools produce have a mentality of a foreigner. In school, they learn extensively of a lot of things such as world histories, architecture, literature, famous scientists, etc. Although they study Philippine history and literature, what they learn is, again, the ‘generics’ or the ‘mainstream’ which can be discriminating against indigenous peoples and Muslims history and culture. And this is both a danger and challenge for Philippine society.
The government does not want to produce generation of students who are not rooted in the Filipino culture. So they have to adapt to the needs of the different sectors present in Philippine society. For the country, an individual’s rootedness in his own culture is much needed by the country because this is one way of instilling nationalist consciousness. This can be done gradually through shaping of a Filipino identity beginning in the elementary grades. Moreover, this ‘shaping process’ should be meaningfully linked to a person’s religious belief and value system.
Because of this, I believe that the end result would be better. When education can establish a meaningful bridge between Filipino identity and a community’s religion, more and more Muslims and indigenous peoples would develop a sense of being a Filipino— finally a part of the collective imagining of the nation. In my opinion, the reason for the Muslim’s apprehension toward the public school system and the nation as a whole is that they do not feel the sense of belongingness because the Philippine government has not been responding to their needs and rights to education.
Since Islam is a vital part of their lives and unfortunately, the public school system does not offer this as a subject, they prefer to enroll their children in Madrasah that do not develop Muslims’ national consciousness of being a Filipino. Therefore, students who finish from these schools grow up to be Muslims and not Filipino. Likewise, I believe that the national curriculum is not a ‘generic’ or a ‘one-size-fits-all’ process of education. The Department of Education and teachers as well cannot just prescribe a general program of education to students who are socially differentiated with each other.
If the Philippines want to envision the Filipino race as having a nationalist consciousness and wanting each and everyone to be part of the collective imagining of the nation, then it is better for the education sector to acknowledge different local languages, ethnic groups, indigenous knowledge system and practices, and religions. I believe that through this acknowledgement and inclusion, indigenous peoples and Muslims would gradually learn and love to be a part of this country.
A person’s social identity is so much affected by the socio-cultural milieu. As a teacher, I should be aware of my students’ background so I could help them in strengthening the development of their identity as Filipino, as a member of a religious community, and as a member of a group. All these contribute to the formation of a person’s social identity and not one should be left out. Being to identify with a group and having a sense of belongingness all contribute to an individual’s over-all well-being and the nation’s well-being too.