JosÚ Rizal's Idea of a "Colegio Moderno"
by Ambeth Ocampo
AFTER THE LONG weekend, I greeted Monday with a frown. It was back to work and back to school for me. On my way home from Tagaytay last weekend, my sister and I remembered summer and Christmas vacations in Baguio that always had to come to an end. Somewhere between the giant stone lion and the zig-zag road lookout point, our father would utter the chilling words, "Sorry folks, vacation is over." Now it is our turn to scare children with that line not realizing that we have aged a great deal. Now that I find myself on the other side of the classroom, I remind my students during stormy weather that they are not the only ones happy when holidays come around -- teachers also rejoice, until they realize they have tons of papers to take home and correct over the holidays.
School is one of those things that you look back on with so much nostalgia, but when you are a student grappling with schoolwork you want to be somewhere else. As a teacher, friends often call for advice on where to send their children to school and this made me look up Jose Rizal's 1892 plans for a "colegio moderno" or a modern college whose lofty purpose was, "to form and educate young men of good family and means in accordance with the demands of modern times and circumstances." While some educators today will disagree with Rizal's sexist (all male) and elitist (young men of means) clientele, it is essential to see the curriculum in the context of his time. Rizal's basic curriculum consisted of five subject areas:
"1. Morals, Study of Religions, Natural Law, Civil Law, Deportment and Hygiene.
"2. Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, Natural History, Geography and Political Economy.
"3. World History, Philippine History, Logic, Spanish, Rhetoric and Poetics.
"4. Spanish, English, French, German, Chinese and Tagalog.
"5. Gymnastics, Equitation, Fencing, Swimming, Music, Drawing and Dance.
Like many things, Rizal's dream of this proposed school was never established but the plans alone are worth rereading because it outlined the administration of the school, examination of teachers, even the way that shares would be divided among the administration and faculty of the school who were its principal stockholders. A sample daily horarium is supplied and there is some detail even with regard to school uniforms and recreation suits. All students were boarders and their wardrobe: "...Shall consist of twelve shirts, twelve pairs of white drawers, four woolen underclothes, six striped blouses, six dark trousers, 24 handkerchiefs, 24 pairs of socks, one leather belt, two pairs of shoes and one pair of patent leather shoes."
In all this detail, the one component conspicuously absent in Rizal's school is instruction and practice of Religion. This may well be Rizal's reaction to his own education, but it is clear that although he was born, raised (and some say, died) a Roman Catholic, Rizal did not include Catechism in his curriculum which was standard in all schools of his day. Although Rizal had Roman Catholic catechism as a built-in part of his education in the Philippines, whether this was from his mother's knee at home, primary schooling with tutors, secondary schooling at the Jesuit-run Ateneo Municipal de Manila, or courses preparatory to medicine at the Dominican-run University of Santo Tomas, none of this was reflected in his curriculum. Instead of catechism, Rizal proposed the study of religions which would probably make students more open or at least tolerant of other faiths.
Following Rizal's cue and the anti-friar writings of many of Rizal's contemporaries, some contemporary Filipino historians suggest that religion was one of the essential components of Spanish colonialism.
Catholicism is blamed for teaching the colonized to suffer the present in the hope of gaining their reward in the afterlife. Religion and education taught the colonized to accept fate (at times even abuse) meekly like Christ who suffered an agonizing death but was resurrected from the dead and rewarded in heaven. Rizal's school had none of that. Students were boarders so there was no problem with traffic and getting up at 5:30 a.m. to be ready by six and a full day as follows:
"6:00-6:15, Swedish gymnastics. Purely hygienic [whatever that means]. 6:15-6:30, Study period. 8:00 to 10:00, Classes. On Sundays, religious duties. [What about people whose day of obligation was Wednesday or Saturday?] 10:00-10:30 Light buffet lunch. 10:30-11:00, Recreation, swimming, fencing on alternate or combined days. 11:00 to 12 noon, Study. 12:00 to 1:45 p.m., Recreation, music and drawing. 1:45 to 3:00, Study. 3:00 to 5:00, Class (on holidays, stroll till 6:15). 5:00 to 5:15, Tea. [How very British indeed.] 5:15 to 5:45, Gymnastics and sports. 5:45 to 6:45, Recreation. 6:45 to 8:00, Study. 8:00 to 8:30, Dinner. 8:30 to 9:30, Recreation in the parlor, social intercourse, dancing, music. [Since this was an all-male school, what dancing were they taught?] 9:30 p.m. to 5:30 am, Sleep."
All this looks very good on paper but I wonder if this almost monastic horarium left the children with enough time to enjoy childhood. Rizal, like many people then as now, rush children to grow up.
from his column in THE PHILIPPINE INQUIRER November 6, 2001