Juan to John: The Colonization of Philippine Education

The Americans introduced a system of public education back in 1898 and since then, it has existed to gear the Filipino people with a knowledge framed through their American public school system. As it is seen to be a blessing to a lot of people, however, it has also been used as a weapon in the substantial colonization of the Americans in the Philippines. Up to now, even as Filipinos defend themselves to be out of the chains of American imperialism, the Philippine systems still get a hold of it even especially in education.

Tracing back to the time when the Americans first went to the Philippines, the emerging ideologies were in their favour since they’ve already had a hold of the Filipinos after waging the war against the Spanish colonizers. The rise of the economic and military might of the Americans went along with the decay of the Spanish empire. Americans then needed territories for raw materials and consumer markets. Hence, the Philippines became one of these territories (Agoncillo & Guerrero, 1987).

The ruling ideas of the Americans articulate their ideal expressions as dominant in the material relationships. The material relationships that they have shown aside from the patterns in education were also their patterns in living or immersing with the Filipinos. This has become possible over those years because of the collaboration of the Filipino ruling classes with the Americans. With the expansion of the Americans’ knowledge in the way of life of the Filipinos, they have established a common bond with the natives enough for the natives to trust them.

According to Frances H. Engels, in his article, “An Educated Citizenry is the Foundation of Democracy”, the trust given by the Filipinos have gone a long way up to the point that when the lack of funding for keeping up the public school system arose, the Filipino people looked for means to keep the classes run without financial assistance. There have also been instances where Filipinos continued their classes by using the fines that they get from ordinances. These fines were donated for school purposes. The spread of education has become an agent in binding the Filipino community together back then also.

We see the many advantages for the Filipinos the moment that the Americans introduced education in the country. However, in this context, it shows that there exists struggle a struggle among classes or as I may say, races, in the widespread of education by the Americans.

According to the second law on Dialectics which is the Law of the Unity of Opposites1 , the things in the world exist in opposition. Though these things are opposite to one another, they cannot be totally separated from each other since one identity is dependent on the identity of the other. If we relate this to the case of the Americans and the Filipinos during the spread of education, the Americans needed the Filipinos for them to operate and spread their public school systems and the Filipinos needed the Americans for them to be literate. Despite having opposition between the two groups, neither can exist without the other.

As ideology expanded in the apparatus of education, Filipinos have continued to stay put with this up until now. Throughout the years, we have indeed come up to be the Little Brown Americans the Americans have educated us to be. This can all be seen and traced back at the history of the spread of education.

First, English was strictly used in teaching back when the Americans started their education to the Filipinos. While the Spaniards denied teaching Spanish to the Filipinos, the Americans disseminated English in order to organize their public school system. In this system of the Americans, Filipino materials of instruction were almost non-existent in the curriculum. American songs were used; American ideals and American ideologies were introduced for the Filipinos. (Agoncillo & Guerrero, 1987)

Another example, in the University of the Philippines, as it has started back in 1907, despite being proclaimed as a university for promoting nationalism and to cater the growing consciousness of the masses, it is still contradicting the ideals of nationalism by having most of its academic materials in studying based in Western references. The students, who are the largest constituents in the university, deem to have their understanding and develop their ethics according to the Western mindset that they get to study from their materials. This situation isn’t only happening in UP but also in other top universities in the country, of course.

Presently, the current trends such as the memorandum by the Commission on Higher Education No. 20, series of 2013 about the abolishment of the use of the Filipino subjects in college may also serve as a manifestation of the colonial-minded Filipinos that we are. Though the memorandum has received a lot of criticism from both the academe and student body, the fact that it was thought of in the first place holds a weight on the mindset of CHED as one of the educational offices here in the Philippines.

The existence of these ideas nowadays can all be traced back to the beginning of how power structures in the spread of education were back then. The concentration of the Filipinos for learning based on Western ideologies has contradicted the perhaps vision that education for the Filipino people was to boost up the knowledge by and for its people.

The existence of these western imperial scholarships in education can perhaps still be altered when a nationalist, democratic and mass-oriented system is pushed forward for the country… that when already implemented strongly, it can be able to fill in the gaps that should have been done at the start of raising the consciousness of the Filipino masses in promoting and learning for development.

1 Law of the Unity of Opposites in Dialectics states that all things in the world exist in opposition. But they do not really exist separately to each other. They form unions outside of which neither can exist. See Introducing Marxism (2004) by Woodfin R. and Zarate, O., pp 22-27.


Agoncillo, T. A., & Guerrero, M. C. (1987). History of the Filipino People. Quezon City: R.P.Garcia Publishing Co.

Cariga, C., & Giongco, A. (2014). A look into CHED Memo No. 20-2013: The end of a Language? Retrieved April 12, 2015, from The Lasallian: thelasallian.com/2014/08/15/a-look-into-ched-memo-no-20-2013-the-end-of-a-language/

Woodfin, R., & Zarata, O. (2004). Introducing Marxism. Singapore: Tien Wah Press.


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