We, as a society, have set standards in our education system that allow us to deem which disciplines are more important than others without even considering the function each field serves. This is especially true in the Philippines where a divide is evident among the students of the senior high school (SHS) program, which begs the question: is there a clear prejudice on the case of SHS strands?
For context, the K-12 program is a newly developed curriculum implemented in the Philippines which adds two years to the 10-year Basic Education Curriculum. The two additional years focuses on more specialized subjects depending on the track and strand taken by a student. There are four main tracks offered by the K-12, namely: Academic, TVL, Sports, and Arts and Design, with the Academic Track being the most commonly offered in schools nationwide.
Howbeit, it can be observed that a social hierarchy is built upon how these tracks are offered. Since the Academic Track is the most commonly offered, students under it gain a sense of superiority—especially on the discussion of which strand is the most challenging or technical. Generally, STEM is upheld in a higher regard because they specialize in math and science, inarguably gruelling fields. It creates this false notion that STEM is superior only on the basis of difficulty and complexity. Conversely, non-academic tracks are perceived as somewhat inferior because their curricula are designed to be more hands-on application rather than theoretical. Despite having their own challenges and technicalities in their curricula, people seem to overlook certain factors.
This issue is manifested in the College Entrance Tests (CETs). The essence of having different strands in SHS is somehow diminished because the tests lack focus on each strand’s specific area of specialty. College students who are products of the K-12 curriculum go as far as to say that the tests are “STEM-centered” for including more advanced math and science. What is worse is that the specialized subjects seem to have no bearing in the entrance tests since the test questions are from junior high school (JHS) lessons. This could mean that schools unconsciously look past the individuality of each strand, defeating the purpose of establishing them in the first place.
Perhaps the problem lies on the glorification of math and science disciplines. Embedded in our culture is the constant pressure on the younger generation to pursue a career in medicine, engineering, or business, with the idea that it will guarantee financial success in the future, which clearly is not the case.
As a product of the SHS curriculum myself, I strongly affirm that these micro-aggressions on the basis of strand are just manifestations of petty societal expectations, as well as a flawed curriculum haphazardly produced and implemented. Is it the students’ fault for continuing these stereotypes [PxxxT] when the system actively pits them against each other? We, as a society, must cease the concept of deeming which discipline is more important than the others because all disciplines have a function to serve for the greater good of the country.