On similar beginnings

One of the things that struck me and stayed with me from last class’ discussion on the overview of higher education are similarities between how higher education began in the United States and in the Philippines, specifically in terms of access to higher education. The oldest University in the Philippines is the University of Santo Tomas (UST), founded in 1611 by then Archbishop of Manila Miguel de Benavides and run by the Dominicans. For more than two hundred years since its founding, UST remained as the only University serving an archipelago of 7,107 islands, which says a lot about how limited access to higher education was at the time.

Most institutions of higher education were established by Catholic religious orders and their purpose included the propagation of the Catholic faith. As a Spanish colony, access to these institutions were usually limited to European-born or children of Spaniards who have chosen to take up residence in the Philippines, and the mestizos – children of the union of Spaniards and native Filipinos. Only a select and chosen few native Filipinos – and usually only males who belong to the rich families – are given an opportunity to attend University back then. It was interesting to see how higher education in two lands separated by the vast Pacific shared similar elitist beginnings, dominated by white males, despite the fact that Caucasians are a minority in the Philippines. And it is amazing to see how far we have come since then!

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2 Responses to On similar beginnings

  1. Indhira Hasbun says:

    Very insightful look at the upbringings of higher education in the Philippines. I am in constant awe about how cultures around the world practice and value education differently, yet we may still bond over certain commonalities. I think this same experience may very well hold true across countries with a history of colonization. It sure is in the Dominican Republic, who had similar experiences as the one you describe for the Philippines. We too were colonized by Spain and are largely mestizos, and higher education back then was also elitist. Little known fact: the first university in the Americas was founded in the DR on 1538 under the name Universidad Santo Tomás de Aquino (what a resemblance!).

    • Michelle Soledad says:

      The similarities seem endless, Indhira! Wherever we are in the world, there will always be something that will bind us… quite a strong argument to advocate for collaboration and cooperation, don’t you think? 🙂

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