Recasting Liberty and Prosperity in Philippine Lifelong Learning


            Understanding liberty and prosperity in a judicial sense involves appreciating the goals of upholding democracy and development in a modern society. These goals are more pronounced in emerging economies such as the Philippines, where an acute need for deepening democratic participation and fostering economic growth exists. Lifelong learning shares these goals by expressing these in terms of citizenship education and skills provision. While policy-makers and educators have routinely focused on basic education as the locus of such an enterprise, it is necessary to explicitly frame citizenship education and skills provision in higher education and lifelong learning. The author explores this argument by giving service learning in higher education as an example where liberty and prosperity can be explicitly framed as learning for citizenship and work competencies.

Patrick Alcantara
recently finished his Masters in Lifelong Learning: Policy and Management degree (with distinction) from the Institute of Education, University of London and the Universidad de Deusto, Spain. He completed his Masters under a scholarship granted by both universities, with a dissertation diagnosing and improving workplace learning provision in the Philippine tourism industry. He finished his Bachelor’s degree in Psychology in 2006 from the University of Philippines, Diliman. Originally a language teacher by profession, Patrick now specializes in professional, vocational and workplace learning (PVWL) research.

The main argument of this work builds upon the judicial philosophy of liberty and prosperity. With the law being referred to as an “external deposit of our moral life”[1], it expresses the values of our people. As such, a commitment to political liberty and economic prosperity implies deploying our collective values – the law – in safeguarding human rights as well as alleviating poverty[2]. This requires a stable, impartial judiciary that can enforce the rule of law, complemented by appropriate legislation and executive action[3].

Nonetheless, this work argues that judicial fiat, legislation nor executive action would be enough to uphold the ideals of liberty and prosperity. These ideals have to be enculturated in our people, and education is the means of socializing individuals into appreciating the value of liberty and prosperity in a modern society. While policy-makers and educators have routinely focused on basic education, the rise of the modern knowledge-based economy challenges us to reconsider a lifelong approach to learning. Hence, I will make the main argument recasting liberty and prosperity from a lifelong learning (LLL) perspective. This argument underpins an assumption that judicial reforms can thrive in an environment where the rule of law and economic development is assured through lifelong learning.

I will back up this argument in the following fashion. A short discussion elaborating on the ideals of liberty and prosperity, as well as LLL in the Philippine context, will be made in order to interrogate current literature and developments in the field. This will be linked to the argument reinterpreting liberty and prosperity as citizenship education and skills provision involving work-related competencies in the LLL setting. This argument will be explored further by elaborating on service learning, which is seen as a pedagogical tool that combines citizenship education and skills provision. Opportunities for adopting service learning (SL) in higher education and legal training conclude this work.

In the end, this work aims to accomplish the following goals: (1) advance the judicial philosophy of liberty and prosperity as a workable paradigm towards social justice and social progress; (2) propose the extension of LLL provision in ensuring social cohesion and economic competitiveness; (3) explore pedagogical tools that propagates values and competencies essential to work; and (4) contribute to the ongoing discourse on liberty and prosperity, and extend it beyond law and jurisprudence.
On liberty and prosperity as judicial ideals

Safeguarding personal and political liberties has been familiar territory for the courts. In times of overreach by governments, citizens have turned to courts in order to interpret laws and uphold freedoms. In the liberal democratic tradition, this has instituted freedoms such as the right to expression, a free press, universal suffrage, peaceful assemblies and worship[4]. In today’s context where religious fundamentalism and terrorism are perceived as threats to national and global security, freedoms are continuously calibrated by the courts. Current events such as the US government’s internet and phone surveillance program, as revealed by former national security contractor Edward Snowden[5], come into mind as courts grapple with balancing personal liberties with national security.

Ensuring economic prosperity is argued to be less perceived as a concern by courts[6]. However, it is also asserted that a mandate for such exists[7], given international accords that enshrine economic, cultural and social rights[8]. This is further strengthened in the Philippine context by a constitutional mandate to the State to “promote a just and dynamic social order that will ensure prosperity… and free the people from poverty.”[9] As such, this begs a responsibility for the courts to interpret laws within that given framework.

The duality of liberty and prosperity is underscored in the judicial philosophy advocated by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, who argued for championing these values in decisions made by the courts. This philosophy is marked by an adherence to the rule of law, a basic deference to the prerogatives of other branches of government, and an appreciation of the relationship between regulation and entrepreneurship[10]. This translates to a pragmatic application of the law in order to foster a favorable economic climate while ensuring the protection of liberties and the provision of substantive justice. This represents a leap from traditional legal thinking, which often places the law on a pedestal and apparently separates it from a larger socio-economic context. Upholding liberty and prosperity then remedies that flaw, and can present interesting consequences on the application of the law.
Lifelong learning (LLL): General assumptions within a specific Philippine context

Lifelong learning (LLL) has been defined in terms of a shift away from organizing education in youth to including all stages of the lifespan[11]. This is seen as an important consequence to the rise of the knowledge economy, where innovation far outstrips formal education provision, and there exists a need to continuously learn and re-learn throughout life[12]. The presence of ageing societies in advanced industrial economies also provides an additional challenge to utilize all available human capital for productive activity. Lifelong learning, therefore, is a response to this context and focuses on developing post-compulsory education and training.

While LLL and its implementation remains a contested field owing to different international agendas[13], it is still an emerging discipline in the Philippines. There is a lack of common understanding and consciousness about LLL, and policy is usually the sum of separate programs such as technical-vocational education and training (TVET) provision by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), distance learning by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and equivalency programs by the Department of Education (DepEd)[14]. As policy-makers focus their sights separately on education and training in its different loci – basic education, higher education and TVET – a lack of coherent strategy for LLL is noticeable. Considering regional developments that will test Philippine capacity for delivering LLL, such as the looming integration of Southeast Asian labor markets by 2015[15], the need to prepare for learning provision throughout life remains a formidable challenge to policy-makers.

Amidst these challenges, there is a growing recognition among policy-makers on the importance of skills provision especially in urban workplace and rural agricultural settings where productivity is declining[16]. This is important considering that it creates pressure to organize a LLL strategy that will provide skills to Filipino workers. Moreover, the mandate to extend basic education to 12 years with closer links to TVET in high school[17] also provides an encouraging direction to Philippine LLL.

It is important to note however, that LLL should not be limited to skills provision alone. Learning has to fulfill a greater societal agenda, which includes ensuring social mobility, equality of life chances, social cohesion and active citizenship[18]. It is in this context that skills provision must be appreciated, as it should lead to active citizens with a stake in public life. In the Philippines, while citizenship education is present in the basic level, as seen in civics-oriented subjects such as Makabayan and Araling Panlipunan[19], it is less noticeable in other facets of LLL provision. This also provides an additional challenge to policy-makers and other stakeholders to develop responsive programs that will promote citizenship education for social cohesion.
Liberty and prosperity as citizenship education and skills provision

It is important to revisit the main argument at this point. Judicial decisions, while essential to maintaining the rule of law as well as the pursuit of liberty and prosperity, are not enough. Liberty and prosperity require enculturation into the life and will of the people. In other words, these values need to be expressed in the daily tasks undertaken by individuals. This requires building an epistemic culture, one that develops practices enabling the use of existing knowledge and tools in order to create new forms of economic, political and social activity[20]. This is well within the domain of LLL which concerns itself with knowledge and skills provision beyond compulsory education.

In turn, a reinterpretation of liberty and prosperity from a LLL perspective must then occur in order to situate education and training as a locus for propagating these values. Upholding personal and political liberties can then be recast in the form of citizenship education, one that socializes individuals as to their rights and the remedies afforded by law in case of a breach. More importantly, LLL can be used as a means to advance citizenship outcomes, foster social cohesion and deepen democratic participation.

Meanwhile, nurturing prosperity can be reoriented towards skills provision, where citizens are given the necessary competencies essential for the workplace and in entrepreneurship. Governments and the private sector must create opportunities for people to develop their competencies throughout the life span. With people changing their career paths throughout life becoming more common, it becomes necessary to support and utilize this towards greater productivity.

Given this, LLL is challenged to propagate the ideals of liberty and prosperity through citizenship education and skills provision. As the Foundation’s exhortation goes – “justice and jobs, freedom and food, ethics and economics, democracy and development”[21] – LLL has to be explicitly reframed to achieve both goals of substantive freedom and economic well-being. This begs operationalization through learning programs in post-compulsory education (eg. professional, vocational and workplace learning [PVWL] and higher education) that includes elements of both values. Pedagogical tools that enable educators to make learners reflect on these values while acquiring competencies are essential in order to enculturate liberty and prosperity.
Service learning (SL) in advancing liberty and prosperity

The previous discussion raises the need to utilize pedagogical tools that can enculturate the values of liberty and prosperity. One such tool is service learning (SL). SL is defined by Puig as “a pedagogical methodology that brings together into one single process the learning of competencies and values with the undertaking of tasks that benefit the community.”[22] This is distinguished from other common practice-based activities in higher education such as volunteering, community service and internship through the interaction of its service and learning elements, as shown in the figure below[23]. Good examples include the Australian Goodna Service Integration Project[24], which launched efforts (among other SL initiatives) tackling domestic violence through a partnership between the University of Queensland, police force and local community.


Figure 1. Service learning quadrant with examples of
common practice-based activities (Service Learning 2000, 1996)

            Service learning has been asserted as a way to develop a “connected view of learning”[25] and to transform “education as an act of social justice.”[26] It draws its strength from its method of developing skills and competencies in a values-rich environment, while at the same time introducing learners to a wider communities of practice[27] that host tools and practices which differentiate vocations and other forms of human enterprise[28]. In other words, utilizing SL can mediate theory and practice, as well as situate learning within the realm of values[29]. As such, citizenship education and skills provision can both be undertaken in SL programs.

In turn, this pedagogical tool becomes useful considering the goal of propagating liberty and prosperity through citizenship education and skills provision in LLL. As LLL concerns itself with post-compulsory education, SL programs that promote the values of liberty and prosperity can be undertaken in higher education and legal training. For one, the Civic Welfare Training Service (CWTS) at the university level, as well as legal clinic programs such as the Office of Legal Aid by the University of the Philippines College of Law[30], can be explicitly recontextualized with appropriate citizenship education and skills provision elements. Opportunities to reflect on these values and their relationship to one’s professional development can be extended throughout higher education and legal training. As such, SL provides interesting opportunities for enculturating liberty and prosperity by embedding it in higher education and legal training.

This paper initially set out to discuss liberty and prosperity from the perspective of the courts and the law. It was seen as a workable paradigm in which to dispense justice and ensure economic security through the fair and insightful application of the law. Nonetheless, it has been asserted that action from the judiciary is not enough in advancing the ideals of liberty and prosperity. Education is essential in propagating these values in society throughout an individual’s life span. In relating this to citizenship education and skills provision, the judicial philosophy of liberty and prosperity is then seen as compatible with lifelong learning. As such, it is argued that liberty and prosperity must be enculturated through pedagogical tools such as service learning in higher education and legal training.

Challenges exist in order to fully flesh out the ideals of liberty and prosperity, and utilize these in advancing social justice and social progress. First, a continued discourse on liberty and prosperity must be fostered within the legal profession. What constitutes an appropriate notion of political freedom and economic well-being must be spelled out as several questions arise from this duality of liberty and prosperity. How can judicial decisions ensure a favorable business climate granted it only hears cases brought upon the courts? How can the judiciary foster an equitable distribution of wealth given systemic inequalities existing in Philippine society? How can judges reconcile sometimes conflicting demands for social justice, national patrimony and business interests, such as in the case of extractive industries and special economic zones? These and other difficult questions must be tackled, and even tested in court, in order to demonstrate liberty and prosperity in practice.

Second, policy-makers must also contribute to that discourse by providing their own answers. This can be in the form of concrete learning programs that advance liberty and prosperity while serving the needs of their learners and immediate communities. Moreover, learning programs have to be situated along a coherent LLL strategy. The government and the learning profession have to collaborate in order to provide a road map for future LLL programs that will advance liberty and prosperity though citizenship education and skills provision. This must be done in the context of deepening institutional reforms and widening democratic spaces. With the current Philippine administration for example advocating a “straight path” in governance, overall LLL policy must also contend with the work of institutional reform while ensuring economic competitiveness.

Third, educators are challenged to concretize a LLL strategy involving the ideals of liberty and prosperity. This must be done through the use of pedagogical tools and the design of programs that reframe learning according to these values. Core competencies and learning outcomes must be explicitly situated and acquired along these lines, and learners must be allowed to demonstrate the acquisition of skills through meaningful projects that benefit communities.

In the end, liberty and prosperity can only be meaningful if it translates to the better exercise of political freedoms, deeper institutional reforms and civic involvement, as well as a more competitive economy that benefits the people rather than a few. While the philosophical foundations of liberty and prosperity are already in place, action awaits. This is the great task that the judiciary, government, academe and private sector might as well start to undertake.

[1] Holmes, Oliver. The Path of the Law. 10 Harvard Law Review 457 (1897).

[2] Panganiban, Artemio. Safeguarding the Liberty and Nurturing the Prosperity of the Peoples of the World. 82 Philippine Law Journal 178-193 (2006).

[3] ibid.

[4] ibid.

[5] British Broadcasting Corporation. “Snowden: Leaks that exposed US spy programme”. BBC US and Canada, July 1, 2013.

[6] Panganiban, Artemio. Safeguarding the Liberty and Nurturing the Prosperity of the Peoples of the World. 82 Philippine Law Journal 178-193 (2006).

[7] ibid.

[8] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sec. 22-27.

[9] Philippine Constitution, Art. 2, Sec. 9.

[10] Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity. About the FLP (2011).

[11] Schuetze, Peter. International Concepts and Agendas of Lifelong Learning. 36(3) Compare 289-306 (2006).

[12] Guile, David. The Learning Challenge of the Knowledge Economy (2010).

[13] Schuetze, Peter. International Concepts and Agendas of Lifelong Learning. 36(3) Compare 289-306 (2006).

[14] Macaranas, Federico. Lifelong Learning in the Philippines. Working Paper 198, International Labor Organization (2007).

[15] Alcantara, Patrick. Examining Theoretical Models of Knowledge and Learning in Industry: The Case of Philippine Tourism, its New Policy Rhetoric and Mandate. Masters dissertation for the Institute of Education, University of London (2013).

[16] Macaranas, Federico. Lifelong Learning in the Philippines. Working Paper 198, International Labor Organization (2007).

[17] Department of Education. The K-12 Basic Education Program (2011).

[18] Schuetze, Peter. International Concepts and Agendas of Lifelong Learning. 36(3) Compare 289-306 (2006).

[19] Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO). The K-12 Toolkit (2011).

[20] Guile, David. The Learning Challenge of the Knowledge Economy (2010).

[21] Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity. About the FLP (2011).

[22] Puig (1999) cited by Elexpuru, Itziar. Social Commitment Amongst University Students Via Service Learning. Proceedings from Educational Innovations and Reforms in Countries around the World (2011).

[23] Service Learning 2000 Center. Service Learning Quadrants (1996).

[24] Muirhead, Bruce and Woolcock, Geoffrey. Doing What We Know We Should: Engaged Scholarship and Community Development. 1 Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement 8-30 (2008).

[25] Eyler, Janet and Giles, Dwight. Where’s the Service in Service-Learning? (1999)

[26] Cipolle, Susan. Service-Learning and Social Justice: Engaging Students in Social Change. (2010)

[27] Yaniz, Concepcion and Elexpuru, Itziar. Conocimiento, Communidades de Práctica y Valores In: Dirección para la Innovación: Apertura de los Centros a la Sociedad del Conocimiento (2004).

[28] Lave, Jean and Wenger, Etienne. Situated Learning. Legitimate Peripheral Participation (1991).

[29] Alcantara, Patrick. Towards a Lifelong Approach in Higher Education: Recontextualizing Service Learning within a Culturalist Frame. Academic research for Deusto University, Spain (2012).

[30] The UP College of Law. History of the OLA (2013).

Photo Credits:

Portrait (Patrick Alcantara) by James Anthony Mina
Students touring the SC (2010) by Kristian Jeff Agustin