Theory and Practice – the CenPEG Way
August 16, 2016
Immanuel Kant once said, “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.” In line with this idea is the approach of UP Manila’s Political Science Practicum Program which emphasizes a balance between theory and practice.
As a partner institution of the said program, the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) coordinates and designs its projects and activities to raise the students’ ability to test theories as well as their level of awareness and involvement in governance matters, especially with concerns relating to empowering people at the grassroots through research, policy study, advocacy, legislative and other interventions.
For its 2016 Practicum Program, CenPEG supervised 15 students to primarily carry out research regarding the people’s reform agenda in three main areas – agrarian reform and labor (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program versus Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill); social welfare and community services (An Analysis of the Plight of the Urban Poor and Policy Recommendations); as well as electoral reform (Debunking Political Myths Propagated about the Automated Election System) – under the new Duterte administration.
The general methodology in the program was not just limited to desk and/or library research, but CenPEG also collaborated with sectoral and advocacy groups as well as with corresponding government departments including Anakpawis, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Department of Agrarian Reform under Sec. Rafael Mariano, Kadamay, Department of Social Welfare and Development under Secretary Taguiwalo and the broad election watchdog, AES Watch, to facilitate the students’ fieldwork or immersion in selected communities for interviews, consultations, focus group or roundtable discussions.
Students went to various communities in Camarin, Payatas, San Roque and Montalban to take a first-hand look at the conditions of people living and working in the said areas. With the assistance of partner organizations, they were also accommodated by foster families over a weekend to help them be acquainted with the problems these communities continuously face that necessitate government action.
Aside from the immersions, the students also joined different national events as participant observers as well as to conduct interviews with department heads, sectoral leaders, academics and ordinary citizens. These included the National People’s Summit; ASCENT’s Development and Humanitarian Workers Forum; Inauguration Rally for President Duterte; and CenPEG’s State of the Presidency roundtable discussion.
In addition, the students wrote daily journals during their practicum experience with CenPEG as well as reflection papers on specific events they have attended while doing their research.
Genry Criscel Consul wrote how the practicum program gave her the opportunity to test in the field her knowledge, skills and values as a UP Manila Political Science Program major. “From the immersion, and the practicum in general, I think I have developed my leadership skills more. As a member of an organization that promotes and hones leadership and potential, I have used what I learned in this immersion and the practicum in general.”
On the other hand, Matthew Richard said that after such experience, he has reflected more on his values of social justice as well as his personal and civic responsibilities. “Everyone I met during the immersion deserves to be commended. They are industrious, well-informed, and very positive — far different from how they are portrayed in the media. It is also not true that the reason why they remain poor is that they are lazy. The problem here lies in the system that we all know is oppressive especially to the poor.”
Aliah Ann Francia described how CenPEG helped enrich and enhance their overall practicum experience by integrating both theory and practice into the program. “The community immersion made us realize that while you can learn many theories and ideologies in class, while you may be exposed to the poor’s struggles through the media, while you can always have an open mind when listening to their stories, the only way to really understand them is through immersing yourself in their way of living. I feel grateful for having been given the chance to experience this because we learned a lot in such a short span of time.” Contributed by Danica Panelo CenPEG News