Universities and schools

Philippines has seen a staggering increase in the number of journalism schools and institutions offering either a journalism or mass media course in the past few decades. In 1970, only 13 institutions offer degree programmes either in communication or journalism. In 2006, this figure ballooned to 291 institutions offering journalism as either a degree programme or a subject (Chua, 2006). These journalism schools started as a department or program subsumed under the broader fields of communication or liberal arts and became separate and independent institutions over time.

Most of the institutions offering journalism courses are in Metro Manila, albeit there is a growth in the number of schools offering mass communication and journalism courses outside the capital region. The Metro-based schools include the Journalism Department of the University of the Philippines, awarded with the ‘Center of Excellence’ recognition by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), and University of Sto. Tomas (UST), which has the longest running journalism programme in the country. The largest state university in the country, the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), also has a journalism programme based in Metro Manila. Both UST and PUP were awarded with the ‘Center of Development’ recognition. Outside Metro Manila, one of the most notable journalism schools is the Silliman University, the first journalism school to be established outside the capital region.

Although the number of communication and journalism schools increased drastically since the 1970s, there are only 18 institutions offering degree programmes specific to journalism as of 2006 (Commission on Higher Education, 2005). Many courses deal with communication in general, with journalism as a specialization.

There is no publicly available data on the recent number of journalism and mass communication programmes nationwide. What is available is the data on the enrollment rate and number of graduates in the ‘Mass communication and documentation’ area – the number of graduates in 2018 is a little over 29,000, an increase of about 2,000 from 2008 figures (Commission on Higher Education, 2018). However, this data does not include institutions that subsumed journalism under humanities programmes.

The Bachelor of Arts programme in Journalism (BA Journalism), as prescribed by the CHEd, should have a total of 140 units (usually a four-year programme). More than a quarter of the total number of credits is allotted to general education courses (36 units) and about half (60 units) are allotted to core and required courses (journalism and communication theory courses and internship). Institutions that were granted the status of ‘autonomy’, or autonomous from CHEd, are free to modify the prescribed credit load. Recently, the CHEd endorsed a new programme, the Bachelor in Journalism programme, which is a ‘professional non-thesis degree’ with the lesser number of units allotted to core and required courses (a three-year programme as opposed to the four-year BA Journalism course).

There is no systematic empirical research evaluating the state of journalism education in the country, but there is a 2006 descriptive study that aims to provide an overview (see Gapasin, Mirandilla, San Pascual, and Sanqui, 2006). In this study, the authors observed that journalism education in the country, by and large, struggles with ‘theory versus practice’ debates in setting educational standards (an offshoot of the longstanding industry versus academe divide in journalism), poorly qualified teaching personnel, and lack of necessary facilities, equipment, and materials. However, the general objective of the journalism education system is still to cater to the demands of the industry, or to perpetuate the norms and standards of the industry rather than be its corrective or critic.

Although the CHEd specifies that journalism faculty should have at least a master’s degree and at least five years of journalism experience, this is not always the case in many institutions. Tuazon (2006, cited by Chua, 2006) said that only a fifth of journalism educators have work experience, while some have an educational background that is not only tangential to journalism. Teodoro (2006, cited by Gapasin et al., 2006) noted that ‘a closer look at the qualifications of the teachers reveal that some come from disciplines that are not even remotely connected to journalism or communication’ (p.106).

Another dilemma lies on the contradiction in the role of the journalism educator: should they cater to the demands of the industry or should they focus on the standards of academic work? This contradiction, which is often resolved in favor of the industry-centered perspective, is the reason there are many journalism departments or institutions with a few number of PhD holders as faculty or without a strong academic research tradition. While many practitioners see nothing wrong with this situation, several scholars have recently called for a journalism education tradition that aims to prepare students for ushering or coping with disruptions in the field (technological, economic, and epistemological disruptions) instead of simply reproducing current industry standards (Folkerts, Lemann, and Hamilton, 2013; Hirst, 2010; Mensing, 2010).

Despite so much scholarly and professional interest in technological disruptions as drivers of change in the field, trends like big data journalism and algorithmisation of newswork (as journalism as a practice becomes increasingly influenced by computer algorithms based on user behavior or preferences) appear to be remotely considered in journalism curricula of most institutions. This is probably because such trends have yet to manifest in significant levels in Philippine newswork. Moreover, especially in schools outside Metro Manila, the quality, inadequacy or lack of facilities and equipment for digital reporting hinders educators and institutions from keeping pace with emerging standards. This begs for empirical research on how the pervasiveness of social media and other digital trends are accommodated into journalism curricula, and what messo and macro factors influence this.

In the basic education level, meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) has long been conducting journalism conferences and competitions from the district to the national levels. In some elementary and high schools, journalism is offered as an extra-curricular subject to selected students. However, according to many public school teachers, journalism is ‘not a priority’ because it is not part of the ‘Basic Education Curriculum’ (Estella, 2018). Fortunately, in 2017, DepEd started to offer a ‘Special Program for Journalism’ in the senior high school level, which acts as a bridge between basic education and college. In the tertiary level, CHEd also conducts journalism conferences and competitions nationwide.