Teaching Ethics in Philippines Schools: 2014 World Philosophy Day

With support from Philippines NatCom’s SHS Committee, the Philosophical Association of the Philippines (PAP) organized a one-day conference on Teaching Ethics at the Ateneo de Manila University on 06 December 2014. The conference, which was also PAP’s year-end meeting was well-attended with 430 philosophy teacher and student attendees, representing various universities and colleges around the country.

The conference was designed to look into ways of pacing and aligning the teaching  of the necessary adjustments to be made in the new curriculum focused on the inclusion of subjects normally offered in college-level philosophy courses, such as Edukasyon sa Pagpapakatao, and more generally the integration of philosophy-themed subjects in the K-12 system.

Over 400 philosophy educators and students participated in the 2014 national celebration of World Philosophy Day.

Dr. Agustin Martin Rodriguez, chairperson of Ateneo’s Department of Philosophy, opened the conference, pointing out that the current curriculum changes provide an avenue for “possibilizing” creative approaches to teaching ethics, and that these changes provide a novel opportunity for those in the education sector to shape the minds of millions of students in the years to come. More than anything, he said that this also gives space for philosophy teachers to be creative in their approaches in teaching ethics, as most methods of teaching ethics rely heavily on historical approaches.

Dr. Rainer Ibana, Vice Chairperson of the SHS Committee elaborated on how the Philippines could contribute to the larger philosophical community in terms of approaches to teaching philosophy in basic education classes. Citing Fr. Roque Ferriols, S.J., eminent Filipino philosopher, Dr. Ibana emphasized the philosophical importance of articulating one's insights, and how this focus enables students of philosophy to regard the world in a philosophical manner, while providing them as well with the necessary tools for introspection and reflection. He underscored that these current efforts should also translate to teaching philosophy in a creative and insightful manner in response to the challenges brought about by one's multifaceted experiences in the classroom, and in the world in general.

Dr. Rainier Ibana, Vice Chairperson of NatCom SHS Committee and Philosophy Professor of Ateneo De Manila University opens the conference.

Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles, Vice President of the Ateneo Professional Schools, in her keynote address shared her experience in teaching ethics, backed up by more than a two-decade background in the education sector. Agreeing with the two previous speakers, she emphasized how the students’ context and experiences should always be the starting point in teaching ethics, as opposed to strictly theory-based approaches. She added that theory, while essential in the teaching of ethics, should not be the end point of any ethical inquiry; theories of ethics, for her, provide the tools for discernment and insight that influence one's ethical decision-making. The end point of any teaching methodology in ethics, therefore, is the strengthening of the ability of the student to engage in ethical inquiry and ethical decision-making.

Dr. Antonette Palma-Angeles keynotes the 2014 Philosophical Association of the Philippines (PAP) Conference.

Dr. Angeles' keynote address set the tone for the day's presenters, each within their own respective expertise in ethical theories. While expounding on their respective philosophical traditions, each presenter’s main aim was to show/demonstrate the possibility of teaching ethics creatively, away from purely historical approaches. The presenters who were mostly PAP Members and Ateneo Professors of Philosophy include Dr. Manuel Dy who discussed Eastern Philosophy; Dr. Agustin Rodriguez who elaborated on Max Scheler's hierarchy of values; Dr. Jesus Principe who presented two aspects of Plato's Politeia; and Dr. Jean Tan who discussed the concept of virtues in Aristotelian ethics.


The afternoon session featured more presentations, including those by young Professors of Philosophy from the Ateneo de Manila University: Dr. Tomas Rosario who expounded on St. Thomas' natural law ethics; Dr. Oscar Bulaong, Jr. who reflected on Kant's deontological ethics; and Dr. Jacqueline Cleofas with her thoughts on utilitarianism and how the recent debates concerning consequentialism can provide a good counterbalance to utilitarian ethics. Finally, UP Professor of Philosophy Dr. Zosimo Lee discussed John Rawls' A Theory of Justice, specifically on the Rawlsian idea of justice as fairness.


The breakout sessions were divided into five themes: (1) business ethics, which was sponsored by Ateneo de Manila University; (2) environmental ethics, headed by Miriam College; (3) research ethics, organized by University of Sto. Tomas; (4) gender ethics, spearheaded by the De La Salle University; and finally, (5) bioethics led by the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. These sessions were done to reflect the specific challenges that ethics educators face, specifically on the difficult questions that students have to confront when they study ethics.

One of the five breakout sessions focused on environmental ethics,  which was chaired by Miriam College.