Guest speaker, dean Giovanni Tapang, associate deans, college secretary College of Science staff and faculty, parents, guests, fellow graduates, good afternoon.
Whenever someone asks physics majors what we study and we answer “physics,” it is always followed by “wow physics, ang hirap nyan a!” and I bet that this is true for all the programs here at the College of Science. Allow me to dive deeper into this notion of the difficulty in pursuing this field.
Back in high school, a physics career talk speaker showed us a video of the milky way galaxy. “As vast as the universe is, only one in a million get to study it,” she told us. It felt as though physics, and science in general, held an air of complexity and exclusivity, placing us in an ivory tower where only the brightest could succeed. Maybe it was my blind optimism or my fresh high school graduate ego or both, but I decided to pursue the field—I wanted to be that one-in-a-million.
But as I pursued physics and science, I realized that its difficulty lies beyond the nature of the subject. More than the impossible-to-prove equations or the unimaginable theories, the heaviest hardships in pursuing our field lies because we, as a country, are not equipped to do it. We have an entire public high school that shares just one science laboratory. We have an entire class of 100 students sharing just one microscope. Some of our high school science teachers are not really equipped with the training on how to operate laboratories.
And what does the government do to solve these issues? Year after year, the budget for the education and research and development sector continues to lag behind the United Nation’s standard. For one, the education sector is only allotted about 2.4% of our gross domestic product compared to the 6% UN standard. The share for research and development does not even reach 1% of the GDP. We see this lag in the overworked and underpaid high school and even college teachers. We see this lag during the height of the pandemic when our country took one of the longest times to reopen our schools. We felt it as we, students of science, were not able to perform experiments in laboratories for at least two years. Closer to home, we see this in the plight of our research and teaching assistants with delayed wages lasting for four to seven months.
As of 2019, the Philippines only has 189 scientists per million people—a far cry from the ideal ratio of 380 per million population. How do we expect more people to pursue science when they have all of these odds against them?
The truth is, science should not be so difficult to pursue. It should be an arm’s reach to every child who ever looked at the night sky and dreamed of one-day exploring galaxies. It should not have to be a resilience story of going through mountains and rivers just to receive the education that everyone is entitled to. It should not be a one-in-a-million feat to be standing with us today.
This is where the challenge to us, future scientists, lies: Let us strive to be scientists who do not build on the ivory tower that this field is in. Instead, let us pave the way for a future generation who do not need to work ten times harder just because the systems in place are against them. Let us inspire them to be scientists who find applications in the theories learned in class.
After today, we will be taking different paths, but we should always remember whom we owe all of these to, and whom all these are for. The world is a laboratory; it is imperative for us to find scientific solutions to problems faced by society. Graduating batch of 2023, let us make science serve the people. ●
This address was delivered during the 2023 recognition rites of the College of Science graduating students earlier today, July 29. Summa cum laude graduate Ricaña served the publication as a Features staffer. She started writing for the Collegian in 2020.
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Ang hirap pala kapag ako na ang nakatatanggap ng mga pangungumusta mo, ng mga kwento mo, ng mga ngiti mo.
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