The University of the Philippines – College of Home Economics strongly disputes the statement of Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture, to provisionally remove Home Economics (HE) and focus on “key subjects” like Math, Science, Reading, and English; when school begins in August. HE is an equally essential subject because it teaches life skills that are beneficial to individuals, families, and the larger community, which now more than ever, is necessary due to the challenges brought about by the pandemic and community quarantine.
In the current COVID 19 pandemic outbreak, Filipino families of all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds are faced with a multitude of insecurities and challenges – threat to health and life, lack of physical and economic access to basic necessities of life, and breakdown in family communication among others. This disaster has greatly disrupted the daily lives of families and it will continue to change lives even in the “new normal”. According to the United Nations (n.d.), “It is the families who bear the brunt of the crisis [COVID 19 Pandemic], sheltering their members from harm, caring for out-of-school children and, at the same time, continuing their work responsibilities.”Families are forced to be self-sufficient and minimize contact with the outside world in order to reduce exposure to COVID-19. Families have to rely on their households’ human and material resource stock to address their everyday needs. The enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) paralyzed individuals and families who are now feeling anxious for their health and safety, and has even forced many families to be physically separated, making effective family communication even more important.
Home Economics is the most relevant subject in times of disaster
Home economics enables families to effectively navigate this new way of living. Teaching children proper HE skills in the areas of household resource management, consumer education, food preparation and preservation, hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, entrepreneurship, and clothing; will enhance their ability to cope with these changes. Without HE skills, families will struggle to find ways to acquire resources and effectively manage these. It is for this very reason that families should be all the more equipped with knowledge and skills that will ensure their safety and effective management of their limited resources – thus HE has become even more important.
Home Economics integrates fundamental skills in real-life lessons
“Home Economics is a discipline explicitly concerned with the family and all aspects of family living” (Gabriel, et.al., 2017, p. 51). The UP College of Home Economics defines HE as “the study of families and the management of resources available to them for the satisfaction of basic needs in changing environments” (University of the Philippines-College of Home Economics Catalogue 2006-2010, p.2; Florencio, 1995). HE draws from a range of disciplines, such as the sciences, arts, and humanities, to understand the different aspects of day-to-day living. It is through HE that those other subjects mentioned by Senator Gatchalian can actually be brought into practical use. Science, mathematics, arts and language come alive in HE when students study recipe conversion and preparation of cheap but nutritious meals, self-expression in clothing and crafts, appropriate use of social media, and preparing business plans for entrepreneurial ventures. Clearly, its role in basic education is multifaceted and critical.
Home Economics strengthens productivity and self-sufficiency
In the current situation where millions of families are forced out of jobs, one viable option for survival is entrepreneurship. Home economics, through livelihood education and entrepreneurship, teaches families to make productive use of their resources to earn a living. “Managing resources refers to both maximizing available human and non-human resources, as well as making productive use of these to sustain the needs of families. This is where the role of entrepreneurship in HE comes into play. Entrepreneurship provides the family with a sustainable source of income so that it can provide for its basic needs and improve its standard of living” (Chua, 2018, pp. 50-51). Since the implementation of the ECQ in different parts of the country, many individuals have creatively applied their skills–in baking, cooking and sewing masks, for instance–to earn a living. With the help of technology for some, they were able to connect with and sell their products to other families who are also affected by the quarantine. Entrepreneurship is one of the core topics in elementary and high school home economics. If HE is temporarily removed, where else can students formally learn this very important life skill?
Home Economics teaches life skills essential for survival and recovery
The ECQ has likewise forced families to rely on home production to satisfy daily needs such as food and clothing. Food preparation has become an even more essential skill for families. In the same manner, food preservation is necessary to allow families and even micro entrepreneurs to prolong the shelf life of food. Since movement is restricted and people are confined to their living spaces for an indefinite period of time, families must go back to the basic life skills— home economics skills. They must know how to whip up meals using limited available ingredients. They must budget and stretch their financial resources to feed their families. And when material resources are either limited or inaccessible, families should learn how to make the most of their available human resources to compensate for the lack of the latter. At the same time, families should ensure that the meals they prepare are nutritious and safe to consume. HE in the basic education level teaches children the concepts and principles of food preparation and safety, thus the greater reason to retain this subject in schools.
Aside from managing household resources to earn and feed their families, household heads face the challenge of finding new ways of promoting family members’ wellbeing within the confines of their homes. They must know how to be full-time teachers or caregivers to their family members – both young and old. Family interaction inside the home should also incorporate the teaching of life skills to children, deepening family interaction or bonds, and honing family decision-making and communication among other things.
Families must adjust to this new normal where either everyone in the family is together 24/7 or separated due to the community lockdown. They must know how to handle the multitude of emotions and thoughts that could lead to feelings of distress. They must know how to find new income channels for those who lost their jobs. These are just some of the life skills that form part of what HE teaches. Where else will our youth learn all these essential skills for survival and adaptation in a world that has changed in such a short time and is still changing? HE offers skills for life. This short statement alone says so much about its profound importance in education.
Call for action
Home Economics undoubtedly helps individuals and families in different areas of their daily living. Currently, Filipino families are faced with a challenging situation that they have never experienced nor imagined. HE assists individuals and families on how to effectively adapt to changing situations in society because it deals with people, their resources, and their life situations. Whether or not they will succeed in responding to this challenge relies greatly on the family management skills, resource management skills, and other life skills that they possess. Therefore, instead of removing HE from the curriculum, we call for the strengthening of home economics in the TLE subject. Home economics is a vital subject area, especially in the basic education level for it is the only subject that teaches the most essential tools for survival in these most trying times.
Chua, C.T. (2018). The place of entrepreneurship in home economics and its role in alleviating poverty. Quezon City: The Journal of the Philippine Association for Technology in Home Economics in State Colleges and Universities (PATHESCU) Inc., 19, 47-57.
Florencio, C.A. (1995). The College of Home Economics at the University of the Philippines : what it was, what it is, what it wants to be and the process of becoming. Quezon City: College of Home Economics, University of the Philippines.
Gabriel, F.S., Bantang, J.R., Chua,C.T., Dare, E.M., &Malicdem, E.A. (2017). Home economics education: Addressing concerns of the Filipino family. The Journal of PATHESCU Inc., 18, 51-58.
United Nations (n.d.). Families in Development: Copenhagen & Beijing + 25. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/en/observances/international-day-of-families.
University of the Philippines – College of Home Economics Catalogue 2006-2010.