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Filipino curriculum gets go signal from Hawaii legislature

Lalaine Ignao | TFC News Honolulu, Hawaii

Posted at Jul 30 2022 02:55 PM

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Student leaders in Hawaii are making sure they're making a mark in the community particularly when it comes to education.

Hawaii’s House and Senate recently passed a resolution, asking the Department of Education (DOE) to implement an elective social studies course on Filipino history, culture, and identity called the Filipino Curriculum Project. State legislators also called on the DOE to recruit and identify teachers who can teach the course.

Lawmakers believe the curriculum will help improve the understanding of Filipinos who make up a quarter of Hawaii’s population.

"Now that we've gotten it at the legislative level, I think that's so important, because policy or enacting these types of things is truly what sets the change and makes sure that it happens, that it's implemented," Waipahu High School student Mariah Ramo noted.

A group of high school and college students, guided by local Hawaii educators, has been working in the last year to create lesson plans and push for more Filipino representation in the classroom.

"I'm doing this for the next generation of Filipinos who think that their Filipino heritage is not worth talking about, and they think that it's not very important. So this is definitely for them," University of Hawaii West Oahu student Raymart Billote said.

The idea to create a Filipino-focused curriculum was initiated by high school junior Marissa Halagao when she noticed a lack of Filipino content in her class coursework at Punahou School.

"That was something that I wanted to change, because having representation as a Filipino is so important for me, because I believe that all students should be able to see themselves seen and being represented and this is just really empowering for us as Filipinos to have our culture, our history, our heritage, being represented in a classroom setting," Halagao stressed.

Meanwhile, Kapolei High School student Lauren Watarida stressed that the course is not only for Filipino students.

"This course is for anyone of any ethnicity who wants to learn about Filipino culture, or if you aren't going to take the course or aren't particularly interested in Filipino culture, we strongly advocate for representing yourself," Watarida said.

Six of Oahu's high schools have pledged to use the curriculum in their classes. The Filipino Curriculum Project is expected to be implemented in the next few years.