Home Economics Education: Addressing Concerns of the Filipino Family

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Home Economics Education: Addressing Concerns of the Filipino Family
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    _____________________________________________________________________________ The Journal of PATHESCU Vol.18,  2017 Home Economics Education: Addressing Concerns of the Filipino Family   Florenda S. Gabriel Joanne R. Bantang, PhD Consuelo T. Chua, PhD Evangeline M. Dare, PhD Eleanor A. Malicdem, PhD    Department of Home Economics Education, College of Home Economics University of the Philippines Diliman Concept of Home Economics  Home economics is a discipline explicitly concerned with the family and all aspects of family living. From the time it was founded in 1902 during a conference in Lake Placid, New York and until the present, its basic mission remains the same: to improve individual and family life amid changing social, political, economic and physical conditions (Gabriel, 1998). This mission is clearly stated in the Lake Placid Conference’ definition of home economics:   “the study of laws, conditions, principles and ideals  which are concerned on the one hand with man’s immediate physical environment, his nature as a social being, and the relationship between the two factors” (Lake Placid Conference, 1902, pp.70 -71). This definition highlights the discipline’s science -based applications in managing the household to achieve a secure and comfortable lifestyle for its members. Home Economics is unique in its holistic view of daily living. The issues and concerns about daily living of individuals and families are approached both from its physical or material and relational dimensions of life and their interaction (Florencio, 1995). In 1996, the UP College of Home Economics (CHE) faculty collectively defined home economics as “the study of families and the management of res ources available to them for the satisfaction of basic needs in changing environments” (Florencio, 1995). This comprehensive view of home economics gave rise to several sub-disciplines and professional careers. All these sub-disciplines aim to serve individuals, families and consumers in their day-to-day lives, thus remaining rooted to the fundamental mission of the main discipline (Gabriel, 1998). In 2011, the CHE faculty expanded further the definition of Home Economics to include this clarification: “ It seeks to understand the multi-dimensionality of daily living in the context of home, workplace and community by drawing from a range of disciplines (science, arts and humanities) and integrating its specialized areas within a home economics core.” Home Economics Education  Home economics education is considered the flagship sub-discipline in CHE because it covers all the fundamental skills necessary for a well-managed household. It is a field of study that integrates concepts, principles and theories for teaching the different concerns of home economics namely  –       consumer education, family and micro-entrepreneurship, livelihood education, household resource management, foods and nutrition, housing and interiors, clothing, crafts, family life, and child development. Home economics education extends this knowledge of concepts, principles and theories to the practice of life skills that enables individuals and families to deal effectively with the demands of everyday life such as finding a job, keeping a budget, problem-solving, time management, social and citizenship skills, family planning and developing a positive self-image, among others (Dictionary.com; UNICEF, 2003) The Home Economics Education Department is committed to this mission: to develop home economists who are exemplars of knowledge, skills and humanitarian values committed to enabling individuals and families to become effective members of local and global communities through quality instruction, research and extension. In the realization of this mission, the department has identified four integrative areas for curricular development, research and extension namely: (1) home economics education and training (2) consumer studies and education, (3) household resource management, and (4) entrepreneurship and livelihood development. Figure 1. Disciplinal Framework of the Home Economics Education Department (HEEd Faculty, 2006) Assumptions on Family and Family Empowerment At the heart of this framework is the Department’s vision of empowered Filipino families. Empowered families do not simply live to satisfy their needs and wants; they take charge of their own well-being and development. Empowerment means having the capacity to generate creative choices in managing their lives and helping solve problems (Hogan, 2000). Empowered families have the access to a decent source of livelihood and the capacity to sustain their needs. In fulfilling Gabriel, Bantang, Chua, Dare & Malicdem, 51-58    _____________________________________________________________________________ The Journal of PATHESCU Vol.18,  2017 their needs, empowered families consider the welfare of the future generation - thus sustainable  production and consumption are practiced. In order for the Home Economics Education Department to draft programs consistent with the discipline’s mission, it outlines these basic assumptions about families to be able to analyze and make rational responses to issues affecting their security and welfare.  1. All families have resources. All families, no matter how rich or poor, possess material and non-material resources they can utilize to improve their lives. There are resources available at all levels of the environment surrounding the individual and family system that when used responsibly can contribute significantly to their well-being. 2. There is “synergy” in living as a family unit.   Synergy is the power of two or more things that work together to produce better results than each unit can do separately. Synergy usually arises when two persons with different complementary skills cooperate. This results to a mutually advantageous conjunction where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The family, as a basic social unit, is composed of two or more people whose natural function is to work together to achieve their needs and goals. It is a unique social group composed of members with a range of demographic characteristics, personalities, and other abilities. While individual members of the family may have their respective potentials, it is when they work together as a social unit that a stronger power and capacity is created. This synergy in families makes this social unit resilient to social forces that threaten it, and a viable organization to effect social change. Families, therefore, need to recognize this synergy and harness it in order to be empowered to take control and manage their lives effectively. In fact, most efforts to improve human welfare recognize that success of development programs depend on the cooperation and  participation of the family. 3.    Families contribute to sustained community development.   Empowerment can be expressed as a continuum from a personal context to collective action (Henry, 1996). In the current global emphasis on sustainable development, participation of even the smallest social unit to collective planning and decision-making is expected. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UN FAO) recognizes the significant role of home economics in equipping individuals and families with increased competence in decision-making and resource management at the household level (Ekaas, 2000). This competence could then be used in the  broader framework of community development and policy-making. Home Economics Education has a large role to play in addressing the United Nations’ sustainable development goals especially Goal 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production. Home Economics is the only subject that provides specific emphasis on teaching individuals about the wise use of personal and household resources, and responsible consumption. It looks at the family not only as consumers but also as producers capable of producing goods and services for their own needs.  Analysis of Issues and Concerns Confronting the Filipino Family Based on the department’s views and analysis of the family, some challenges confronting the Filipino family are presented. Social problems such as poverty or marginalization, and the inability to deal positively with social changes like the rise of new family structures and and new technologies may have led to these socioeconomic issues or concerns:    1.  Misappreciation of daily living and home life.   “A large part of people’s lives take place within the family. People are born into and grow up in it; they are fed, clothed, and cared for there; they learn to live, to love, to strive to work and to achieve in the midst of the family environment” (Cebotarev, 1979, p.124). Families are central to satisfying basic needs of food, clothing, shelter and relationships. Basic needs are satisfied as family members go through daily activities taking place in the home, such as preparing food,  budgeting income, housekeeping and interacting with family members. However, social changes pushed family members to be employed, which eventually created many alternative lifestyles outside the home. This has gradually led to a decline in time spent at home and the devaluation of home and family life. Less importance is given to home economics  because of the loss of appreciation for excellence in homemaking (making the “house” a “home”) and the emphasis on the prestige of paid work. The home economics profession believes that the everyday life of humans can be improved and/or enhanced through the practical application of science to the problems and opportunities which are encountered at the household or family level. The logical approach is to start with a  plan for developing personal resources that are crucial to the successful management of family/home life. Those life situations that seem to be causing the greatest amount of difficulty will give the greatest satisfaction when overcome through the effective management of resources within and outside the family system. It would be ideal for each family member to start developing their potentials at a young age. This should be emphasized in home economics education especially at the elementary and secondary levels to make young people fully appreciate the setting of values and goals necessary for a successful family life. 2.  Ineffective utilization of family resources Although all families have resources, wellbeing rests on the effective utilization of these resources. As an economic unit, a family uses resources at its disposal to meet the demands of family members. Sustained poverty results from the lack of recognition and ineffective utilization of family resources. In order to help families rise above poverty, they should be lifted from feelings of helplessness by raising their level of consciousness concerning resources they may have but are not aware of. There are numerous programs that offer livelihood skills, micro-entrepreneurship and micro-credit but many have also failed to tap such opportunities to their advantage. Their  perspectives on generating and managing resources have not been properly addressed. With increasing awareness and appreciation of newly discovered resources, family members could be instructed to develop their management skills to help them in navigating the daily course of life. These skills involve planning to evaluating actions that would sufficiently determine whether resources are being used efficiently to achieve wellbeing goals. Decision-making is required at each step, either by one person or the group as a whole. Family members could enhance their decision-making skills through positive family communication in the context of shared meanings and values. Since the family is a system of interacting people who transact not only with each other but also with its social, economic and political environments, therefore, it could ably deal with forces or factors affecting its capability to generate and manage resources (Henry, 1996). 3.  Hampered synergy within the family There are so-called megatrends and convergent factors that pose as either challenges or opportunities to families. The search for higher income has caused individuals to find work in other regions or countries, leaving their families in the hope of finding a better life. But economic migration is a double-edged sword; it cuts both ways. While overseas work has brought economic and material benefits, studies also show the breakdown of family life leading to uncoupling of Gabriel, Bantang, Chua, Dare & Malicdem, 51-58    _____________________________________________________________________________ The Journal of PATHESCU Vol.18,  2017 once-stable marriages, parent-child conflicts, kinship squabbles and other relationship problems attributed to spousal or parental absence. (i.e. Zosa & Urbeta, 2009; Hugo, 2002). Globalization and technology is another dominant trend that lay open individuals and families to dazzling arrays of possibilities, both good and bad. While modern communication technologies serve as a link to disconnected family members, these media can also expose individuals to aggression, violence, meaningless sexual activities and false realities (Rosario-Braid, Tuazon & Lopez, 2011). Filipino families are thus confronted with social issues such as family disruptions and increasing sexual and non-sexual risk behaviors especially among the youth (Marquez, 2004; Rosario-Braid et al., 2011). However, the family remains their primary source of happiness (Virola, 2010) and is strongly valued even when there is evidence of shifting family structures and dynamics (Morillo, Capuno & Mendoza, 2013). Moreover, the critical role of the family (UN, 2010) in addressing social problems is still widely recognized (Asis, 2004). Thus, there is a great need to learn how to  become ‘family literate’ (McGregor, 2009) and to harness family synergy that would enable families to strike a balance between continuity and change. 4.  Lack of commitment to social and environmental concern Environmental and social decision-making by individuals is a complicated process considering the wide range of values, resources and goals to choose from. There is always the tendency to be swept away by unmitigated consumerism and economic materialism without the saving anchor  provided by strong moral and personal values. Thus, families need to consider the environmental and social messages as well as the values they are passing down to their children. For instance, as families grow in urban centers, the need to dispose wastes properly has become a main concern. Garbage disposal, trivial as it may seem, should therefore be a topic of concern in family circles. Aggressive efforts to curb careless disposal of wastes have not been successfully implemented due to apathy and the tendency to adhere to old habits. The pervasive throw-away-anywhere mentality, for example is not only wasteful but also detrimental to one’s health. The practice spreads toxic pollutants and caused flooding due to clogged drainage and waterways during the rainy months. Burning solid wastes, another common garbage disposal habit exposes people to deadly fumes and smoke. Unwittingly, it may also contribute to weather disturbances or climate change as combus tion on a large scale emits heat that destroy the planet’s protective ozone layer. Limitless clean air and water, low cost energy and abundant space will soon become things of the  past, and future generations may find themselves confronted with an environment that is no longer habitable or responsive to their most basic needs. If present-day households do not commit themselves to the conscientious care of the environment, the welfare of future families and communities will hang on a precarious ecological balance. A related social and environmental concern is disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM). Filipino households are highly exposed to natural hazards such as floods, typhoons, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions which may cause disruption of daily life and losses of family resources. Families with low levels of economic resources and poor social support are more vulnerable to the negative impacts of disasters. Thus, there is now a greater focus on DRRM at the family level. Helping families reduce and manage disaster risk and develop resilience should be approached from a household resource management framework and the dynamics of family and kinship support systems (Gabriel, 2016) Although people rely to a certain degree on government, environmental organizations and the academe for solutions, ultimately, they must look into the family/household system for answers and solutions. It is within this system that attitudes, habits and practices with social and environmental impact are initially formed, and sustained.
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