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Crimson Crux

Pseudo-techblog where the Corsarius gets serious. Visit blog.corsarius.net for his alter ego.

Shift Ka Na Ba?

Sunday, June 19, 2005 at 12:40 PM

[With UP DIliman ushering in a new academic year, this September 2004 editorial of The UP Parser is due for a reprint. I believe the topic is still relevant; I just edited the few anachronisms in the original article.]

Is the university's Computer Science program still in?

There was a time when only a select few would be admitted to CS, a program which may be truly called a 'quota course'. Then came the IT boom of the 90s, a period which found our department opening wide its doors to the flood of students intent on making it into the rich and promising IT world. This resulted in the Department of Computer Science (DCS) expanding the freshmen quota to 120, a number which still stands today.

But recently, there seems to be a slide in CS interest. While the number of freshmen enrollees has remained steady, more and more scholars are shifting out to other courses, some in their first year of stay. This may be attributed to the difficult subjects in the BS CS program, with students not finding the course comfortable or endurable at all. But the one reason which the department itself suggests is that incoming scholars regard CS as just a means of entering into UP Diliman. This may sound unbelievable for all the CS students who bit nail and toe praying for entrance into the CS program.

But as Dr. Ronald Tuñgol, former department chair*, puts it, the increasing number of shiftees has its benefits. This unwanted 'pruning' leaves behind the cream of the crop, the students who truly have the desire and fervor to learn CS, the scholars whose minds are adept and capable of handling the duress of rigorous training. Also, a lesser number of students means an enhanced quality of education: student-to-computer ratio improves, instructor handling of classes gets better, and so on. In short, the resources needed for education, both tangible and intangible, are concentrated on a more manageable student population.

And these advantages may very well be the edge that a UP CS graduate needs in the tough IT world. Here in the country, the UP grad, frequently nitpicked for his or hers shortcomings in communication skills, faces gritty competition from Ateneo and De La Salle alumni, and even from the 'Microsoft babies', the AMA-CU students. Outside of the Philippines, Pinoy IT professionals face even more daunting contenders in IT-wise nationals such as the English-proficient, low-cost-labor Indians, already major players in the outsourcing market (read: call centers, software development).

So while the perceived dip in interest in UP Diliman's CS program may seem disappointing, it may go a long way in helping students who are serious and diligent in their attempts to become the new players in the IT world. Who knows, maybe everyone's vision of UP's BS CS being the unquestioned finest Computer Science program in the country will cease to be a mere castle in the sky.

*Dr. Cedric Festin is the new Department Chair effective this semester. Dr. Tuñgol is on leave for AY 2005-06.

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Anonymous Fleeb @ 6/20/2005 1:53 AM

Wow, we are talking the same language.

010010011101010110101... Ehehehe, not that language...

I want to stress out some points that I have in mind.

Companies have lately raised IT employees' salary rates because of the trend that there less and less students taking up CS. Aside from that, there are also companies that laid off their local employees to outsource the jobs to (just like you said) India and China, where people are happy with not as big a salary.

I have also read from somewhere, I forgot if it was here, that the state of Computer Science in the Philippines in general is like curving down - that instead of creating software many colleges are teaching how to use specific software, and knowing HTML is already programming (yes, yes, it's just markup like in wordstar - which I rarely used when I was in grade school).

Something evil is dictating something to me... that it would seem to be an advantage if less students are taking CS because the law of supply and demand will work it out ;) hehehe.    

Blogger Corsarius @ 6/20/2005 10:43 AM

Those are good points you have raised there, friend.

In UP Diliman's CS program, students are extensively trained in a myriad of fields, which includes (but are not limited to) database programming, software engineering, exposure to a multitude of programming languages (C, Java, Python, Haskell, Perl, Tcl/Tk, LISP, and Prolog to name a few) and the theoretical aspects of computer science (algorithms, automata).

This makes for a wholistic CS education. Sadly, not all "CS graduates" of the country truly appreciate computer science, just like what you've implied. Teaching how to use specific software is akin to giving a man a fish; teaching how to make software is similar to teaching a man how to fish.

01010100101010011101...hehe, that code doesn't stand for anything. I just suddenly remembered the funny (albeit geeky) quote on the UP Diliman CS shirt: There are 10 kinds of people: Those who understand binary and those who don't. :D    

Anonymous Fleeb @ 6/20/2005 1:15 PM

I have heard about that quote, but I was just referencing to machine "language" hehehe.

I got a question, I am planning to take an MS in CS there in UP (either D or LB) and I can't seem to locate all the information I needed in the UP website. Do you have any idea for the requirements, like for example diploma, transcript, etc, and all other relevant infos, or do you know where I can look for it?


Blogger Corsarius @ 6/20/2005 4:30 PM

I suggest you take the MS here in Diliman. Hehe, biased :D Anyway, I am a Student Assistant in the Department of Computer Science, and so I was able to ask around.

Our Department's secretary, Ate Mila, told me the best place to inquire about MS courses in the College of Engineering is in the Graduate Office (just call the UPD trunkline, then local 5519).

However, should you wish to talk to a prof for in-depth info about MS subjects, you can call us here at 9252366. :)

I hope this helps.

P.S. Have already checked out the CS Department's webpage on the Graduate program? An application form can be found there, I think. :)    

Anonymous Fleeb @ 6/20/2005 5:02 PM

Thanks. I already went to the site and downloaded the application months ago. I am still thinking over some things.

When I read this though, http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/tech_job_decline

I thought that maybe I should also try some business management course in addition...    

Blogger Corsarius @ 6/21/2005 12:39 AM

Oh, I see. :) Yep, that article is quite demoralizing for programmers. I actually want to have a job which isn't fully "computer science", meaning one which also uses business management techniques (I think a course on this will help a lot) and writing.

But when you graduate from UP Diliman's CS program/s, you're actually equipped to be more than a garden-variety programmer. I know some CS people who have been immediately sent to the US for training, and those who became general managers of business establishments with just the smallest of relationships with computer science.

Ah. Where did my dream of being a journalist and creative writer go? Hehe :)    

Blogger transience @ 6/21/2005 6:58 PM

and with you writing for a cause, things will only look up!    

Blogger Corsarius @ 6/21/2005 9:40 PM

trans, thanks for the morale booster ;) as if people read editorials ::cough cough::    

Blogger ia @ 6/25/2005 10:59 PM

I agree. The law of supply and demand shall provide. Plus we're all pretty sure there is no turning back into un-computerization, right?    

Blogger Corsarius @ 6/25/2005 11:04 PM

Right! Though when the program is screwed up or your coding is producing trash, you start to think otherwise :p    

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