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Rizal at the University of Santo Tomas 1877-1882

Jose Rizal, having completed his Bachiller en Artes at the Ateneo Municipal, was now eligible for higher education at a university. His mother, Doña Teodora, had second thoughts about sending her son to school because of the previous incident involving the execution of friars Gomez, Burgos and Zamora. However, it was Don Francisco who decided his son should to the University of Santo Tomas, a prestigious institution run by the Dominican order.

Rizal, upon entering the university, was not certain which course of study he wanted to pursue. The Jesuit priests who had been his former mentors had advised him to take up farming, or to join the order and be a man of the cloth. However, his tastes went towards law, literature, or medicine. In the end, he decided to sign up for Philosophy and Letters during his freshman year because of the following reasons:
  1. It was what his father would have wanted for him.
  2. He had failed to seek the advice of the rector of the Ateneo, Father Ramon Pablo.
As part of the course, he had to complete units in the following subjects:
  • Cosmology and Metaphysics
  • Theodicy
  • History of Philosophy
His report card was very impressive:

Shifting to Medicine
After completing his first year, Rizal decided to take up medicine as his university course. This change of heart was due to two factors:
  1. Father Ramon Pablo, rector of the Ateneo, had advised him to pursue the course.
  2. Rizal's mother had failing eyesight and he thought he owed it to her to become a doctor and cure her condition. 
Rizal's performance at the University of Santo Tomas was not as excellent as his time at the Ateneo. His grades after shifting to medicine had suffered as well:
Why the poor performance?
Unfortunately, Rizal was not happy at UST and this reflected on his grades (Zaide & Zaide, 1999). There were three main factors that contributed to his unhappiness at the university, namely:
  1. The Dominican professors were hostile to him.
  2. Filipino students suffered discrimination.
  3. The method of instruction at UST was obsolete and repressive.
Likewise, there were three main reasons for his struggling academic performance (Guerrero, 1998):
  1. Rizal was not satisfied with the system of education at the university.
  2. There were plenty of things to distract a young man in the peak of his youth.
  3.  Medicine was not Rizal's true vocation.
He would later find out that his real calling was in the arts, not in medicine. 

For more information on the above factors leading to Rizal's poor academic performance and how he reflected his university life in his books, click here.

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