Towards Reconciliation with Nature, Human Society and God

[Keynote Address:  University Awards Convocation, Gymnasium, Ateneo de Naga University, 17 August 2018]

 

Let me express how happy I am to come home to Ateneo de Naga University.  It is here where after Fr. Raul Bonoan SJ had led the Ateneo to university status then suddenly died without permission, that I spent twelve years of my life in your service as University President.  It was during this tenure that I was privileged to meet both Doña Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal-Collantes and Bishop Joel Baylon, my episcopal tukayo.  On today’s happy occasion, we commend the organization named after Doña Chito.  For years it has practiced admirable compassion, generosity, and liberating support for our less-privileged brothers and sisters as they lifted up their lives through scholarships, gainful work opportunities, affordable housing, and capacity building projects. We also commend a perpetually youthful but now revered bishop whose courageous voice helped keep forces of avarice and greed from destroying our environment, our common home, and helped shield the victims of drug trafficking from the inordinate violence of the State wielded in a war on drugs.  Both are yet works in progress; but both already deserve the honor that we are honored to accord them.

With great joy, I congratulate the Doña Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal Foundation – Bikol (CCMF – Bikol) for receiving the Ateneo de Naga University’s Bulawang Bikolnon Service to Bikol Award.  Likewise, I congratulate Bishop Joel Z. Baylon, D.D. as recipient of the University’s Bishop Jorge Barlin Service to the Church Award.

The description of the Bulawang Bikolnon Award says that “the awardee must be one who has contributed greatly to Bikol culture and development; one who has distinguished himself or herself in his or her field in service to Bikol.”  Being a lady of outstanding education, culture and wealth, Doña Chito was bothered by the predominant culture of poverty in the Bikol of her origins.  She was bothered by pervasive poverty throughout the land.  She wanted to help the poor.  In 2004, she wanted to help the poor big time – with 200 million pesos!  But she had a little problem.  She didn’t quite seem to know how to spend it.  It was providential that I learned about her problem through her niece, Susanna “Chu-Chu” Madrigal-Eduque, at whose wedding to my cousin Mandy, I had officiated.  Being good at spending money, I gamely told Doña Chito I could use 200 million for the poor of Bikol.  Having had worked with the urban poor of San Pedro Resettlement and Commonwealth for many years, I had many ideas about how money could be spent for the poor. Happily, Doña Chito believed me, presumably with a little coaching from Chu-Chu.  I submitted a concept paper to her.  Out of that eventually emerged the Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal Foundation or “CCMF.”

Doña Chito was a deeply religious person.  She named Most Rev. Leonardo Z. Legaspi, a Dominican, and myself, a Jesuit, as co-directors of the CCMF.  Presumably, the Dominican-Jesuit combination would cover all the bases in necessary sanctity and worldly cunning.  With her initial funding the Foundation took root in Bikol.  The four-story CCMF Center for Social Entrepreneurship was built on the site of the old Jesuit Residence in the ADNU campus. From the viewpoint of ADNU, the Center was a vehicle of the ADNU’s self-understanding and self-realization of itself as a Filipino, Catholic and Jesuit university in Bikol. Its entrepreneurial scholars were part of that university’s instruction and outreach functions, but also a strategic part of the Foundation’s war on poverty.  It was home for the CCMF scholars.  But with Fr. Wilmer Tria as its Executive Director, it was also the Foundation’s war room against poverty.  From here the CCMF projects were planned, implemented and monitored, the most important being scholarships, housing for the poor and micro-finance.  Because of its demonstrated vibrancy and strength, CCMF-Bikol was separately incorporated in 2009.

Doña Chito believed the CCMF’s programs were “strategic interventions for the poor.” She believed that providing the poor with material agency to lift themselves out of poverty was better than easy hand-outs.  Through these interventions, they would learn to depend on their skills instead of the sympathy of donors.   The varied projects pursued by the CCMF–Bikol over fourteen years have since helped thousands of Bikolanos break away from their culture of passivity, helplessness and dependency to develop a culture of self-improvement, financial discipline, entrepreneurship, and of human flourishing.

We are reminded of the statement of the 36th General Congregation of the Society of Jesus that “the poor challenge us to return constantly to what is essential to the Gospel, to what really gives life, and to recognize that which merely burdens us.” Central to the Gospel is Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), who comes “to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10).

Through its service to the poor in our society, the Foundation labors with Christ as part of the Church and part of the University to bring the fullness of life to “the least” of the Lord’s sisters and brothers; it serves as an arm of Christ resurrected yet still carrying his Cross in our world, reminding us that our mission is to transform a pervading culture of suffering and alienation into a culture of greater humanity.

In this context, we laud the CCMF-Bikol for its labors to empower the poor of Bikol through education, microfinance and microfinanced entrepreneurship.  Since its foundation, 140 students have graduated from college through the support of CCMF-Bikol.  Today, some 12,000 microfinanced entrepreneurs are supported through ten different centers in Bikol all benefitting from a loan-portfolio of 45 million pesos.

Affordable housing is offered to the homeless of Bikol through its signature housing program: the Christian-Housing-Integrating-Trade-and-Ownership Program or the “CHITO-Program” which powerfully combines meeting housing demands of the poor with the challenge to the beneficiaries to pay for the housing through CCMF micro-financed entrepreneurship. Since its initial project, which Fr. Wilmer and I blessed, the community has expanded into three subdivisions. We have two of them—Vicente Heights and Consuelo Heights—in Pacol, Naga City. The third one is in Vinzons, Camarines Sur.

Doña Chito would cringe, I think, were the impression to be given today that we honor only her.  We honor the CCMF-Bikol as a community, not only its Founder and inspiration, but all who in the name of the Church and the University have involved themselves in its work, most remarkably its Executive Director, Fr. Wilmer Tria, who beyond his involvement in philosophy, seminary formation, the advancement of Bikol culture, ADNU’s Publications Office as its director, and now the parish of St. Jude Thaddeus as its parish priest, continues to guide CCMF-Bikol according to the mind of the Church and the inspiration of Doña Chito.  We also honor the thousands of beneficiaries of CCMF-Bikol who in poverty have not capitulated to penury and indignity, but have taken steps through the assistance of CCMF-Bikol themselves to improve their lives and become assets to society.

Meanwhile, in his dialogue with the Jesuits gathered at their 36th General Congregation (GC 36), His Holiness Pope Francis said that the world asks of us today a “prophetic audacity,” the “prophetic audacity of having no fear,” which he also says is an “attitude born of the magis…founded on God who is always [magis, always more, always] greater.” We reflect on the ever-greater God and we “discern where the magis must be directed,” and we find it in our mission to the poor, and in the mind of the Trinity gazing on the world to transform it.

In this context, Bishop Joel Zamudio Baylon, D.D. showed himself to be a paragon of prophetic audacity in speaking out against the environmental destruction of the Rapu Rapu Mining Project in Albay, as well as against the disregard for human life in the current administration’s war on drugs.

It was the Dominican, Fr. Bruno Cadore, O.P., who in his homily to the Jesuits at the GC 36 challenged us to exercise this “audacity of the improbable” in our apostolate, to enable ourselves to face a world “disfigured by those who accumulate what is not theirs, who pursue first their own interests, who build a world on the blood of a multitude of forgotten and manipulated people, who continuously build new idols.” The world as it is today provokes us to try actually to change it, to “reverse, with our human hearts and within the limits of minds” the malignant course of things, to actually strive with all of our capacities to “reset the world.”

In his apostolic exhortation Laudato Si’, Pope Francis also reminded us that the social crises engulfing our world today are inextricably intertwined with the environmental threats looming over us, forming one complex crisis that requires the “audacity of the improbable” to combat. This one crisis “arises from the way in which human beings use—and abuse—the peoples and goods of the earth.”  Unbridled human consumption requires the gargantuan global production machinery which abuses the forests, the fresh water resources, the minerals, the oceans, and the air to feed the insatiable hunger of the haves but increasingly to starve the have-nots.  Today we are part of a world that is warming inexorably because of the carbon emissions of our globe.

In leading his flock to testify fearlessly about the destructive effects of mining on their physical and mental health, in holding education campaigns and public hearings to explain the threat of foreign mining operations to Rapu Rapu island and its people, in serving as a voice of the victims of toxic waste and mining pollution, Bishop Baylon exemplified the “audacity of the improbable.”

He showed us what can be done to “reset the world.” His stature and style of leadership have enabled his flock to share in his “audacity of the improbable” and use their collective voice to “speak with courage and boldness…and proclaim what is just in the eyes of the Lord.” His presence also inspired the scientists of the area to persevere in their efforts to collect evidence on the ecological destruction wrought by the mining operations, shielding them as well from the harassment and threats of the armed men guarding the sites. Among these scientists were Dr. Lina Regis and her researchers at the Ateneo Institute for Research and Environmental Research (INECAR).  I recall how they risked their lives to get the data that scientifically proved the connection between the massive fishkills then to the operation of the Rapu Rapu Mines. In time, the operations of the Rapu-Rapu mines were shut down.

Bishop Baylon, in the words of Fr. Cadore, “dares to seek how to mend what is torn.” He voices the “real audacity of the improbable”: “to make heard the voice of the One who against all odds, led his people and gave them the strength to live by his faithfulness.”

Also, “violence disfigures the face of the human in individuals, in societies, and in peoples,” says Fr. Cadore.  In this case we speak not of personal violence but of state violence. In the novel 1984, George Orwell famously says, “If you want a picture of the future, picture a boot on the human face—forever.” For some of our countrymen, this future is already painfully present: lifeless faces of the poor gunned down on the street for their suspected involvement in the drug trade and their alleged resistance to law enforcement.  The image of the 17-year-old Grade 11 student, Kian Loyd de los Santos, murdered in a dark alley by operatives of the State weighs heavy on our conscience to this day.

We recognize the evil of the drug industry controlled by powerful international cartels burning out the brains, wasting the lives, squandering the futures, destroying the families of their victims in the Philippines.  We recognize that the President made it a central commitment of his electoral campaign to wage a bloody war against drugs in the Philippines, no matter the cost.  We recognize the intention of the President to save this country from deteriorating into a narco-state led by narco-politicians manipulated by international drug lords.  We recognize his dismay at the extent to which drugs run the lives of government officials, including governors, mayors, barangay officials, policemen and soldiers, and his frustration with the justice system which fails to deliver justice.  We recognize that our jails are overfilled to four times their capacity.  We also recognize that as dirty and as costly in lives this war on drugs has been, if the surveys are to be believed, it carries the support and approval of the majority of the Filipino people.

In his last SONA, the President has stated that he stood for human lives not for human rights, and that this war on drugs will continue with undiminished intensity.

It is in this context that the prophetic audacity of Bishop Baylon has appeared now no longer in mere defense of the natural environment, but in defense of the human environment – where the defense of human lives victimized by the pernicious interests of local and international drug traders cannot be separated from the defense of human lives victimized by the intemperate, misguided and illegal use of State force.   In the campaign of the State to rid the people of a life-killing menace of the drug trade, the State itself has become a life-killing menace.  Agents of the State, encouraged by vague directives and loose rhetoric of superiors, disregarded due process, and preferred the quick solution of killing on the streets to the painful, cumbersome and costly solution of rehabilitating the victims of the drug cartels.  Here, we must recall that our Constitution’s Bill of Rights is issued precisely to guarantee its citizens that the awesome powers of the State would not be used against them.  The first of these rights, of course, is: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of law.”  In a country which in the Preamble of its Constitution calls on God to aid it in building a just and humane society, those in the State may be reminded of God’s command: “Thou shalt not kill.”  The declaration of Jesus may also be recalled, “I have come to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10).  Very recently, in recognition of the sanctity of human life itself, Pope Francis declared it now a teaching of the Catholic Church that capital punishment condoned in law is incompatible with our faith.  All the more so must the State’s killing in the streets weigh heavily on our conscience.

At a time when it was not yet fashionable to criticize the manner in which the State was pursuing its war on drugs because of the wide popularity of the President and because of the gratitude of many in communities of the poor that their barangays had been freed of drug addicts on their streets, Bishop Baylon wrote and signed an open letter to the President that condemned the killings; he issued circulars supporting actions of church goers and citizens to protest these killings; he declared a continuous ringing of bells in his diocese for forty days at 9:00 pm to make the protests resonate in the hearts of his people.  While many were cowed by the pro-administration minions or paralyzed by their inner confusion, we appreciate the moral clarity and strength Bishop Baylon displayed protesting the blatant injustice:  “We don’t have the right to take the precious lives of the people,” he declared.  He echoed the earlier cry of the CBCP:  “It is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance.”

Yet what was said with words was complemented by action.  He did not just protest the taking of life, he labored to resurrect life.  He initiated in his Diocese of Legaspi the Harong Paglaom (House of Hope).  Through these centers established in parishes of his diocese people who had lost hope due to the evil of drugs could find hope in the care of people who recognized them not only as human beings but as brothers and sisters in the Lord.  “Whatever you have done or not done for one of these, the least of my brothers and sisters,” Jesus said, “that you have done or not done for me” (Mt. 25: 40.45.)

The last General Congregation 36 rearticulated the Mission of the Society of Jesus in terms of working for reconciliation with nature, with human society, and with God.  In protesting the irreparable destruction brought on our archipelagic environment wrought by the mines, a step was taken towards reconciliation with nature.  Even as it is acknowledged that the State must act against the destruction brought on human lives through the drug cartels, in opposing the inordinate violence of the State against the lives of its citizens, especially its poor, a step was taken towards reconciliation with human society.  In opposing the passivity and helplessness of the poor by empowering them to help themselves and others through education, capacity building, housing acquired through work and entrepreneurship, another step was taken towards reconciliation with human society.  In resolving to care for our common home, which God entrusts to us, and to protect and treasure human life, with which God blesses us, and to advance our human dignity and human communities through our creativity, labor and generosity, with which God empowers us, a step was taken towards reconciliation with God.  It is in this context that I am honored to congratulate the Consuelo “Chito” Madrigal Foundation-Bikol and Bishop Joel Baylon in their being honored by ADNU today unto the greater glory of God.

 

 

 

 

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Towards Improved Quality Assurance of Higher Education in the Philippines 

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[Notes:  4th PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations, Hotel Benilde, Manila, July 23, 2018.]

“That PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and its ASEAN Quality Reference Framework and request the Philippine government for necessary funds to support this commitment” (Resolution 7, 2nd Round, PASUC COCOPEA Conversations, Jan 12-13, 2017).

Under the AQAN’s Framework there are four “principles” of QA to which we subscribe:

  • The External Quality Assurance Agency (EQAA)
  • The EQAA-Standards and Processes (EQAA-SP)
  • Internal Quality Assurance (IQA)
  • The National Qualifications Framework (NQF)
    • Note two different meanings of “Q”
    • Quality
      • There is no consensus on this yet, as we will discuss later
    • Qualification (Qn)
      • RA 10968
        • “Qn refers to a formal certification that a person has successfully achieved specific learning outcomes relevant to the identified academic, industry or community requirements.  A Qn confers official recognition of value in the labor market and in further education and training” [Sec 3 (c)].
    • Addresses the alleged “mismatch” between educational output and industry.
      • Focus is in the market-value of labor
    • The higher educational endeavor, however, is bigger than Qns as “jobs”.  Here the stake of society in the university for an understanding of humanity, friendship, compassion love, justice, social justice, ethics, duty, patriotism, citizenship, global citizenship is much larger than “jobs”
      • For compliance for such as:
        • “[All educational institutions] shall inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the nation, strengthen ETHICAL and spiritual values, develop MORAL CHARACTER and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge, and promote vocational efficiency” [Art XIV, Sec. 3 (2)]

 

For the PH, the PQF is the NQF – It is now set by law (RA 10968 ), but is yet a work in progress.

  • It involves describing a large array of qualifications in a manner that can be quality assured and aligned with the AQRF so that our qualifications become comparable with those of other countries.

The AQRF Referencing Report (as of 16 April 2018) prepared by the Philippine Qualifications Framework National Coordinating Council (PQF-NCC)

  • …gives a very comprehensive picture of the status of quality assurance in the Philippines today insofar as this is relevant to producing quality-assured qualifications.  It is a statement of “what is” in the QA landscape of the PH today.

Through our commitment to a “culture of QA guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and its ASEAN Quality Reference Framework” we may be inspired as public and private HEIs in the country today to work together to improve  our HE QA landscape in the Philippines today.

  • Our Constitution demands it.
    • “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to QUALITY education at all levels…” (Art. XIV, Sec, 1)
  • The UAQTEA (RA 10931) demands it.
    • This is as much a law about quality education as it is about access.
  • As educators dedicated to teaching well, we demand it.

Some of the issues that must be tackled:

  • Who is responsible for QA in HE in the Philippines?  The CHED? or the HEIs in academic freedom? Or a partnership between the two?
    • In the AQRF Report:  CHED is the “principal External Quality Assurance Agency” that sets minimum standards and oversees compliance to these standards.
      • But is this in the same sense as the EQAA and the EQAA-SP of the AQAF?
      • CHED is external to the HEIs it deals with; but it is more external to private HEIs than it is to the SUCs whose boards it leads and whose budgets it co-determines.  The latter, indeed, may reveal a conflict of interest in external QA, as the quality successes of the SUCs it leads and funds are CHED’s successes – which it assures.
      • PAASCU understands QA to involve not only the achievement of minimum standards, but also the voluntary achievement of evidenced excellence flowing from the HEIs academic freedom in the implementation of its institutional mission and vision that is responsive to stakeholders.
      • CHED has the role of setting and enforcing minimum standards, not standards of excellence.  The CoEs and CoDs are not awarded on the basis of CHED’s accreditation but on the basis of the accreditation processes of recognized EQAAs.
      • Perhaps, rather than “principal EQAA” CHED may be described as providing the Framework of QA (consistent with CMO 46 s 2012) and as setting and enforcing minimum standards that is an essential component of QA.  Here, the QA endeavor is not merely a government concern but an eminent concern of public-private complementarity in higher education. The regulative function of CHED to set and enforce minimum standards are complemented by private QA functions which protect and promote academic freedom as they assure quality.
  • CHED’s responsibility to set and enforce minimum standards vs. its mandate to undertake development programs.
    • Do these two functions clash?  In CHED’s being regulative, it is coercive.  In its development programs that exceed minimum standards it cannot be regulative.
    • But when it takes on the QA function as “principal EQAA” the regulative function is confounded with the developmental intention.  This may result in a violation of the HEI’s right to academic freedom which CHED is mandated to sustain.
      • RA 7722 Sec 2
        • “…The State shall likewise ensure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercises and observance for the continuing intellectual growth, the advancement of learning and research, the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage”
      • RA 7722 Sec 13:
        • “Nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom of universities and colleges. In particular, no abridgment of curricular freedom of the individual education institutions by the Commission shall be made except for: (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.  No academic or curricular restrictions shall be made upon private educational institutions which are not required for chartered state colleges and universities.”

This is further elucidated in the following:

  • There is still no working consensus on quality in the Philippines
    • In CMO 46 s 2012, it is stated, “CHED defines quality as the alignment and consistence of the learning environment with the institution’s vision, mission and goals demonstrated by exceptional learning and service outcomes and the development of a culture of quality.  This definition highlights three perspectives of quality:  Quality as fitness for purpose…  Quality as “exceptional” means either being distinctive: exceeding very high standards; or conformance to standards based on a system of comparability using criteria and ratings…  Quality developing a culture of quality is the transformational dimension of the CHED notion of quality” (Section 6).
    • Here, it must be appreciated that CHED does not understand quality necessarily to be dependent on a floor of minimum standards based on learning outcomes, but works directly with exceptional standards, i.e., those exceeding very high standards.  The conflation of CHED regulative responsibility to set and enforce minimum standards [RA 7722, Sec 8(d)] now with the standards of excellence in QA may confuse what it does in setting the supposed minimum standards for programs.  Are they truly minimum or already regulative coercion into the area of “exceptional standards exceeding very high standards”?  This may account for the fact that what is done on the bachelor’s level appears to conform already to Level 7 on the PQF.
    • In this context it may also be pointed out that for all the complaint about the mismatch between academic outcomes and the demands of industry, the definition of quality in CMO 46 s. 2012 does not consider stakeholder satisfaction as a perspective of quality.  Even so, the stakeholders of higher education, it must be pointed out, are not only industry and job preparation in the service of an existing economy, but human society and the reflective ability to criticize the actual quality of human life and the value for human life of the industry and economy higher education feeds into.  Pope Francis, for example, has pointed to the pernicious effects of unbridled consumption that requires the economic production that abuses the environment and causes social exclusion and social injustice.
  • Higher Educational Quality Assurance (HE QA) in the PH depends on many EQAAs whose SPs are diverse and where standards are not standardized.  The AQRF-Report distinguishes:
    • School-Based Programmatic Accreditation
      • Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools Colleges and Universities (PAASCU)
      • Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA)
      • Association of Christian Schools Colleges and Universities – Accrediting Association Inc.  (ACSCU-AAI)
      • Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (AACCUP)
      • Association of Local Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (ALCUCOA)
    • Professional Organization-Based Programmatic Accreditation
      • Philippine Technological Council – Accreditation and Certification Board for Engineering and Technology (PTC-ACBET)
      • Philippine Information and Computing Accreditation Board (PICAB)
    • Institutional Accreditation
      • PAASCU
      • PACUCOA
      • ACSCU-AII
      • AACCUP

For the consideration of PASUC-COCOPEA which has committed itself to the culture of QA as guided by the AQAN and its AQRF:

  • Can we work together to improve the HE QA landscape in the PH?
    • Acknowledging variety of interests from which the EQAAs have emerged, is there a way of simplifying the landscape?
  • Can we reach consensus on a working definition of Q?
    • With Dirk Van Damme, I propose:
      • Minimum standards (based on learning outcomes)
      • Evidenced excellence  (based on learning outcomes)
      • Implements the mission and vision of the school
      • Stakeholder satisfaction
  • Can our EQAA’s come together for more harmony on Standards and Processes (SP)?
  • Can we all collaborate to quality assure Qns recognized in the PQF.
  • Revision of CMO 46 s. 2012

 

 


Postscript:

The Committee on Improving QA resolved positively for PASUC-COCOPEA on all these considerations during the 4th PASUC-COCOPEA conversations.

 

 

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Looking Back in Order to Look Forward

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[Opening Remarks: 4th PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations, Hotel Benilde, July 23, 2018]

I have been asked to look back in order to look forward.

As COCOPEA opposed Free Tuition in Higher Education, we were pleasantly surprised to learn the PASUC also opposed it.

In its own desire to deliver QUALITY education to its students, it did not want to be overwhelmed by students, possibly unqualified students, flooding its SUCs because of free tuition.

This was also the position of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Dr. Ric Rotoras had actually written a paper on the complementarity between Public and Private Universities which made the following assertions:

  • That govt fully fund SUCs to take care of the marginalized
  • That the private HEIs serve the greater mass of higher education
  • That a level-playing field between public and private HEIs be established defined in terms of differentiated markets and curricular programs
  • That the Regulations of SUCs be defined by their respective charters

This was a breakthrough.  In our COCOPEA ROADMAP TO HIGHER EDUCATION in the Philippines, we had given the complementarity between public and private education highest priority, but this was the first time it was being thematized with concrete suggestions by the head of the PASUC at that!

It was very exciting.

In one of the huddles during a Senate hearing, PASUC President Ric Rotoras and I, then serving as COCOPEA chair, agreed that we should get together to explore collaboration through a series of conversations.  Present in that huddle were PASUC President Ric Rotoras, Sen. Bam Aquino, CHED Commissioner Prospero de Vera, Atty. Joseph Estrada and myself.

The first Conversation was in the Century Park Hotel, on November 22, 2016

  • We took up issues pertinent to
    • Complementarity
    • Levelling the playing field
    • Academic Freedom
    • Access
    • Funding structures for higher education to sustain both public and private universities
    • Collaboration instead of competition
    • Self- Governance?
    • Market segmentation
    • SYSTEM of public and private education providing Quality education for all….
    • Technical vocation as higher education
    • Scholarships…quality
    • Meaning of “higher education”
  • We took up these issues in a spirit of brainstorming.  We were encouraged by the openness of each side to collaboration.  We resolved on deeper discussions in the next meeting.

The Second Conversation was at the Ateneo de Davao University, 12-13 Jan 2017.  Resolved were:

R1.  That the PH system of education provide access to quality higher education to all qualified Filipino students.

R2.  That government scholarships be provided in quality HEIs, both public and private.

R3.  That qualified Filipino students able to pay for their higher education pay for it;  that qualified Filipino students unable to pay for their education be fully supported in their HE by government through scholarships and allowances as needed, esp. in programs or courses consistent with the National Development Plan and contributory to the realization of Ambisyon Natin 2040.

R4.  That the PASUC and the COCOPEA, representing segments of public and private education respectively, shall work together in complementarity to improve the quality of higher education in both public and private HEIs.

R5.  That a committee jointly constituted by PASUC and COCOPEA draft legislation to create innovation centers in each region; the centers shall bring together resources of public and private HEIs, industry and agriculture in the regions to foster and promote innovation in industry and agriculture an appropriate regional niching, strengthening human resource development for this purpose and providing incentives for private support.

R6.  That PASUC and COCOPEA shall jointly propose to the DepED that the SUCs be relieved of their role in the provision of senior high schools under the K-12 program considering the readiness of the DepEd to fulfill this responsibility in collaboration with the private sector.

R7.  That PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) and its ASEAN Quality Reference Framework (AQRF) and request the PH government for necessary funds to support the commitment.

R8.  That PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself in academic freedom and responsibility to its shared mission of providing quality higher education to the Filipino people and to find the appropriate structure to support and govern itself under the reasonable regulation of government as higher education in the PH.

R9 That PACUC and COCOPEA shall jointly invite leaders of LCUs to collaborate with it in this shared mission.

The Third Conversation.  April 20, 2017  (15 months ago)
Hosted by Dr. Ester Ogena of PNU at the Diamond Hotel.

  • WE expressed our gratitude for SB 1304 sponsored primarily by Sen. Ralph Recto that reflected the concerns of PASCU-COCOPEA in the project of providing universal access to quality tertiary education to all.
  • WE established standing committees:
    • Universal access to quality higher education
    • Academic freedom and self-governance
    • Improving the quality of higher education in both SUCs and Private HEIs (cf.  R5 of 2nd conversation)
  • That the Presidents and the EDs would constitute these committees
  • That Dr. Ester Ojena would chair the Innovation Committee

Since then, much happened.

  • Passage of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (RA 10931).
  • Murder of Dr. Ric Rotoras

Change of Leadership in the COCOPEA passed to Dr. Pio Baconga

New Head of PASUC was Dr. Tirso Ronquillo

Today, after a hiatus of 14 months, finally the 4th conversation.

Challenges for the future:  Appreciate the strength of PASUC-COCOPEA (as it was in the genesis of RA 10931)

  • Proper administration of UAQTEA
    • How we can respond to the needs of our economy
    • How we can provide leadership development for our country:  educated, patriotic, moral,
    • Without killing one another?
  • Academic Freedom and Self-Governance
    • Academic freedom from overregulation
    • To unleash critical thinking, creativity and innovativeness
      • Responsive to local needs
      • Participant in world transformation.
  • Quality and Quality Assurance in the PH System of higher education.
    • Improve the QA landscape
    • Possible revision of CMO 46 s 2012
    • To insure that the PH higher education system succeeds in delivering quality education to all.
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From Brokenness to Wholeness to Holiness

[Address to the Davao Association of Catholic Schools/CEAP Region XI]

The President of the Davao Association of Catholic Schools, Fr. Tom Avila, the representatives of the DACS Board of Trustees, members of the DACS and of CEAP Region XI:

My warm congratulations to the trustees and new officers of the DACS and of CEAP Region XI!

Atty. Roselle Perez-Barluan will provide you with an update on the many ongoing activities of the CEAP.  I take this opportunity to speak to you from what is moving me as President.

With John Paul II’s Apostolic Constitution on Catholic Education Ex Corde Ecclesiae, I invite you to recall that the Catholic University – and analogously all our Catholic schools – proceeds ex corde ecclesiae, from the heart of the Church.  The heart of the Church is Jesus Christ.

Our schools are institutions of basic and higher learning.  But as Catholic, they are powerful instruments of evangelization, of spreading the joy of the Gospel.  Because we are committed both to quality education and to the service of the faith in our schools, each of our schools is crucial for the youth of our nation and precious in the eyes of the Lord.

Because of this, we must exert every effort, despite the adverse conditions in which many of schools operate, to keep our schools alive.  I congratulate all the Catholic schools of Region XI that, through the genius and grit of local leadership, have not only survived but have distinguished themselves in educational service, especially in successfully meeting the challenges of establishing and running senior high schools.

Jesus is the heart of the Church.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  Ex Corde Ecclesiae says it is our privilege to preside over the tension between on the one hand knowing Jesus as the truth, but on the other hand having nevertheless to search for truth. It is this tension that in our instruction and formation that can provide our schools their special transformative character:  knowing Jesus on the one hand who as truth teaches love for all and service for all, yet having to search for this truth in the realities of our world:  the exclusion of the poor from the benefits of society, the consumption-based economy that ravages the environment, the loss of confidence in national leadership and governance structures, the diminishment of truth in fake news, the social media and its negative impact on real interpersonal relations.  From the heart of our Catholic schools, Jesus, we must exert every effort to keep the institutions alive that address these issues transformatively.

Pope Francis has recently published a document entitled Veritatis Gaudium meant for ecclesiastical faculties of theology, but with very deep relevance for what we do in all our schools.  In the document he says, “The joy of truth is the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s light and shares that light with all peoples.”  All our schools, in teaching, research and service to the community, are about truth.  But the joy of truth is in the restlessness of our human heart until they encounter and dwell in God’s light and share that light with all peoples.  It is a statement that we can meditate on and pray over in each of our schools, individually or collectively, to recover our privileged mission in Catholic education, where joy is linked to restlessness, and the joy of truth is linked to the restlessness of our human hearts, insofar as they are still human in the darkness of today, until they encounter and dwell in God’s light and share that light with all peoples.  The transformative character of our education depends crucially on encountering and abiding in God’s light and the imperative to share that light with all peoples.

In this light, with Pope Francis, we might consider four consequent invitations:

The invitation to meditate and pray over what I teach, how I teach, whom I teach and what truth demands.  Where teaching has become dry and routine, this is the invitation to rediscover in prayer the awesome mystery of the Trinity speaking a Word of Truth to our darkened world and reconciling it to itself in divine Light.  Our schools play a crucial role in that reconciliation.

The invitation for each member of the community to enter into dialogue.  This is an invitation to break out of my personal aloneness, my personal shyness, my thinking that what I see or what I experience is of no value to others, or my thinking that what others know and experience is of no value to me.  It is an invitation to risk a conversation where lives and life experience and insight from life is shared.

The invitation to multi- and interdisciplinarity.  This is the invitation to understand that one’s own discipline does not exhaust truth.  Nor does it meet the challenges of darkness in the world which rejects the light of God’s transforming compassion.  Our individual disciplines need  to come together with other disciplines against the darkness of the world that neither comprehends nor grasps God’s light.

Finally, the invitation to network, to understand that none of our schools can go it alone.  This is why we have CEAP, why we have the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), and why COCOPEA today is committed to a partnership with the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).  In Region XI, it is why we have the Association of Private Schools, colleges and Universities in Region XI (APSCUR XI) and the Davao Association of Colleges and Universities (DACUN).  We are all part of the one system of education the Philippine Constitution mandates the State to provide in order to bring quality education on all levels to all.  But for Catholic schools it is through our one network of Catholic schools, the DACS and the CEAP together,  through which we undertake from the heart of the Church to search for God’s truth and communicate it in our world, and to find the joy of that truth in the restlessness of our human heart until we encounter and abide in God’s light and share this light with all peoples.  In sharing this light with all peoples, we are transformed in the light, as the world is transformed.

Today, not only in Mindanao but throughout the Philippines, we rejoice, because the restlessness in our Catholic schools for light relative to the injustices done to the Muslims of Mindanao; we rejoice because our networked efforts to be faithful to that light have contributed to the passage by Congress of the Bangsamoro Organic Law for Muslim Mindanao which we hope will help secure lasting peace in Mindanao.  I thank all of the schools in Region XI and throughout the CEAP that now rejoice in the triumph of God’s light in Mindanao.

We thank and congratulate Msgr. Julius Radulfa assisted by ED Jimmie-loe de la Vega for shepherding DACS from brokenness to wholeness to holiness, even as we encourage Fr. Tom Avila and the new DACS leadership to strengthen us in our oneness, and in our brokenness to open us to the wholeness and holiness of God’s Light!

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The Law of Love in the Stupidity of the Cross

law school homily June 2018

[Homily.  Mass of the Holy Spirit for ADDU College of Law.  Based on John 16:7-14.  Assumption Chapel  June 28, 2018.]

We come together as the ADDU College of Law to invoke the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit on all our labors during this new academic year.  We labor to teach well; we labor to learn well.   This year, we are grateful for the distinction that these labors have brought in the context of professional law education in the Philippines.  But we gather here today conscious it is not only for renown that we teach, study and practice our profession of law.  We labor in the Spirit.  Today we ask that the Spirit of Truth, as the Lord promised, guide us unto all truth.

Our Gospel today is from the Last Supper discourse of the Gospel according to St. John.  The death of the Lord is imminent.  The atmosphere is solemn, if not somber, even sorrowful.  In this context Jesus says, “…I tell you the truth.  It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you.” (Jn 16:7b). In speaking of “going away” he speaks immediately of his death.  His death will take him away from his disciples.  That is immediately sad.  But in his dying, he brings death to dying and to the evil that is the origin of death, and so accomplishes the will of his Father, glorifying the Father as the Father glorifies him.  That is not sad.  Only in this going away, is he able to be present to us in an abiding way.  “I will be with you always, to the end of the ages” (Mt 28:20b), he declared before ascending into heaven; his going away in ascension was but the consequence of his going away in death.  But in this going away, he is promising his special, abiding presence.  That presence is guaranteed in the Holy Spirit.  This is the Advocate, whom Jesus promised the Father would send in his name to “teach you all things and remind you of everything that I have said to you” (Jn 14: 28).

As future lawyers, you might take special interest in or inspiration from the Holy Spirit.  For He is the divine Advocate.  He is the Advocate of Jesus and the Father manifesting God’s love for us in the world.  “I will send Him to you,” Jesus declares, “And when he comes he will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgement:  of sin, because they do not believe me; of righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; of judgement, because ‘the ruler of the world’ has been condemned” (Jn 16:8).

The declaration is cryptic because the Greek word, elegzei, which is translated into “convict” is also translated as “convince”.   The convincing is also a conviction; as those who are convinced find the truth, those who do not accept the truth are convicted.

The Advocate convicts the world of sin “because they do not believe me” Jesus says.  It will seem that those who did not believe have come to victory in Jesus’ cruel death.  It will seem that all that Jesus said and did about the Kingdom of God, of compassion and love, was defeated on the Cross.  But the Spirit will come, Jesus promises, as a fruit of his Death and Resurrection, to convince the world of his resurrected Life and of his abiding Truth.  At the same time, he convicts the world of sin, of the fact of sin, the fault of sin, the folly of sin, the filth of sin.  In raising those who believe in Jesus from the darkness of sin, in leading them to the Light, it condemns those who in their disbelief remain in darkness and sin.

The Advocate convinces the world of righteousness, and in so doing convicts those who do not accept righteousness.  The Advocate convinces us that righteousness comes only in Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6), and so convicts those who in false righteousness convicted Jesus to death.  It convicts those who in false righteousness continue in life to put Jesus to death, thinking that righteousness in life – meaning in life  – comes not from the Cross but from a celebrated legal victory in injustice, a reputation of legal renown in being able to defend all manner of evil ones, or from the victory of eristics over truth.

The Advocate convinces the world of judgment.  The Advocate convinces the world the perverse Prince of this world is judged.  “Now is the time of judgment on this world, now the prince of the world will be driven out” (Jn 12:31). His power that had wrought so much evil is broken. At the same time, the Advocate convicts the world in just judgment; all those who have conspired and connived with the Evil one in the crucifixion of Jesus are condemned.  All those who continue to this day in the rejection and murder of Jesus in our world through a spirit of pride, greed, avarice, power-hungriness, and hatred are convicted.

Because even lawyers in the highest places are vulnerable to sin, to disbelief in the wisdom of God, because even they are vulnerable to rejecting God’s righteousness through self-justification and intoxication with worldly power, because even they are vulnerable to judgement for connivance with the Evil One in the rejection of Jesus in our world today, we pray today for the Holy Spirit in your lives, that he continually mentor you in your belief, and guide you in your pursuit of meaningfulness, and preserve you from condemnation.

May the Spirit of the Risen Lord bless you this year, and as Jesus promised, allow living waters to flow from your hearts (cf. Jn 7:38), waters which refresh tired bodies and quicken spent spirits.  In your profession centered on Jesus, may you be a source in the world of clarity and justice, solace and consolation, life and truth, no matter the cost.  As the Advocate represents the Father and the Son, may you be advocates not only of legal justice but of God’s justice.  Legal justice is based on the rational law of man.  God’s justice is based on His law of Love manifested in the stupidity of the Cross.  “For the message of the Cross is stupidity to those who are perishing,” Paul says, “but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God” (cf. 1 Cor 1:18, 23).  In this Law the world is condemned; but if we believe in him, in this Law you and I are uplifted to eternal life.

 

 

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Renewing PAASCU in the Context of Philippine Education Today

PAASCU 2018

[Introductory talk to Strategic Planning, 25-26 June, 2018, Microtel, Libis, QC.]

I have been asked to talk about the General Mission of Education, the challenges faced by Philippine Education, and the Role of Accreditation in the tasks of Quality Assurance (QA).

I. The Mission of Education.

The Mission of Education, I believe, can be defined by its objectives.  In the Philippines, on the minimal level that is universally applicable, the objectives are defined by the State which has the duty to “protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” and to take appropriate steps to make that education “accessible to all” (Philippine Constitution, Art. XIV, Sec. 1):

For our purposes, the mission of education is derived from the “complete, adequate and integrated system of education system of education” that the State is mandated by the Constitution to “establish, maintain, and support” (Art. XIV, Sec 2).  What that education is missioned to do may be appreciated from its stated objectives.

Beyond teaching the Constitution, all educational institutions are to “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge and promote vocational efficiency” (Art. XIV, Sec. 3.2).

The Education Act of 1982 (BP 232) states that the educational system shall aim to:

“Provide for a broad general education that will assist each individual in the peculiar ecology of his own society, to

  • attain his potentials as a human being
  • enhance the range and quality of individual and group participation in the basic functions of society, and
  • acquire the essential educational foundation of his development into a productive and versatile citizen

“Train the nation’s manpower in the middle-level skills for national development

“Develop the professions that will provide leadership for the nation in the advancement of knowledge for improving the quality of human life; and

“Respond effectively to changing needs and conditions of the national through a system of educational planning and evaluation.

“Towards the realization of these objectives, and pursuant to the Constitution, all educational institutions shall aim to inculcate love of country, teach the duties of citizenship, and develop moral character, personal disciplines, and scientific, technological and vocational efficiency.

“Furthermore, the educational system shall reach out to educationally deprived communities, in order to give meaningful reality to their membership in the national society, to enrich their civic participation in the community and national life, and to unify all Filipinos into a free and just nation”  (BP 232, Sec 4).

For CHED the first mission of higher education is:

“To produce thoughtful graduates imbued with 1) values reflective of a humanist orientation (e.g. fundamental respect for others as human beings with intrinsic rights, cultural rootedness, an avocation to serve); 2) analytical and problem solving skills; 3) the ability to think through the ethical and social implications of a give course of action; and 4) the competency to learn continuously throughout life – that while enabling them to live meaningfully in a complex, rapidly changing and globalized world while engaging their community and the nation’s development issues and concerns.” [1]

From the State, therefore, the mission of education is about the development of the human individual in Philippine society through general education, so that he can participate in it as a citizen and contribute to its national life through professional or individual productivity. It is mission in “aid and support of the natural right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth through the educational system” (BP 232, Sec 5,1).

Beyond the educational mission defined by the State, the educational mission may be defined by a religious community which educates both for citizenship in the City of Man as well as in the City of God.  The mission of Catholic schools, for instance, is drawn out of the relationship between the school community and Jesus Christ and His Father and draws out the transformative implications of that relationship on society and on the world, “our common home”.  (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Laudato Si!, Veritatis Gaudium, Philippine Catholic School Standards).

The education mission provides us a horizon against which we may converse about quality, quality assurance and accreditation.

II. The Challenges Faced by Philippine Education today.

I attempt only to list some problems relevant to our strategic planning.

Quality.  Clearly the Constitution calls for quality education.  The State is mandated to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education for all. [2]

Need for Philippine Consensus on Quality.  The meaning of quality is contentious.  CHED defines Quality as follows:

“CHED defines quality as the alignment and consistency of the learning environment with the institution’s vision, mission and goals demonstrated by exceptional learning and service outcomes and the development of a culture of quality. This definition highlights three perspectives of quality:

  • Quality as “fitness for purpose” is generally used by international bodies for assessment and accreditation. This perspective requires the translation of the institutions vision, mission, and goals inter learning outcomes, programs, and systems.
  • Quality as “exceptional” means either being distinctive; exceeding very high standards; or conformace to standards based on a system of comparability using criteria and ratings; the Third characteristics underlies CHED’s definition of “exceptional”; and
  • Quality as “developing a culture of quality” is the transformational dimension of the CHED notion of quality” (CMO 46 s 2013, sec 6).

CHED’s definition, in the viewpoint of many educators in the CEAP and COCOPEA, is a formula for regulatory overreach into areas of academic freedom.  Beyond its expressed mandate to establish minimum standards (RA 7722, Sec. 8 d), it works here with “exceptional” standards, which may then militate against the academic freedom of higher educational institutions.

Furthermore, for all the talk about the mismatch between education and industry needs, CHED’s definition of quality fails to include responsiveness to stakeholders.

In response to this situation, COCOPEA sought to introduce legislation defining quality inspired by the fourfold definition of Dirk van Damme, head of the Center for Educational Research of Ghent University,[3] namely:

  • Achievement of minimum standards based on learning outcomes
  • Achievement of standards of excellence based on learning outcomes
  • Institutional implementation of the vision, mission and goals of the university
  • Responsiveness to stakeholders

Consensus in the Philippines on quality has yet to be achieved.  Meanwhile, COCOPEA and PASUC have agreed to “work together in complementarity to improve the quality of higher education in both public and private HEIs” (Resolution 4).[4]  An explicitated understanding of quality is essential for a renewed understanding of our mission in quality assurance.

Overstepping the Boundaries of Reasonable Regulation:

The Constitution vests HEIs with academic freedom:  “Academic Freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” (Art. XIV, Sec 5 [2]).  In its Declaration of Policy, the Higher Education Act of 1994 (RA 7722) states, “The State shall likewise ensure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercise and observance for the continuing intellectual growth, the advancement of learning and research, the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage” (Art. XIV, Sec 2).  In its Sec. 13 on Academic Freedom, RA 7722 says:

“Nothing in this act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom of universities and colleges.  In particular, no abridgment of curricular freedom of the individual educational institutions by the Commission shall be made except for: (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.  No academic or curricular restriction shall be made upon private educational institutions which are not required for chartered state colleges and universities” (Sec. 13).

Through its Technical Working Groups (TWGs), which determine the Policies, Standards and Guidelines of many disciplines, there is a perception that these limitations are breached in their setting not minimum standards but optimum standards.  The optimum standards reflect the particular excellence of the institutions from which the members of the TWGs come, but they become an imposition on other HEIs which beyond minimum standards may fulfill standards of excellence in their own manner.   The imposition of optimum standards on all enables a regulative capture by these HEIs on the educational market, since only they can deliver on the optimum standards that their representatives on the TWGs determine.   It is unreasonable regulation.  Setting minimum standards is a challenge which CHED has not mastered, possibly because it fails to enter into sufficient consultation and dialogue with HEIs, despite its token public hearings.  It is the HEIs that are vested with academic freedom by the Constitution and RA 7722, and not CHED.  In CHED’s imposition of optimum standards in its regulative capacity, instead of promoting academic freedom, it militates against it.

For professional disciplines, the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) also sets standards leading to qualifications, and is known to intervene in the academic operation of schools teaching their disciplines.

Setting minimum standards needs to be part of the exercise of academic freedom of all HEIs in self-governance.  In this context, “The PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself in academic freedom and responsibility to its shared mission of providing quality higher education to the Filipino people and to find the appropriate structures to support and govern itself under the reasonable regulation of government as high education in the Philippines” (Resolution 8).

This problem complex is relevant for PAASCU in determining the standards of accreditation.

The Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF). 

Under Pres. Benigno Aquino the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) was established by Executive Order 83 s. 2012.  As of Jan 16, 2018, the “PQF Act” or RA 10968 establishes it by law with the following objectives:

  • To adopt national standards and levels of learning outcomes of education.
  • To support the development and maintenance of pathways and equivalencies that enable access to qualifications and to assist individuals to move easily and readily between the different education and training sectors and between these sectors and the labor market; and
  • To align domestic qualification standards with the international qualifications framework hereby enhancing regulation of the value and comparability of Philippine qualifications and supporting the mobility of Filipino students and workers. (Sec. 4)

The implementation of the PQF is entrusted to a PQF National Coordinating Council (PQF-NCC).  In the PQF, eight levels of qualifications are recognized.  The painstaking determination of qualifications is still a work in progress.   But the PQF is an essential horizon for setting standards for PAASCU.

The PQF is the fourth quadrant of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework.[5]  While the importance of qualifications is conceded, care must be taken that the goal of education, and esp. higher education is not reduced to qualifications (job qualifications).   The critical, innovative, ethical finalities of education are not captured in qualifications.

The K-12 Reform.  In order to comply with an international demand for twelve years of basic education, the country has implemented the K-12 reform as defined by the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (RA 10533).  The addition of two years of basic education in Senior High School (Grades 11 and 12) was occasion for the Department of Education to rethink its entire basic education curriculum and prescribe a learner-centered, learning-outcomes-based pedagogy, with corresponding metrics, that outputted not just banked knowledge but ability to apply knowledge in skills and competencies (“21st Century Skills”).  Performance tasks, and not just quizzes and exams, are a marker of the K-12 reform.  Meanwhile, the addition of Senior High School has necessarily had ramifications in higher education.  The New General Education Program of CHED (CMO 20 s. 2013), based on College Readiness Standards presuming the K-12 reform,[6]  presumes mastery of basic disciplines and preparedness for its prescribed multi- and interdisciplinary activities.[7]

The SHS with its tracks (academic, sports, arts and design, technical vocational livelihood) and strands (science technology and mathematics [STEM], humanities and social sciences [HUMSS], accounting and business management [ABM], general academics [GAS]), its 15 core subjects, applied track subjects, and specialized track subjects, is a central output of the K-12 Reform.

The SHS is a complex operation.  While its positive effects are now being experienced in college instruction, critics assert that SHS is overloaded, over-demanding,  and exhausting for administrators, teachers and learners. Setting standards of excellence for the accreditation of SHSs that are already over-demanding will be challenging.

III. Role of Accreditation in the Tasks of Quality Assurance

As quality assurance has many different modalities (assessment, certification, internal quality mechanisms), all with the objective of assuring through evidence that what one claims in education one actually achieves, accreditation is the most rigorous of quality assurance activities.

Since it is quality that must be assured, a renewal of our accreditation processes must assure the four aspects of quality as stated above.

In the light of the mission of higher education and the challenges to Philippine education described above, particularly challenging for our strategic planning will be:

  • Consensus on the mission of education universally applicable to the diversity of our member schools.
  • Working consensus on “quality” and what we in PAASCU claim to assure. It has been suggested that because our accreditation is based on the minimum requirements either of DepEd or CHED, we are not ascertaining achievement of excellence.
  • Working consensus on minimum standards and standards of excellence, considering the unresolved debate on over-prescribed optimum standards, and how these are set in PAASCU.
  • Working consensus on judging “fitness for purpose” or the institutional performance in implementing the school’s mission and vision.
  • Working consensus on responsiveness to stakeholders, understanding that “stakeholders” are not just industry and the economy, but human society or faith community/communities.
  • Understand the relationship of PAASCU to the Philippine Qualifications Framework, its challenges   and limitations.
  • Revision of instruments of basic education (elementary, secondary, and “basic education”) to capture the minimum requirements of the K-12 reform in learning outcomes, pedagogy and formation.
  • Development of an instrument for the accreditation of SHS in its sui generis complexity.
  • Revision of instruments for higher education to ascertain the goals of the New General Education Program, esp. its interdisciplinary requirement.
  • Renewal of PAASCU according to the standards of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework published by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) as it relates to the ASEAN Quality Reference Framework [8] (AQRF). Understanding of how Internal Quality Assurance relates to External Quality Assurance and vice-versa.

Let us have a fruitful strategic planning exercise for PAASCU!

 

 


[1] Quoted in CMO 20 s. 2013

[2] Cf:  Philippine Constitution, Art. XIV, Sec. 1.   The recently passed Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (RA 10931) is as much about quality tertiary education as it is about access to quality tertiary education. The reference to this law as the “free tertiary education in SUCs” law is inappropriate and unfortunate.

[3] Cf:  http://vhu.edu.vn/trang/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2.Standards-and-Indicators_Van-Damme.pdf

[4]  Resolutions of PASUC-COCOPEA adopted during the 2nd PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations (ADDU, 12-13 Jan., 1947.

[5] The four quadrants of the AQAN are:  the External Quality Assurance
Agency, the External Quality Assurance Standards and Procedures, Internal Quality Assurance, and the National Qualifications Framework.  In the PH the latter is the PQF.

[6] Approved by CEB Resolution No. 298-2011

[7] CMO 20 s. 2013 specifies core courses and general education electives. “The core courses are inter- disciplinary and are stated broadly enough to accommodate a range of perspectives and approaches. Starting with the self, the core courses expand to cover the nation and the world and various ways of comprehending social and natural realities (artistic, scientific, mathematical). Two other important dimensions are give attention: communicating in different modalities and for varied purposes, and basic ethical considerations that enable communities and societies to live peaceably in the face of competing claims, opposing viewpoints and diverse faiths and cultures” (Sec 3).

[8] “PASUC and COCOPEA shall jointly commit itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the AQAN and its AQRF…” (Resolution 7).

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Running in the Spirit Towards the Light

holy spirit mass 2018

[Mass of the Holy Spirit.  ADDU Colleges. 21 June, 2018.]

Before the beginning of this academic year I addressed the assembled faculties of our ADDU and challenged them to greater intellectual engagement in the University mission:  we focused on improved teaching, but saw that this is not possible without deeper research and more effective service of the community.[1]  The challenge involves us all.

Our university mission, we know, comes ultimately from the heart of the Church, ex corde ecclesiae.[2]  The heart of the Church is Jesus Christ.

During the faculty assembly, we drew inspiration from a recently published document of Pope Francis which was designed to guide ecclesiastical faculties of theology;  it is entitled, Veritatis Gaudium, the Joy of Truth.   But we saw that it also had great relevance to us as a university, since universities are about truth.  Universities are communities of scholars and teachers who come together in freedom to search for truth.

For this Mass  of the Holy Spirit, I thought we could all take inspiration from the opening words of Veritatis Gaudium“The joy of truth,” Francis declares, “expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all peoples.  For truth is not an abstract idea, but Jesus himself, the Word of God in whom is the Life and Light of man.”  We recognize the truth of these profound statements only in the Holy Spirit.  We call on the Holy Spirit today not only to help us comprehend them more fully;  more importantly, we call on the Holy Spirit that we may truly be part of its truth.

First, that we might comprehend the statements more fully: “The joy of truth expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all peoples.”   We are not just talking about conceptual truth:  the certainty in our minds based on certain presuppositions that one plus two equals three, or that “for every action in nature there is an equal and opposite reaction,” or that in the Bangsamoro the incidence of poverty is the highest in the Philippines.  We are talking about that which is beyond the merely conceptual.  Remember Kant?  He said rather than 500 Thalers in his head, he would prefer 500 Thalers in his hand.  Then, we are talking about our joy, not just conceptual but real, not just thought but experienced, and the joy is of truth.   Where is our joy of truth?  Remarkably here, the joy of truth is related not to the joy of a project in engineering finished successfully, nor to the joy of a well-defended thesis, nor to the joy of an insight into my compulsion to eat too much, but to the restlessness in our hearts.    “The joy of truth expresses the restlessness of the human heart….”  Francis says.

Hopefully, despite the pressures to succeed, to please my parents, my superiors, to be well regarded among my friends, to be “in”, to be admired, to be liked, to be important, to be successful, to be powerful, ours our still human hearts.  For hearts sometimes can be like stones, cold and unfeeling, not hearts of flesh;  they can be selfish, mean, and destructive of colleagues, bullying people dependent on me, and, tragically , harming even friends and loved ones.  But if our hearts are still human, Francis relates that humanity to a restlessness.  Without this humanity there would be no restlessness, but complacency, self-satisfaction, smugness.  In the restlessness there is an inner push, an interior vacuum, a quiet frustration, an interior pain of lacking that which needs to be acquired, of not being that which needs to be, a deep human sense of being at a loss, of being lost in darkness, because of not yet having encountered God’s light.  John the Evangelist refers to the Light which comes through the Word.  “In Him was the Life.  And the Life was the Light of men.  And the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it”  (Jn 1:5).  Restlessness is humanity in darkness trying to comprehend the blinding Light… It is humanity stretching toward the Light “until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all peoples.”  The joy of truth therefore knows that “truth is not an abstract idea, but Jesus himself.  Not Jesus just thought in your mind, but Jesus the “Christ before us, Christ behind us, Christ under our feet.  Christ within us, Christ over us, …all around us Christ.”[3]   Jesus, the Christ, introducing to us the love of the Father as our redemption.  Jesus and the Father, sending us the Spirit whom we call upon specially at this Mass.   The Spirit is the joy of truth.  The Spirit is partial truth driving towards to the whole of truth.  The Spirit is our broken humanity seeking wholeness.  The Spirit is our human restlessness rejecting the darkness and seeking Light.  The Spirit is the joy of encountering that Light, even as it pierces the darkness of our world.  The Spirit is our restlessness in a darkened world, and our need to overcome it in Light.

Second, we call on the Holy Spirit that we might be willingly part of its truth.  “The joy of truth expresses the restlessness of the human heart until it encounters and dwells in God’s Light and shares that Light with all peoples.”  It does not discount us.  It includes us.  It embraces us in all of our intelligence, love and freedom.  It relies on the restlessness of our hearts, presuming they are still human hearts.  It is our hearts’ restlessness amidst the darkness of our world to find the truth, patiently, persistently and humbly, and through the multi- and inter-disciplinarity of our university service, to find that elusive lasting peace in Mindanao, to find that end to corruption in government, to find that way to thrive in our planet without destroying our common home, to find that compassion for colleagues in distress, to find the elusive common good, until we may abide in God’s Light and share it with all.  It relies on our hearts being willing to wash the feet of the people we serve (cf. Jn 13:14), to share the Gospel in season and out of season (cf. 2 Tim 4:2), and to be willing to die for the sheep who are lost (cf. Jn 10:11).  It is the Spirit that teaches us all things, reminding us constantly of all that Jesus had taught us (cf. Jn 14:26), especially that he had come “to bring us life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10).   This is “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive,” Jesus tells us, “because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  But you know Him, for he dwells in you and will be in you” (Jn 14:17).

St. Augustine had a restless human heart.  He tried desperately to still that restlessness through excessive pleasures, false religions, philosophy, dissipation and distractions.  In a crisis of his restlessness, a passage from Romans struck him, “Let us walk properly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy; but put on the Lord, Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” (Rom 13:13-14).  The passage talked to him, I surmise, because it described his frustrated experience and wasted life.  Suddenly he realized his restlessness was not quieted in anything short of the Lord.  In the end he knew, “Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.”  At work here is the Spirit whom we call upon to guide us throughout this new academic year towards greater engagement in mission.  Greater engagement in mission: not in intellectual pride and arrogance, not in smugness and complacency, not in isolation and intellectual self-gratification, not in meanness and cruelty, not in depression and despair, but in the Spirit running towards the Light.  “Let us run with endurance the race set before us!” Hebrews urges.  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” (Heb 12:1).

Our hearts are restless until they abide in your Light, O Lord, and share your Light with all people.

 


[1] Visit: https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2018/06/05/presaddress-june2018/

[2] Visit: http://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_jp-ii_apc_15081990_ex-corde-ecclesiae.html

[3] From: Prayer for Peace, Himig Heswita.

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