During the CHED consultation of CARAGA and Regions X, XI and XII at the University of Mindanao, Chairman Patricia Licuanan presented an update on the performance of CHED in the past year and a half, and the Dr. Cynthia Bautista, Dr. Allan Bernardo and Engr. Rey Vea of the CHED Task Force on Quality Assurance took turns presenting their recommendations on Outcomes- and Typology-Based Quality Assurance. As is typical of such “consultations,” CHED used close to 2.5 hours presenting their complex material, leaving but one hour for “consultation.”
To my remark that for such sweeping reforms that are being proposed, much more serious consultation of partners of CHED in the delivery of higher education in the Philippines, especially of those partners who deliver this higher education often under adverse conditions in remote areas should have been done, Chairman Licuanan admitted that CHED’s consultation system is not perfect, but stressed that CHED had indeed taken pains to consult many “experts,” including that morning the Regional Development Council of Davao. To me, at least, her response was disappointing. If the consultation process is not perfect, could not something have been undertaken to further perfect the process? In the past, in previous attempts to enter into rational dialogue with CHED (cf. our discussion on record on CHED of its CMO 7, s 2009), we had pleaded for a rationalization of the consultation process. For Chair Licuanan however, because the consultation mechanism is not perfect, all would have to make do with the imperfection of the consultation. There was no manifest openness to more thorough consultation. For me, when key issues are not truly discussed and appreciated for their implications on stakeholders, this argues not just for an imperfection in but for a fatal infirmity of the consultation.
It was for this reason why we had summited written comments to CHED during this Davao consultation. Dr. Cynthia Bautista promised that the Committee would consider all such submissions seriously. But when the framework of implementation of the policy is set to two years, and stakeholders are saying ten years would be more rational and fair, but the “experts” have really “worked hard” in Manila, can Dr. Bautista’s promise be taken seriously?
The committee proposes one and only one “university type.” It proposes that CHED recognize only this one university type. It says that it defines this type on the basis of the university in the global world, and that what CHED would demand is much lower than what other countries actually demand. So they set the Philippine requirement for a university as a compromise between the really real university in the global world and the universities on the ground in the Philippines. The compromise, however, is a matter of – what? – rational discretion, discernment, judgment? Why are 50 programs more acceptable than 45? Should it not really be 55? Why should 30 percent of the faculty be in research, and not 50 percent, and if 30 percent are doing research, why should only 10 percent be publishing in refereed journals and not just 5 percent – especially if the quality is truly excellent? In this madness about rationalization, there is a lurking arbitrariness which one would be irrational not to admit. This arbitrariness includes, and excludes. It is powerful. Arbitrariness can harm, or even break, long standing institutions of higher learning. Arbirtrariness is most dangerous when it is rationalized.
All affected should protect themselves from this.
Especially since I don’t think the one, ideal “really real university” in the global world exists. It is sad when a representative of CHED says that although CHED may have recognized and honored universities in the past, it must now withdraw that recognition because the reality of the university in the global world has changed. In fact, universities in the world are always changing. But with all the merits of the University of Paris or the University of Munich or of Harvard or Georgetown Universities, or of Sophia or Sanata Dharma or Sogang – with whatever standards of research, instruction or community service and with whatever public or private resources they may operate on today – they are not primarily providing quality higher education in the Cordilleras, in Bicol, in the Visayas or in Mindanao – which are all (should CHED happen to have forgotten) part of the global world. Only Philippine universities, public and private, are doing this, often under very adverse circumstances. And if Philippine universities are doing this, and foreign global universities are not, as far as education in the Philippines is concerned, who is to meaningfully say that they are “behind” or “ahead,” “above” or “below” similar higher educational institutions in other countries?
Again, Philippine universities must be appreciated in the context of their development in the region in which they operate. If some compromise is to be achieved between the “really real global university” and our Philippine universities on the ground, one should in justice have a deep appreciation for the really real universities in Cotabato, Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Naga, Baguio and Tuguegarao. Otherwise, the proposed policy is disastrous in its arbitrariness.
Responding to my statement that I did not see a necessary connection between the targeted quality output and the proposal of the five and only five types of HEI, Dr. Allan Bernardo went into a patient explanation of how, granting the HEI types, it would be possible to evaluate the HEI outputs based on HEI types. Schools would choose their types based on a recollection of their respective missions. A school that wishes to serve based on a mission to respond to the needs of an LGU community would choose to be a community college. A school that wishes to contribute to the technical development of the economy would choose to be a professional college. Outputs based on types would be based on much more discerning inputs. Those who are interested in professional development would then not have to worry about research and research publication in peer-reviewed journals. Therefore investments in institutional development would be better placed based on type. The output quality would be based on the inputs according to type. Assessment would be easier.
It is clean theory. But only theory. A hope. A wager. As officials in CHED very well know, there is no necessary connect between input and output, even if you are inputting in five different modes. This has been the complaint of the output theorists against the input theorists. It is not enough to measure laboratories, academic degrees, facilities, that are inputted into a instructional system. One has to take the trouble to assess an instructional system in terms of what it actually outputs. So if the connect between the types and the output is ultimately the likelihood that more appropriate inputs will be effected according to type, there is really no necessary connect between the input and the output, despite the type. As educators know, educational outputs must be painstakingly shepherded by teacher training, curriculum development, teacher improvement, facilities improvement, appropriate methods of measurement, etc., which can and must be affected whether one types oneself as a public university, a private university, a teaching university, a music university, a sports university, a state university, a graduate college, a liberal arts college, or a community college.
Then, for many desired outputs, implementing these HEI types, may actually militate against the outputs because they ultimately militate against the ability of the institution to make the inputs. In HEIs, there are capital-intensive offerings and less-capital-intensive offerings. Unless you begin your HEI with a large private endowment or public subsidy (which is not the normal way HEIs begin and develop), normally your ability to invest in capital-intensive HEIs depends on your ability to run less-capital-intensive offerings successfully. The numerous enrollment in the less-capital-intensive offerings, often referred to as the bread-and-butter courses of higher education, provides the HEI with the funds to make investments in the high-capital-investment courses. This was my experience when I began civil engineering at the Ateneo de Naga, which had very expensive capital requirements in laboratories as required by CHED. It was only because we had large populations in management and commerce that these investments were possible. Without the bread-and-butter courses as part of the institution, the country would not have the civil engineers coming from the Ateneo de Naga. The same thing can be said of Ateneo de Naga’s niche Digital Illustration and Animation Course. Were we only to have been a professional school with relatively small enrollment, the investments in this highly successful program, beneficial to industry in the Philippines today, would not have been possible.
It would be interesting to see CHED push its types first on the SUCs and LCUs, and not impose this on the private HEIs. For, really, what would happen if an SUC with its own university charter doesn’t have 30 percent of its faculty doing research and 10 percent publishing in peer-reviewed journals? Although Chair Licuanan states that she would apply the same disciplines coming from the Omnibus CMO on Quality Assurances to SUC as to private colleges and universities, in fact, on the basis of the CHED law, RA 7722, she would have no power to withdraw recognition of university status on a SUCs as she could with private universities, and it is misleading for her to imply that she can. So that the “playing field” between SUCs, LCUs on the one hand, and private colleges and universities on the other hand, can be level, CHED should start this policy upheaval first with the SCUs and LCUs. Otherwise its policy would be discriminatory against duly recognized universities operating according to current law. Against discrimination, the private LCUs would plead for equal protection of law.
Let me end this reflection with a final note. Most schools in the Philippines start very modestly and grow into institutions that produce the outcomes that the country need. Much improvement is necessary. But the way this outcomes- and typology- based quality assurance system is proposed, it would generate much ill-will and negativity in the higher education community. If such a system is to be introduced, it would be best to introduce it prospectively – for all new colleges and all new universities. It would also be helpful to allow several models of universities, and not just the one-size-fits-all university type – which in fact doesn’t fit many long-practicing universities in the country.
A final question: What would happen if the basketball czars of the country were to say that because of globalization, within two years all basketball players would have to be at least 6’2” tall because this is now the global standard? Falling short of 6’2’’, they should play volleyball.