The ongoing COCOPEA Congress at UST, organized under the theme, “Reforming Philippine Education: Issues, Challenges and Solutions” had President Noynoy Aquino as its keynote speaker. Addressing the educators in UST’s Quadricentennial Hall, the President opted to discard his prepared speeches, which he said he did not like, to deliver his thoughts extempore.
If my memory serves me correctly, President Noynoy recalled with gratitude how he had been blessed with a good education, mentioning his Ateneo teacher, Shirley Advincula, by name. Education, in his view, empowers one to accomplish in society what one must do. It provides students with opportunities to reach the fullest of their potentials.
He then shared with the assembled educators the latest news on new vigor in the investment market, and how the Philippines is now considered an excellent destination for new investments.
He also spoke of how the DepEd is now organized to solve his inherited 67,000-classroom shortage in three years, and how CHED is now going against programs that are non-compliant with standards.
He reaffirmed his support for K-12, and shared the budgetary allocations for DepED, Tesda, CHED and the GASTPE program.
But onsidering the fact that PNoy, who takes pleasure in styling himself as an education President, was addressing the assembled represenatives of private education in the Philippines, it was a disappointing address, where he failed to recognize the considerable sacrifices the Private Sector in education is accepting in order to support and collaborate with the administration’s K-12 program, failed to offer measures which would alleviate those sacrifices, failed to address some of the key problems of the relationship between taxpayer-funded State Colleges and Universities (SUCs) and Local Universities and Colleges (LCUs) on the one hand vs. tuition-and-fees fueled private colleges and universities including the lack of a level playing field on the other hand, and failed to address the problems of CHED’s role in articulating minimum standards vs its “developmental” role in encouraging or demanding increased performance standards in private education. These are thorny isssues besetting Philippine education which our education President should have addressed.
But I was most disappointed in the President’s failure to deliver a vision of how education under his administration might contribute to moral renewal in Philippine society today. He did not relate education to his “Matuwid na Daan.” He did not relate education to the crying need in our society form leaders who are knowledge-based and competent, but also committed uncompromisingly to integrity and moral uprightness. Considering his own desire to reform the judiciary through an impeachment process that transcends the legal niceties of legal procedure and the rules of court, but relies ultimately on the judgement of the people as to whether the respondent is fit or unfit to serve in office, this was indeed a failed opportunity.
I find it terribly disheartening when a top education policy maker like President Aquino seems to continue the error of past admnistrations of situating the meaning of education in its contribution to the economy, in its responsiveness or lack thereof to job opportunities (the mismatch between educcation and job opportunities is an abiding government concern!), and fails to appreciate its role in advancing a renewed moral society, supporting moral reform, or exploring a possible partnership between itself and private education towards moral renewal.
O well. Life moves on. At least Pnoy, on his own admission, now knows how “GASTPE” is pronounced. And at least DepEd Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro reiterated the fact that the current government roll out of K-12 was not “one size fits all” and encouraged private education to roll-out K-12 as their local insight resources on the ground enable them. “We welcome your inputs and will help your school to find the best fit.”
CHED Chair Dr. Patricia Licuanan addressed the controversial issue of Outcomes- and Typology-Based Quality Assurance. Well, sort of. She said that it was only in a first phase of consultations – which she asserted, contrary to the allegation of an unnamed university Preisdent, was not “fake”. Educators worried about this program will have to wait until the document is revised, presumably based on the considerable negative feedback coming in from the first phase. Meanwhile, responding to some questions I raised, she admitted that while CHED can withdraw university recognition from private schools, it cannot do so from SUCs and LCUs, despite CHED’s progress under her watch of evening out the uneven playing field between state-funded HEIs and private HEIs. She also said that my interpretation of CHED being confined by RA 7722 to the establishment and enforcement of minimum standards in higher education was wrong . For me, the uneven playing field between private and public education and the relationship between mimimum standards and increasing quality assurance warrant urgent legislation to improve the governance of high education in the country.
It will be interesting to see what our key education legislators have to say about this challenge.