Problems in Principle with CHED’s CMO 46, s. 2012 on Quality Assurance

There are HEIs and HEIs.
CHED says there are too many.
If there are indeed too many, that is a problem of quantity.
If there are too many: two things may be done.
Stop creating HEIs. Do this based on the judgment that there are too many.

But where the Constitution says
even higher education is to be made accessible to all,
think about the premise. Too many, really?
The clamor for more HEIs is because more and more people want higher education. Even laws respond to demographics. As do private investments.
One way of stopping the number of HEIs is to stop the number of people.
But that may be difficult even for CHEd to do.

But CHED thinks there are too many HEIs.
Of course, no matter what CHED thinks,
many of the HEIs are not created by CHED.
They are created by law; these are the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs).
Or, they are created by local ordinance; these are the Local Colleges and Universities (LCU)s.
Among the SUCs are very prestigious HEIs, like the University of the Philippines. Among the LCUs are very successful HEIs, like the University of Makati.
Despite CHED thoughts, the number of SUCs and LCUs is growing.
So is their share in the national budget.

Unfortunately the quality in the SUCs and LCUs is uneven.
The CHED commissioners, who chair the Boards of the SUCs, have much difficulty
keeping things rational – raising quality and balancing
the “complementarity” between the public schools and the private schools (Art XIV, Sec. 2, Constitution)
That CHED would want a QA mechanism for SUCs and LCUs is understandable.
After all, much government money is poured into these schools.
And there are so, so many schools, so CHED complains!
But either it can’t enforce its quality measures or it can.
Here, the negative must come first.
Either it can’t enforce them because SUCs are created by law
just as CHEd is created by law;
CHED has no power in law to close SUCs.
Where CHEd sets “minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning” (Sec. 8 d), CHEd has no enforceable minimum standards
for public universities and colleges,
while it does for private universities and colleges.
This is, indeed, an anomaly under the principle that, “No academic or curricular restriction shall be made upon private educational institutions which are not required for chartered state colleges and universities” (RA 7722, Sec. 13).
If CHED can restrict academic and curricular activities to closure of private HEIs,
it cannot do the same for the SUCs, and so violates its own law.
Either it can’t…

Or, CHED can enforce its quality measures on the schools it leads
through a series of administrative appeals and agreements.
But the agreements, lacking the force of law, are ephemeral,
subject to too easy change from administration to administration,
strong today and weak tomorrow, enlightened today and benighted tomorrow,
subject to the political considerations and political compromises that come with administrators elected into public office.

But even granting CHEd could enforce its passably quality measures on the schools its leads, here, CHEd would be vulnerable to a serious conflict in interest.
It is the government leader, the regulator, answerable to the elected administrator, who must shine in public, on the one hand,
and the cold, disinterested, guarantor of academic quality on the other.
Where vital public budgets are determined by reports on quality and performance, how disinterested would the government quality assessor be?
Here it is too easy for government to pat itself on the back.

Government is the wrong administrator for
a credible QA mechanism, even for SUCs and LUCs.
Will CHED presume to tell the premier SUC
what to teach, who to teach, whom to teach, how to teach?
Will CHED say, “Your teachers should focus more on teaching?
Your researchers should focus more on instruction?
You should be teaching more poor people, not the children of alumni/ae?
You should not be teaching students to go abroad?”
If not, how does it administer a regulative QA mechanism?

Too many HEIs? Stop creating them. Or close them.
Since CHEd can’t close SUCs and LCUs, well lets focus on the private HEIs.

Close HEIs based on your minimum standards.
Here, the issue is not only quantity. “Too many….”
The issue is quality. Minimum standards are a quality issue.
But to close a school based on minimum standards you don’t need a
QA mechanism that is outcomes and typology based.
You need political will. And legal power.
Arguably, CHED lacks both.
It now covers this double deficit in enforcing fundamental standards
in the approval of CMO 46.
What higher education in the PH needs is not CMO 46
but a rethinking of the entire manner of administering HE in the PH.

Quality Assurance that goes beyond minimum standards is misplaced in the regulative government entity that is to “take appropriate steps to insure that education is to be accessible to all” and to “ensure and protect academic freedom” (RA 7722, Sec 2)
For program and institutional quality assurance based on minimum standards, it sets the standards. (Sec 8. d)
However for quality assurance above the minimum standards, where it must ensure and promote academic freedom, who is it to set the standards for the exercise of academic freedom?
In setting standards on the exercise of academic freedom it limits precisely what it is mandated to promote.
Which person or combinations of persons in CHED is it to
set and judge standards of outcomes of the exercise of academic freedom,
where the outcome of academic freedom is truth that sets itself as truth?
Outcomes-based quality assurance as an exercise of government regulation is a curtailment of academic freedom because it subjects the exercise of academic freedom to the regulation of government, necessarily determined by its own historically pre-set government interests such as the national weal, economic development, the government’s perceived “common good” which are themselves perennially contentious.
At this point, there is room for a distinction.

Outcomes-based quality assurance may be understandable for the more technical, pragmatic disciplines like engineering, architecture, health related disciplines and the like. They are outcomes of instruction in disciplines of techne (doing, making) such as: Can one build a bridge? Can one design a house? Can one heal a person?

But outcomes based quality assurance mechanisms set by a government regulator are repugnant for disciplines that have to do with perennially contested concepts that are the abiding concern and privilege of higher education and are precisely protected by academic freedom.

For illustration, a brief discussion of three:

The educated person. The good person. This certainly must be a concern of Philippine education. But what is the “outcome” of education itself? How are the outcomes of educational programs to be assessed in terms of “the educated person.” Is the educated person who is extraordinarily knowledgeable the outcome of PH HEIs “mandated” to serve the national weal, or are we to be satisfied with an educated person in possession of a “gentleman’s knowledge” of things. The good person ought to be the moral person: the one who knows the difference between right and wrong, and who chooses right and practices it. But who in CHED sets the ultimate standards in right and wrong, and who in CHED can judge the outcomes in morality of those our HEIs educate. Is the ideal outcome of the educated person in the Philippines one who stays in the country to serves the poor, or one who leaves the country and excels in medical practice in the first world? Is the ideal outcome the graduate who challenges the structures of injustice and ignorance in the country, or the one who quietly accepts the laws as sufficient for national deliverance. Is the outcome of higher education to be seen in choices made by graduates before they are 30? or 40? or 65?

The common good. This certainly must be a concern of Philippine education. But how are the “outcomes” of Philippine education to be assessed in terms of the common good, where “the common good” is essentially contested. The “common good” defined by China is different from “common good” defined by the United States or by the Organization of African States or even by the United Nations. Does CHED define the common good sufficiently in order to judge the outcomes of higher education. Is the CHED’s “common good” determined by its concept of nationalism, patriotism, economic competitiveness in a global world. Talk of “the common good” notoriously often ends in conflict, where “talk” is backed up by political coercion, the repression of freedom, and military might. What notion of “the common good” does CHED use to judge outcomes of higher education when some graduates may condemn large scale open pit mining as wrong for this country, while the administration considers it good, or some citizens may consider the culture of consumerism dehumanizing while the administration may consider it essential for development? What outcomes in higher-education research are to be declared “better” by CHEd – the research that further understands the economic uses of copra, or the research that further studies the motivations of Andres Bonifacio in leading the Philippine revolution? CHED’s notion of the common good is necessarily only one among many, and its necessary use in the development and administration of evaluative standards of HE imposes its notion on academicians where there is clear warrant for diversity.

In RA 7722, there is clear sensitivity for this as a matter of fundamental policy (Sec. 2). Here, CHEd is mandated to ensure and protect academic freedm, and then to ensure that schools funded by the state pursue national goals. There is more appropriateness in CHED imposing its standards of the outcomes of HE on the state schools which it funds, even though even here it must exercise wise restraint in order not to curtail the academic freedom of SUCs. If CHEd must respect the academic freedom of state schools, it must do so a fortiori with private HEIs.

Religion. Where religion, religiosity, spirituality, mysticism, fundamentalism and the relations of these to reason, culture, national or global well being, and peace is a field for urgent academic inquiry in exercise of academic freedom, disciplined critical reflection on these topics must be promoted, not curtailed. The religious relationship to the Almighty makes a claim on the whole person, subordinating the person and his/her relationship to the secular state to the claims of the Almighty. For some that is a sign of religion yet unconquered by reason, for others it is warrant for war. Where the educational mission of the school is not only in the service of the prior right of citizens to educate their children but also in the exercise of the freedom of religion, CHED lacks the ability, beyond its administration of minimum standards, to rationally evaluate the outcomes of these schools in their exercise of academic freedom.

Beyond minimum standards – which may as minima also govern the outcomes of higher educational disciplines of techne – CHED cannot rationally govern the outcomes of higher education.

Let us look again at typology-based QA.

But let us remember CMO 46 is presumably about QA
and not about the quantity of HEIs, nor about types.

There are HEIs and HEIs.
CHED says there are too many.
CHED now says there should be more than HEIs and HEIs.
There should be HEIs, HEIs, and HEIs, namely,
Colleges, Universities and Professional Institutions.
Others disagree: HEIs and HEIs are enough..
But CHED insists: it must be, it cannot be otherwise,
the national weal demands it: not HEIs and HEIs
but HEIs and HEIs and HEIs.
So to solve this problem, CHED puts up
a Policy Standard on QA.
Existing HEIs are now to choose what HEI one wishes to be
purportedly based on their original vision and mission
It creates the third HEI by the Policy Standard on QA.

If CHED really wanted to create the HEI Professional Institute
it would have been less circuitous, or more orderly,
or more logical, if it had just created
the minimum standards for a new HEI as professional institution,
not a Policy Standard on QA.

So now we have three HEI types. We could have had five.
Where CHED had had difficulty calling forth credibly accredited schools for two types, now it has to deal with three.

In CMO 46, we have an Outcomes-Based QA mechanism that cannot operate without the curtailment of academic freedom.

In CMO 46, we have a typology-based QA mechanism that has circuitously created a new type.  This had complicated, not enhanced, hopes for better QA for higher education in the Philippines.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Personal Views and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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