In the letter of Dr. Patricia Licuanan, Chair of CHED, dated Dec. 12, 2012, to myself as President of PAASCU, in which she essays to explain why the approval of Outcomes-Based and Typology-Based Quality Assurance cannot be postponed, she asserts: “CHED has the statutory power or authority to set standards pursuant to its plenary powers under Republic Act 7722 vis-à-vis the exercise of accreditation authority over academic programs, school, colleges and universities” and refers to Sec. 8 or RA 7722.
I do not want now to go into a detailed discussion of this contentious claim, leaving that for our lawyers, beyond recalling the Declaration of Policy of RA 7722, sec. 2, part of which 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 development of high-level and middle-level leadership and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage.” A governing policy of CHED is that it must ensure and protect academic freedom.
Throwing light on the relationship it has with State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) as well as with Local Colleges and Universities (LCUs), it says: “State supported institutions of higher learning shall gear their programs to national, regional or local development plans.” A governing policy of CHED is that SUCs and LCUs be harnessed for national development plans on various levels.
Respectful of academic freedom, it does not say this about private schools.
Instead, in Sec. 13, it issues a “Guarantee of Academic Freedom”: “…Nothing in this Act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom of universities and colleges. In particular, no abridgement of curricular freedom of the individual educational institutions by the Commission shall be made except for (a) minimum requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education requirements as may be determined by the Commission and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.”
In its own determination of “leveling the playing field,” RA 7722, Sec. 13 states: “No academic or curricular restriction shall be made upon private educational institutions which are not required for chartered state colleges and universities.”
In Sec. 14 on “Accreditation”, recognizing the private and voluntary activities of functioning accreditation agencies in the Philippines, RA 7722 provides, “The Commission shall provide incentives to institutions of higher learning, public and private, whose programs are accredited and whose needs are for accreditation purposes.” Note that RA 7722 does not presume to set minimum standards for accreditation, and confines its activities to providing “incentives” for accreditation.
These provisions considered, it is not apparent to me at all how Chair Licuanan can invoke “plenary powers” afforded CHEd by RA 7722 to issue a policy on Quality Assurance which defines the “mandate” for all HEIs in the Philippines to contribute to “building a quality nation” (CMO 46, s. 2012, Art I, Sec 1), and shall therefore logically base all evaluations of program or institutional outcomes on this “mandate,” without violating academic freedom.
It is not clear to me what “plenary powers” CHED has “vis-à-vis the exercise of accreditation authority over academic programs, schools, colleges and universities” when the accreditation activity and acceptance of accreditation by schools especially above minimum standards are essentially voluntary.
How is it that CHEd exercises this “accreditation authority”? Is it saying it has the plenary power to authorize accreditation agencies to freely enter into the activity of accreditation? Or is it saying that accreditation agencies – which are not HEIs – are not free to exercise their accreditation activities unless authorized by CHEd? Is it saying that accreditation activities are valid if and only if they “voluntarily” follow the accreditation processes that it prescribes?
If RA 7722 wished CHED to have authority over accreditation, would it not have specified this in Sec. 8.? Instead, RA 7722, mentions only that CHEd should provide incentives for accreditation.
Our position is that RA 7722 does not give CHED power over accrediting agencies that are not violating law in their non-mandatory service of education.
Chair Licuanan’s statement, “We would also like to clarify that while higher education bodies are free as citizens and organizations to lobby for a later implementation of a policy that CHED deems urgent, this is not within the purview of the academic freedom of HEIs…,” is not clear. What is not within the purview of academic freedom? Is she saying that it is not within the purview of the academic freedom of HEIs to accept or not to accept CMO 46 s. 2012. I think, that is her meaning. She is saying HEIs are not academically free to to reject CMO 46, s. 2012.
But what if CMO 46, s. 2012 is violating the academic freedom of HEIs – as we contend?
If so, CMO 46, s 2012 is invalidly issued, and it is within the purview of HEIs to reject it.
Dr. Licuanan writes, “Under the constitutional concept of academic freedom, HEIs exercise institutional autonomy in the determination of their systems and operations, and to determine for themselves (1) who may teach, (2) who may be taught, (3) how lessons shall be taught, and (4) who may be admitted to study. CHED has continued to uphold academic freedom….” Here, however, she misses to include a fundamental tenet of academic freedom, namely, the academic freedom of what may be taught.
This may be an error because of the seeming doublet, “(2) who may be taught” and “(4) who may be admitted to study.”
Or it may be because in in Art. 1. Sec. 1 of CMO 46, in its mandate to all HEIs to “contribute to building the quality nation,” she has already virtually predetermined all of what can be taught. It is on the basis of this predetermination that all “outcomes” in a outcomes-based QA system shall necessarily be evaluated.
So if the outcome, “able to do the work of a call-center agent,” is an acceptable outcome for the “quality nation”, it is evaluated as good; however, if the outcome, “able to expound on the Philosophy of Spirit of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (which eschews the nation),” is irrelevant for the “quality nation,” it is evaluated as not good. This truncation of academic freedom seriously harms higher education.
Dr. Licuanan states, “In fact, it is pursuing QA reforms in support of academic freedom because the exercise of HEIs of their constitutionally guaranteed academic freedom will flourish only in an atmosphere where the hallmarks of quality assurance are ensured.”
It may be true that the exercise of academic freedom will flourish in the context of quality programs and institutions of higher education. But is is extremely dubious that this context is served through a government-imposed CMO 46 s. 2012. It is our contention that it is harmed.