[For the benefit of the PH higher education community and its stakeholders, I am reproducing here the letter of Fr. Gregg Bañaga, President of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), to Dr. Paricia Licuanan, Chairperson, Commission on Higher Education (CHED), that maintains the critical stance of the CEAP vs. CMO 46. It was received formally by CHED on 23 April 2013.]
20 April 2013
Dr. Patricia B. Licuanan, Ph.D.
Commission on Higher Education
Dear Dr. Licuanan:
We have your letter dated 5 April 2013 thanking us for the copy of the book “Disqualifying CHED’s Quality Assurance: A Collection of Critical Materials on CMO 46, series of 2012” and expressing regret at not having readily responded to the CEAP board resolution dated 11 December 2012 requesting for postponement of the approval of the proposed CMO on Outcomes- and Typology-based Quality Assurance. However, the CEAP wishes to clarify that its perception of being ignored by CHED was brought about considering that the current formal response prepared by the CHED was made four months after the receipt of the CEAP letter. In addition, the perception that CMO 46, series of 2012 was approved on the same day that CEAP sent its letter to CHED was based on the date published in the CMO. Nevertheless, the matter of whether the approval by the Commission en banc of CMO 46 was actually made earlier but released only on the published date, is of little import as there are more substantial issues raised by the CEAP through its letters and its book. To date, these issues and concerns still remain unanswered.
The CEAP understands the pressure brought about by relevant external factors and feels the urgency with which CHED wants to implement higher education reforms. However, the CEAP believes that these reforms must be measures which bring the country forward, not backward. With the present version of CMO 46 s. 2012 and its implementing rules, the CEAP believes that it cannot successfully deliver the intended objectives.
While CMO 46 s. 2012 seeks to substantiate and operationalize “learning competency based standards within a lifelong learning framework, including the development of qualifications and quality assurance frameworks,” the fact is that all these measures require a condition precedent — it necessitates that the PSGs, as well as the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) already be in place. Currently, these are still in the works. While an Executive Order calls for the creation of a committee to substantiate the PQF, this is yet to be completed. While in other countries their national qualifications framework is threshed out in legislation, in the Philippines the PQF is to be done by means of an executive issuance or administrative order. This, the CEAP believes, has no basis in law and the argument that “time is not on our side” is not sufficient justification to rush such a major reform in higher education.
That this qualifications framework or education in general should be based on learner outcomes is acceptable. This has, in fact, been something which the CHED has been promoting on the program level for many years. CMO issuances since 1996 would attest to this fact. Where it becomes thoroughly confusing is when CMO 46 s. 2012 demands an outcomes-based quality assurance system, giving the impression that the key determinant of quality assurance is outcomes.
With the PAASCU, we believe that assurance for quality cannot be based on outcomes alone, especially when one is dealing with learning areas that involve the subtleties of philosophy, human society, political science and “appropriate outcomes” are not easily set without bias or prejudice. Bias and prejudice can be imposed or arbitrary, and so grate against the academic freedom of HEIs to determine HOW they teach. While we are getting the impression through our dialogues that the CHED now agrees with this, and so has moved from “OBE” to “obe” to “learner outcomes,” it still insists on “outcomes-based quality assurance” in its CMO title. This gives the impression that quality assurance procedures that reject “outcomes based quality assurance” as inoperable are unable to assure appropriate “learner outcomes” and that only explicitly “outcomes based quality assurance systems” can. We disagree. “Outcomes-based” is not a shibboleth of academic quality.
Considering the importance as well as foreseen impact of this reform among higher educational institutions, it only seems reasonable that before this implementation goes on full swing, there ought to be some sort of “pilot testing” so that the perceived and actual flaws in the CMO can be sorted out prior to compliance by all HEIs all over the country. When one takes into account the current higher education landscape in the Philippines, being one that is predominantly comprised of private HEIs , pilot testing is also warranted if only to ensure that vested rights and the exercise of academic freedom, especially of private HEIs, is not compromised by this CMO.
In addition, the discussion on the need to have a legislated level playing field between public and private HEIs in the matter of governmental regulation again becomes relevant. Relative to this CMO 46, Public HEIs remain immune to sanctions by virtue of their respective charters, Private HEIs however are constrained to comply. This violates equal protection, as private HEIs become bridled with this regulation while the public HEIs can simply identify itself as a “university”, “professional institute”, or a “college” by an act of Congress – notwithstanding the lack of their qualification/s to be as such.
While the CEAP understands the sense of urgency by which the CHED issued CMO 46 s. 2012 with the forthcoming referencing of national qualifications to their respective ASEAN frameworks as well as the initiatives toward the comparability of degrees, diplomas and programs (relative to UNESCO, ANZFTA, APEC, et.al.), it has to ask: Is the CHED through CMO 46 s. 2012 really leading the country forward?
Here, we reiterate the following points:
a) Section 9 of CMO 46 s. 2012 defines CHED as an “external agency” along with other private agencies like PAASCU, PACU-COA and other agencies mentioned in the Implementing Rules. When CHED, as a governmental entity sees itself as an external agency for QA purposes, it does not respect the need to disassociate Quality Assurance from government, the university, and the market. The CHED does not seem to be aware of the new paradigm for QA sweeping the Region.
Attached is a copy of the new paradigm which was published in 2009 in the book entitled “Higher Education in Asia/Pacific: Quality and the Public Good”, edited by Terance W. Biglake and Deane E. Neubauer and dedicated to the memory of Victor Ordonez.
It should also be noted that the manner by which CHED identifies itself in sec. 9 of CMO 46 s. 2012 contradicts the basic principles of the proposed ASEAN QUALITY ASSURANCE NETWORK (AQAN) Framework for Higher Education which will be presented in its final form in October 2013 in Bangkok, Thailand.
b) The CEAP also rejects CHED’s denial in its response that CMO 46 s. 2012 violates academic freedom and the mission of Catholic Schools. CHED believes that CMO 46’s mandate to all HEIs to help “build a quality nation” … “presupposes a geographic and imagined community of diverse religions, socio-cultural, political and economic groups.”
Where academic freedom guaranteed by the Constitution and the Higher Education Act guarantees the freedom to determine who can teach, whom to teach, what to teach, how to teach, and therewith the freedom to determine the fundamental mission of the schools. The explicit mandate to contribute to a quality nation in CMO 46, now as the gratis, explicit, undefined, peremptory, and systematic premise of the quality assurance system, imposes itself on the variously formulated missions of the schools autonomously adopted in academic freedom.
In this context, an explanation of a presupposition is of little comfort and pertinence, since the unauthorized “mandate” is being assailed, not the presupposition. The working presuppositions of the current set of CHED administrators, which may be well-meaning, may be totally different from the presuppositions of a future set of CHED administrators, which may be manipulative or hostile.
Even if for the sake of argument the “mandate” were authorized, which it is not, the “quality nation” referred to is dangerously undefined. Where there is a difference between CHED’s understanding of “quality nation” and a school’s, especially when a school that is faithful to its Catholic mission (e.g. as in transformative education) may need to be critical of a national administration, the mandate to contribute to an undefined “quality nation” as the premise of an evaluative system already violates academic freedom in its ambiguity. Schools are being mandated to WHAT to teach, even if this is not clear.
c) Finally, while the CHED response emphasizes that the implementation of CMO 46 s. 2012 is purely voluntary as HEIs are not forced to classify themselves and take part in the incentive schemes, this is not clearly explicitated in the current version of the CMO. The restlessness of HEIs, particularly the small well-performing private HEIs, lies in the possibility of sanctions or dire consequences if they choose not to participate. Any token reassurance given by the CHED means nothing if these provisions remain:
(i) In section 28, the granting of extension up to 31 May 2014 on autonomous and deregulated HEIs and existing COEs and CODs makes no mention of the consequences that will befall on such HEIS or COEs and CODs if they choose not to or are not able to shift to competency based learning standards within the given time frame. In sec. 5.3. of the Implementing Rules however, it says that the CHED shall begin processing applications for COE and COD following the revised criteria and indicators in February 2014. It may very well be the case that the benefits accorded to existing COEs and CODs (which partake of the nature of vested rights) will be adversely affected by CHED’s act of processing applications by February 2014.
(ii) While section 31 makes a guarantee that HEIs recognized as universities before the establishment of CHED or granted such status by the Commission will retain such status notwithstanding the provisions of CMO 46, in section 39, its repealing clause clearly states: “All previous issuances pertaining to the grant of university status, system status, autonomous and deregulated status that are inconsistent with the provisions of this CMO are deemed repealed, revoked or rescinded xxx”
(iii) Section 126.96.36.199 of the Implementing Rules CMO 46 s. 2012 which refer to the time frame allotted to the first cluster of associate degrees complying with the requirement to develop their PSGs by June 2013, as well as sec. 2.4.1. of the same Rules which mandates that existing PSG should have been revised in line with learning competency-based standards and the K to 12 curriculum by the end of June 2013 also provide for deadlines that may be too short for faithful compliance and makes no clear mention of the consequences if HEIs are not able to meet said timeframe.
(iv) For HEIs (public or private) that choose to identify themselves as Professional Institutes, Colleges, or Universities under this QA framework, they remain at the mercy of the market, as sec. 4.3.1., 4.3.2., and 4.3.3. of the Implementing Rules (last part thereof) provide that the minimum requirements for Professional Institutes, Colleges or Universities should be reviewed by 2017, to determine if these are responsive to the development needs of the country. How is quality to be assured only if the identity of such HEIs remains dependent on whether they are responsive to the needs of the country? By what standards will these HEIs be judged, whether or not they truly respond to the development needs of the country? What happens to those HEIs that cannot meet the 2017 deadline?
All in all, what will be the effect of non-participation by the HEIs? – the non-granting of incentives? This is not even clearly explicitated in the CMO and in its implementing rules. What is the effect of not being included in a so-called “list” as identified by the CHED? What is the guarantee by the CHED that the non-granting of incentives or the non-inclusion in the list is already not some form of sanction? The confusion and concern is warranted, considering the deadlines set by the CHED in the CMO provisions as mentioned above.
Clearly, these questions and concerns are not so inconsequential that they can be ignored. We are happy that CHED in its response letter concedes that there is a need to “fine tune” the language of the CMO to address its voluntary nature. We believe, however, that much more needs to be done with the CMO than mere fine tuning – if it is really to bring Philippine higher education forward and not backward. CMO 46 s. 2012 with its IRR needs a serious overhaul not along the way, but now.
Meanwhile because of these issues and concerns reiterated here and raised in our book, “Disqualifying CHED’s Quality Assurance,” the CEAP cannot just readily accept CMO 46 s. 2012. Nor can the CEAP submit to a collective self-correcting, serendipitously self-improving implementation process whose unpredictable outcome may seriously harm the freedom and rights enjoyed not only by its member schools but by all HEIs in the Philippines. Respect for academic freedom is not only guaranteed in the Constitution for all institutions of higher learning, it is clearly spelled out in RA 7722 and must serve as the guidepost for all issuances by the CHED. CMO 46 s. 2012 is not an exception to this rule.
Therefore, the CEAP is of the conviction that CMO 46 s. 2012 and its IR must be temporarily suspended, until such time that these issues are adequately addressed. CEAP is not against reforms in education nor is it against quality assurance. It lives and breathes educational reform towards ongoing improvement of higher education; it understands the value of independent quality assurance. For this reason it cannot accept CMO 46 in its current form nor can it recommend that its members collaborate with it.
(Sgd.) Father Gregorio L. Bañaga Jr.
Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines
No. 7, Road 16 Bgy. Bagong Pag-Asa, Quezon City
/ cc: Commissioner Maria Cynthia Rose B. Bautista, Ph. D.
Commissioner Nona S. Ricafort, Ph. D.
Commissioner Nenalyn P. Defensor, Ed. D.
Commissioner Ruperto S. Sangalang, Ph. D.
Commission on Higher Education
C. P. Garcia Avenue, UP Campus Diliman