In the spiritual life, St. Ignatius of Loyola had a great appreciation for repetition. Repetition was not only useful for getting the obtuse to understand a point. It was useful for promoting spiritual depth.
In the murky world of higher education policy in the Philippines today, Dr. Isagani Cruz, in his blog article, “Not again! CHED resurrects a vampire,” takes us through a valuable exercise in repetition. “Time to repeat myself,” he declares, “because CHED is in danger of falling deeper into exactly the same ridiculous hole the fell into in 2005.”
This is a must read for all who are concerned about higher education policy in the Philippines. The “ridiculous hole” is the illusion that through its policy on Quality Assurance, anchored in the discredited thought of John Randall in England. Government, he proposed should control – not support nor encourage – higher education. It was a proposition based on the delusional idea that there are people like John Randall in government (who compared universities to meat factories) who are wise enough to control higher education. Fortunately, educators in England coming from the likes of Oxford and Cambridge and the Association of University Teachers in the UK are wiser. They rejected John Randall and all of his “mature” “outcomes-based” quality assurance doctrines. For all intents and purposes John Randall was dead in the United Kingdom as of 2001.
But having died in the United Kingdom, he was resurrected in the Philippines by the CHED, not because the CHED was wiser than the academicians of the United Kingdom, but rather because CHED was ignorant of how well we had already been doing in quality assurance in the Philippines. Whereas groups like the Philippine Accrediting Association for Schools, Colleges and University had been doing internationally recognized quality assurance work through accreditation for over half a century, CHED decided it would not recognize Philippine achievement as achievement, and that it was time to finally introduce “quality assurance” in the Philippines. In this process, the benighted idea emerged that “evaluating inputs and processes is an immature act.” “Mature evaluation,” Randall wrote, “are based upon outcomes, and in particular the learning outcomes that is intended that students should achieve.” Dr. Isagani Cruz expresses the problem precisely: “…the whole Randall proposal is wrong , because it falls into the trap of self-contradiction. He starts by saying, in effect, the Filipinos are doing the wrong thing when it comes to quality assessment. Then, when asked what we should be doing instead, he ends up by saying that we should be doing exactly what we have been doing all along. … Randall came into our country thinking that he knew better than we did about higher education. When he realized we knew a lot more than he did, he had no choice but to recommend back to us everything we had already been doing. In effect, he was a false prophet…”
Yet the discredited doctrine of this false prophet continued to confuse higher education policy in the Philippines today. In 2005 leaders of autonomous and deregulated institutions questioned his spirit in the issuance of institutional quality assurance mechanisms (the IQUAME memos: CMO 15 and CMO 18, s. 2005). “We join many who have questioned Dr. Randall’s basic contention that private voluntary accreditation in the Philippines today which is ‘program based” does not cover “institutional concerns and looks mainly on ‘inputs’ rather than ‘outcomes.” CHED did not listen to its best educators, but insisted that the enlightened Philippine higher education community now follow policy based on Randall’s benighted thought. In issuing its 2005 “Primer on Quality Assurance, Monitoring, and Evaluation of Higher Education Institutions” it notes: “This primer is based on materials prepared by Dr. John Randall, Quality Assurance Consultant…”
Dr. Isagani Cruz attributed this to two maladies of CHED: ignorantia and hubris, ignorance of the matter of which it speaks and over-extending its mandate into areas best left to academic freedom.
I agree. In its panic to come up with a magical policy which will uplift Philippine Higher Education to “global standards” it fails to recognize the already valid mechanisms that are in place in ongoing accreditation work in the Philippines. It prefers outdated shibboleths like “outcomes based quality assurance” and proposed to tamper with valid instrument of accreditation through untested instruments of their own.
It has come up with CMO 46, s. 2012, the “Policy Standard to Enhance Quality Assurance (QA) in Philippine Higher Education through an Outcomes-Based and Typology Based QA” that is suffused with the same Randal spirit. It mystifies “outcomes based assessment” and fails to adequately consider aspects of quality assessment that are internationally accepted, but absent in CMO 46, e.g. genuine minimum standards, standards of disciplinal excellence, and public stakeholder concerns. It gives government a role in “external assessment,” where government should keep appropriate distance.
It combines quality assurance with the creation of one new type of higher educational institute – the professional institute.
In its present formulation it offends against academic freedom of schools.
It does not clarify that CMO 46 is a voluntary program, especially for private schools.
It resurrects in the Institutional Sustainability Assessment (ISA) the Randall IQUAME, and appears to make mandatory for accredited schools what Executive Order 750 has already exempted them from.
Dr. Isagani Cruz’s repetition of our own tortuous journey toward educational quality invites us to greater depth in how we assure quality for our higher education institutions. While there is much room for improvement, it is not the case that we are doing nothing right in Philippine Higher Education. We have been long working voluntarily for quality assurance, and much of this is already internationally recognized. At the risk of sounding repetitious, CHED should not hinder us in this work. For its weakness as a national QA policy, CMO 46 should go. Until it is repealed or substantially amended, in academic wisdom born of academic freedom, HEIs should not support it.