[Address: PAASCU General Assembly, 2013]
The last time I had the privilege of addressing you, we spoke of PAASCU’s strengths. And of navigating change.
Those strengths are still there: first, our 463 member schools committed to voluntary accreditation represented in strength today by your unprecedented number; second, our phalanx of over a thousand competent volunteer accreditors who are not subject to institutional b ribery nor government bullying, but freely dedicated to the quality improvement of our schools; third, our shared commitment to ongoing accreditation that actually succeeds in improving quality; fourth, our long experience of accreditation since Br. Gabriel Connon, FSC, and Fr. James Meany, SJ, founded PAASCU in 1957; fifth, our international recognition which is more formidable this year than ever, and finally, our active and unique participation in the ASEAN-Quality Assurance Project.
Last year, when it was clear that the K-12 reform was upon us, even though the law had not yet been enacted, under “navigating change,” I stressed the need to focus on the K-12 reform. We foresaw the turbulent systemic consequences of adding a year of kindergarten and two years to basic education, and we advised all our member schools: focus on this K-12 reform! Consequently, we resolved to ask CHED to do the same, to focus its resources on the tertiary-level consequences of this reform, and therefore to postpone the approval of its controversial Outcomes-and Typology-Based Quality Assurance proposal.
Today we come together under a theme of “Transitions and Challenges in a Changing Environment.” Our abiding commitment to voluntary quality assurance towards genuine educational improvement has not changed, but we are now clearly in a phase of educational transition. Each day, we seem to understand more deeply the profound challenges involved in this reform, only a few of which were articulated in the presentations this morning by Attys. Abad and Estrada. You know: the once placid educational scene has been shaken to the core. We have no choice but to transition with change, and meet the challenges that the reform brings on us.
Last year, K-12 was a probable educational reform. Today K-12 is mandatory educational policy. Last year, we were hoping for a stable basis for planning that would outlast the policy shifts of one administration vs. the next; this year; that stability is now there. The Enhanced Basic Education Act (RA 10533) was passed and signed into law last May 15, 2013. Its Implementing Rules and Regulations were promulgated on Sept. 4, 2013.
Anticipating this law, CHED En Banc approved “College Readiness Standards” already in its CHED En Banc Resolution 298 s. 2011 (CER 298-2011); it passed its Tertiary-Level General Education Program effective SY 2018-19 through CMO 20 s. 2013.
Meanwhile, DepEd has nearly completed its basic education curriculum, with the final and complete Curriculum Guide for Senior High School due at the end of this month; this shall not, however, rescind the flexibility given to private schools in the implementation of the K-12 curriculum. Tomorrow, the joint DepEd, CHED and DOLE Guidelines on the Legal Implementation of K-12 should be finalized.
In December, applications for permits to operate Senior High Schools shall already be accepted by DepEd. And in the early months of 2013 public hearings will be held on the draft voucher-system policy through which government will directly support students coming from senior public high schools and ESC-grantees of private schools through a multi-tiered and regionalized voucher system.
Definitely, we are in transition. It is a transition that is demanding that we focus on the implementation of this K-12 reform. In desiring to do this, we resolved last year to request CHED to postpone the approval of the proposed Outcomes and Typology-Based Quality Assurance. The postponement was requested not just to put off the implementation of a good thing, but to postpone the tedious renovation of a lugubrious draft CMO that was problematic both from the viewpoints of academic freedom as well as of quality assurance. Unfortunately, PAASCU’s voice joined to that of CEAP was not heeded.
CMO 46 s. 2012 was passed on December 11, 2013. We received an eight-page letter from Dr. Patricia Licuanan stating that CHED sympathizes with the plight of private schools as K-12 is implemented, but that we now all need “to address problems not in a linear fashion, but simultaneously.” In this context CHED waxed philosophical: it stated, rather incredibly, “CHED is forced by many imperatives to pursue an iterative reform process that begins with an imperfect plan. Such imperfection may lead to errors, but correcting them might also lead serendipitously to unanticipated solutions that would not have been discovered had the mistakes not have been made.”
In my view, imperfection led to the approval of CMO 46 s. 2012 in its present state of confusing quality assurance concepts and its serious attack on academic freedom. The CEAP and PAASCU considered these problems so substantial that that it jointly published within three weeks of the approval of CMO 46, the volume: “Disqualifying CHED’s Quality Assurance.” Fr. Gregorio Bañaga, CM, then CEAP President, used this volume to communicate to Dr. Licuanan that CEAP could not cooperate with CMO 46 until CEAP’s objections are appropriately addressed.
So does that put us in transition or in a standstill as far as CMO 46 is concerned? Cautiously, I would say we are transitioning – for the following reasons:
First, because in our opposition to CMO 46, we are not against quality assurance but we are merely against an objectionable quality assurance policy. Our opposition is aimed at improving quality assurance. Second, because we have had a number of formal and informal meetings with Com. Cynthia Bautista as Chair of the CHED Committee on Quality Assurance, with whom we have often experienced a salutary meeting of minds, and who has consequently agreed that a “re-languaging” of CMO 46 is necessary. Third, because by way of participating in this “re-languaging”, we transitioned from re-writing parts of the CMO to re-writing the whole CMO in a manner that removes its objectionable features; we are proposing a simplified CMO on Quality Assurance. Fourth, because this proposal [published in my blog of Oct. 12], has been approved by the CEAP’s National Tertiary Level Commission and meanwhile formally transmitted by current CEAP President Br. Narciso Erquiza, Jr., FSC, to Com. Bautista as Chair of the CHED Committee on Quality Assurance.
It was only her forced preoccupation with problematic national accreditation of our maritime schools that has prevented her from giving attention to the re-languaging.
Even as I was drafting this address, I was informed by Atty. Joseph Estrada that the Hon. Cong. Roman Romulo, Chair of the House Committee on Tertiary Higher Education, has filed in Congress our draft Policy on Quality Assurance as a proposed law last Friday, Nov. 15, following an extensive CEAP dialogue with him, in which I was privileged to participate, on problems challenging higher education. With this development, relative to CMO 46, we are in transition.
We are also in transition in the global arena, and the transition is towards greater PAASCU responsibility in the formulation of international quality assurance policies. This year’s annual PAASCU report gives data not only on our membership, accreditation activities, training workshops, and the formulation of new instruments for Architecture, Industrial Design, International Studies, Music, and Consular and Diplomatic Affairs. It also describes a series of international activities through which PAASCU has demonstrated anew its international standing and respectability. For example, its active and unique participation in the ASEAN QA Project, a joint capacity development project for internal and external QA in Southeast Asia with seven international partners. For instance, its participation in the DIES ASEAN-QA Training Workshop on External QA Part III in Kuala Lumpur from Feb. 25 to March 1, 2013 hosted by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. For instance, its participation in a seminar on Quality Assurance sponsored by the European Commission and the Flemish Department of Education on Sept. 20, 2013. For instance, PAASCU’s hosting of an Internship Program on QA for the Higher Education Relevance and QA Agency (HERQA) Officials of Ethiopia, and many others. PAASCU’s active participation in the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework in Higher Education (AQAFHE) takes on added significance as we move towards the ASEAN Community 2015 and mutual recognition of accrediting decisions. Why is this important for us? All this participation brings immediate international recognition and respect to any school that says it is “PAASCU accredited.”
The first challenge is to remember: It’s more fun in the Philippines! Smile! If you’re having problems, others have problems as well. If you’re not having problems, you soon will!
Seriously, the first challenge is to re-commit yourselves to quality education within the K-12 framework, no matter the level you are in. No point in now trying to change the K-12 framework! If you have a problem, work to solve it. Share your problem with others; they may have the same problem. If you can help other educators with their problems, help. But listen to others, they may have the solution to yours. Now is not the time to compete, but to complement. There is much talk about laws, administrative orders, rules and requirements. These are important. But in the end, the important thing is to fulfill the educational mission, which is not necessarily guaranteed by mere compliance with administrative rules. Fulfilling the mission depends rather on finding the mix that really delivers the quality education. The mix is not magic, but product of careful, detailed educational planning. Meeting CHED’s College Readiness Standards needs to be assured by quality teachers, facilities, and creative leadership. Create and lead a school with its own character, inspiration, institutional niche, esprit de corps that will make a difference.
The second challenge: Make the decision now as to whether you are opening a senior high school or not. You must manifest this to DepED beginning next month. Assume that the vouchers will be worth between PHP 15-22,000, but their worth will be tiered and regionalized. Br. Armin and his advisers want a good mix between public and private schools in senior high school. This is not just to save government money. It is to insure that public and private education work together to optimize educational output in the long term. Remember that if the private sector does not take its “share”, the public sector will eventually have to. But this will mean a weaker long-term participation of the private sector in this important new institution.
Work with TESDA to help qualify teachers for SHS voctech tracks; work together to help simplify and regionalize TESDA’s qualification procedure. Begin planning faculty line-ups for senior high school. Find a good leader. It is better to work with faculty willing to work happily in SHS on a team, than a teacher who is assigned there grudgingly and demoralizes everyone.
The third challenge: understand that the tertiary-level general education envisioned by CMO 20 s. 2013 is multidisciplinal, and so can probably not be taught by the teachers of today with depth expertise in one discipline. The new general education teacher needs preparation. Before SY 2018-19 there are four summers. There is time.
At ADDU we used to have close to 100 units of core curriculum subjects – which combined CHED required GenEd courses plus mission-driven special courses like theology, philosophy, social sciences and the like. After senior high school, there will probably not be much appetite for more required courses. So at ADDU, where it is clear that the Jesuit mission involves the service of the faith, the promotion of justice, sensitivity to cultures, inter-religious dialogue, and environmental protection, we are now working at teaching each of the requirements of CMO 20. s. 2013 from the five aspects of our mission. Our teachers are excited and engaged in preparation. In teaching the GenEd requirement, they will be teaching the mission-driven requirement.
The fourth challenge: promote private – public sector collaboration in your region. In region XI, the Davao Association of Catholic Schools (DACS) has come together with the DepEd to do joint regional research, educational mapping and planning, and so undertake to work together to evolve a collaborative system of public and private senior high schools. Br. Armin thinks this type of public-private “consortium” of schools is the best way to go in terms of insuring optimum education even for the most financially challenged of accomplished public school students. Schools in far flung areas offering expensive programs with costly lab requirements would get private and public support for these programs. Part of the plan is to encourage fresh college graduates to serve for a year or two as teacher volunteers.
The defining challenge: quality assurance! Whether government likes it or not, whether they recognize it or not, we show ourselves deadly serious about quality assurance, and especially about accreditation! We have submitted to government our proposal as to what we consider a good quality assurance policy. It is being considered in CHED, it is about to be deliberated on in Congress. If government accepts our proposal, our problem is solved. If government does not, we adopt it nevertheless – and impose it on ourselves in autonomy and academic freedom. If, because we cannot accept their CMO 46, they do not recognize the worthiness of some of our schools for deregulation or autonomy, let us show them and the globe why these schools more than deserve deregulation and autonomy. The strength of PAASCU has always been that it has been voluntary. That is the free will of its members to quality, their self-imposed commitment to help each other improve quality, their record of program and institutional improvement through years of accreditation and heeding accreditation – a quality assurance culture that was in place and functioning a half century before the Philippine government discovered the discourse of quality assurance.
Yesterday, today and tomorrow, PAASCU continues to provide empowering service to all who commit themselves to this course.
Thank you for continuing to journey with PAASCU! Together we will weather our transitions. Together, we will meet our challenges!