Focusing COCOPEA on Private Education

Revisiting its sense of identity and shared imperatives in contributing to Philippine education today, the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) has re-stated its vision and mission.

The vision statement now reads:

COCOPEA is the strong and leading voice of private education as vital to human development.

The mission statement:

COCOPEA advances, promotes and protects:

  • academic freedom
  • quality education
  • the essential complementarity between public and private education
  • the healthy governance of private educational institutions based on autonomous self-governance and reasonable government regulation
  • personal development, social justice and the common good

The re-statement took place during a strategic planning session at Hotel Benilde Maison de la Salle last June 5, 2015 under the leadership of the current COCOPEA President Bro. Narcisco Erguiza, FSC. Participant were trustees and friends of COCOPEA.

The COCOPEA is composed of five different educational associations: the Catholic Non-Profit Schools or the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), the Protestant Non-Profit Schools or the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities (ACSCU), the Non-Sectarian Large For-Profit Schools or the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), the Non-Sectarian Small For-Profit Schools or the Philippine Association of Private Schools, (PAPSCU) and the Technical Vocational Schools or the Technical Vocations Schools Association of the Philippines (TEVSAPHIL). Together the COCOPEA represents some 1,875 private schools, colleges and universities in the country.

The restatement focused the identity of the COCOPEA on its being the representative voice of private education in distinction to public education in the Philippines. This voice was not to be weak and submissive, but a strong voice, a voice of leadership.

The new focus would free it of imperatives implicit in its replaced vision statement which were tangential to the shared sense of COCOPEA’s identity, e.g., education for social transformation, moral regeneration, environmental conservation and sustainable national development. These aspects of education would be up to the member associations to adopt or reject in their own vision and mission statements.

But the focus of COCOPEA was emphatically private education.

Key Result Areas

As the strong and leading voice of private education, COCOPEA shall then focus itself on five key result areas mentioned in its mission statement, namely, the advancement, promotion and protection of academic freedom, quality education, the complementarity between government and private educational institutions, the healthy governance of private educational institutions based on autonomous self-governance, and reasonable government regulation, and personal development, social justice and the common good.

The strategic planning is still a work in progress. As I understand it (so subject to the correction of fellow trustees) some of the goals of the key result areas mentioned for the next five years but yet subject to refinement are as follows.

Under academic freedom, the shared campaign to explain and promote the importance of academic freedom for higher education. The commitment to advocate passage of a standing Bill on Academic Freedom, to work against changes in the CHED charter that would impair academic freedom, to protect and preserve the constitutional guarantee of academic freedom for higher education, to vigorously critique CMOs that are injurious to academic freedom, and to insist on the right in academic freedom to determine “who may teach” when minimum learning outcomes are established. In promoting academic freedom, COCOPEA commits itself to capacity building for academic freedom: faculty development programs that generate the higher degrees the enable excellent research, independent thought and innovation. Finally, the inter-school or inter-organizational celebration of private HEIs’ distinctive achievements in instruction, research and outreach through academic freedom.

Under quality education, the commitment to link up and network with private schools and universities still unaligned with COCOPEA and invite them to participate in COCOPEA programs, if not to join COCOPEA.   Recognition of the paramount importance of teacher quality for quality education, and the commitment to commission studies to review teacher education. Commitment to external assessment based on such as performance in national PRC Board Exams, and program- and institutional accreditation. Commitment to promote a national consensus on quality in education that is internationally updated through dialogue our educational associations, the PRC and the FAAP.

Under complementarity between private and public education, the commitment to do studies on the nature of private education itself vs. public education, to do policy studies on models of complementariness between public and private education as contemplated by the constitution, to come to consensus on and advocate the necessary role of private education in the Philippines, to expand public funding for private education based on its essential contribution to the common weal, to strengthen the COCOPEA capacity to advocate appropriate educational policy with legislators and with administration, to enlist the help of legislators supportive of private education, to continue the dialogue with DepED, CHED and TESDA, to organize a respected advocacy group of distinguished persons for private education, to network with key associations and organizations like the PBED, WB, ADB

Under the healthy governance of private educational institutions based on autonomous self-governance and reasonable government regulation , the commitment to do policy studies on the nature of healthy government regulation vs. destructive government control, to explore alternative governance of private education, to explore amendments of the CHED Charter in favor of a leveled playing field for private education, to advocate responsible governance of private education through autonomous self-governance beyond government-set minimum standards, to strengthen the COCOPEA capacity to advocate appropriate policy with legislators and with administration, to enlist the help of legislators supportive of private education, to continue the dialogue with DepED, CHED and TESDA, to organize a respected advocacy group of distinguished persons for private education, to network with key associations and organizations like the PBED, WB, ADB.

Under personal development, social justice and the common good the commitment to ensure and protect the rights and dignity of women and the youth/children. To effect an organizational audit on member schools pertinent to respect for the rights and dignity of women and children; to review school polies, process and systems for alignment with the rights of women and the youth/children; to engage in gender sensitivity training across members associations and schools; to develop of method of monitoring compliance of our member associations and schools with laws on women and the youth. To engage in awareness program on laws and policies on women and on youth/children; to bring out a COCOPEA publication on human dignity and rights; to train trainors for this work.

At the same time, it was acknowledged that there are still many operating private schools who do not fall under the umbrella of COCOPEA.

Avoiding Bland Lugaw

With this welcome shift of focus from contentious aspects of education that may be appropriated by one or two of the member associations, but irrelevant to the others, the COCOPEA returns to its core concern: private education. Even with the laudable effort of government to increase access to higher education through greater numbers of SUCs and LCUs, the critical importance of giving the Filipino learner choice among educational systems is underscored. With the broad-based SUCs and LCUs the innovativeness, efficiency, and sui-generis offerings of private institutions must be protected and celebrated. This innovativeness is possible only if academic freedom is preserved and promoted for private schools once government-set minimum standards are determined. Keeping minimum standards minimum and encouraging and promoting responsible self-governance among private schools, are key to insuring optimum output from the diversity of private schools. After all, private schools in the Philippines were taking responsibility for excellent higher education and complementary systems of quality control long before CHED first uttered the words, quality assurance. In a competitive ASEAN and global milieu, the most undesirable thing for the education system is that it degenerate into a nationally-governed factory of mass mediocrity where every HEI is constrained to dish out the same old bland lugaw.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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