The Changing Educational Landscape: Challenges

 

[Address: Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) General Assembly 2016, Manila, November 10-11, 2016.]

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The theme of our national convention is “The Changing Educational Landscape: the Reality and the Challenges.” The changing landscape is affecting all of us who are serious educators. I would like to share my personal reflections on this situation with you.

Changing Educational Landscape

Why is the educational landscape changing?

“Change is coming,” President Duterte promised us in his campaign. With his election, we know, change has come: the seriousness of the use of illegal drugs nationwide is being addressed with its costs and consequences stirring up controversy locally and internationally. A new independence in foreign policy is signaled in manifest greater friendship with China, Japan and ASEAN countries, greater independence from the United States and the Western world, and manifest openness to Russia. Startling progress has been achieved in waging peace between the Government of Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and between the Government of the Philippines and the Muslim Communities in the country, now encompassing not only the MILF but the MNLF. Dramatic progress has been achieved in favor of the environment, “our common home”, in the work that the administration through Sec. Gina Lopez has done, even as the economy continues to thrive. If you follow the surveys, the vast majority of the people have been satisfied, if not elated, by the changes. A minority has not. The loudest outcry has been against the so-called “extra-judicial killings” and the alleged violation of human rights. But this has not deterred the President from pursuing what he considers right for the Filipino people. We all know, some great elation, others with deep trepidation, “Change is here.”

The changing national landscape in the global world cannot not affect the educational landscape – even if President Duterte himself has not made dramatic policy announcements concerning education. He does not style himself as “an education president” as did his predecessor. In fact, we are relieved that he is no longer saying that mathematics education in the Philippines should be confined to business mathematics. But his actions and policy directions signal profound changes in the educational landscape. And this is not just because of his ill-mannered cursing in public, which God has told him to stop. Ultimately the changes in the educational landscape must come because of the values with which he inspires and propels his administration: “Love of country, subordination of personal interests to the common good, concern and care for the helpless and the impoverished – these are among the lost and faded values that we seek to recover and revitalize as we commence our journey towards a better Philippines,” he said in his Inaugural Speech of 30 June 2016. “Enduring peace” he stated in his first SONA, 25 July “can be attained only if we meet the fundamental needs of every man, woman and child.” These are values of social justice; they are as profoundly humane as they are deeply Christian. Where we are still dominated by an oligarchy, these values necessitate nothing short of a social revolution. The envisioned future of the administration is: “By 2040, the PH shall be a prosperous, predominantly middle-class society where no one is poor; our peoples shall live long and healthy lives, be smart and innovative, and shall live in a high-trust society.” Within a quarter of a century, the economic structures which preserve an elite that wields power, wealth and influence for its private ends at the cost of the poor and the destruction of our common home shall have been dismantled, and a robust, intelligent and innovative middle class shall be installed. That challenge must necessarily change the educational landscape.

Secondly, The educational landscape is also changing because of ASEAN. Last year, during the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was adopted. It aims to “implement economic integration initiatives” to create a single market across ASEAN nations. Unto this end, regional economic integration includes: (1) a single market and production base, (2) a highly competitive economic region, (3) a region of fair economic development, and (4) a region fully integrated into the global economy. Cooperation unto these ends include human resource development; recognition of professional qualifications, the free movements of goods and services, among others.[1] This impacts immediately on the educational landscape: people trained professionally in our schools are trained not only for our market, but for ASEAN markets; they must be competent not only for local standards.

As much attention has been given to ASEAN as an economic community, less attention has been given to it as a security community and as a socio-cultural community. The ASEAN Vision 2020 sees its members as “outward looking, living in peace, stability and prosperity” with provisions on: peace and stability, being nuclear free, human development, sustainable development, being drug-free, environment, etc. Where the Philippines’ outward vision has been more western than Asian, where we have been plagued by war and conflict due to religious difference and social injustice, where human development is stunted by poverty and poor access by major portions of the population to quality education, where much of our development is based on an economy of reckless consumption and exploitation of unrenewable natural resources, where the victory of a controversial war on drugs is still outstanding, ASEAN affects the educational landscape in demanding critical thought and consequent transformational education both on the basic and higher education levels

Thirdly, the educational landscape in the Philippines is changing because education is increasingly regarded in the Philippines as the 1987 Constitution sees it: not as different isolated parts, but as a whole, a system. It is not just basic education apart from higher education apart from technical education and thinking about access as opposed to quality as opposed to modes of educational provision. The 1987 Constitution provides that the State shall “establish, maintain, and support a complete, adequate, and integrated system of education relevant to the needs of the people and society” (Art. 14, Sec. 2, par. 1) recognizing “the complementary roles of the public and private institutions in the educational system” (Art. 14, sec 4). “System” is a demanding word. Parts are meaningful as they relate to the whole, and the whole is incomprehensible except in its relationship to its parts. The development of one part to the detriment of another part hurts the whole; the development of the whole involves the complementary development of the parts. Thinking systemically in the light of the Constitution, the development of the educational system in the Philippines for which the State is responsible cannot favor the development of the public schools over the private schools nor the private schools over the public; it cannot think of access without thinking of quality, not of quality without thinking of access; it cannot think of educational governance which fails to preserve the public and private schools with their respective advantages, nor fails to make these two types of schools work together to the shared common goal of optimum Philippine Education.

Fourthly, the educational landscape is changing because after the K-12 basic education reform, more attention is now being focused on higher education. There has been more attention given CHED, its accomplishments and shortcomings. Today there are a total of 1,934 HEIs in the country, 1,706 private (88%) and 228 public (12%). But there are 2.22 million students going to private schools (54%) and 1.88 million going to public schools (46%).[2] COCOPEA, representing private educations, has come out with its Roadmap for Philippine Higher Education.[3] Recently, there has been aggressive legislative push to increase access to higher education by making SUCs tuition-free. This drew widespread criticism and disagreement from such as CHED, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA), including the CEAP, and, very significantly, the Philippine Association for State Universities and Colleges (PASUC).

Four Burning Issues

With all these changes in the educational landscape, four major issues are being tackled in the Philippines: access, complementarity, quality assurance, and governance.

Access. The Constitution states: “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education for at all levels and shall take appropriate steps to make such education accessible to all” (Art. 14 Sec 1). “Accessible to all”: does the State do this through SUCs or LCUs which charge tuition or do not charge tuition? Through private HEIs which charge tuition or do not charge tuition? Is accessibility enhanced or harmed if public education kills private education through such as free tuition or aggressive scholarship programs for public education alone – which would draw students populations away from the private schools.

Complementarity between Public and Private Schools. The issue here is what is the necessary complementarity between public and private schools that guarantees both universal accessibility and quality educations. The right the State must protect and promote is not only for accessibility for all but to quality education for all.

Quality Assurance: The key issues here: can we educators in the Philippines agree on a definition of quality, even if in the world there is no universally agreed-upon definition. How do we assure higher education quality evenly in SUCs, in LCUs, and in private HEIs.

Governance/Academic Freedom. The key issue here is how do you govern HEIs that are declared academically free? “Academic freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning,” the Constitution says (Article 14, Sec. 5, par. 2). “The State shall insure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercise and observance…” (RA 7722, Sec. 2) Isn’t the only appropriate governance for academically free HEIs self-governance? Secondly, how do you evenly govern HEIs when some HEIs, the SUCs, are created by law, others, the LCUs, are created by ordinance through the Local Government Code, and others operate through the recognition of CHED? How does the State govern the higher education system to promote accessibility and quality complementarily?

PAASCU’S Enduring Contribution to Philippine Education

PAASCU’s enduring contribution to Philippine Education is quality assurance. It has made this contribution through a culture of voluntary accreditation sustained by peers that assures quality, namely, that minimum academic standards are met, that academic excellence is recognized, that the mission and vision of the school is attained, and that the external stakeholders in the school are satisfied. It has done this in the Philippines in a manner that is respected and recognized internationally.

The data on PAASCU’s current membership and survey activities are in your kits.

Within the ASEAN context, which is changing the local educational landscape, PAASCU has helped shape quality assurance in ASEAN as a member of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) whose mission is “to share information, to build capacity, and to establish the ASEAN Regional Quality Framework (AQAF). This Framework, it has been agreed, now consists of four thematic interrelated principles, namely, (1) the external quality assurance agency, (2) the external quality assurance processes, (3) the internal quality assurance, and (4) the national qualifications framework. PAASCU continues to work according to this AQAF. It is a quality assurance agency external to the school, using processes of quality assurance external to the school that check on its programs and its institutional status, that complements the school’s own internal processes of itself taking responsibility for quality with the Philippine National Qualifications Framework. Through adherence to and promotion of the AQAF, PAASCU supports a common reference point aligning quality assurance systems in ASEAN against which all quality assurance systems in ASEAN benchmark. In the process recognition of qualification throughout ASEAN is enabled and higher education among countries is harmonized. A Filipino employer will understand what the competencies of a graduate of BS Civil Engineering in Indonesia and in Singapore are through the degree he holds from an accredited school, just as an employer in Malaysia and Vietnam would know what the competencies of a graduate of an AB in English or Mathematics are from a accredited school in the Philippines.

Meanwhile, PAASCU continues in the Philippines uniquely to enjoy the respect and recognition of many international partners as listed in your kits. This year, PAASCU signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Accreditation Agency for Degree Programs in Engineering, Informatics, Natural Sciences and Mathematics (ASIIN) based in Germany.[4]

In the changing landscape of Philippine education, PAASCU continues to be a bastion of stable quality assurance enhanced by increasing international recognition and cooperation.

CHALLENGES

In this changing educational landscape where the national leadership is practically calling for a social and cultural revolution, where there is more consciousness of the system of quality education that the State must provide for all, where ASEAN is bringing us not only into a new economic community but into a new social and cultural identity, and where there is a new emphasis on higher education, ten days from now representatives from private sector higher education through COCOPEA and representatives from public sector higher education through PASUC shall meet here at the Century Park Sheraton. That in itself is hopeful change in the educational landscape! Normally the public and private HEIs don’t talk to each other. But they are now coming together in exercise of academic freedom and responsibility and are resolved to work out a “Framework of Complementarity between Public and Private Higher Education” for the common good of the Philippine educational system.

Towards articulating this Framework they will have five conversations.

The first is on “Providing Quality Education to the marginalized sector.” The concern is not only how public and private HEIs can complement each other in providing greater access to higher education for the marginalized sector, but the access must be to greater quality higher education. Providing the marginalized greater access to poor quality higher education is not only a waste of money. It is a waste of human lives.

Issues that must be tackled here include how higher education can in academic freedom contribute to the 2040 vision of a peaceful Philippines based on realized social justice within the rich, cultural socially-just community envisioned by ASEAN.

The second is on “Sustainability of Private and Public Higher Education.” Considering the constitutional mandate towards complementarity, how can public and private HEIs be sustained? After the K-12 experience of an 80% increase in salaries in the DepED, pulling teachers away from private schools, the powerful role of public money in sustaining not just the SUCs but the partnership of public and private schools in the system of Philippine education must be resolved.

The third is on leveling the playing field through Differentiated Markets. Can public and private schools cooperate more effectively by segmenting the market, e.g., the very poor students be handled the by the SUCs, and the financially-able students be handled by the private HEIs?

The fourth conversation concerns PAASCU most: Leveling the Playing Field between public and private schools through Quality Assurance. How can the quality of education in both private schools and state schools be assured, so that what is achieved in both these modes of the Philippine educational system can be recognized, compared, and, when warranted, supported for public funding. Here PAASCU would naturally advocate accreditation that is consistent with the AQAF as explained earlier whose principles are: an external quality assurance agency, external quality assurance processes, internal quality assurance culture, all consistent with the National Qualification framework.

The challenge is how both public and private HEIs can expand subscription to accreditation in the country. Our best recent figures from the Federation of Accrediting Associations of the Philippines (FAAP) show only a total of 546 accredited HEIs[5] out of CHED’s total of 1934 HEIs in the country. That is a good 28% of the HEIs, but only 28%.

Increasing accreditation within the Philippine educational system is an absolute imperative. The Constitution mandates the State not only to provide access to higher education for all, but to quality higher education (cf. Art XIV, Sec. 1).

Finally, the conversation on leveling the playing field through governance. This is not only a problem of governing academically free HEIs, it is also the challenge of fairly governing SUCs with their own legislated charters and private HEIs that are dependent on CHED for their permit to operate.

Bulwark of Stability

At this ungodly hour, you have been very patient. The educational landscape is certainly changing. As the earth quakes with values from the President that are sometimes startling, sometimes shocking, sometimes revolutionary, as our cities and countryside, our homes and gardens take on an increasingly ASEAN shape, as public and private schools take on together in unchartered territory the challenge of education within the Philippines and ASEAN, the bulwark that PAASCU is for stability in quality assurance with international recognition and respectability is of undeniable importance. You, our member schools, our accreditors, our commission members, our executive director have been that bulwark. You are the source of our energy and inspiration. Thank you for another exciting year. We look to the future with great optimism and hope.

 

 


 

[1] Pls see full article on ASEAN: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Association_of_Southeast_Asian_Nations#ASEAN_Community_2015

[2] cf: http://deped.gov.ph/sites/default/files/page/2016/Education%20Summit%202016_CHED_Licuanan.pdf. The figure for public HEIs excludes 454 satellite campuses.

[3] https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2016/04/12/coordinating-council-for-private-educational-associations-roadmap-for-philippine-higher-education/ This includes a link to the original text.

[4] Akkreditierung für Studiengänge der Ingenieurwissenschaften, Informatik, Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik (ASIIN), now shortened to Akkreditierung Systeme und Institutionen, is a founding member of the European Network for the Accreditation of Engineering Education (ENAEE) and a member of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA). Cf: http://www.asiin-ev.de/pages/en/asiin-e.-v/about-us.php

[5] HEIs accredited by accrediting association according to FAAP are as follows: PAASCU, 222; PACUCOA (Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation), 167; ACSCU (Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities), 46; AACCUP (Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines), 111 or a total of 546. If the 454 SUC satellite campus are added to CHED’s total of HEIs, only 16.2% of 2388 HEIs would be accredited.   Data offered in  http://www.ched.gov.ph/central/page/accredited-programs are outdated.

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
This entry was posted in Address, Philippine Educational Reform, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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