Leveling the Playing Field Through Governance of the Educational System:  “Reasonable Regulations” vs. Academic Freedom

6.jpegI will be brief.  We are invited in this segment of our conversations to reflect on how we are being “governed” as we operate to contribute to the excellent output of a Philippine Educational System.

Within the current legal framework of the Philippines we are not governed evenly.  The SUCs are governed by the legislated charters that give them existence and the mandate to operate.  The Private HEIs are governed through the CHED which licenses the HEIs to operate.  Closure of an SUC needs an act of legislation in order for it to have the stamp of legality.  Closure of a private HEI needs an act of the CHED when a private HEI falls short of the standards set by CHED.

But as SUCs and private HEIs working together in complementarity, we are not governed.  No law articulates how the complementarity between our public and private HEIs is to be implemented; no law elucidates what the “complete, adequate and integrated system” of Philippine public and private education is. No body actually brings us together to optimize access to our higher education schools, to get us to cooperate towards ongoing quality improvement of our delivery, to get us to cooperate towards the achievement of a vision like Ambisyon Natin 2040. [1]

No body external to us can.

Meanwhile both the 1987 Constitution[2] and RA 7722[3] vest academic freedom in the HEIs, not in an administrative body like the CHED.

7.jpegBy academic freedom we understand the freedom and responsibility to determine “who is to teach, what is to be taught, how it is to be taught, who can be admitted to study.”[4]   It is our own freedom and responsibility to come together and govern ourselves as HEIs of the Philippines towards the goals that we appropriate in the responsible operation of our HEIs.

How then are we to relate to CHED?  The substantial mandates accorded CHED by law that are not merely recommendatory is  to “set minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning recommended by panels of experts in the field and subject to public hearing and enforce the same” (RA 7722, Sec 8h).

Unfortunately there is no consensus on what “minimum standards” are vs. “optimum standards.” There is too much reliance on the alleged “expertise” of technical panels appointed by the CHED, who come mostly from elite schools of Metro Manila. These may not accurately articulate the “minimums” and opt instead for a desired “optimum” as the minimum standard, without taking into account the geographical landscape and needs of HEIs outside of the Metro Manila area. In the articulation of these “minimum standards” by interested experts, there is danger of regulatory capture by vested interests, The minima articulated, there is unevenness in their enforcement as CHED does not enforce minimum standards in SUCs and has great difficulty in enforcing them in private HEIs (e.g. maritime schools).

5.jpegMeanwhile, legislation takes place that deeply affects the system of Philippine education. Which is the body that can be the trustworthy partner of the legislators in determining how laws pertinent to higher education are to be crafted.  Without appropriate and consistent participation by educators and administrators caring for the HEI system these laws could alienate or even threaten the survival of both public and private HEIs.

With the PASUC and COCOPEA coming together ought we now not organize to govern ourselves in the freedom and responsibility that is ours as Philippine HEIs?  Ought we now not organize to represent higher education to all the branches of government and to our stakeholders. This is what we are invited to discuss in this segment of our conversations.


[1] For reference?: http://pdp.neda.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/Draft-Chapter-14-as-of-07-Jan-17.pdf

[2] Paragraph 2, section 5, Article XIV 1987 Constitution

[3] Section 13, RA 7722 otherwise known as the Higher Education Act of 1994.

[4] At this juncture, it would be meet to recall the essential freedoms subsumed by Justice Felix Frankfurter in the term “academic freedom” cited in the case of Sweezy v. New Hampshire, 354 U.S. 234 (1957). (thus: (1) who may teach: (2) what may be taught; (3) how it shall be taught; and (4) who may be admitted to study. (ADMU vs. Capulong, GR 99327, May 27, 1993)

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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