Philippine Educational Challenges Towards Transformational Education

[Address: Centennial Lecture Series of Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus, Iloilo, 27 July 2017]

 

As Colegio del Sagrado Corazon de Jesus (CSCJ) celebrates the Centenary of its founding this year, I am deeply honored by your invitation to make a contribution to your Centennial Leadership Lecture Series. As by God’s grace you commence your second centenary of educational service to Iloilo and the Philippines, I am happy that you are interested in the educational challenge to leadership – which is one of my abiding concerns. I am also challenged by the topic you have assigned to me: “Philippine Educational Challenges towards Transformational Education.” It is however a very broad topic which I hope we can narrow down to specific challenges to CSCJ in the course of this talk.

Transformational Education

Education in the Philippines is necessarily transformational, or, as others say, transformative. Through education an ignorant, ill-mannered, unskilled, unqualified persons is transformed through instruction and learning activities into an informed, well-mannered, skilled, and qualified person. Education (ex ducere) leads out of the learner the actualization of his or her many personal possibilities. Education leads the learned adolescent out of the child and the responsible adult out of the adolescent. Importantly, education leads the human being out of the human. For many human beings, the treasures of humanity – relationship to truth, relationship to right, genuine love, loyal friendship, responsible freedom, inner relationship to human society, interior relationship to an Almighty God – are but dark secrets trapped within. Education leads what is potential within to actualization and so transforms the human being into a human human being. This is, I believe, the ultimate task of transformational education.

Where adults in the Philippines have never learned where Mindanao is in relationship to Luzon, where the United States and China are in relationship to the Philippines, how to speak and argue rationally, how to express one’s emotions and convictions other than through curse words, how to read habitually, how to navigate the world of the Internet, how to add and subtract, without dagdag-bawas, and how to be faithful to a friend, they have been deprived of a very basic form of transformational education.   Where a human being has not been transformed by education, he is at risk of being an inhuman human being.

You are aware that in the Philippines we are yet in the midst of a basic educational reform. Through the K-12 reform we have added two years of education to basic education, in order to make sure that every Filipino gets the basics of this educational transformation. Every Filipino must know the basics of reading, writing, numeracy, science, literature, natural science so that he or she can function competently and humanely in a work place or take on the challenges of higher education in college. But every Filipino is also to learn the basics of right manners and good conduct. They are to learn the basics of citizenship, but also basic to civilized society, deference to elders, respect for authority, and courtesy – even as in socialization they are introduced to friends and the joys and challenges of friendships and eventually love. Among the contemporary challenges in this context is that of the appropriate use of the Internet. The possibilities of “technology” in today’s social media should not militate against the reality of friendships and human relationships, nor even of the desideratum of experiencing the natural world.

If we are to talk of Philippine Educational Challenges towards Transformational Education on the tertiary level these are many.[1] Whereas the Philippine Constitution mandates the State to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” that is “accessible to all” (Art. 14. Sec 1) and 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 [1]) where there is “complementarity” between public and private institutions (Art. 14. Sec 4[1]), it only provides for “free public education in the elementary and high school levels” (Art. 14. Sec 2 [2]). Recently there has been much movement in the legislature to provide Filipinos greater access tertiary education. Originally the proposals were only for free tuition in State Universities and Colleges. But through the representations of various government and non-government educational institutions like the CHED, the PASUC and the COCOPEA, the legislature has meanwhile passed a measure providing enhanced access to quality higher education. Through this law which pays attention not only to access to higher education but to its quality, there shall not only be free education in SUCs but improved access to private HEIs through appropriate funding under the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) law (RA 10687). The legislation is now awaiting the signature of the President.

Where the prospect of huge taxpayers’ money is to be invested in higher education, attention must necessarily be given to the quality of education. As COCOPEA has pointed out, there is yet a need to gain national consensus on what quality in higher education means. CHED’s Policy Standard to Enhance Quality Assurance (QA) in the Philippine Higher Education Through an Outcomes-Based and Typology-Based QA (CMO 46 s 2012) failed to bring about that consensus.[2] Among the outstanding issues still unresolved: Whereby the law mandates CHED to “set minimum standards for programs and institutions of higher learning” (RA 7722, Sec. 8e), CMO 46 does not distinguish between minimum standards and standards of excellence in its definition of quality (cf Sec. 6). There is a raging current controversy between HEIs and CHED’s Technical Working Groups (TWGs) who set the standards; the HEIs complain that the TWGs are over-demanding. That indeed may be true since the policy, standards and guidelines of the TWGs are formulated based on the personal insights of the academicians appointed to the TWGs mostly from elite Universities, and not based on a wide consultation of practice in the HEIs, nor based on levels 6,7, and 8 of the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF)[3] for tertiary education. Through the assessment-based learning outcomes, competencies and qualifications on the various levels of the PQF, the outputs of Philippine education are comparable to outputs of education in other ASEAN countries through the ASEAN Quality Reference Framework.[4] The argument between the HEIs and the TWGs points to a fundamental tension between the HEIs who are vested by the Constitution with academic freedom and the CHED who is charged by the law to regulate reasonably. The tension is exacerbated because CHED behaves like a department of education and not like a collegial body as contemplated by RA 7722 generating consensus within the Philippine Higher Education Community. In this context, the recently forged partnership between the PASUC and the COCOPEA which has resolved to work together towards improved access to quality higher education in the Philippines is a ray of hope.

In case of transformational Philippine higher education after the K-12 reform we hope eventually to have graduates who both benefit humanistically from the interdisciplinary general education requirement and who benefit personally from robust professional training.

Transformative Education in the CEAP

If education (ex ducere) generally leads the human out of the human being, Catholic education leads the Catholic out of the Catholic student. Of course, it is not education which baptizes the learner, nor education that administers the Church’s sacraments of grace. But Catholic education partners with the family and the Catholic community in drawing out of the learner the realization of the potentials of his or her being a Catholic. Recently the CEAP in partnership with Phoenix Foundation has articulated the Philippine Catholic School Standards[5] to help Catholic schools check on their own catholicity. CSCJ as a Catholic school would manifest the “defining characteristics of Catholic Schools”:

  1. Centered on the person and message of Jesus Christ.
  2. Participating in the Evangelizing Mission of the Church
  3. Animated by a Spirit of Communion
  4. Established as an Ecclesial Institution
  5. Distinguished by a Culture of Excellence
  6. Committed to Integral Human Formation
  7. Engaged in the Service of the Church and Society
  8. Promoting Dialogue on Faith and Life and Culture

So characterized, Catholic education is transformative, first, because it first transforms the members of the educational community – students, teachers, staff and administrators – into practicing Catholics, giving witness to Jesus Christ and to Catholic values as the culture and respect for life, human dignity, the family, and the common good. It is transformative, secondly, because through shared discernment and discerned action it impacts transformatively on society. In the CEAP, this transformation takes place through service or advocacy that advances its “JEEPGY” program: Justice and Peace, Engaged Citizenship, Ecological Responsibility, Poverty Alleviation, Gender Equality and Youth Empowerment. Burning issues affecting the country are covered by the program: the problems of war in Mindanao based on an ideology masquerading as religion, religious extremism, the BBL, the proposal on Federalism, the attack on religious freedom, open-pit mining, coal-fired power plants, exclusion, debilitating poverty most intense in Muslim Mindanao, the LGBT community, the alienation of youth from the cultural mainstream, esp. in Muslim Mindanao. If our schools are centered on Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ incarnates the love and compassion of the Father in our world through the Spirit, the Catholic schools do not act in an abstract neutral sphere, like the fearful apostles huddled in the upper room because they thought Jesus to be gone (cf. Acts 2:1).

Transformational Education in CSCJ

As a Catholic school, CSCJ participates in all of this. But how is Catholic transformative education further specified in the transformational education of CSCJ? What is special about CSCJ that wakes you up in the morning and makes you grateful when you go to bed? This is a question which you who preside over it, benefit from it, and keep it alive, both within the CSCJ community and beyond it, can better answer than I can. How you answer it may be based on what you experience with one another here today, the people in the community whom you admire, the students who are a special inspiration, the benefactors who are a source of unwavering support. All this may be appreciated more profoundly in the century of service that you celebrate as a community this year.

I would imagine that what distinguishes you from other Catholic schools or even just other schools is your particular mission and vision. This is not just a set of poster statements crafted for accreditors, but a declaration of identity and mission made in the Spirit of Jesus Christ and of the compassionate Father and tin the spirit  of his servants, Sts. Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac. Jesus Christ came “to bring life, life to the full” (Jn 10:10), but he also identified himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the imprisoned. Jesus Christ’s person, example and words impacted transformatively on St. Vincent, whose life impacted transformatively on St. Louise. In Jesus’ spirit, both Sts. Vincent and Louise were thoroughly committed to the service of the poor, the orphans, the sick, the hospitalized, the imprisoned, the neglected (Mt. 25:31-46). In this context the vision and mission of CSCJ is articulated:

An audacious Christ-centered educational institution
committed to empowering communities of learners
into inner-directed Vincentian leaders
who are advocates of persons in poverty situations
and of God’s creation.

It is an educational institution. It is identified with drawing out of the human being what makes him a human human being.

But as an educational institution it is centered on Christ. It engages in the self-transformation and the transformation of society that is a consequence of the living relation with Jesus Christ who identified himself with the poor and came to bring life, life to the full.

But as a Catholic institution, unlike many other Catholic institutions, it declares itself to be audacious. This is a strong word. It comes from the latin audax for bold. As an adjective in this context it means: extremely bold or daring, recklessly brave, fearless; or extremely original, or recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, or law.

With this audacity, against the normal conventions or expectations, as a Catholic school, it commits itself to empowering communities of learners into inner-directed Vincentian leaders.  Vincentian leadership formation is at the heart of the mission of CSCJ, and imbues all of its offerings and programs.

Vincentian leadership is based on aspects of self, mission, task, people and service.[6] Each of these aspects is associated with particular practices. We do not have time to list them all. But self sees the leader striving for excellence, honesty, integrity, inclusiveness and the ability to take criticism. Mission is the leader using creative approaches in its fulfillment, innovativeness, regarding conflicts as opportunities to grow, welcoming change, using meditation and reflection and cultivating a positive vision of the future. Task sees the Vincentian leader creating the organization(s) necessary for mission, working respectfully with people with different ideas and personalities, maintaining high ethical standards, being pragmatic, basing judgements on facts, perseverance, and leading by example. People sees the Vincentian leader practicing sound people management, setting clear and realistic goals, encouraging others to lead, and communicating to motivate people. Service sees the Vincentian leader focused on serving others, esp. the poor, working for social justice, reversing poverty, challenging injustice, and regarding leadership as a service.

Through Vincentian leadership, communities of learners at CSCJ are to be advocates of people in poverty and of God’s creation.

This lecture, which contributes to the CSCJ Centennial Leadership Lecture series, and undertook to present Philippine Education Challenges towards Transformational Education, has worked from a notion of all education being transformational, both on the level of basic education but also on the level of higher education. We looked at some of the challenges coming from the K-12 reform and some of the deserts and sinkholes in the higher educational landscape in the Philippines. But we moved from this general level to more specific level of Catholic transformative education which is based on the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ. The school transforms the community in Christ but also the society it impacts. From there we looked at what might be more specifically transformational in CSCJ. We found this in its vision and mission: in its audacity as a Christ-centered educational institution and in its commitment to inner-directed Vincentian leadership.

You have been very patient. But on this note I would like to invite you to reflection on two points:

First, since audacity is such a rare attribute in a mission-vision statement: what is the nature of your audacity as a Christ-centered educational institution? When it is much easier as an educational institution in the context of benefactors, ecclesiastical authorities, government regulators to be safe, quiet, easy-going, mediocre, how do you express your audacity? In what programs, projects, activities?  Audacious Christ-centered educational activity today is needed in Muslim Mindanao where people long deprived of good education are hungry for it. Needed is a type of audacious evangelisation that, with the Federation of Asian Bishops, evangelises in dialogue. Needed is an audacious type of work with the Muslim youth that would empower them to understand the radical challenges to a shared community in the Philippines where all human beings without exception flourish.

Related to this: what is the source of your audacity? Is it the concept of the Catholic school, its principles and standards? Or is it the recollection of the organization prowess, creativity and perseverance of St. Vincent in dealing with the poor? Or is in in the recollection of the compassion of St. Louise? Or does audacity have something to do with encountering an audacious Jesus saying, “Begone, Satan!…” (Mt. 4:10), or angrily overturning the tables of the money changers in the temple (Mt. 21:11-13), or saying, “Not my will, Thine be done?” (Lk 22:42).

Second, when one reads of Vincentian leadership, it is very ideal. The descriptors are apodictic. But the road from the ideal to the real is often a slippery slope. Should one slip and fall, we end up with but words, words, words. It would seem to me very necessary for CSCJ to share not only its mission to Vincentian leadership but its roadmap to inner-direct Vincentian leadership, which would then be a source of abiding consolation and joy. St. Vincent was converted to his life of service to the poor through a deep experience of the poor. In this manner, his leadership became inner-directed and interiorly joyful. How is it done at CSCJ?

For the audacity with which CSCJ has conducted itself as a Catholic school and for the inner-directed Vincentian leaders it has formed in genuine transformational education over an entire century, we are deeply grateful to the Vincentians, the Daughters of Charity, the men and the women who have run the race and have kept the faith unto God’s glory!

 


[1] I recently outlined some of these problems under the rubric of quality tertiary education in the Philippines: https://taborasj.wordpress.com/2017/07/25/quality-tertiary-education/

[2] Cf: CEAP and Ateneo de Davao University: Disqualifying CHED’s Quality Assurance: A Collection of Critical Positions on CHED M.O.no. 46. S 2012 (Davao: ADDU Publications Office, 2012)

[3] Cf: http://www.tesda.gov.ph/uploads/File/policybrief2013/PB%20Philippine%20Qualification%20Framework.pdf

[4] For more on the AQRF, cf: http://asean.org/asean-economic-community/sectoral-bodies-under-the-purview-of-aem/services/asean-qualifications-reference-framework/ Also the powerpoint of Prof. Ma. Cynthia Bautista: http://www.share-asean.eu/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/SHARE-01_AQRF-and-CQF_Prof-Dr-Cynthia-Bautista.pdf

[5] CEAP and PPH Foundation, Philippine Catholic School Standards for Basic Education (Quezon City, Phoenix, 2016).

[6] On the Vincentian Leadership Model: https://resources.depaul.edu/vincent-on-leadership/training/model/Pages/default.aspx. Also http://www.vincentonleadership.org/vincent-de-paul-2/

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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