Renewing PAASCU in the Context of Philippine Education Today

PAASCU 2018

[Introductory talk to Strategic Planning, 25-26 June, 2018, Microtel, Libis, QC.]

I have been asked to talk about the General Mission of Education, the challenges faced by Philippine Education, and the Role of Accreditation in the tasks of Quality Assurance (QA).

I. The Mission of Education.

The Mission of Education, I believe, can be defined by its objectives.  In the Philippines, on the minimal level that is universally applicable, the objectives are defined by the State which has the duty to “protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education at all levels” and to take appropriate steps to make that education “accessible to all” (Philippine Constitution, Art. XIV, Sec. 1):

For our purposes, the mission of education is derived from the “complete, adequate and integrated system of education system of education” that the State is mandated by the Constitution to “establish, maintain, and support” (Art. XIV, Sec 2).  What that education is missioned to do may be appreciated from its stated objectives.

Beyond teaching the Constitution, all educational institutions are to “inculcate patriotism and nationalism, foster love of humanity, respect for human rights, appreciation of the role of national heroes in the historical development of the country, teach the rights and duties of citizenship, strengthen ethical and spiritual values, develop moral character and personal discipline, encourage critical and creative thinking, broaden scientific and technological knowledge and promote vocational efficiency” (Art. XIV, Sec. 3.2).

The Education Act of 1982 (BP 232) states that the educational system shall aim to:

“Provide for a broad general education that will assist each individual in the peculiar ecology of his own society, to

  • attain his potentials as a human being
  • enhance the range and quality of individual and group participation in the basic functions of society, and
  • acquire the essential educational foundation of his development into a productive and versatile citizen

“Train the nation’s manpower in the middle-level skills for national development

“Develop the professions that will provide leadership for the nation in the advancement of knowledge for improving the quality of human life; and

“Respond effectively to changing needs and conditions of the national through a system of educational planning and evaluation.

“Towards the realization of these objectives, and pursuant to the Constitution, all educational institutions shall aim to inculcate love of country, teach the duties of citizenship, and develop moral character, personal disciplines, and scientific, technological and vocational efficiency.

“Furthermore, the educational system shall reach out to educationally deprived communities, in order to give meaningful reality to their membership in the national society, to enrich their civic participation in the community and national life, and to unify all Filipinos into a free and just nation”  (BP 232, Sec 4).

For CHED the first mission of higher education is:

“To produce thoughtful graduates imbued with 1) values reflective of a humanist orientation (e.g. fundamental respect for others as human beings with intrinsic rights, cultural rootedness, an avocation to serve); 2) analytical and problem solving skills; 3) the ability to think through the ethical and social implications of a give course of action; and 4) the competency to learn continuously throughout life – that while enabling them to live meaningfully in a complex, rapidly changing and globalized world while engaging their community and the nation’s development issues and concerns.” [1]

From the State, therefore, the mission of education is about the development of the human individual in Philippine society through general education, so that he can participate in it as a citizen and contribute to its national life through professional or individual productivity. It is mission in “aid and support of the natural right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth through the educational system” (BP 232, Sec 5,1).

Beyond the educational mission defined by the State, the educational mission may be defined by a religious community which educates both for citizenship in the City of Man as well as in the City of God.  The mission of Catholic schools, for instance, is drawn out of the relationship between the school community and Jesus Christ and His Father and draws out the transformative implications of that relationship on society and on the world, “our common home”.  (cf. Gravissimum Educationis, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Laudato Si!, Veritatis Gaudium, Philippine Catholic School Standards).

The education mission provides us a horizon against which we may converse about quality, quality assurance and accreditation.

II. The Challenges Faced by Philippine Education today.

I attempt only to list some problems relevant to our strategic planning.

Quality.  Clearly the Constitution calls for quality education.  The State is mandated to protect and promote the right of all citizens to quality education for all. [2]

Need for Philippine Consensus on Quality.  The meaning of quality is contentious.  CHED defines Quality as follows:

“CHED defines quality as the alignment and consistency of the learning environment with the institution’s vision, mission and goals demonstrated by exceptional learning and service outcomes and the development of a culture of quality. This definition highlights three perspectives of quality:

  • Quality as “fitness for purpose” is generally used by international bodies for assessment and accreditation. This perspective requires the translation of the institutions vision, mission, and goals inter learning outcomes, programs, and systems.
  • Quality as “exceptional” means either being distinctive; exceeding very high standards; or conformace to standards based on a system of comparability using criteria and ratings; the Third characteristics underlies CHED’s definition of “exceptional”; and
  • Quality as “developing a culture of quality” is the transformational dimension of the CHED notion of quality” (CMO 46 s 2013, sec 6).

CHED’s definition, in the viewpoint of many educators in the CEAP and COCOPEA, is a formula for regulatory overreach into areas of academic freedom.  Beyond its expressed mandate to establish minimum standards (RA 7722, Sec. 8 d), it works here with “exceptional” standards, which may then militate against the academic freedom of higher educational institutions.

Furthermore, for all the talk about the mismatch between education and industry needs, CHED’s definition of quality fails to include responsiveness to stakeholders.

In response to this situation, COCOPEA sought to introduce legislation defining quality inspired by the fourfold definition of Dirk van Damme, head of the Center for Educational Research of Ghent University,[3] namely:

  • Achievement of minimum standards based on learning outcomes
  • Achievement of standards of excellence based on learning outcomes
  • Institutional implementation of the vision, mission and goals of the university
  • Responsiveness to stakeholders

Consensus in the Philippines on quality has yet to be achieved.  Meanwhile, COCOPEA and PASUC have agreed to “work together in complementarity to improve the quality of higher education in both public and private HEIs” (Resolution 4).[4]  An explicitated understanding of quality is essential for a renewed understanding of our mission in quality assurance.

Overstepping the Boundaries of Reasonable Regulation:

The Constitution vests HEIs with academic freedom:  “Academic Freedom shall be enjoyed in all institutions of higher learning” (Art. XIV, Sec 5 [2]).  In its Declaration of Policy, the Higher Education Act of 1994 (RA 7722) states, “The State shall likewise ensure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercise and observance for the continuing intellectual growth, the advancement of learning and research, the development of responsible and effective leadership, the education of high-level and middle-level professionals, and the enrichment of our historical and cultural heritage” (Art. XIV, Sec 2).  In its Sec. 13 on Academic Freedom, RA 7722 says:

“Nothing in this act shall be construed as limiting the academic freedom of universities and colleges.  In particular, no abridgment of curricular freedom of the individual educational institutions by the Commission shall be made except for: (a) minimum unit requirements for specific academic programs; (b) general education distribution requirements as may be determined by the Commission; and (c) specific professional subjects as may be stipulated by the various licensing entities.  No academic or curricular restriction shall be made upon private educational institutions which are not required for chartered state colleges and universities” (Sec. 13).

Through its Technical Working Groups (TWGs), which determine the Policies, Standards and Guidelines of many disciplines, there is a perception that these limitations are breached in their setting not minimum standards but optimum standards.  The optimum standards reflect the particular excellence of the institutions from which the members of the TWGs come, but they become an imposition on other HEIs which beyond minimum standards may fulfill standards of excellence in their own manner.   The imposition of optimum standards on all enables a regulative capture by these HEIs on the educational market, since only they can deliver on the optimum standards that their representatives on the TWGs determine.   It is unreasonable regulation.  Setting minimum standards is a challenge which CHED has not mastered, possibly because it fails to enter into sufficient consultation and dialogue with HEIs, despite its token public hearings.  It is the HEIs that are vested with academic freedom by the Constitution and RA 7722, and not CHED.  In CHED’s imposition of optimum standards in its regulative capacity, instead of promoting academic freedom, it militates against it.

For professional disciplines, the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) also sets standards leading to qualifications, and is known to intervene in the academic operation of schools teaching their disciplines.

Setting minimum standards needs to be part of the exercise of academic freedom of all HEIs in self-governance.  In this context, “The PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself in academic freedom and responsibility to its shared mission of providing quality higher education to the Filipino people and to find the appropriate structures to support and govern itself under the reasonable regulation of government as high education in the Philippines” (Resolution 8).

This problem complex is relevant for PAASCU in determining the standards of accreditation.

The Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF). 

Under Pres. Benigno Aquino the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) was established by Executive Order 83 s. 2012.  As of Jan 16, 2018, the “PQF Act” or RA 10968 establishes it by law with the following objectives:

  • To adopt national standards and levels of learning outcomes of education.
  • To support the development and maintenance of pathways and equivalencies that enable access to qualifications and to assist individuals to move easily and readily between the different education and training sectors and between these sectors and the labor market; and
  • To align domestic qualification standards with the international qualifications framework hereby enhancing regulation of the value and comparability of Philippine qualifications and supporting the mobility of Filipino students and workers. (Sec. 4)

The implementation of the PQF is entrusted to a PQF National Coordinating Council (PQF-NCC).  In the PQF, eight levels of qualifications are recognized.  The painstaking determination of qualifications is still a work in progress.   But the PQF is an essential horizon for setting standards for PAASCU.

The PQF is the fourth quadrant of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework.[5]  While the importance of qualifications is conceded, care must be taken that the goal of education, and esp. higher education is not reduced to qualifications (job qualifications).   The critical, innovative, ethical finalities of education are not captured in qualifications.

The K-12 Reform.  In order to comply with an international demand for twelve years of basic education, the country has implemented the K-12 reform as defined by the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (RA 10533).  The addition of two years of basic education in Senior High School (Grades 11 and 12) was occasion for the Department of Education to rethink its entire basic education curriculum and prescribe a learner-centered, learning-outcomes-based pedagogy, with corresponding metrics, that outputted not just banked knowledge but ability to apply knowledge in skills and competencies (“21st Century Skills”).  Performance tasks, and not just quizzes and exams, are a marker of the K-12 reform.  Meanwhile, the addition of Senior High School has necessarily had ramifications in higher education.  The New General Education Program of CHED (CMO 20 s. 2013), based on College Readiness Standards presuming the K-12 reform,[6]  presumes mastery of basic disciplines and preparedness for its prescribed multi- and interdisciplinary activities.[7]

The SHS with its tracks (academic, sports, arts and design, technical vocational livelihood) and strands (science technology and mathematics [STEM], humanities and social sciences [HUMSS], accounting and business management [ABM], general academics [GAS]), its 15 core subjects, applied track subjects, and specialized track subjects, is a central output of the K-12 Reform.

The SHS is a complex operation.  While its positive effects are now being experienced in college instruction, critics assert that SHS is overloaded, over-demanding,  and exhausting for administrators, teachers and learners. Setting standards of excellence for the accreditation of SHSs that are already over-demanding will be challenging.

III. Role of Accreditation in the Tasks of Quality Assurance

As quality assurance has many different modalities (assessment, certification, internal quality mechanisms), all with the objective of assuring through evidence that what one claims in education one actually achieves, accreditation is the most rigorous of quality assurance activities.

Since it is quality that must be assured, a renewal of our accreditation processes must assure the four aspects of quality as stated above.

In the light of the mission of higher education and the challenges to Philippine education described above, particularly challenging for our strategic planning will be:

  • Consensus on the mission of education universally applicable to the diversity of our member schools.
  • Working consensus on “quality” and what we in PAASCU claim to assure. It has been suggested that because our accreditation is based on the minimum requirements either of DepEd or CHED, we are not ascertaining achievement of excellence.
  • Working consensus on minimum standards and standards of excellence, considering the unresolved debate on over-prescribed optimum standards, and how these are set in PAASCU.
  • Working consensus on judging “fitness for purpose” or the institutional performance in implementing the school’s mission and vision.
  • Working consensus on responsiveness to stakeholders, understanding that “stakeholders” are not just industry and the economy, but human society or faith community/communities.
  • Understand the relationship of PAASCU to the Philippine Qualifications Framework, its challenges   and limitations.
  • Revision of instruments of basic education (elementary, secondary, and “basic education”) to capture the minimum requirements of the K-12 reform in learning outcomes, pedagogy and formation.
  • Development of an instrument for the accreditation of SHS in its sui generis complexity.
  • Revision of instruments for higher education to ascertain the goals of the New General Education Program, esp. its interdisciplinary requirement.
  • Renewal of PAASCU according to the standards of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework published by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) as it relates to the ASEAN Quality Reference Framework [8] (AQRF). Understanding of how Internal Quality Assurance relates to External Quality Assurance and vice-versa.

Let us have a fruitful strategic planning exercise for PAASCU!

 

 


[1] Quoted in CMO 20 s. 2013

[2] Cf:  Philippine Constitution, Art. XIV, Sec. 1.   The recently passed Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education (RA 10931) is as much about quality tertiary education as it is about access to quality tertiary education. The reference to this law as the “free tertiary education in SUCs” law is inappropriate and unfortunate.

[3] Cf:  http://vhu.edu.vn/trang/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/2.Standards-and-Indicators_Van-Damme.pdf

[4]  Resolutions of PASUC-COCOPEA adopted during the 2nd PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations (ADDU, 12-13 Jan., 1947.

[5] The four quadrants of the AQAN are:  the External Quality Assurance
Agency, the External Quality Assurance Standards and Procedures, Internal Quality Assurance, and the National Qualifications Framework.  In the PH the latter is the PQF.

[6] Approved by CEB Resolution No. 298-2011

[7] CMO 20 s. 2013 specifies core courses and general education electives. “The core courses are inter- disciplinary and are stated broadly enough to accommodate a range of perspectives and approaches. Starting with the self, the core courses expand to cover the nation and the world and various ways of comprehending social and natural realities (artistic, scientific, mathematical). Two other important dimensions are give attention: communicating in different modalities and for varied purposes, and basic ethical considerations that enable communities and societies to live peaceably in the face of competing claims, opposing viewpoints and diverse faiths and cultures” (Sec 3).

[8] “PASUC and COCOPEA shall jointly commit itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the AQAN and its AQRF…” (Resolution 7).

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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