Towards Improved Quality Assurance of Higher Education in the Philippines 

pasuc-cocopea 2018

[Notes:  4th PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations, Hotel Benilde, Manila, July 23, 2018.]

“That PASUC and COCOPEA jointly commits itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and its ASEAN Quality Reference Framework and request the Philippine government for necessary funds to support this commitment” (Resolution 7, 2nd Round, PASUC COCOPEA Conversations, Jan 12-13, 2017).

Under the AQAN’s Framework there are four “principles” of QA to which we subscribe:

  • The External Quality Assurance Agency (EQAA)
  • The EQAA-Standards and Processes (EQAA-SP)
  • Internal Quality Assurance (IQA)
  • The National Qualifications Framework (NQF)
    • Note two different meanings of “Q”
    • Quality
      • There is no consensus on this yet, as we will discuss later
    • Qualification (Qn)
      • RA 10968
        • “Qn refers to a formal certification that a person has successfully achieved specific learning outcomes relevant to the identified academic, industry or community requirements.  A Qn confers official recognition of value in the labor market and in further education and training” [Sec 3 (c)].
    • Addresses the alleged “mismatch” between educational output and industry.
      • Focus is in the market-value of labor
    • The higher educational endeavor, however, is bigger than Qns as “jobs”.  Here the stake of society in the university for an understanding of humanity, friendship, compassion love, justice, social justice, ethics, duty, patriotism, citizenship, global citizenship is much larger than “jobs”
      • For compliance for such as:
        • “[All educational institutions] shall 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 nation, 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)]

 

For the PH, the PQF is the NQF – It is now set by law (RA 10968 ), but is yet a work in progress.

  • It involves describing a large array of qualifications in a manner that can be quality assured and aligned with the AQRF so that our qualifications become comparable with those of other countries.

The AQRF Referencing Report (as of 16 April 2018) prepared by the Philippine Qualifications Framework National Coordinating Council (PQF-NCC)

  • …gives a very comprehensive picture of the status of quality assurance in the Philippines today insofar as this is relevant to producing quality-assured qualifications.  It is a statement of “what is” in the QA landscape of the PH today.

Through our commitment to a “culture of QA guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and its ASEAN Quality Reference Framework” we may be inspired as public and private HEIs in the country today to work together to improve  our HE QA landscape in the Philippines today.

  • Our Constitution demands it.
    • “The State shall protect and promote the right of all citizens to QUALITY education at all levels…” (Art. XIV, Sec, 1)
  • The UAQTEA (RA 10931) demands it.
    • This is as much a law about quality education as it is about access.
  • As educators dedicated to teaching well, we demand it.

Some of the issues that must be tackled:

  • Who is responsible for QA in HE in the Philippines?  The CHED? or the HEIs in academic freedom? Or a partnership between the two?
    • In the AQRF Report:  CHED is the “principal External Quality Assurance Agency” that sets minimum standards and oversees compliance to these standards.
      • But is this in the same sense as the EQAA and the EQAA-SP of the AQAF?
      • CHED is external to the HEIs it deals with; but it is more external to private HEIs than it is to the SUCs whose boards it leads and whose budgets it co-determines.  The latter, indeed, may reveal a conflict of interest in external QA, as the quality successes of the SUCs it leads and funds are CHED’s successes – which it assures.
      • PAASCU understands QA to involve not only the achievement of minimum standards, but also the voluntary achievement of evidenced excellence flowing from the HEIs academic freedom in the implementation of its institutional mission and vision that is responsive to stakeholders.
      • CHED has the role of setting and enforcing minimum standards, not standards of excellence.  The CoEs and CoDs are not awarded on the basis of CHED’s accreditation but on the basis of the accreditation processes of recognized EQAAs.
      • Perhaps, rather than “principal EQAA” CHED may be described as providing the Framework of QA (consistent with CMO 46 s 2012) and as setting and enforcing minimum standards that is an essential component of QA.  Here, the QA endeavor is not merely a government concern but an eminent concern of public-private complementarity in higher education. The regulative function of CHED to set and enforce minimum standards are complemented by private QA functions which protect and promote academic freedom as they assure quality.
  • CHED’s responsibility to set and enforce minimum standards vs. its mandate to undertake development programs.
    • Do these two functions clash?  In CHED’s being regulative, it is coercive.  In its development programs that exceed minimum standards it cannot be regulative.
    • But when it takes on the QA function as “principal EQAA” the regulative function is confounded with the developmental intention.  This may result in a violation of the HEI’s right to academic freedom which CHED is mandated to sustain.
      • RA 7722 Sec 2
        • “…The State shall likewise ensure and protect academic freedom and shall promote its exercises 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”
      • RA 7722 Sec 13:
        • “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 education 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 restrictions shall be made upon private educational institutions which are not required for chartered state colleges and universities.”

This is further elucidated in the following:

  • There is still no working consensus on quality in the Philippines
    • In CMO 46 s 2012, it is stated, “CHED defines quality as the alignment and consistence 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…  Quality as “exceptional” means either being distinctive: exceeding very high standards; or conformance to standards based on a system of comparability using criteria and ratings…  Quality developing a culture of quality is the transformational dimension of the CHED notion of quality” (Section 6).
    • Here, it must be appreciated that CHED does not understand quality necessarily to be dependent on a floor of minimum standards based on learning outcomes, but works directly with exceptional standards, i.e., those exceeding very high standards.  The conflation of CHED regulative responsibility to set and enforce minimum standards [RA 7722, Sec 8(d)] now with the standards of excellence in QA may confuse what it does in setting the supposed minimum standards for programs.  Are they truly minimum or already regulative coercion into the area of “exceptional standards exceeding very high standards”?  This may account for the fact that what is done on the bachelor’s level appears to conform already to Level 7 on the PQF.
    • In this context it may also be pointed out that for all the complaint about the mismatch between academic outcomes and the demands of industry, the definition of quality in CMO 46 s. 2012 does not consider stakeholder satisfaction as a perspective of quality.  Even so, the stakeholders of higher education, it must be pointed out, are not only industry and job preparation in the service of an existing economy, but human society and the reflective ability to criticize the actual quality of human life and the value for human life of the industry and economy higher education feeds into.  Pope Francis, for example, has pointed to the pernicious effects of unbridled consumption that requires the economic production that abuses the environment and causes social exclusion and social injustice.
  • Higher Educational Quality Assurance (HE QA) in the PH depends on many EQAAs whose SPs are diverse and where standards are not standardized.  The AQRF-Report distinguishes:
    • School-Based Programmatic Accreditation
      • Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools Colleges and Universities (PAASCU)
      • Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA)
      • Association of Christian Schools Colleges and Universities – Accrediting Association Inc.  (ACSCU-AAI)
      • Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (AACCUP)
      • Association of Local Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (ALCUCOA)
    • Professional Organization-Based Programmatic Accreditation
      • Philippine Technological Council – Accreditation and Certification Board for Engineering and Technology (PTC-ACBET)
      • Philippine Information and Computing Accreditation Board (PICAB)
    • Institutional Accreditation
      • PAASCU
      • PACUCOA
      • ACSCU-AII
      • AACCUP

For the consideration of PASUC-COCOPEA which has committed itself to the culture of QA as guided by the AQAN and its AQRF:

  • Can we work together to improve the HE QA landscape in the PH?
    • Acknowledging variety of interests from which the EQAAs have emerged, is there a way of simplifying the landscape?
  • Can we reach consensus on a working definition of Q?
    • With Dirk Van Damme, I propose:
      • Minimum standards (based on learning outcomes)
      • Evidenced excellence  (based on learning outcomes)
      • Implements the mission and vision of the school
      • Stakeholder satisfaction
  • Can our EQAA’s come together for more harmony on Standards and Processes (SP)?
  • Can we all collaborate to quality assure Qns recognized in the PQF.
  • Revision of CMO 46 s. 2012

 

 


Postscript:

The Committee on Improving QA resolved positively for PASUC-COCOPEA on all these considerations during the 4th PASUC-COCOPEA conversations.

 

 

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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