Renewing Ourselves in PAASCU’s Vision and Mission

[PAASCU General Assembly, Century Park Hotel, Nov. 23, 2018]

Last year, we agreed:  To teach, and to teach well belongs to the soul of the Filipino educator.  This is derived from our personal and institutional commitment to truth.  We instruct in truth.  We research in truth.  We serve our communities in truth.

The commitment to truth underpins our commitment to quality assurance.  We must assure ourselves that our claims to quality are not imagined, not contrived, not a product of mere wishful thinking nor self-deception, not a promotional pitch that contributes to the fake news that plagues our world.  We must assure ourselves that our educational quality does not degenerate nor stagnate but improves.  It is in this spirit that we have formally incorporated ourselves in PAASCU, namely, “to assist and integrate the efforts of schools colleges and universities to raise the quality of their education.”[1]  To improve the quality of our education in our institutions, or even just to maintain it, quality assurance is necessary.

We know:  The most rigorous type of quality assurance is accreditation.

Accreditation is at the heart of the PAASCU mission.   As an association, we come together to assure ourselves that the educational service that we render in our schools, no matter the level, is of quality.   Accreditation is not coerced.  It is voluntary.  It is not run by government.  It is private. It is not personal, subjective, arbitrary nor chaotic.  It is professional.  It comes from within, from our shared responsibility for truth in academic freedom.   But because we share this with our ASEAN partners in education through a common ASEAN quality assurance framework, its validity is ASEAN-wide, if not worldwide.  What emerges from the Filipino’s educators’ soul resonates with the ASEAN educator’s soul, if not the soul of all educators worldwide.

While there is much ongoing debate about what “quality” means, the PAASCU understanding that the Board submits to you today for confirmation is that quality necessarily must involve four dimensions:  the achievement of minimum standards in learning outcomes set by government, the attainment of standards of excellence in learning outcomes, organizational fitness for purpose or implementation of the vision-mission of the school, and responsiveness to stakeholders.  When PAASCU declares a school to be of quality, it ascertains that the school has achieved the minimum standards set by government for programs like mathematics or chemistry or literature or for the institution itself.  It ascertains that the school has achieved excellence over and against the minimum standards.  It checks that the school’s structures, facilities, instructional, formative, research and service-to-community activities “fit” their institutional purpose or actually implement their school’s mission and vision.  It checks that the school is responsive to external stakeholders.  With every assessment of quality, it also states how the school might improve in each dimension. In this manner, PAASCU not only ascertains excellence, it develops it.

PAASCU’s Vision and Mission

Hence our reformulated Vision and Mission and objectives that the Board also submits to you today for approval:

PAASCU is the leading, independent, professional association in the Philippines and beyond that fosters quality education through voluntary accreditation.  It is a leading advocate for quality assurance in ASEAN.

PAASCU is a private, non-profit and non-stock corporation that serves its member institutions and advocates quality education through voluntary accreditation.  It is committed to:

  1. Promote member institutions’ implementation of their vision, mission and goals, achievement of minimum standards and evidenced excellence based on learning outcomes, and responsiveness to stakeholders.
  2. Use a development approach to support, empower, and sustain the continuous improvement and innovative initiatives of its member institutions through self-assessment and site visits of member schools, training, research, consultancy services and collaborative undertakings with local and international partners.
  3. Serve the national and global communities through its pursuit of a culture of excellence in education.

The reformulated objectives and core values of PAASCU are also submitted to you for approval:

  1. To encourage and assist member institutions to continually improve themselves through a culture of on-going and cyclical evaluation, self-assessment and peer review for quality improvement.
  2. To assure local and international stakeholders of the quality of education in accredited programs and institutions.
  3. To strengthen the capabilities of educational institutions for service to the nation, ASEAN and beyond.
  4. To promote and integrate the efforts of members institutions to elevate the status of education in the Philippines.
  5. To assist member institutions and their graduates in their quest for national, regional and international recognition of their academic programs.
  6. To collaborate with national and international agencies and organizations involved in quality assurance.
  7. To provide training, research, consultancy and quality assurance service to educational institutions and other agencies/organizations inside and outside the country.
  8. To ensure the growth and sustainability of the association through research and the periodic updating of accreditation processes.
  9. To provide regular capability building of staff and accreditors.
  10. To utilize appropriate and updated technology in the operation of PAASCU.

PAASCU’s eight core values:

  1. Quality. The pursuit of quality education drives the vision-mission, objectives and the undertakings of the association.  The pursuit of quality is a continuing and cyclical process. 
  2. Leadership. Initiatives and undertakings to ensure the relevance of standards, appropriateness of accreditation practices and innovativeness. 
  3. Integrity. Decisions and undertakings are based on facts, fairness and impartiality.  PAASCU has clear policies on confidentiality and conflict of interest. 
  4. Compassion. PAASCU is rigorous and objective, developmental and compassionate. 
  5. Transparency. The processes, internal and xternal, are transparent, and the accreditation status is clear and is duly communicated to stakeholders. 
  6. Accountability. PAASCU takes responsibility for judgments and decisions made. 
  7. Flexibility. Changes and modifications are considered in the development of standards and instruments in the practice of accreditation.
  8. Community. PAASCU, its member institutions and their stakeholders, espouse and foster a collegial environment through collaboration and networking. 

PAASCU in the Service of Quality Education in the Philippines

The PAASCU Vision and Mission is in the service of quality education in the Philippines.

The general mission of education in the Philippines, I believe, can be defined by its objectives.  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).

We may note the explicit constitutional mandate to quality education and appreciate PAASCU’s national role in assuring quality education.

The mission of Philippine education is derived from the “complete, adequate and integrated system of education” that the State is mandated by the Constitution to “establish, maintain, and support” (Art. XIV, Sec 2).

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 profession 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 nation 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, and a vocation to serve); 2) analytical and problem solving skills; 3) the ability to think through the ethical and social implications of a given 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.” [2]

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 a 88mission 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 further defined by a religious community which educates both for citizenship in the City of Man as well as in the City of God.  The Catholic school, for example, is first a school; it is valued for its delivery of quality instruction.  But its quality education is further defined in its being a Catholic school in which the joy of the Gospel is proclaimed.  In the Catholic school the tension is acknowledged between, on the one hand, knowing and loving Jesus, “the way, the truth and the life” and, on the other hand, needing in this world to search for truth.  The search for truth in a Catholic school, whether this be in the natural sciences, the social science or in the painstaking articulation of the common good as it affects all human beings on our planet and “our common home,” is as open and rigorous as in any other school.  Catholic schools and Catholic educators in the Philippines, therefore, do not only acknowledge the need for quality assurance; historically, through PAASCU, they have been the leaders in the quality assurance movement through accreditation.[3]  

Special Challenges in Philippine Education Today

While the general Philippine educational mission towards the development of the human being for a humane society and the development of the professional know-how and skills for human beings to be productive in that society may be clear from the policy texts that we have presented above, we face special challenges in Philippine education today which affect quality education.  I will mention only the major challenges:

Lack of a coordinated system of Philippine education.

The Constitution mandates the State to provide one system of Philippine education for all on all levels where public and private schools, colleges and universities are mandated to work in complementarity with one another, but the system lacks effective coordination.  The one “system” is more ideal than real.  The current tri-focalized arrangement places responsibility for basic education in the Department of Education (DepEd), for higher education in the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and for skills development in the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).  There is no educational office that coordinates these three divisions, and there is no educational authority that assures the complementarity between public and private schools, colleges and universities.  Congress legislates with a bias for public education; there is no government office that watches out for the welfare of private education.  Private schools were hurt by educational policy decisions relative to access and relative to salaries.  While the constitutional principle of complementarity is acknowledged, it is not theoretically defined, and is so a product of market accident or of private political advantage rather than of educational or academic system.    While the objectives of Philippine education are articulated generally as above, the objectives of Philippine education relevant to a developmental vision like Ambisyon Natin 2040 or any other possible competing vision of the future as of “the common good” are not worked out.  The complementary roles of public and private schools relative to such a vision are not articulated.  The relative importance of college vs. productivity in the work force after basic education is not decided.  For instance, RA 10533 was crafted on the assumption that higher education is not for all;  RA 10931 is about access for all to higher education.  In such a situation the government-set minimum standards for learning outputs of the one system of Philippine education seem arbitrary and uninspired by any overall goal of Philippine development.  Our people are still poor.  Our infrastructure is still undeveloped.  There is still massive corruption in society.  Our education is more western than Asian.  In contrast, one may appreciate how China’s one educational system has transformed its society within forty years from backwardness and poverty into the progressive and self-respecting society it now is, confidently taking on cudgels for global leadership.

The Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2015 (RA 10533)

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,[4]  requires mastery of basic disciplines and preparedness for its prescribed multi- and interdisciplinary activities.[5]

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.  Many private schools have used precious resources to invest in SHSs only to experience lack of enrollment due to competition even from public HEIs mandated to open SHS operations.  Other private schools have experienced painful loss of their licensed faculty due to the aggressive increases in salaries in public schools.

In the year after the first graduates of Senior High School have entered into our colleges, there has to date been no comprehensive evaluation of the K-12 reform.

The Universal Access to Quality Education Act of 2018 (RA 10931)

The Universal Access to Quality Education Act began as a Free Education in SUCs bill.  Through the vigorous opposition of the CHED, the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and surprisingly even the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC), the bias for the SUCs was balanced with the formal recognition of the complementarity between the public and private schools and provision for State support for qualified students opting to go to private HEIs.  Thus RA 10931 provided for a tertiary education subsidy (TES, Sec. 7) and for the Student Loan Program for Tertiary Education (SLPTE, Sec 8).  Responsibility for these two funds was vested in an expanded Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UNIFAST) Board.

Unfortunately because of the late formulation of the implementing rules and regulations for the TES and the SLPTE, free education in SUC based on this law was implemented before students could avail of the TES and the SLPTE.  While budget was allocated for some 300,000 students nationwide for this academic year, students going to private schools could not benefit from them.  This caused significant loss of enrollment in many private schools, damaging, endangering or killing many quality programs.

The Philippine Qualifications Framework of 2018  (RA 10968)

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, and eventually an authoritative guide, for setting standards for PAASCU.

The PQF is the fourth quadrant of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework.[6]  While the importance of qualifications is conceded, care must be taken that the goal of quality education, and esp. higher education is not reduced to qualifications (job qualifications).   The critical, innovative, ethical finalities of education are not captured in qualifications.

Our Schools Must Make Important Decisions

These major structural challenges in education, considered, our schools must make important decisions relative to:

The quality of their contributions to the one Philippine system of education, where despite the legal verbiage, it is not clear what the overall goal of the educational system is.  Our schools must determine the quality of their contribution to humanistic education in the hope of building a more humane humanity for the future.  It must determine its willingness to invest in this type of education, which is not immediately and directly supported by government or industry scholarships.  What conditions must we meet through education to construct a healthy, happy, and socially just society? How must we prepare our students through their knowledge of languages, literature, history, foreign affairs, political science to contribute to shaping this future?  In the Philippines, how must we better prepare ourselves to deal with our ASEAN partner countries and with Japan, the unifying Korea and especially China?

Our schools must determine the quality of their contributions to the one Philippine system of education through their quality programs in the natural sciences and technology.   Both are essential not only for appreciating the awesomeness of God’s creation but for harnessing the resources the Creator entrusted to humanity for the good of humanity:  for food, for clothing, for shelter, for medicine, for all that is materially necessary for human flourishing in a clean and healthy environment.  These programs would be especially responsive to the needs of the marginalized to overcome their poverty and would entail genuine multi- and interdisciplinary collaboration in the natural and social sciences, philosophy, theology and technology to create innovative responses that create not only solutions but new sources of livelihood (technopreneurship).  They would prepare our students to participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution using  artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, robotics and 3-D printing.  It is the quality of our contributions that should earn us the funding required for research and training.

Our schools must re-think our programs and structures to encourage and support quality life-long learning.  In the National University of Singapore students are not accepted into university for four years, but for twenty five.  In the University of Ontario 63 percent of the income of the university comes from adult learning.  The relationship between the university and the workplace is becoming more seamless, the barriers more permeable.

The Challenge in PAASCU’s Vision and Mission

It is facing this future of challenge and innovation that we renew ourselves in shared commitment to PAASCU’s Mission and Vision and to its work.

We renew ourselves in fostering quality education through voluntary accreditation.

We renew ourselves in promoting our member institutions’ implementation of their visions, missions and goals, the achievement of minimum standards, the achievement of excellence in learning outcomes, and excellence in responsiveness to stakeholders.

We renew ourselves in our developmental approach to continuous improvement and innovation.

We renew ourselves in the service of our stakeholders not only in industry but in human society in the Philippines and human society in the globe.

We renew ourselves in pursuing a culture of excellence in education.

We do this together, in genuine respect for one another as peers, where all are humble enough to learn from others, and strong enough to share wisdom with others; where all are wise enough to learn from the past, but courageous enough to shape the future.  All contribute to the work of quality assurance out of our shared commitment for education and our shared respect for truth.  All participate in setting the PAASCU standards and appropriate instruments which are responsive to our times.  We are not paid for it.  We do so voluntarily.  It is an exigency from within, part of our Filipino soul.  It entails sacrifice.  But we know the joy of this sacrifice in witnessing the improvement of our schools through our service.  In facing Philippine education today, in facing our future, we know the importance of this sacrifice.  Education must be quality education.  That is the mission of PAASCU.  It is our mission.

 

 

 

 


[1] PAASCU Articles of Incorporation, 2.

[2] Quoted in CMO 20 s. 2013

[3] Confer Catholic Church documents on education: Gravissimum Educationis, Ex Corde Ecclesiae, Laudato Si!, Veritatis Gaudium.  Cf also Philippine Catholic School Standards, (QC: CEAP/Phoenix Publications, 2017.).

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

[5] 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).

[6] The four principles or quadrants of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework are:  the External Quality Assurance Agency, the External Quality Assurance Standards and Procedures, Internal Quality Assurance, and the National Qualifications Framework.  In the Philippines the latter is the Philippine Qualifications Framework.

About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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