[A contribution to COCOPEA’S Strategic Planning Exercise, Holiday Inn and Suites, Makati, 29 April 2019)]
My apologies for not preparing a PowerPoint. Recently, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua decried that Philippine Development is too heavily based on PPPs. He meant PowerPoint Presentations. I did prepare a matrix based on the COCOPEA commitments to quality in our Roadmap for Philippine Higher Education. But that is too detailed to present here. My task is to simply explain “quality” for the purpose of our strategic planning activity.
First, there is no universally acceptable definition for “quality” (Q). Depending on your context, Q means “good”, or “very high” or “excellent.” In some contexts it means, “Ivy League” or “Ateneo,” “La Salle” or “UP.”
For the sake of discussion, therefore, the definition of Q must be stipulated. In discussing Q, we need to agree on a definition of Q.
Second. In our advocacy for Q and Quality Assurance (QA), we have proposed that in the educational context Q has four essential dimensions: (1) the achievement of minimum standards set by government [the regulative body] based on learning outcomes; (2) the achievement of excellence versus the minimum standards based on learning outcomes (standards of excellence met in academic freedom); (3) the ability of an HEI to implement its vision and mission (or “fitness for purpose”) and (4) responsiveness to stakeholders. We have proposed this even for possible legislation. PAASCU has adopted it formally. But the national consensus building on Q is still a work in progress.
Third. Statements about Q need to be verified or assured. This underpins the whole discussion in education about QA. It is not sufficient to claim that a school is “world class”; the claim must be verified or “assured” based on evidence. There are many modes of doing QA, e.g. PEAC’s “certification,” the ISO, or accreditation. In the Philippines, the most known and the most stringent mode of QA is accreditation.
Fourth. QA in the Philippines is now done in the context of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN) which promotes its ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework (AQAF). Under the AQAF there are four essential principles or components:
- the External Quality Assurance Association (EQAA). The private accrediting agencies are: PAASCU, PACUCOA, ACSCU-AA which operate under FAAP. The accrediting agency for SUCs is the Accrediting Agency for Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (AACCUP); for LUCs it is the ALCUCOA. These are under the National Network of Quality Assurance Agencies (NNQAA);
- The EQAA-Standards and Procedures;
- The Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) culture or mechanism;
- The National Qualifications Framework (NQF) which in the Philippines is now the Philippine Qualifications Framework (PQF) [Note that the “Q” here is not for Quality but for Qualifications, which normally refers to competencies required for a job.]
In the AQAF, QA necessarily originates in IQA. This is a necessary implication of academic freedom.
In this context then, QA also means being able to assure local and foreign stakeholders that the claims made about a graduate of civil engineering are in the context of the PQF and therefore comparable to the claims made of graduates of civil engineering in other countries. This is done through a shared reference framework for qualifications in ASEAN: the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF).
It is good to recall, “That Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) and COCOPEA jointly commit itself to the culture of quality assurance guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network and its ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework and request the Philippine government for necessary funds to support this commitment” (Resolution 7, 2nd PASUC-COCOPEA Conversations, Davao City 2017)
Fifth. In the Philippines, QA is governed by the “Policy-Standard to Enhance Quality Assurance (QA) in Philippine Higher Education through an Outcomes-Based and Typology-Based QA Category/ies” (CMO 46 s. 2012).
However, CMO 46 s. 2012 is contentious. The definition of Q in CMO 46 s. 2012 only considers “very high standards” and “fitness for purpose.” Critics point out that it does not include “minimum standards” in this definition; likewise, it does not include “satisfaction of stakeholders.”
Sixth. In the Philippines, accreditation, and for that matter, QA, is voluntary. This is not only because the government is not equipped to handle the accreditation of schools which involves thousands of very qualified personnel necessarily of high integrity. It is also because, beyond minimum standards, performance is necessarily voluntary, based on academic freedom in its most profound sense. The activity which measures excellence in academic freedom is not imposed but voluntary – required in academic freedom.
Seventh. Voluntary QA must be promoted in academic freedom.