The issue of education quality has just been highlighted by reports on the Department of Education’s (DepEd) participation in the 2018 cycle of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Implemented by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), PISA tests students’ ability to apply knowledge they gained from formal education to “everyday situations.”
Given our very dismal PISA results, DepEd is now pushing its Sulong EduKalidad program as a response to the rapidly changing education landscape.
However, the issue of education quality is not just a concern at the level of basic education (elementary and high school levels). Tertiary level or higher education institutions (HEIs) must also be accountable.
Allow me then to outline below some policy propositions that could help nurture further the development of Philippine HEIs. These are ideas that I and a team of other researchers drew out of a series of case studies done on selected HEIs, Local University and Colleges (LUCs) in particular, in 2015.
As there exists a big disparity between HEIs with regard to financial resources and capacity, we need to promote and strengthen partnerships among HEIs to facilitate co-learning and capacity building. These efforts serve as a venue to build learning and capacity. HEI “best practices” even on governance aspects such as resource generation, effective school management, program development, research, and community engagement, should be considered.
We should also promote and strengthen partnerships among HEIs and key stakeholder organizations (e.g., accrediting agencies, government organizations, and civil society organizations). As knowledge partners, HEIs, together with pertinent organizations, can develop programs for capacity development. A “knowledge alliance” may be mustered to implement local development programs where HEIs can have strategic roles. This knowledge alliance can also engage local government units as partners in various co-learning activities.
In recognition of the need to establish Local College Boards (LCBs) for LUCs, it would be logical to establish LCBs that are to be convened by local governments and reactivate the National Education Coordinating Council. This mechanism shall provide spaces for parents, students, faculty members, and civil society to participate in the decision making. More so, the College Board should also serve as a means to monitor school governance and in effect “depoliticize” LUC administration. One variation on this suggestion is that LCBs could be inter-LGU or probably provincial or regional entities since LUCs do not only cater to the constituents of their respective LGUs.
At the national level, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), Department of Education (DepEd), and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) should act in collaboration to provide more effective guidance to HEIs, especially in view of developments in the ASEAN.
Furthermore, incentives may encourage more private industry partnerships and investments with HEIs. As government becomes more burdened with several priorities, private groups assisting HEIs can have a big impact by facilitating the improvement of HEIs. In return, HEIs can contribute to private sector organizations by producing graduates with skills that match their desired competencies.
Local government units (LGUs) that have local colleges must be responsible for providing baseline financial support to the LUCs they established. National government must adequately support other public HEIs. Quality education requires a modicum of investment in the formal school system. On this count, government should craft laws to ensure LGU and National Government Agency (NGA) support for the improvement of HEIs’ performance.
There is a need to study how the Special Education Funds (SEF) facility of Philippine LGUs can be utilized in the improvement of LUCs. The SEFs, which are usually used for facilities and personnel development of elementary and secondary public schools, should be tapped. On the other hand, if LUCs, under the K-to-12 system, set part of their services for the provision of a senior high school program with TESDA-certified offerings, clearly the SEF can then be utilized to support these LUCs.
Finally, we should emphasize the Developmental Role of CHED towards LUCs. A 2018 study of 211 CHED Memorandum Orders (CMOs) revealed that 92 (43.60%) of these orders pertained to the agency’s regulatory role while 119 (56.40%) addressed its developmental roles. A more directed probe into these CMOs may be done to underscore and promote real HEI concerns that are related to education quality. In the case of basic education, teachers feel that they are overburdened by non-teaching work assignments. Is the case with public HEIs the same?
After all is said and done, national legislation needs to align existing policies and resolve hanging policy questions. There has to be a mechanism by which HEIs must be made accountable and responsive to national development plans. Education quality issues must address alignment to the national development agenda. HEIs, after all, are not just institutions of learning. They are part of the continuing nation-building efforts that have become even more challenged in the age of information and globalization.
Louie C. Montemar is an Education Fellow at the Stratbase ADR Institute, and a Professor of Sociology and Political Science.