12 April 2009

Education reform in the Philippines

Why CHED is rushing

“By 2015,” says Emmanuel Y. Angeles, who now chairs the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), “the 10 ASEAN countries will open their borders, and by 2020, the Philippines will join the APEC Trade Regime. Before these two events happen, we have to prepare our graduates to be globally competitive. There are no other alternatives but to align our degree programs with those of other countries.”

This is the main reason that the members of the Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE), particularly CHED, are rushing the addition of at least one more and even two more years to our education cycle. All other countries in the world have 15 or 16 years of education from Grade 1 to undergraduate graduation. The Philippines has the shortest education cycle in the world (only 10 years of public basic education and usually only 4 years of undergraduate education, for a total of 14).

European countries have 12 years of basic education and 3 years of undergraduate education. The United States and Asia-Pacific countries have 12 years of basic education and 4 years of undergraduate education. (Myanmar is an exception because it has only 11 years of basic education before 4 years of undergraduate education. India is also an exception, because it has only 3 years of undergraduate education after 12 years of basic education.)

Why is it important to catch up with the rest of the world? “Soon,” says Angeles, “mutual recognition of qualifications and degrees will be undertaken by ASEAN countries and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region. Thus, HEIs [Higher Education Institutions] must prepare for it now. The qualifications of our graduates must be improved to meet our development goals.”

When CHED first announced its intention to impose a minimum of 5 years for undergraduate education, everyone raised a howl, including me. When I was recently given a copy by CHED of the key points of the PTFE report, however, I realized that there were some good things to be said about the plan.

It has to be clear that not all college students need to stay for 5 years. Students who go to private schools with Grade 7 already have 11 years of basic education, and the present 4-year college already gives them 15 years. Degrees that do not need international recognition can and should be obtained after only 4, maybe even 2 or 3 years of undergraduate study.

The need for having as many years in the education cycle as other countries have is relevant only to professional courses where international agreements are already in place, such as engineering. It is also clearly needed in courses where Filipinos generally have a hard time passing foreign examinations, such as nursing. It is foreseeable that, in the near future, certain professional courses will also have their own international standards for purposes of mutual recognition of degrees, such as education.

In simpler terms, this means that, if we go to school for the same number of years as students in other countries, we do not have to take foreign exams in medicine, nursing, education, engineering, accounting, and other professions to practise in those other countries. Think of it this way: our doctors, nurses, teachers, accountants, engineers, and other professionals can be hired immediately in other countries without the need for additional training or exams.

A good example of how equivalencies work is the Washington Accord (1989), an international agreement that specifies that a professional engineer must have gone to school for at least 16 years if she or he wants to practise in another country. With only 10 years of public basic education and even with 5 years of engineering, we are still one year short.

Another often-cited international agreement is the Bologna Accord (1999), which specifies that professional accountants, pharmacists, physical therapists, and so on should have at least 3 years of undergraduate education in addition to 12 years of basic education. Again, our 14-year education cycle is one year short.

Like it or not, our entire economy now depends on Filipinos working abroad. The more Filipino professionals we send abroad, the better it will be for our economy, since they will earn a lot more than less-skilled OFWs. That sounds like we are exporting and exploiting human beings, but with our country in the mess that it is in right now, we have no choice but to depend on our overseas heroes. In fact, since most Filipinos want to live and work abroad anyway, there is no reason to think that ensuring employment abroad through equivalent local education will be met with resistance.

Why, then, is adding years to the education cycle encountering resistance? The answer is simple: students and parents cannot afford the extra year of food, clothing, shelter, and lost income.

How, then, should we sell the idea of adding more years to our education cycle?

First, of course, is connecting the added years to jobs abroad. This is the carrot that will make the stick less painful.

Second and equally important is insisting that not every college course has to have an added year. Only those that produce graduates working abroad as professionals need the extra year.

What are we learning?

Just as important as the number of years we spend in school is what we are learning. How does the typical undergraduate course taken in the Philippines compare with those of the best schools in the world?

For a start, let us compare our General Education (GE) Program with those in the leading schools in the USA, the UK, and our own ASEAN region.

Representative of the American system is the undergraduate degree at Harvard University. The degree program usually takes four years to complete.

Harvard offers full courses (equivalent to our 3 units) and half-courses (1.5 units). All students take 8 half-courses in a Program in General Education, consisting of Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, Culture and Belief, Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning, Ethical Reasoning, Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical Universe, Societies of the World, and United States in the World.

The subjects are spread over the first three years of college and add up to roughly one full year of study or a quarter of the entire college course. All students are also required to have a half-course in Expository Writing (our “Freshman English”) and one full course in a foreign language (if they do not pass an exemption test or if they are not foreign students).

At the University of Oxford in the UK, there is no equivalent to our GE program. Immediately upon admission, students take what we call “major subjects.”

At Oxford, students talk in terms of papers (one or two per term), examinations (usually a two to three-hour written exam per paper), and extended papers (our “term papers”). Some degrees can be earned in three years, some in more. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English, for example, takes three years. Each year has four papers (our “subjects”), some compulsory, some by choice (our “electives”). Each student has to write a dissertation (our “undergraduate thesis” or “baby thesis”).

A good compromise between the American system with a general education curriculum and the British system with none is that of the top university in the ASEAN region, the National University of Singapore (NUS).

The Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences of NUS, for example, uses a Modular System, consisting of Modules (our “subjects”) and Modular Credits (our “units,” each Module usually having 4 MCs). The minimum number of MCs to graduate with a degree is 120, taken in three years. Students normally enroll for an honors (spelled “honours”) degree, which needs another one or two years of residence.

Half the time is spent on Single Major Modules (our “major subjects”). The other half is spent on General Education Modules (at least two), Singapore Studies (one module), Exposure Modules (at least three), and various electives that the student wants. The General Education Modules consist of two general areas: Information and Knowledge Content or Knowledge and Modes of Inquiry.

What is our own General Education Curriculum (GEC) like?

We have two models, one for students majoring in the humanities, social sciences, and communication (GEC-A) and another for everyone else (GEC-B). GEC-A has 63 units. GEC-B has 51.

A typical undergraduate degree needs at least 60 units in addition to the GEC units, for a total of about 120 units, just like Harvard and NUS. Notice, however, that an NUS student spends only three years in college. The difference can be attributed to the number of credits per subject or module: NUS has 4, we have only 3.

More important than the number of units and even the number of years spent in college, however, is the content of the General Education courses.

In college, we still teach such subjects as Algebra, Statistics, Basic Economics, General Psychology, Politics and Governance, Society and Culture, Arts Appreciation, Introduction to Philosophy, and Anthropology, not to mention English, Filipino, and all sorts of legislated content (Taxation, Agrarian Reform, Family Planning, Population Education, Rizal, Philippine History, Philippine Constitution).

Compare these subjects with those offered as general education courses at Harvard and NUS. The Presidential Task Force on Education (PTFE) has correctly observed that most, if not all of our GEC subjects are taken in high school in other countries, including Singapore. Our first-year college students, in other words, are really high school students.

Incidentally, the cutting edge in American education can now be found outside the top American universities. Check out this recent news item from the New York Times (Feb. 24):

“This fall, Hartwick College, a small liberal arts college in Oneonta, N.Y., will offer a three-year degree program: students will complete the standard 120 credits, taking 18 credits in the fall, 4 in a January term and 18 in the spring. Students will be able to keep their summers free for internships or jobs.

“Earlier this month, at the American Council on Education’s annual meeting, Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a Republican who served as education secretary and president of the University of Tennessee, urged colleges to consider three-year degrees, calling them the higher education equivalent of a fuel-efficient car.”
We can learn at least two lessons: first, General Education courses (if they are at all needed in college) should be issue or competency-based, not discipline-based; second, college years should be lessened, not increased.

Not Grade 7

Since what we learn in school is just as important as how long we take to learn it, then lengthening the education cycle means changing the curriculum.

To make this clearer, let us take an example. Let us take the standard 120 units (hours, credits, or modular credits) that a student needs to finish a college degree. In the American system which we inherited, the student takes four years to finish the units. Roughly, that translates to 30 units per year (divided by semesters, terms, or quarters). At 3 units per subject, the student takes 10 subjects (courses or modules) per year. (In reality, a college student takes many more than 10 subjects per year, because of various other courses each school or government requires, but let us make our example simple.)

Since students in Singapore take only 3 years to finish the 120 units, each subject or module cannot have only 3 units; otherwise, each student will be taking 13 or 14 subjects per year. This is one reason Singapore gives 4 units per subject, making each student take only 10 subjects or modules per year, the same number as in the American model.

Some people have suggested that, in order to add the extra year to the education cycle, we should just let our students take the 120 units over 5, rather than 4 years. We can see from the example that this is not as simple a solution as it looks. Instead of taking 10 subjects per year, a student would now take only 24 units or 8 subjects per year. That would be an awful waste of time, since some students even now take as many as 21 units in a half-year or semester.

On the other hand, some people have suggested that, in order to approximate the British model, we should have only 3 and not 4 years of college. This means that we have to follow the Singapore model and give 4 units per subject, lessening the number of subjects students take. For administrators, that is a nightmare, because teachers will teach fewer subjects and therefore earn less than they are earning now. This will most likely lead to labor unrest in our schools.

Clearly, the solution cannot be mechanical. We cannot just extend 4-year college into 5-year college or compress 4-year college into 3-year college, without doing many other things first.

Fortunately, we have a Philippine best practice to guide us in this matter of length versus content. When De La Salle University shifted from a semestral to a trimestral system in 1981, teachers had to rethink their syllabi. It was not just a matter of teaching 18 weeks’ worth of material in 14 weeks. That would have been not just impossible, but pedagogically unsound. The expected learning competencies per subject, and therefore the entire curriculum, had to be revised.

Let us take a fairly simple example. In a course on the novel, a typical literature major can be reasonably expected to read a novel and to write a short paper on it every two weeks. (Some teachers require more, but let us take the average.) In a semester, that means 9 novels in 18 weeks. In a trimestral system, that means only 7 novels in 14 weeks. That is a major change. The missing two novels have to be taken up in another subject in the curriculum.

In short, changing the time it takes to teach a subject changes the content of the subject. If the same principle is now extended to the whole education cycle, changing the length of the education cycle changes what can be taught during that cycle.

It is, therefore, not just a matter of saying that there should be a Grade 7 or a Fifth or Sixth Year High School or a Pre-University Year in college. Just as important as the decision on when to add the missing year or years is the decision on how to change the entire curriculum to make it rational and effective.

If we add a Grade 7, we have to revise the curriculum for Grade 1. If we add a Fifth or Sixth Year in high school, we have to revise the curriculum for First Year. If we add or subtract a year or two in college, we have to revise the entire college curriculum.

Moreover, a totally new 15-year curriculum, if implemented in June 2010, will produce students graduating not earlier than 2025 (2026 if we want 16 years). Since the Philippines will join the APEC Trade Regime in 2020, we cannot start curriculum change with Grade 1. Let us forget, therefore, about adding a Grade 7. It will be useless in terms of meeting the deadline for international accreditation. It will take too much time, effort, and money to revise the entire elementary school curriculum just to have a Grade 7.

In order for our graduates to have the internationally-required 9 or 10 years of post-elementary education by 2020, where should we add the extra year or years – in high school or in college?

To add or subtract?

The burning issue of the day for tertiary-level educators and government officials is, of course, whether or not to add or subtract years from college education.

It may make us feel better to know that this is a problem not only for us, but also for educators in other countries.

I mentioned earlier the proposal by a former Tennessee education secretary to the American Council on Education to reduce the number of undergraduate years in American universities from four to three. Americans want to copy the British model.

Here, on the other hand, is one of our neighbors going the other way. Right now, college takes only three years in Hong Kong, which uses the British model. By 2012, Hong Kong will add one year of general education to extend college by one year. The British, at least in Hong Kong, want to copy the American model.

The British themselves in Britain do not always follow the British model. The University of Oxford, for example, offers the standard three-year undergraduate course for Classics and English. If the student is not yet ready for college, however, a preliminary year (what we would call Pre-Baccalaureate or Pre-University) is required, making the course in effect a four-year course. The extra year, however, is not for general education, but for languages (Latin or Greek, needless to say).

In the Philippines, we follow, though not strictly, the American model. We should know, therefore, the American justification for general education. The worst thing we can do is to have general education just because the Americans have it.

Why do Americans have general education in college when the rest of the world does not?

A good explanation was given in 2004 by Yale University president Richard Levin to incoming freshmen. “Why,” he asked, “is the undergraduate curriculum, at Yale as at other leading American universities, structured as it is – with two years of broad, general education followed by two years focused largely on one subject?”

He answered his own question: “During your first two years here, you will have the opportunity to explore a broad range of subjects, choosing among literally hundreds of courses throughout the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences that have no or few prerequisites. Indeed, you will be required to distribute your courses such that you cannot specialize prematurely. Only when you choose a major field of study, at the end of your second year, will you be required to concentrate a significant portion of your courses in one area, and only then will you be required to take certain specific courses, rather than choose among electives.”

“This distinctively American approach to undergraduate education,” he admitted, “is not the prevailing pattern in most other countries with strong universities. In most of Europe and in China, students choose their major field of study when they apply for admission. Once admitted, they do not have the freedom that you have to test your interest in a wide variety of subjects; they specialize immediately. Similarly, in much of the world, students choose a profession in their final year of secondary school; they begin the study of law and medicine as first year undergraduates.”

He stressed that the concept of general education has changed: “The freedom to explore in the first two years hasn’t always been a feature of undergraduate education in America. Until the middle of the 19th century, there were very few elective courses at Yale and other leading American colleges. Everyone in Yale College took a common set of courses focused on classical Greek and Latin, science, mathematics and philosophy, and the vast majority of students in law and medical schools entered directly from secondary school. The expansion of the number of elective courses, the requirement that students choose a major after two years of general study, and the definition of professional schools as postgraduate institutions evolved gradually during the 50 years following the Civil War.

“The most eloquent justification for a broad, unspecialized and non-vocational undergraduate curriculum is found in a report written by Yale’s President Jeremiah Day in 1828. At the core of Day’s argument was the belief, which we at Yale share today, that your education should equip you to think independently and critically, and to respond flexibly to new information, altering your view of the world as appropriate.”

What we have in the Philippines, then, is a mongrel: students choose their majors when they apply for admission to college (the British model), but we still have general education in college (the American model).

Here is the key to the issue of general education: the first two years of college, if we are going to have them at all, should not have any required subjects, should not have any skills courses, and should not include any major courses.

Although I helped craft the General Education Curriculum (GEC) for CHED, I now have very serious reservations about it. I think that the GEC as it now stands properly belongs to high school, not to college.

High school in college?

It is clear that we have no choice but to add at least one more year to our 14-year education cycle.

It is also clear that we cannot add the missing year to elementary school, because we would have to wait 7 years for a Grade 1 student to finish Grade 7, 4 more years to finish high school, and 4 more years to finish college. By that time, it would be 2010 plus 15 or 2025, too late for the international deadline of 2020.

If we added the missing year to high school, we would have to wait only 9 years (5 years for a first year high school student to finish Fifth Year plus 4 years of college). That would be 2010 plus 9, just making the international deadline.

Unfortunately, we cannot add the missing year to high school.

There are two main reasons for this. One is that the government cannot afford another year of free education. Fifth Year will have fewer students than Grade 7, but there will still be plenty of schoolrooms to build, teachers to hire, and desks and textbooks to purchase.

The other reason is that the private sector cannot afford an extra year in high school. If we added a year to high school, there would be a year when there will be no students entering college, because they will all still be in Fifth Year. (This would actually happen even if the extra year were Grade 7.) For many, if not most, private colleges and universities, that would mean financial doom, since first year students traditionally contribute the most to tuition income.

Since tertiary education is mostly in private hands, despite the proliferation of state and local colleges and universities, adding a year to high school will be an economic disaster of unforeseen proportions. Some will say that we have too many tertiary-level schools anyway and will sing hallelujahs if a few admittedly substandard private colleges disappear. Unless the government suddenly has a windfall from yet undiscovered sources of diamonds, however, the country cannot afford the withdrawal of the private sector from tertiary education.

If we cannot add the extra year to elementary school nor to high school, where then should we add it? There is no other choice but to add an extra year to college.

This is the root of the misunderstanding about CHED’s proposal to increase the number of years needed to obtain an undergraduate degree.

CHED wants to solve a problem (the lack of years) of basic education through higher education. That, of course, seems inappropriate, because CHED is not supposed to worry about basic education.

Somebody, however, has to worry about it. DepEd cannot worry about it because it does not have the money to solve it, even if it wants to. The state and local universities and colleges should not worry about it because they have a lot more issues to worry about (starting with their, in general, very little money and low standards). Who are left to worry about it? The private Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Since it is CHED that monitors private HEIs, then CHED has to worry about it, even if it has no mandate to do so.

(Actually, this situation will be legalized or rationalized once EDCOM 2 convenes. Already, the two key movers of EDCOM 1 – Senator Edgardo J. Angara and Congressman Salvador H. Escudero III – are agreed that it is time to revisit the original EDCOM. Expect serious work on EDCOM 2 to start once the elections are over.)

If we added the missing year to college, we would have to wait only 5 or 6 years before our graduates will have finished a 15 or 16-year education cycle, enough time to make the international deadline of 2020.

We must remember, however, that it is not just quantity but also quality that is at issue here. We better make sure that the extra year is not wasted.

The first thing to do is to revamp the General Education Curriculum (GEC). Many of the subjects are not college-level and should be integrated into high school anyway. Although CHED is the main proponent of the added year, DepEd has to get into the picture, because the Basic Education Curriculum (BEC) also has to be revised to include some of the GEC courses. (The BEC is, in fact, being revised right now.)

The second thing is to understand that the extra year should focus on subjects that will prepare the student for college work (“college” as defined by Harvard and Oxford). We can call the extra year Pre-University, Pre-Baccalaureate, Junior College, Community College, College Zero, Associate Year, or whatever; the name should not matter.

What matters is that private HEIs can and should now offer a year when high school graduates who intend to obtain an undergraduate degree can take the tool subjects most useful for high-level academic work.

This proposal answers the main objection of private HEIs to the plan to extend basic education. Because it will be the HEIs that will take care of the extra year, they will not experience one year with no incoming freshmen.

College not for all

A look at the latest list of job vacancies from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is instructive. Of the top 20 vacancies, only 6 require a college degree (three kinds of nurses, technology information officer, occupational therapist, technical support staff). The rest need only high school diplomas (if at all) or, at most, a couple of years of post-secondary education.

When we talk about the mismatch between education and industry, here is a clear mismatch: we think we need college education to get jobs, when industry itself does not require college degrees for most of its available jobs.

The Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE) has hit upon the correct solution to this mismatch. It recommends that we should not expect everybody to go to college. In technical language, this is called streaming.

The PTFE recommends that high school graduates be streamed into either college or technical-vocational (tech-voc) programs.

For tech-voc, our current ten-year basic education cycle is enough. With some improvements to be brought about by moving some college General Education Curriculum (GEC) subjects down to high school, the public school system should be able to prepare students to go into a tech-voc program that may take anywhere from one to three years. After that, the students can join the job market immediately.

For college-bound students, the current ten-year basic education cycle is definitely not enough, for reasons I already spelled out. For these students, a two-year transition course is necessary. This is the Junior College or Pre-University (or whatever name it will eventually be called) that I am talking about.

If what is left in the GEC is incorporated into this Junior College, then real college work can be done in only two or three years, as in most of the other countries in the world.

Here is the PTFE recommendation:

Everybody goes through six years of elementary school and four years of high school (plus preschool and kindergarten, where feasible). This is the DepEd cycle as we now have it. Except for updating and revising the high school curriculum, the status quo is maintained as far as DepEd is concerned.

After high school, everybody takes an exam. Those that pass the exam may go to the university stream. Those that do not pass the exam may go to the polytechnic stream (polytechnic sounds much better than tech-voc). Those that pass the exam, of course, may also decide for personal reasons not to go to a university but to go to the polytechnic stream or, in fact, to work immediately in a job that does not require anything more than a high school diploma.

Those that finish a polytechnic program but, for personal reasons, want to go to a university anyway have to take equivalency or accreditation courses to catch up with those already in the university stream. In effect, no one is being stopped from getting an undergraduate degree. Those not passing the exam, however, have to take more time to get a degree (one to three years of polytechnic plus another two years of pre-university validation). Another way of putting it is this: those not ready to go to a university will have to spend a lot of years getting ready.

Those qualifying for entrance into a university will take two years of Junior College, to be administered by universities themselves. In these two years, all skills and GEC courses will be taken. Since the GEC today actually takes up almost two years anyway, there is no time lost with this arrangement. Students now actually take Junior College, except that they think that it is part of college proper.

The real difference lies in college proper. All undergraduate degrees will now need at least two years more after Junior College. In effect, everybody will need at least four years to get a college degree (exactly the same as today!). These two years, however, unlike today, will be spent only on professional courses. We will not have the kind of irrational mixing that our schools often do with GEC and major subjects. Instead, we will follow the European model or the American (Yale) model, which distinguishes sharply between years spent on general education and years spent on major courses.

For those degrees that do not need international accreditation, students will use two years for major courses. This means that undergraduate courses in arts and sciences will have a total of four post-secondary years (exactly the same as we have now).

For those degrees that need international accreditation through the Bologna Accord (which requires 15 years from Grade 1), students will have to have three years after Junior College. This means that Accountancy, Pharmacy, Physical Therapy, and some other majors will have a total of five post-secondary years (this is not what we have today for some of these majors).

For those degrees that need international accreditation through the Washington Accord or the APEC Registry (minimum: 16 years), students will have to have four years after Junior College. This means that Engineering and Architecture will need six post-secondary years (this is not what we have today).

Education reform

The Final Report of the Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE) contains several recommendations to reform our educational system. Many of these recommendations are not new, but were widely discussed and agreed upon in earlier surveys, such as the Congressional Commission on Education (EDCOM, 1992) and the Presidential Commission on Educational Reform (PCER, 2000).

Allow me to pick out certain recommendations that I find most interesting.

For basic education, the PTFE (echoing EDCOM, PCER, and DepEd itself) recommends, among other things, the use of vernacular languages: “It is important to strengthen the use of mother tongue or lingua franca as the language of instruction in the early years of schooling. This facilitates student learning of all subjects, including science and mathematics, the national language and English as a global lingua franca.”

All (and I mean all without exception) studies of language and learning, both here and abroad, show that young students learn more quickly and more effectively if taught in their mother tongue. Those advocating the exclusive use of English as medium of instruction in basic education are, to use the late DepEd Secretary Raul Roco’s word when describing them, idiots, because they refuse to acknowledge what every researcher and every country in the world already know – that using a foreign language as medium of instruction in grade school is guaranteed to make young children illiterate. (The late DepEd Secretary Andrew Gonzalez used even more colorful language when describing intellectually-challenged kibitzers; it was Gonzalez who institutionalized the current DepEd policy of using the lingua franca as medium of instruction for the first three grades.)

The PTFE also recommends that teachers should visit homes. There are teachers who do visit the homes of their students, but they are the exceptions. Most teachers have no time left for such a crucial duty after they teach, do lesson plans, fix their classrooms, and prepare for frequent non-teaching duties (such as preparing food for “The Visitation of the Gods,” as the classic short story by Gilda Cordero Fernando puts it).

In the old days (even allowing for a little nostalgia), teachers were held in high regard in their communities. They were called maestra or maestro and often consulted in all matters. Today, many deans of schools of education lament, education is usually the career reserved for the least gifted of siblings. “Mag-titser ka na lang” (you are only good enough to be a teacher) is often the advice given to such children.

By visiting homes, teachers will show the families of their students that teaching requires extremely high intellectual and social skills, as well as tremendous amounts of patience and compassion. Teachers will again become models for highly-gifted children. Instead of education being the last choice for a fulfilling career, it might eventually be the first choice (as it should be).

For higher education, the PTFE notes that “in Singapore and European countries, the last 2 years of pre-university are very similar to the first 2 years of general education in Philippine colleges. . . . We, thus, propose benchmarking the first two years of our 5-year professional programs with the 2-year pre-university programs in Singapore and European countries. What is important in the discussion of a 12-year pre-university program is to specify the content of the 11th and 12th years and benchmark these with programs abroad.”

For technical-vocational education, PTFE has extended the current Ladderized Education Program (LEP), because students streamed into polytechnics are automatically ladderized if they wish to continue to the university.

Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) need not worry that they will lose students to the polytechnic stream. Most of our HEIs can offer both polytechnic and university courses and, therefore, still capture all of our high school graduates.

There are only a handful of HEIs that do not and should not offer polytechnic courses. These are what are known as “research universities.” These are, for example (in alphabetical order), Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, UP Diliman, UP Los Baños, UP Manila, and UST. In these universities, even if teaching is valued and rewarded, internationally-recognized research is always considered more important than excellent teaching. One cannot imagine any of these universities offering TESDA courses such as Automotive Servicing, Massage Therapy, or Training for Household Service Workers.

Most of the other 2,000-plus HEIs in the country, however, will not have any identity problems offering TESDA-related courses (perhaps not Massage Therapy, but Animation, Software Development, and Finishing Course for Call Center Agents). What will happen, then, if the PTFE recommendations are fully implemented, is that most HEIs will have two types of students – those in the polytechnic stream that may or may not continue to the university stream, and those already in the university stream.

The PTFE has many more recommendations, including necessary legislation (such as giving CHED more teeth). It will be impossible for the present government, with only a year to go, to implement all of them, but there is nothing to prevent it from starting to implement at least a couple of them before we elect a new President and have new heads of DepEd, CHED, and TESDA.

(Published in The Philippine Star, 5 March - 16 April 2009)


Albert B. Casuga said...

An excellent presentation.

Suggestions: Revise High School curriculum to include Logic and some such basic philosophy (thinking) courses, Writing and Reading (including research techniques and writing papers) courses that include surveys of world literatures, education, sciences.

"Junior college" used to be called A.A. (Associate in Arts) prior to the baccalaureate. If the revision of high school curriculum cannot be done in high school, those mentioned above could be done in the Junior College level. Add one more year to Baccalaureate, but professionalise the Junior college to qualify them for "streamed" vocational/occupationsl opportunities, so an AA grad could get himself employed and earn his tuition for the rest of the baccalaureate and save for graduate courses.

But it is an excellent idea to have a global agreement on the accreditation of educational preparation. It is a veritable tool for global economic advancement and the like. This will help immigrant professionals get employment in their lines of expertise. It is embarrassing and wasteful to have a PhD driving a cab when immigrating to another country.

Dr. Cruz's, as former Undersecretary of Education, is an excellent position to make the most salient proposals to the CHED.

Thank you for this article.


Joy said...

Hi Dr Cruz! This is a terrific post.

I am really pleased that the CHED now recognise that in order to compete in the global market, it is imperative that they implement changes in our educational system.

When I had my qualifications reviewed by the UK NARIC, they concluded that my doctorate degree was only the equivalent of their master's! Imagine how I felt.

In the UK, after high school, by law, students cannot leave school without finishing their sixth form/college/A levels. That's two years spent exploring their options and it's fantastic!

Then they go to uni (university) with their minds made up, knowing what it is they wish to study. And like you said, no general subjects taken, they go straight to their major.

Also, why impose taking PE and ROTC? I also think that languages - at least 2 (one European, one Asian) - should be part of the curriculum in high school.

However, it won't be easy for people to pay for the additional year/s of education. My parents had a hard time, but I do hope they think now that it's all been worth it.

H&M said...

I hope that you recognize that there is a slight problem with having 2 separate years of purely GEC courses. If we assign the major subjects to the 3rd and 4th year, similar to what you mentioned about Yale, a conflict will arise regarding the pre-requisites of the major subject. What if, for example, a student taking a degree in math would have calculus I and linear algebra at the same time? Isn't calculus I and II a prerequsite for linear algebra? If you opt to move linear algebra to the second semester, for the student to have completely mastered calculus I, where would you put calculus II? Take note, there are still more major subjects which have many prerequisites!

I appreciate the idea of having an extra year. But, the current model is enough, you don't need to isolate GEC courses from major subjects if you're in a Philippine university! I hope that you didn't only consider the curriculum in the US universities. You shoul've also compare the high schools in the Philippines with US high schools. This is why they can afford to separate major subjects from GEC courses because some high schools already take up calculus I&2, advanced physics, chemistry, and etc.

I also would like you to consider the categories of high schools/elementary schools in the Philippines. The problem is mainly in the budget allotted for education, especially in the public schools where there is a lack of teachers and facilities! Also, it would be better if you consider the effects of this on Pisay. A lot of subjects in college have already been taken up in the Pisay curriculum, so I think they don't need to undergo extra years, unless if they choose to take up more advanced subjects which would replace the subjects in college which have been taken up already in pisay.

With all respect, it's not easy to generalize. Yes, a lot of things have to be put into consideration, but, is the extra year worth it? Or, is the problem related to how deep the teachers tackle lessons in elementary? Think of it, maybe the extra year would just be a waste of money if the subjects are taught at poor standards.

Anonymous said...

I must point out that Scotland has 12 years of school based education followed by 4 years of undergraduate study, rather than the 3 as seen in England & Wales.

Anonymous said...

This is really a great initiative that we now have looked into. It's the only way we can compete with the global market.

As a person in the Training Department of an International Company I see the importance of education.

Yes we Filipinos can compete globally in terms of skills, however there are companies that are really keen of the educational background and this matters a lot. I still believe that we have a lot to offer and we can make a difference out there.

So does this mean that even our public schools will have the same curriculum?

Anonymous said...

With the new administration, the education reform can be made possible. Revision of curriculum also includes addition of facilities, materials and all that, this entails a lot of money. In other words, since the outcry of the new administration is to reduce if not to eliminate corruption, then funds allocated for the education reform will be properly spent. So I personally recommend that the reform will be pushed, let it happen

Anonymous said...

I appreciate much readding this post of Dr. Cruz. Being with CHED, i've seen the difficulty raising our competitive edge with only 10 years in basic ed. Good that PNoy has decided to implement K+12. PE and NSTP should be part of the high school along with most of the social sciences. We need our students to take up courses in college that will make them more competitive in the global market, more on ICT, management, sciences and mathematics...

During the MTPDP consultation in our region, i emphasized the proposal that local government units must invest in higher education as a new strateg. The LGUs must not waste scholarship by using the traditional patronage system. The most desrving students should be given a scholarship for priority disciplines, especially those that address local demands. Its a waste of people's money sending college students only to find out that the job they will land does not even require college education. The example of Gov. Joey Salceda is worth emulating. He borrowed P700M from LandBank to send their students to college. I just hope the best intention will be achieved.

Slavoj Zizek said...

So much for technical and instrumental analysis of what is wrong with our educational system! Why make a fetish out of two or three plus years in high school? The analysis does not raise the issue of how such reform will dismantle the reproduction of social and economic inequalities that educational institution perform!It tends to reduce educational reforms and problems to nothing but curricular revisions. Whether you incorporate logic or humanities in high school, they will all end up as exploted workers of fast-food chains! The famous Macjobs! At least, if you are exploited, you have read Plato and encountered Lenin's State and revolution. Education therefore becomes a process of cultural capital accumulation. Does this reform address that?