Overhaul of education system necessary, says CHED commissioner

After noting that the Philippines’ reputation as a center for higher education in Southeast Asia has slipped, the head of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) revealed that a review and overhaul of the education system is necessary.
Speaking before participants of the Symposium on the Philippine Economy
Trends and Prospects held last September 27, Dr. Cynthia Bautista said that students from countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam used to go the Philippines’ top institutions like University of the Philippines and Asian Institute of Management in the 1960’s to the 1970’s.
“Then in the early 1980’s we slipped. Now, no more Asian students say they graduated from UP and AIM. Why are we slipping?” she asked.
Based on her collaboration with Southeast Asian colleagues, Bautista blamed this on three things; erosion in leadership in education, less than full resolve and lack of love of country.
She said that higher education’s role is to alleviate poverty, form human capital, create a technology-driven national development and make the country globally competitive, thus there is a need to change our mindset and change the education system.
While a change of mindset is possible, she sees the following constraints that need to be solved first.
One is the proliferation of higher education institutions.
“There are 1,856 HEIs in the country and we are moving towards a point where programs are comparable. There are 219 public and 1,652 HEIs catering to 1.42 million public school students and 1.89 million for private schools,” she said.
Two, the public’s tolerance for diploma mills.
“We are perceived as a diploma mill of Asia. There are many instances when they (students from other countries) can buy diploma from us,” she said.
“Worse, the parents are the ones perpetuating the mindset by saying to their children, ‘get a diploma’,” she added.
Three, mismatch between the needed qualifications and the competencies of Filipino graduates.
“CHED has issued a memo that says we shift to competency based. This means a change in the way one teaches. You don’ t have to be a university to be excellent. Just have excellent programs,” Bautista said.
Four, lack of access to quality higher education due to dearth in scholarships and student loans.
But, Bautista said the Philippines can still be competitive if it applies several strategies, as follows:
One, develop competencies required for excusive growth particularly in key important employment sectors.
“We are now revising the general education curriculum and re-engineering 84 curricula to align with industry needs. We are enhancing our existing programs in maritime, engineering, information technology, business process outsourcing, tourism and agriculture,” she said.
Dr. Cielito Habito, another speaker at the event, said that “we have an education system that churns students to work for others, thus our unemployment is high. A survey of the youth showed that most prominent ambition is to work for multinational companies. That is sad. Schools need to build an entrepreneurial attitude among students. They need to be taught how to create work for others and create wealth,” he suggested.
“We are also rationalizing HEI programs by closing the substandard ones including the state universities and college’s programs that are outside of their mandate. We are also doing a complementation of the SUC programs,” Bautista added.
 She said the institutions have to play by the rules but still maintain their resourcefulness.
Two, develop globally competitive HEIs and programs.
“We should identify and support centers for excellence, research and development centers, national universities and colleges for agriculture and fisheries, reform graduate education programs, meet international standards in programs with international agreements, promote high-end research and development for technological innovation and develop world-class universities,” she explained.
Bautista said government should invest on research instead of waiting for grants to arrive. “Make our scientists say here,” she said.
“That is why, we can’t also fault institutions all the time for failing,” she said.
So, she posed this challenge, “Do we or do we not strategize government’s systematic intervention in the universities’ rankings game? How do we mobilize financial and organizational resources to participate in the rankings game and minimize its negative impact on the mission and thrusts of the country’s top universities?”
“Filipinos are good crammers, but after the cramming, we stop. One Asian colleague told me that ‘you make promises and you don’t fulfil those promises’,” she said.

So, the challenge is how do we sustain our efforts, she concluded.*

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