President’s Address, PAASCU 60th General Assembly

President’s Address, PAASCU General Assembly, 27 November 2017

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[President’s Address, PAASCU General Assembly, 27 November 2017]

As PAASCU turns 60 allow me to share with you a personal conviction. PAASCU has been successful as an accrediting association not by having access to great resources. PAASCU lives on a shoestring budget and survives on the contribution you give to it year by year. PAASCU has been successful, I believe, by tapping into the Filipino educators’ soul. By this soul I mean that area of interiority where Filipino educators are committed to teach, and to teach well. This is a commitment based on a personal vocation, either a discerned inner call of one’s human being, or a graced recognition of a sublime call of a Transcendent Being. It is in either case a calling responded to with ultimate personal freedom, where the educator is most autonomous and most authentic. This response is a source of great power, and, with great power, great responsibility. It is here where PAASCU’s shared commitment to Quality Assurance is rooted. It is not imposed from without. It is impelled from within, freely, voluntarily. It is a commitment that at 60 it is happy to share.

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 To Teach Well

To teach well is a free decision from within. It is a decision based on a personal desire to share what one knows or can know, what one does or can do with others. Or, from another perspective, it is the ability to draw out from one’s student (ex ducere) what can be known or can be done. This is at the core of the Filipino Educators’ Soul. Passing on knowledge and skills is what human beings do from generation to generation, sometimes with great urgency and severity, more often with great love and abiding hope. For many, it resonates with how God, who is Truth, passes on truth in his creative Word and in the whisperings and power of his Spirit.   In teaching, there is great joy. There is profound fulfillment. You have experienced this joy and fulfillment: when you see the faces of your students light up with understanding; when you experience the excitement of your students who have just broken through to insight. There is great joy in seeing how students and their families are transformed by education, how through education your erstwhile students are able to pull their entire family out of poverty. There is great satisfaction in witnessing how well-educated former students become doctors, lawyers and statesmen, and contribute to the humanization of society, and knowing that because you taught, and taught well, you were and are part of it.

PAASCU taps into this free interior decision of the teacher to teach well.

 
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To Participate in a Profession that Teaches Well for the Social Good 

To teach well is to teach not in isolation, teaching arbitrarily, but as part of a public profession that teaches through educational institutions in the service of society. One teaches knowledge and skills through fixed programs supported by institutions. What one teaches in educational institutions responds to needs or desire of students for their own good or the good of society.   Those needs may be for learning in mathematics, language, history or religious education. Those desires may be for competencies in applying mathematics to physics, or in relating philosophical principles to tackling current ethical challenges in society. Those needs and desires may be for qualifications in engineering or nursing or in the social sciences. All of what is taught and learned ultimately redounds to the public good, the enrichment of society.

In this context teaching well involves achieving minimum program standards binding on all, it involves excellence in achieving outcomes beyond minimum standards, it involves advancing the mission and vision of the educational institution through teaching, it involves contributing to the transformation of society through transforming learning outcomes into learned service.   Teaching well is for the good of society.

That is why it is repulsive to the soul of Filipino educators when teachers and educational institutions profess to teach, but do not teach well. Where hard-earned qualifications are marked by respectable diplomas, the soul of Filipino educators is repelled by diploma mills. For the Filipino educator, education is a prize of the human spirit, not to be cheapened in commercialization nor diminished in incompetence. It is from the depth of this Filipino educators’ soul that in 1950 the Philippine Accrediting Association of Universities and Colleges (PAAUC) was initiated. It was a private initiative against public laxity, a prophetic statement of the importance of standards even as the sanguine participation of the private sector in education was welcome.

PAAUC was short-lived. It was put to sleep a year after its birth rather than be allowed to succumb to alienating spirits that would subject it to government control. But the soul of the Philippine educator, committed to teach and to teach well in a shared teaching profession, resurrected PAAUC’s accreditation mission in the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) in 1957.   It was organized to resonate with the Filipino educators’ soul: it would be private, voluntary, non-stock, non-profit, i.e., operating not for money and not under the control of the State, but in the free authenticity of the Filipino Educators’ Soul: just wanting to teach, and to teach well.   Its avowed objective was “to improve education throughout the Philippines without an increase of government control over private schools” through voluntary private accreditation. Eleven CEAP schools would be its charter members. That was 60 years ago.

PAASCU was therefore not just anti-diploma mill. It was its members’ continuing desire voluntarily and proactively to improve themselves in their professional teaching and their service to the community. It was born from its members’ soul.

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To Check That I am Teaching Well

The inner decision to teach and to teach well was a decision for quality in teaching. The educators needed to assure themselves that they were achieving the quality they were committed to, despite historical vicissitudes of running schools under circumstances that are not always ideal: instability in the market, changing personnel, faculty who fall short of performance expectations, administrative mess ups.   They also had to assure others – stakeholders like parents, educators in other schools both local and foreign, employers and professionals – that the quality they claimed was actually achieved.

Of the many types of possible quality assurance procedures, PAASCU chose the most challenging – accreditation. This involved the school’s evaluative self-survey of academic programs based on an instrument that carries the standards of the PAASCU accreditation process, including standards for faculty, instruction, administration, facilities and community involvement.  It involved a visit to the school by trained and competent peer accreditors to check on the self-survey using established standards and procedures. It involved a review of the accreditors’ report by an appropriate Commission of experts, and a Board of Trustees to judge finally whether the school be accredited or not.

Originally, PAASCU accredited only four liberal arts programs of the eleven charter members. Today “as PAASCU completes 60 years of service to Philippine education, the total membership of accredited institutions on all levels is 507. It has accredited 96 elementary schools, 111 secondary schools, 146 basic education schools, and 122 colleges and universities. The latter represent 821 programs. There are also 16 graduate schools with 90 programs and 16 medical schools that have been accredited. On the average, PAASCU conducts 200 site visits a year.”[1]

PAASCU was founded in 1957. In time, PAASCU’s leadership in quality assurance through accreditation was followed by others: the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACU-COA) in 1973, the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities Accrediting Association, Inc. (ACSCU-AAI) in 1976. In 1977, the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) was organized with PAASCU, PACU-COA and ACSCU-AAI as autonomous founding members. FAAP would eventually certify the accredited status of the private programs and schools[2] as the National Network of Quality Assurance Agencies (NNQAA) would take care of certifying the accredited status of State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) through the Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities (AACCUP) and that of Local Colleges and Universities (LCUs) through the Association of Local Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (ALCU-COA).

But from the very beginning, PAASCU grew out of the interior need of the teachers and the educational institutions to teach, and to teach well, to be assured that what they were committed to deliver was what they actually delivered. The driver of the accreditation process was not the external check but the internal driving will – the voluntas – of the teachers and institutions for quality – the Filipino Educators’ Soul. It was never externally constrained. It was essentially voluntas, voluntary, an imperative from within. PAASCU was at the service of that will.

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Voluntariness, Autonomy and Standards of Accreditation  

In its enlightened moments, Government recognized the voluntary character of accreditation. Official policies in DepEd and CHED acknowledged the voluntary nature of accreditation in aid of quality and excellence.[3] Both DepED and CHED repeatedly encouraged the use of voluntary accreditation.

But official policies sometimes undermined the voluntary nature of accreditation. They worked against the principle that voluntary accreditation proceeds from self-governance according to rules, procedures and norms freely imposed by the members on themselves autonomously (autos [self] nomos [law]) towards their own improvement as educators. Whenever government did that, it was counter-productive for education in the Philippines, and called forth appropriate opposition.

Such a case was when in 1984 under conditions of martial law the Ministry of Education and Culture and Sports (MECS) called for the organization of a single accrediting agency. The proposal attacked the voluntariness and autonomy of the existing accreditation agencies; it attacked the Filipino Educators’ Soul in PAASCU. In a national COCOPEA-FAAP consultation, the signs carried in the picket lines read, “Retain PAASCU!” PAASCU overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. With the 1986 People Power Revolution and the appointment of the erstwhile President of PAASCU, Lourdes Quisumbing, as DECS Secretary, PAASCU and the Filipino Educators’ Soul triumphed.

CMO 15, s. 2005 on “Institutional Monitoring and Evaluation for Quality Assurance of All Higher Educational Institutions” (IQUAME) failed because it tried to take over in institutional accreditation what the accreditation agencies were already doing autonomously and voluntarily.[4] CHED was appropriating the private, voluntary, and autonomous function of accreditation to itself. It learned it could not take over the voluntary and autonomous soul of the Philippine educators. Accreditation was not among the functions accorded CHED in the law that constituted it. What it was authorized to do, it ought not to have overreached. What it did not need to do, it ought not to have done.[5]

CMO 46, s. 2012 on Outcomes-Based and Typology-Based Quality Assurance set the stage for a protracted dispute with CHED that is still unresolved. Before its issuance in December 2012, PAASCU formally advised CHED that it be deferred, considering that HEIs had to deal with the uncertainties of the K-12 Reform. The advice was not heeded. CMO 46 was issued with the ill-advised declaration that all reforms had to be implemented at the same time. The extraordinarily complex document sought to base quality assurance on “outcomes based education” and on a new typology of HEIs. The contentious “outcomes based education” opened the floodgates of protest by HEIs against CHED’s violation of academic freedom.

Meanwhile, the typology-based quality assurance policy drove counter flow to the natural desire of HEIs to develop into universities. Where quality assurance sought to guarantee quality outcomes in education, it did not make sense to talk about outcomes-based quality assurance. For how could outcomes assure outcomes?

Quality assurance needs emphatically to consider all the important inputs that PAASCU’s accreditation has considered essential since its inception: classroom teaching, faculty, facilities, libraries, administration. Even in trying to define quality, CMO 46 opened a hornet’s nest: it viewed quality from the aspect of “exceptional” and “exceeding very high standards” but failed to appreciate the essential importance of that were the main mandate RA 7722 gave it to set.[6]

In this failure, CHED deprived HEIs of important discretional space for academic freedom. Remarkably, in CMO 46 s. 2012, CHED again overreached its legal functions in appropriating to itself the accreditation function.   Referring to itself as an external quality assurance agency on the same level as the other accrediting bodies,[7] it entered illegitimately into the realm that is private, voluntary and autonomous. The blunder violated the QA principles of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework (AQAF).

More recently, CHED again overreached its legal functions by creating a private body to accredit IT programs and declaring it the only body authorized to accredit IT in line with the Seoul Accord. It transferred a large amount of public money to the private group for its start-up activities.

PAASCU has resisted these activities through its assemblies, its public statements and through legal action in order to defend voluntary, private, autonomous and independent accreditation. It did so to protect and advance quality standards even from the missteps of government, its caretakers and their private collaborators. It did so according to the imperatives of its educators’ soul.

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Enriched by and enriching global accreditation

PAASCU looks back over sixty years with gratitude. PAAUC lasted hardly one year. But in fidelity to its voluntary, autonomous and rigorous commitment to quality, PAASCU has endured.   In its alliance with global leaders in accreditation, it has itself become a global leader, enriching other countries with its rich accreditation experience, and being enriched by the experience of global leaders.

Since the 1990s, PAASCU has earned the recognition of regional and international accreditation and quality assurance networks.

It is a founding member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education organized in 1991, and the Asia-Pacific Quality Network, established in 2003. Since 2004, its Basic Medical Education Program has been recognized by the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation (NCFMEA) of the US Department of Education. Only 23 countries in the world have received such certification from the US Department of Education.

PAASCU is the only accrediting agency in the Philippines that is a full member of the ASEAN Quality Assurance Network (AQAN), established in 2008. In 2012, PAASCU became a member of the CHEA International Quality Group (CIQG), an international division of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) based in Washington, DC which addresses issues and challenges regarding quality and quality assurance in an international setting. The PAASCU Executive Director serves as a member of the CIQG Advisory Council.

Over the years, PAASCU has partnered with international organizations such as the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank, the European Union, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the United States Agency for International Development, and UNESCO in conducting training and capacity building workshops on quality assurance in higher education in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Mongolia, China, Egypt, Yemen and Ethiopia. With its vast experience in quality assurance and accreditation, PAASCU has facilitated the global and regional knowledge sharing of good practices and promoted inter-regional communication and cooperation across a diverse set of agencies and professionals.

PAASCU was actively involved in the AQAN Task Force which crafted the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework (AQAF) currently being pilot-tested in the region.

Over the past nine years, PAASCU has been invited by foreign governments and institutions to conduct program accreditation. So far, we have accredited 12 programs in Bangladesh, Bahrain, Cambodia, Indonesia, and Independent Samoa. At present, there are applicant institutions from Guatemala, Indonesia, and Micronesia.

In this context the Board unanimously decided this morning to change the name of PAASCU to PAASCU, International.

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PAASCU’s Vision and Mission at 60

With its vision of being “the leading independent resource in the Philippines and beyond that fosters quality education among its member institutions by advancing excellence in the standards and process of accreditation, and its mission to support, empower and sustain the quality initiatives of its members through site visits, training, consultancy service and collaborative undertakings with national, regional and international agencies that advocate quality standards and practices,” PAASCU “serves the nation and beyond through the pursuit of quality culture in education.”

This vision and mission shape its objectives now and in the future:

  • To promote and integrate the efforts of institutions to elevate the standard of education in the Philippines;
  • To strengthen the capabilities of educational institutions for service to the nation, ASEAN and beyond;
  • To encourage and assist institutions to improve themselves through a culture of continuing evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.
  • To provide counsel and assistance to institutions for quality improvement;
  • To assure the public of quality education in accredited programs and institutions;
  • To assist institutions in their quest for national, regional and international recognition of their academic programs;
  • To collaborate with national and international agencies and organizations involved in quality assurance;
  • To provide training, consultancy, and quality assurance services to educational institutions inside and outside the country.

These are urgent objectives in the light of ASEAN integration. The role of quality education in the creation of a region unified in its cultural and religious diversity cannot be gainsaid. We must tackle not only the mismatch between education and jobs in the ASEAN economy, but also the mismatch between education and leadership for the common good, the creation of a regional consciousness, the protection and defense of the environment, religious freedom amidst religious diversity, and the creation of counter narratives against religious extremism.

ASEAN is not just an economic community, it is a humane community. The role of quality education for ASEAN cannot be over-emphasized.

The objectives are urgent in the light of the recently forged partnership between the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) and the Coordinating Council for Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) which resolved to “jointly commit itself to the culture of Quality Assurance guided by the ASEAN Quality Assurance Framework (AQAF) and the ASEAN Qualifications Reference Framework (AQRF).”[8]This commitment must not remain on the level of good intentions. With PAASCU in the lead, it must be translated into improved delivery of higher education through genuine external quality assurance associations (EQAAs) and EQAA standards and processes appropriate for the Philippines and ASEAN.

These objectives are also urgent in the context of the recently passed Universal Access to Quality Higher Education Act (RA 10931). As its title states, this law is as much about quality as it is about universal access. It is not about providing free access to poor quality public education, or providing funded access to poor quality private education. The implementers of this law must be committed to a culture of quality assurance guided by the AQAF and the AQRF.

And these objectives are urgent as PAASCU must continue to work with the Department of Education (DepED), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the Philippine Regulatory Commission (PRC) voluntarily, independently, critically, but always helpfully. It must continue to work for the proper implementation of the K-12 program, for consensus on a national quality assurance program, for a review of all requirements in the context of the AQAN and the AQRF, and for increased self-governance among the higher education community to promote the complementarity between public and private education and the genuine integrity and independence of quality assurance in the Philippines.

For 60 years, PAASCU has been successful by tapping into the Filipino Educators’ Soul. That has always been a powerful interior source of will, autonomy, and commitment to individual and institutional excellence in education. It has defined our relations with our members, our stakeholders, our partners, our allies, and even our adversaries. It is from the depth of this educators’ soul that PAASCU at 60 says thank-you to all who over the years have freely given PAASCU its life, its strength and its power. It says thank you to you.

But today from the depth of its Filipino Educators’ Soul, PAASCU says thank you especially to one person, who for the past 40 years of our 60-year-old institution was, in her words, “its footsoldier,” its handmaid, but in our experience the embodiment of its spirit, our revered and deeply-loved Executive Director, Chita Pijano. She is the embodiment of PAASCU accreditation who in your name has brought PAASCU to where it is today in the Philippines and beyond. We express to her today our undying gratitude and love.

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Even as you know that Chita will be giving way to a new executive director on April 1, 2018. Today the Board unanimously determined that the new director shall be Mr. Ric Palo.[9]

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It is through the inspiration of the people of PAASCU like Chita Pijano and from the depth of your Filipino educators’ soul, that PAASCU looks forward with courage and hope.

 


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