Tertiary education responds to three distinct national goals. First, it aims to educate the youth to become active and productive members of society. Second, it seeks to meet and match industry demand with a competent and globally competitive workforce. Finally, through a continuing effort to reach global education standards, our universities aim to increase the quality of human capital and productivity vis-à-vis national and economic progress.
Naturally, many issues continue to plague our tertiary education system. Substandard institutions habitually fail to produce graduates with industry-standard competencies. Lately, we have seen the emergence of institutions that take advantage of industry trends by offering courses that aim solely to generate more revenue for the institution rather than deliver quality education to its enrollees. We have also seen the proliferation of so-called state and community colleges that create poor options for students by providing substandard education. Given these circumstances, the following tertiary education components now deserve tighter scrutiny.
1. Teacher quality. Do college instructors consistently meet the minimum qualifications as faculty? Do they have the skills and experience to guide the students in their chosen programs, and do they exhibit the professionalism and dedication needed to inculcate the discipline of scholarly inquiry?
2. Quality of programs and course offerings. Are the course offerings designed to provide students with the needed skills and knowledge to become competitive individuals, achievers in the workplace, or have they just been re-programmed to meet market demand and generate more revenue for the school at the expense of quality?
3. Governance. How are these schools managed? Are they run by education professionals? Are the schools affected by politics or are they used for political motivations and gain? Do the school administrators have the professionalism and expertise to run the schools?
Consider the nursing sector, for instance. We now have an oversupply of nursing graduates. However, the low passing rates of licensure examinations are a huge cause for concern. We can only speculate that the apparent abundance of nursing graduates who fail their licensure exams may be due to the penchant of some rather unscrupulous nursing colleges to sacrifice quality in favor of higher enrollment figures.
Then there are the Teacher Education Institutions. The Unesco report on Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability states: “Teacher Education Institutions fulfill a vital role in the global education community; they have the potential to bring changes within educational systems that will shape the knowledge and skills of future generations.” The culture, character and development of our nation rely on the quality of teachers we produce. These are the individuals who mold the minds of our future generations. It is necessary to make sure that these institutions are monitored strictly for compliance in their curriculum and values, and that they are provided with the innovative teaching strategies and methods that can help them reach out to students and achieve global standards for teacher education.
The Commission on Higher Education has announced that it will step up efforts monitor substandard colleges and universities. The CHEd is fully aware that it needs to actively regulate all programs—including Nursing—that produce unemployable graduates or exhibit low or even zero passing rates in board exams. It faces the challenge of making sure that all non-performing schools are closed and minimum qualifications for faculty are monitored. It must also exhibit strong governance over state colleges and universities as well as colleges developed by local governments to ensure compliance with quality education standards.
Public and private higher education should not compete but complement each other, with the primary objective of meeting national development goals. Educational institutions must develop programs to reflect the needs of education and the youth.
Erda Tech Foundation is an educational and training institution that aims to provide technical/vocational skills to disadvantaged youth. It provides five-year secondary education programs with a six-month training in the final year. Over the years, with its focused, quality programs, it has produced graduates that are able to meet industry demand in their respective fields.
The One School calls itself a non-traditional college and puts emphasis on personalized learning. It offers a three-year undergraduate course in Entrepreneurship and Fashion Design and Marketing. The One School employs alternative education techniques where mentoring, low teacher-student ratios, one-on-one instructions are arranged. Its curriculum and method of teaching have adapted to the changing learning needs of students today.
These two programs in different sectors show that excellence in learning can be achieved with innovation, quality education and with the formation of skilled, empowered individuals as its top priority. Setting up schools for higher education is much more than providing infrastructure. It is about being able to produce individuals who can compete locally and globally in their chosen fields. With this we will be able to produce a highly educated citizenry that will pave the way to progress in the country.
Ching Jorge is the executive director of Bato Balani Foundation, an Asia21 Fellow of the Asia Society, lead convenor of Young Public Servants and a trustee of the International Center for Innovation Transformation and Excellence in Governance. Email Ching at [email protected]