Education quality in the Asean context | Inquirer Opinion

Education quality in the Asean context

/ 09:31 PM January 03, 2014

The quest for education quality in fact propels all education reform initiatives. That being said, educators will be the first to say that arriving at a universal definition of education quality is actually more elusive than, say, achieving specific reform goals such as functional literacy at Grade 3, or the alignment of higher education competencies with international standards and the demands of the workplace.

Education quality is a perennial topic for both educators and education reform advocates, especially as we reflect on what lies ahead for our learners. 2014 will prove to be a particularly significant year—probably even contentious—for Philippine education because of two major events: the enactment of Republic Act No. 10533 late last year, and the apparent inevitability of Asean 2015.

Some countries have attempted to legislate education quality, at least at the basic education level. In doing so, the tenor of the promulgations invariably dwell on what the young learners need to learn, when and why.

Article 29 of the International Rights of the Child goes even further by explicitly stating that the education of the child shall be directed to: (a) the development of the child’s personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential; (b) the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and for the principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations; (c) the development of respect for the child’s parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own; (d) the preparation of the child for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples, ethnic, national and religious groups and persons of indigenous origin; (e) the development of respect for the natural environment.


RA 10533 or the Enhanced Basic Education Act of 2013 (more often called the K-to-12 Law) takes the Universal Rights of the Child to heart. It envisions “a functional basic education system that will develop productive and responsible citizens equipped with the essential competencies, skills and values for both life-long learning and employment.”

Meanwhile, two clauses in RA 10533 underline Philippine education’s global perspective. Section 2a says that every student must be given the opportunity to receive “quality education that is globally competitive,” while section 2b positions high school education for college preparation, vocational and technical career opportunities as well as creative arts, sports and entrepreneurial employment “in a rapidly changing and increasingly globalized environment.”

Asean 2015, on the other hand, when it becomes a reality, could prove disadvantageous to our graduates and professionals if we fail to address Philippine education’s long-running weaknesses before 2014 ends. CHEd’s Higher Education Reform Agenda enumerates these as: (a) the lack of overall vision, framework and plan for higher education;

(b) the deteriorating quality of higher education; and (c) the limited access to quality higher education by those who need it most.


As presented recently by De La Salle University’s Dr. John Addy S. Garcia, Asean 2015 refers to the emergence of the Asean Economic Community characterized by regional cooperation and the free flow, among the 10 Asean countries, of goods, professional services and skilled labor.

Therein lies the challenge, or more accurately a series of challenges.


Already, four of our best universities (UP, Ateneo, UST and DLSU) have indicated they would like to synchronize their academic calendars with the rest of the Asean countries. It is an obviously painful but seemingly necessary step toward integrating the Philippines into the Asean Economic Community. The Asean academic calendar’s first semester starts on the last week of August and ends in December. The semestral break coincides with the Christmas break. The second semester begins in January and ends in May. The summer break is from June to mid-August. As of this writing, CHEd Chair Patricia B. Licuanan has warned that the synchronization is not without serious consequences.

More fundamentally, the Philippine Qualifications Framework is still “a work in progress” which is a cause for deep concern, according to the eminent Jesuit Fr. Joel Tabora, president of Ateneo de Davao.

In his remarks at the “Education Leadership for Global Competitiveness and Sustainability: Responding to the Challenges of Asean 2015,” which was organized by the Fund Assistance for Private Education last December, Father Tabora explains that the mobility of [professional] practitioners in Asean presumes ability on the Asean level to recognize their qualifications.

“It is the Quality Framework that we determine in our autonomy, but that we choose to align with Asean in rationality and pragmatism…. It is the qualifications (not the nationalities, nor the religions, nor the social class, nor the educational origins, nor ‘connections’) that will bring the jobs…. If quality learning outcomes are to be assured, the assurance cannot be based on outcomes. It must be based on inputs, not just on naming outputs…

“It also involves a deep respect for academic freedom. This is because higher education is not basic education, where prescription is appropriate.

“Higher education is about the independent quest for truth in academic freedom.”

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Butch Hernandez ([email protected]) is the executive director of the Eggie Apostol Foundation and education lead for talent development at the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines.

TAGS: Asean, education, news, Republic Act No. 10533

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