Unifying higher education | Inquirer Opinion

Unifying higher education

/ 12:42 AM August 16, 2014

Yesterday, hundreds of university presidents sat and listened to Richard Gerver, an inspiring and electrifying speaker whose philosophy is founded on “communication, empowerment and impact” and that “great leadership is about serving the needs of the people that work for you and rely upon you.”

The educators were also there to meet and exchange views with Anant Agarwal, a computer architecture pioneer and the CEO of edX, an online learning destination founded by Harvard and MIT.

Anant is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at MIT. The online community recognizes him as “a successful serial entrepreneur, having cofounded several companies including Tilera Corp., which created the Tile multicore processor, and Virtual Machine Works.” He personifies the perfect relationship between technology and education, having won the Maurice Wilkes prize for computer architecture and MIT’s Smullin and Jamieson prizes for teaching.

While Anant and Gerver’s lectures were edifying, the gathering, formally known as the Philippine Higher Education Presidents Summit, had an even higher purpose. Also present were representatives of the Coordinating Council for Private Education Associations, the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities, the Catholic


Educators Association of the Philippines, the Philippine Association of Private Schools, Colleges, and Universities, the Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges, and the Association of Local Colleges and Universities.

At this summit, 600 of the country’s learned men and women signed the Manila Declaration, publicly articulating their collective commitment to drive Philippine higher education to its full global potential.

Here are the salient points of the Manila



• Quality higher education has a vital role in human, social, cultural and economic development. It is secured through the higher education institution’s (HEI’s) verified achievement of government-set minimum standards, the further pursuit of academic excellence, the implementation of the HEI’s vision and mission, and responsiveness to stakeholders.

• In the pursuit of truth, HEIs take part in the cultivation of exemplary citizens who embody academic integrity, democracy, patriotism, gender equity, spirituality, and sociocivic responsibility.


• The programs and policies of HEIs should be in accordance with their declared vision and mission.

• The sharing of information among all HEIs is essential in addressing lack of resources, as well as sustaining communication, provided that academic freedom and intellectual property rights are respected.

• The production of innovative research allows both students and teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the state of the art in their respective fields.

• HEIs must strive to harmonize the knowledge, skills, and attributes of their graduates with the needs of industry and the economy in a humane society. They must be willing to work with businesses, nongovernment organizations, and industry and professional associations.

And here is the Manila Declaration’s reform-driven agenda:

• To create higher-quality programs and improve faculty development by encouraging HEIs to actively pursue program accreditation and to agree on the purpose of higher education and the definitions of quality, exploring measures of progression and assessment and sharing best practices that maximize student potential.

• To build sustainable academe-industry linkages by clearly recognizing the role that the government plays in promoting avenues for collaboration, including a review of the pertinent provisions of the Labor Code on internship and on-the-job training, and by creating, supporting and sustaining the National Industry-Academe Council.

• To rationalize and develop research by every means, such as the creation of the Philippine Higher Education Research Portal and the formation of innovation centers, and possibly through a memorandum of agreement to be signed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd), the Department of Science and Technology, the presidents of schools associations, and the Philippine Business for Education.

• To identify and develop funding options for postsecondary education by supporting the passage of the Unified Financial Assistance System for Higher and Technical Education (UniFAST), among other things, and increase public expenditure per tertiary student to approximate the Asean average of 27 percent per capita gross domestic product.

• To enhance, streamline and improve education governance by urging the President of the Philippines to institutionalize the coordination of the Department of Education, the CHEd, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the creation of solutions regarding priority issues on education, such as overall system design, the transition to K-to-12, and multiple pathways to success and development.

• And last, but certainly not the least, “to show our support for the continued and proper implementation of the K-to-12 reform.”

The Manila Declaration adds: “We call on the government to support transition initiatives such as the voucher system and the tertiary education transition fund. We also ask for the support and openness of labor groups, faculty unions, and the business sector to explore other concrete steps to facilitate and improve its implementation.”

There is so much to be done. The Higher Education Presidents Summit is proof that our most discerning minds are working toward unifying Philippine education.

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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 IT & Business Process Association of the Philippines.

TAGS: Butch Hernandez, column, higher education

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