Dr. Ma. Cynthia Rose B. Bautista, incumbent Vice President for Academic Affairs of the University of the Philippines and former Commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education, delivered this four-part lecture on Philippine higher education reform in an ASEAN and global context in June 2014 at a PSSC-organized conference entitled “Energizing the Philippine Social Sciences for the ASEAN Community: Vision and Prospects.”
The first part of Dr. Bautista’s lecture tackled globalization and its consequences for higher education—the paradigm shift from education to lifelong learning, the sudden importance given to world university rankings and the struggle of Philippine educational institutions to participate in this new competitive environment, internationalization and transnational education, the rise of massive online open courses (MOOCs), and the national qualifications framework.
Emphasizing the need for learner-centered, lifelong learning, Dr. Bautista explained:
In the 21st century, you have to help individuals adapt—this is very beautifully expressed by the UNESCO—‘to the evolving requirements of the labor market’ and better master ‘changing time-frames and rhythms of individual existence.’ This is the basis for why we’re telling our faculty now, ‘you have to pay attention to each and every individual student.’ Gone are the days when you just pay attention to lecturing.
The second part of the lecture delved deeper into the 21st century paradigm shift from education to lifelong learning and what it means to move from a teacher-based to a learner outcomes-based approach. In a nutshell, Dr. Bautista explained that in the latter approach, “the best way to learn is to first determine what needs to be achieved.”
She went on to describe the gaps that an outcomes-based approach tries to fill between the actual competencies of graduates from Philippine learning institutions and the competencies required of them by the real world:
When we talk about outcomes-based [approach], we’re talking learner outcomes. We’re also talking learning competencies, and competencies are essential because you want them [students] to function in the real world. Our problem in the Philippines is we’re so theory-conscious. Theory is higher than practice; lecture is higher than lab. Even our units reflect that. So what is the problem? The World Bank did a survey of employers in Asia. Philippine-based employers—and they’re not necessarily Filipinos—what is it that they find problematic? What is the main issue in the Philippines? It’s not English, of course. It’s not even technical. It is problem-solving skills, as well as leadership and creativity.
In the third part of her lecture, Dr. Bautista briefly tackled the national qualifications framework and zeroed in on the crisis surrounding Philippine maritime programs. She noted that while the present Philippine education system produces the best non-officers in the world, it also undermines international confidence in Philippine bachelor’s degrees and further reinforces the misconception that the country is a “diploma mill.” To address this problem, she echoed former Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) chairperson Teresita Manzala’s call for a change in language when it comes to educational programs. In particular, she called for an alignment of said programs with the Philippine Qualifications Framework.
“If the program is not level 6, then let us not call it B.S. Marine Transportation and B.S. Marine Engineering. Let us call a spade a spade. But that will only work if the mentality of the people changes. Don’t look down on technical. Technical is just as important, if not the field that will push us forward,” she said.
The last part of the lecture involved a brief discussion of Philippine education reform and its implications for the social sciences. Dr. Bautista shared a conversation she had with an Australian cognitive psychologist who pointed out that “[a baby’s] brain is not the same as our brain. Our best teachers are not the best teachers of the next generation. Our best teachers are not the teachers who can hone competencies necessary, unless our best teachers change their ways.”
Dr. Bautista then concluded with a call for social scientists to “help shift the frame of education and help operationalize because that is what we are good at.”