Academic accords


IN recent years, accords occupy academic discussions. Foremost of this is the Bologna accord. During a consultation meeting on a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) memorandum order, a couple of participants asked me why there are several accords often mentioned along with the K-12 program. That incident triggered the discussion in today’s piece.

Globalization has prompted countries to facilitate integration, rather than pursuing organized human activities quite differently from one another. It’s the time-old saying, “in union, there’s strength.” Accords became governance mechanisms, facilitating collaboration and cooperation among governments. Foremost among these is The Bologna Accord — an agreement to adopt an overarching framework of cycles in higher education qualifications which materialized after a series of ministerial meetings which began in 1998 of how to level off the differing educational systems of European universities as part of European integration.

The initial 29 European countries which signed the agreement in Bergen in 2005 are at present a total of 49. Also referred to as the Bologna Process, the agreement did not come overnight. The compelling vision to simplify credit portability involved “years of intricate negotiation and detailed policy work.” The qualifications framework adopted by the ministers consisted of statements of “what students know and can do on completion of their degrees. The framework makes use of the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) in describing the cycles.”< /wiki/ Bologna Process>

As agreed, the first cycle is the awarding of a baccalaureate degree (referred to also as a “first degree”), which in our higher education institutions (HEI’s) typically consists of 24 credit-units every semester for 8 semesters or 4 schoolyears. Many of our HEI’s prescribe more than 24 credit-units where extra courses stamp the school’s identity such as the required 12 to 18 credit-units of religious studies in sectarian schools.

Several countries like the UK, Australia and Canada distinguish the usual four-year course from an Honors baccalaureate — the latter, enabling graduates “to undertake doctoral studies without first having to obtain a master’s degree.” The second cycle is usually the master’s degree which may be completed within 1-2 years, which in our HEI’s, consists of from 36 to 42 credit-units where the last 6 represent the thesis proposal and final defense. The third cycle is the doctoral degree which can span from 3 to 4 years including the dissertation equivalent to 12 credit-units.

The K-12 system comes into discussions of the Bologna accord when referring to the number of years students undergo preliminary to their first degree. Even if we seem to meet in terms of the number of credit-units of degree requirements, the content of the non-K-12 cycles cannot match the content of the cycles with K-12 basic education. Curriculum content in the initial two years of our non-K-12 first cycle is largely the content of senior year of basic education in countries signatory to the Bologna Accord. This explains why the first year university curriculum in the K-12 system already includes the pre-requisites and initial courses for a major in a specific field. In the pre-K-12 system, the initial major courses are at the earliest, taken up in the second semester of sophomore year in college. Thus, as an example, to enroll as freshman college, a Filipino student on a scholarship in Japanese universities has to be an in-coming junior, not a fresh high school graduate of our former non-K-12 system. Why, because we lack two years of basic education.

Similarly, our engineers in the Middle East, although they perform very well, are paid less than are engineers from India, because the latter underwent 12 years of basic education.

Mention of engineers reminds us of accords covering mutual recognition of tertiary-level qualifications in engineering: These are The Washington Accord of 1989 which recognizes “substantial equivalence in the accreditation of professional engineering qualifications, normally of four years duration; The Sydney Accord of 2001 which recognizes “substantial equivalence in the accreditation of qualifications in engineering technology, normally of three years duration” and the The Dublin Accord of 2002 —- an agreement for “substantial equivalence in the accreditation of tertiary qualifications in technician engineering, normally of two years duration.”

There are also agreements covering competence standards for engineer practitioners but which refer to individuals whose competence is considered “as reaching the agreed international standard of competence;” hence, “should only be minimally assessed (primarily for local knowledge) prior to obtaining registration in another country that is party to the agreement.”

The earliest of these is the 1999 APEC Engineer Agreement in which participating APEC economies have government support. Representative organizations in each economy prepare a “‘register’ of those engineers wishing to be recognized as meeting the generic international standard.’” This provides “for other economies to give credit when such an engineer seeks to have his/her competence recognized.” Although this Agreement is largely administered by Engineering bodies, “substantive changes need to be signed off at governmental APEC Agreement level.” The second, largely for engineering bodies, is the 2001 International Professional Engineers agreement which operates the same competence standard as the APEC Engineer agreement but “any country or economy may join.” The third is the 2003 International Engineering Technologist agreement to “establish a mutual recognition scheme for engineering technologists” signed by participating economies/countries.

Given these foregoing accords, they should not be confused with the Durham Accord — a network of youth work practitioners, educators and researchers who gathered at St John’s College, Durham University in the UK on May 17-18 2012 for a series of conversations about the place of spirituality in youth work.

Teresita Tanhueco-Tumapon, Ph.D., is one of the Philippines’ most accomplished educators and experts on institutional management in colleges and universities. Her studies have included not only education and pedagogy but also literature. She has studied not only in the topmost universities in the Philippines but also in Germany, Britain and Japan. She is now the Vice-President for External Relations and Internationalization of Liceo de Cagayan University (in Cagayan de Oro) after serving as its VP for Academic Affairs for six and a half years concurrent to her ten years as dean in the Graduate Studies of the same university. She holds a Lifetime Professional Achievement Award from the central office of the Commission on Higher Education.


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  1. Severo L. Brillantes on

    We have supposedly ended dictatorship and restored democracy with its principle of separation of powers as a result of the February People Power Revolution. Most sadly, an equally reprehensible virtual dictatorship exists today. Instead of checks and balances, we witness the collusion between the executive and legislative departments in the implementation of the unconstitutional K to 12 Basic Education Program.

    It was put into effect in 2012 by Secretary Luistro when there was no enabling legislation yet for the implementation of its new curriculum and the corresponding two (2) additional years of senior high school. This was a clear usurpation of legislative power, in utter disregard of the will of the people, which has vested said power in the Congress of the Philippines only.

    The law was eventually passed in 2013. The law itself however required DepEd to formulate the enhanced basic education curriculum, in consultation with national students organizations, national teachers organizations and parents-teachers associations. DepEd however, in utter disregard of the law, which it was supposed to enforce and administer only, continued to encroach on the power of the legislature, in violation of the principle of separation of powers, by persisting to implement the K to 12 Basic Education Curriculum as well as Senior High School, without complying with said consultation requirement, which by its own admission, was formulated in consultation only with what it calls a pool of experts.

    But even if DepEd eventually complies with the consultation requirement of the law, its implementation cannot apply to the current Grade Ten Students. This is for the reason that their right to complete only four (4) years of high school, has already been vested, since that was the law in place when they started their high school in 2012. Thus, to impose on them the added burden of going through two (2) additional years of senior high school is to divest them of said right and in effect apply the law retroactively (which is unconstitutional). Such in fact is contrary to the very intent of the law which adopts for the very first time not only an entirely new education program which begins with kindergarten and ends with six (6) years of high school, in that sequence but also a new teaching methodology (the spiral progression approach) where knowledge and skills are mastered after each level. That sequence and spiral, most evidently, cannot start at the end with senior high school but must start with those who were in kindergarten in 2013 when the law came into effect.

    In fact, the assailed Law cannot be implemented at all as it is per se unconstitutional, for being violative of substantive due process. The objective of the law is to decongest the basic education curriculum and at the same time lengthen the basic education cycle for the purpose of giving students more time to master the desired learning competencies. Studies, like that of the Senate Economic Planning Office, however show that lengthening the learning time did not necessarily lead to better student performance. In fact, some countries with short cycles have high scores in science and mathematics while other countries that have long education cycles have low scores. The K to 12 Law thus fails to consider other factors, like poverty, lack of teachers, classrooms and books. Given adequate instruction, armed with sufficient books, and a conducive learning environment, the Filipino student does not need at all two (2) additional years of senior high school. Hence, it is not reasonably necessary to add two (2) years of senior high school to accomplish the objective of improving student performance. For that reason, it is unduly oppressive and an unwarranted intrusion into the right to education of the Filipino students, thus violating their right to substantive due process.

    There is another alternative and a less intrusive way of accomplishing the objective of improving student performance. Rather than funding private schools which will offer Grade 11 (it is the private schools which are actually behind the drafting of the bill and lobbying for its passage, with no other objective but to advance their self-serving private interests by guaranteeing that they will rake huge profits from government fund poured on this this educational program), said funds should be poured to better learning materials, better teachers (by increasing their salaries) and more classrooms and thus a more conducive learning environment for the Filipino student.