TO begin with, let me set my assumptions straight. “Strictly foreign policy” is non-existent, anti-thesis and non-sequitur in a highly interdependent world in the 21st century. In fact, foreign policy is simply a function and extension of domestic policy in the pursuit of national interest and mobilization of national potential. In this regard, national interest has varied manifestations and dimensions such as political, economic, technological, socio-cultural and humanitarian.
These are determinants of national policy and must be viewed in a coherent and integrated way.
At the heart of Philippine foreign policy, there is a strong drive to improve the quality of life of Filipinos in order that they may enjoy a life of peace, dignity and prosperity. To achieve this goal, there must be an effective degree of development accompanied by stability and social and human security.
In the pursuit of our national interest, we cannot underestimate the role of regional cooperation such as in Asean. The roadmap to Asean Community 2015 consists of four blueprints and these must be taken perforce as one. Central to the 4th blueprint on a socio-cultural community is the significance of education in promoting peoples’ well-being and human dignity. It is within the foregoing context that I wish to share the highlights of my keynote speech during the 31st national assembly of the World Council on Curriculum and Instruction (WCCI) held in Manila on 4-6 February 2015, on the theme: “Asean Integration: Prospects for Peace and Global Education.”
Asean 2015 is a platform for encouraging Asean higher education institutions to actively adjust to the shifting dynamics of global education towards open access for public scrutiny especially with respect to their quality, effectiveness and efficiency in delivering higher education products such as poverty alleviation through the provision of quality goods and services.
Asean 2015 aims to achieve a greater degree of harmonization and integration in higher education in policies and practices through regional academic cooperation.
Harmonization is required for maximum effectiveness in the fields of curriculum, instruction, research and community services, bearing in mind that quality assurance is a pre-requisite of the regional higher education infrastructure.
At this point, higher education harmonization and integration in Asean is still in the embryonic stage due to a lack of a suitable HE regional structure which could promote flexibility, mobility and accessibility of students, faculty and staff within the region.
In this regard, harmonization and integration for Europe under the Bologna process is a useful basis. This process involves quality assurance system, degree cycles, curriculum development, length of study and programs on market structure.
It may be a long shot before a single higher education system in Asean can be established, but its roots already exist. It is possible to create a harmonized system through coalitions and alliances through such strategic mechanics as credit transfer arrangement and common degree system or standardization of regional qualification.
Harmonization must also bring about employment opportunities easily facilitated and increased. It must recognize cultural and educational space “creating a pool of human resources in which employers take part in investing and recruiting high caliber graduates”.
Given this background, a regional space for higher education can actually exist in a federation of higher education institutions which function should ensure degree comparability and mutual accreditation, free-flow of employability and life-long learning.
In a way, CHED has laid the pathway for the realization of a “common regional educational space” by embarking on a total transformation involving the following Key result areas: 1) rationalization of the functions of higher education 2) quality assurance and 3) equal accessibility especially to deserving but poor students.
World peace can emanate from regional harmony and integration brought about by globalization of education.
Former Ambassador Rosalinda Tirona is the vice-president of the Philippine Ambassadors’ Foundation Inc. (PAFI). She served as a Career Philippine Ambassador Extra-ordinary and Plenipotentiary from 1987 to 2005.