Creating a culture of student engagement

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TERESITA TANHUECO-TUMAPON

SEARCHING information on the latest Commission on Higher Education (CHED) report on student dropouts in college, I found only two web sources. The first is from CHED (2004) Higher Education Statistical Bulletin AY 2003-04. The report says that “ less than half of those who enter college or university reach senior year, resulting in an average survival rate of 49 percent. Only three out of every five students in the fourth year of study actually graduate within the fourth (senior) year resulting in an average graduate rate of 61percent. The overall completion rate therefore for the HE system is about 30 percent…The financial waste, particularly of public funds is high for those students who eventually drop out without completing their degree.

<http://www.fnf.org.ph/downloadables/State %20of%20PH%20Higher%20Education.pdf>The second, and more recent than the first source is from the Explanatory Note to Senate Bill 3369 introduced by then Sen. Edgardo J. Angara during the 15thCongress. Part of the Explanatory Note presented CHED data on enrollees in higher education institutions (HEls) from 2001 to 2012 to have reached “2.56 million, but the dropout rate reached an alarming 83.7 percent. This means that the country is producing 2.13 million college dropouts annually while graduates stand at close to 500,000 only.”

Free college education, a guarantee of no drop-outs? Dropping out of college is tied to lack of financial resources. Much has been written about this aspect—and which has led to recent debate on free tuition and school fees inclusive-wise in public and private HEIs and vocational schools. We cross our fingers that the best of educational reforms shall be equitable, and constitution-wise, inclusive access to college education be soon resolved via the law’s implementing rules Free access to college education is expected to lessen college dropouts. However, would this guarantee that students would not be dropping out before graduation? Recent educational literature reports that student dropouts could continue to persist for some other reasons. For one, students drop out when their institution is short in fostering a culture of student engagement.

College students in decades back. My generation would remember student activism that many HEIs all over the world experienced in the late 1960s to the 1970s. Student militancy sweeping the world did not exempt Philippine HEIs. During those years, what seemed to be liberalism which students learned in their universities spawned criticism of the status quo. In several universities, students boycotted their annual graduation. Students would lie down in front of their institution’s gates to prevent inflow and outflow of student, faculty and management, depending on whether these groups were in sympathy or not with the student militants. Issues included American imperialism and the Marcos dictatorship, popularly called The First Quarter Storm. In a state college I headed, a student publication, in the issue released on the day I returned from a meeting in Manila, had a comic strip with a teacher at the class door that read “bruha is here!” Coming from the airport, I gathered from the driver that the faculty members would have a sit down strike to protest the disrespect. I wouldn’t say it was easy for me to have quelled down the situation. In a meeting I convened as soon as I arrived, I patiently side of both the faculty members and student t editors. I stressed to our mentors our maturity and understanding. The student editors explained that bruha was a common language without the usual unpleasant connotations—similar to using bugoy or kumag. While these terms refer literally to hyper-active or ill-mannered young boys, this can actually be a form of endearment such as “my bugoy is hungry.” Bruha then could even be a “loving” label, the editors explained. Before that two-hour long meeting ended, the editors apologized for being too colloquial and were sorry to have caused their teachers hurt.

Towards a culture of student engagement. In the ebb and flow of history, the succeeding decades saw HEIs drawing more attention to create a culture of student engagement. Rather than being punitive, educationists tapped students’ energies for greater institutional involvement. Institutional committees included student representatives. There was increased participation of students in policymaking and practice. CHED’s student services guidelines specified the inclusion of a student representative in Student Handbook development and revision. Allowed, too, were student publications “within a self-managed framework.” Students had training in responsible journalism to support in a positive way the non-censorship of student publications. In SCUs, provision for a student representative in the boards of trustees/regents has been made obligatory. CHED Memorandum No. 09, s.2013 “Enhanced Policies and Guidelines on Student Affairs and Services” demonstrates a greater awareness of the powerhouse in students that lie untapped for a worthy cause. Article VIII of the same CMO “On Student Development” stresses “the supervision, recognition and monitoring of student organizations and their activities such as leadership programs, student publications, student organizations, sports development,“ as well as setting up for and with students a “cultural and arts program,” and “social and community involvement programs that include volunteerism, environment protection, etc.”<http://www.ched.gov.ph/wp-content/uploads/2013/07 /CMO-No.09-s2013.pdf>. Also, that the HEI provide student organizations institutional support such as but not limited to office space. Definitely there is “an increased understanding of the role that certain intellectual, emotional, behavioral, physical, and social factors play in the learning process and social development.”<http://edglossary.org/studentengagement/>. Next week, we will look into the different modes of student engagement.

Email: ttumapon@liceo.edu.ph

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