• Quality assurance in higher education

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    MANY of us in academe have had varying exposure to quality assurance activities in our respective institutions. UNESCO defines quality assurance as “the systematic review of educational programmes to ensure that acceptable standards of education, scholarship and infrastructure are being maintained.”<http://www.unesco.org/new/en/education/themes/ strengthening-education-systems/higher-education/quality-assurance/> Systematic review covers vision, mission and goals and being articulated by the curricula, instruction, facilities and physical plant, student services, research, administration, civic engagement.

    Business initiated Quality Assurance (QA) which the education area picked up in the face of the different emerging issues on “purpose and fit” of education. Quality as the common purpose has not been easy to define since its meaning depends upon individual perspectives. QA practices in our times today is the product of several influences among which is the Bologna Accord which has had a world-wide influence on QA framework and processes.

    Europe’s QA efforts started in 1999 where ministers of education and university leaders of 29 countries sat for a series of conferences to craft and implement a process that would help diverse higher education systems converge towards more transparent systems, while maintaining their respective systems. The result is “The Bologna Declaration” – an agreement among the countries on three degree cycles: the undergraduate or first degree, the masters and the doctorate – which made the system of academic degrees easily comparable for recognition as to what cycle an academic degree belongs. The agreement yielded the Bologna Process which provide tools to connect rather than homogenize national educational systems. Accumulation and transfer of credits provide a scheme for student mobility to transfer from one European university to another one in any European country. Likewise, it is easy for researchers and lecturers to be on exchange in partner European universities – the goal being always to maintain quality education such as preventing in-breeding of academic programs.

    The Bologna Process aimed to create a European Higher Education Area (EHEA) by 2010 with 46 countries which voluntarily decide together with their respective “higher education community to endorse the principles underlined in the EHEA.” The initial intent of the EHEA is “to improve transparency between higher education systems, as well as to implement tools to facilitate recognition of degrees and academic qualifications, mobility, and exchanges between institutions” while at the same time ensuring high quality teaching paving the way to the integration of QA principles into higher education. “QA has become a European-wide issue since the need for a clear QA and Accreditation system was laid out as one of the aims of the Bologna Process.” (http://www.aiclv/bolona/Bologna/contrib/ESIB/QAhandbook.pdf). That our Philippine educational system has finally bit the bullet – and courageously adopted the K-12, is a step into the Bologna Accord, what with ASEAN 2015 staring at us — who are part of ASEAN as we are, too, of a global world rapidly shrinking into a global village.

    Quality assurance mechanisms in our country began with the Philippine Association of Accredited Schools and Universities (PAASCU) – the “oldest and the largest” initiated by the Jesuits “in the late 50’s where the process of accrediting academic programs of Philippine institutions was similar but with certain adaptations, to that of American universities.” A year after, November 1967, the then Bureau of Education and Culture (now Department of Education) formally endorsed PAASCU as an accrediting agency Papers about PAASCU and of the Association of Accredited Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (AACUP) are available also in these hyperlinks: (http://www.niad.ac. bjp/n_kokusai/pdf/13_ no17paascu_abstract_e.pdf). (http://www.aaccupqa. orgph/Journal%20of%20 Philip pine%20Higher%20Education%20Quality%20 Assurance.pdf).

    While PAASCU is often associated with accreditation of Catholic schools, the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities-Accrediting Agency (ACSCU-AA) with Christian schools and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accredita- tion (PACU-COA) with the private non-sectarian institutions, such is not necessarily the rule although such is a usual practice. The highly looked up to protestant Silliman University has almost all of its undergraduate programs accredited by PAASCU while those of its basic, graduate and doctoral, by ACSCU-AA. The Philippines pontifical University of Santo Tomas, has been recognized as the institution with the highest number of programs accredited by the PACU-COA during the PACU 40th founding anniversary in December 2013. (http://varsitarian. net/ news/ 20131218/ pacucoa_ust_is_top _university_in_country).

    All of these accrediting associations are private, voluntary, non-profit and non-stock corpora- tions registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission and are members of the Federa- tion of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP). Established in 1977, FAAP is authorized by the Philippine Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to certify the quality levels of accredited programs at the tertiary level, for the purpose of granting progressive deregulation and other benefits. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federation_of_ Accrediting_ Agencies_of_the_Philippines)

    These three accrediting agencies are members of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) established in 1991 and which as an international association has over 200 organizations active in theory and practice of quality assurance in higher education. There is also the Asia-Pacific Quality Network (APQN) established in 2003 which functions as a regional network of INQAAHE “to serve the needs of quality assurance agencies in higher education in a region that contains over half the world’s population.” With support from the World Bank and UNESCO, its Mission Statement is “to enhance the quality of higher education in Asia and the Pacific region through strengthening the work of quality assurance agencies and extending the cooperation between them.”< http://w ww.eurashe.eu/about/partners/apqn/> (30)

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    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 Commission on Higher Education.

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