Dr. Anthony Jose M. Tamayo
More than a decade ago, when I joined the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU) as one of the members of the board, I welcomed the opportunity to serve and to help advance the interests as well as the welfare of my fellow members. The role of a PACU officer is challenging, but being part of a prestigious organization such as PACU is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of service and dedication. I find fulfillment in helping realize its vision of nation-building through transformative private education.
Being elected as the 49th President of PACU, particularly during these unprecedented times, is an immense challenge. While we were reciting our Oath of Office during the induction as PACU officers last December 18, 2020, I felt the task of serving my fellow members weighing heavier than before. We live in extraordinary times. The realities of a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, have severely affected our lives and our livelihood. Under this age of flux, we have had to change the way we do things, how we work and how we live.
However, despite the situation, PACU has not lost sight of its goals. I would like to profoundly thank President Caroline Enriquez and the previous board for having successfully steered PACU since the early and crucial part of the pandemic until we, the 2020-2022 board, assumed our new positions in October last year. We recognize and acknowledge the same group for their continuous service and sacrifice for the betterment of private education. The otherwise unprecedented heavy workload has considerably lightened because of the reassuring cooperation and teamwork among the present PACU board and officers, as well as the general membership. I also take solace in the fact that I will be working with the board and Exe-com who are considered the best minds in the field of education. I have witnessed how they led PACU in re-inventing education, changing our business models, and courageously pushing for PACU advocacies. These initiatives have made the schools more agile, innovative, and responsive in the delivery of quality education to its member students during these disruptive times.
Meanwhile, after another smooth transition, we hit the ground running with several vital activities and we are now approaching the fourth month. Some of these important activities include our dialogues with the government agencies as well as the organizational meeting, several committee meetings, two regular board meetings, one expanded board meeting, and four “Kamustahan” sessions where matters pertaining to the current concerns, updates, and plans of PACU were discussed. Other important activities will be discussed in the latter part of this report. We likewise organized the first hybrid induction of the board of trustees and installation of the new officers, which was attended by key public officials from the Senate, Congress, and CHED, as well as the presidents of the member associations under the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA) and the Private Education Assistance Committee (PEAC).
Dialogues as Pathways to Change
On November 27, 2020, we held a virtual courtesy call and dialogue with the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chairperson, J Prospero de Vera III, where we inquired into the possibility of gradual, optional, and limited resumption of face-to-face classes, consolidation of the recommended substitutes for OJT/Practicum and RLE, as well as the synchronization of requirements for graduation set by the CHED Technical Working Group (TWG) as well as the board examination given by the Professional Regulatory Board (PRB). Chairperson De Vera also emphasized the gradual opening of programs for the optional limited face-to-face classes subject to safety requirements. Lastly, he added that the TWGs should include more industry experts and practitioners.
In January this year, Malacañang, through Executive Secretary Medialdea finally approved the CHED DOH Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) for the following programs: Medicine, Nursing, Medical Technology, Physical Therapy, Public Health, and Midwifery. We are also awaiting CHED approval for the release of the JMC supplemental annexes for the other allied health programs that include Pharmacy, Dentistry, Radiologic Technology, Occupational Therapy, Respiratory Therapy, Nutrition and Dietetics, Master of Science in Nursing, and Master of Science in Asian Health Practices.
Moreover, in a meeting with Chairman De Vera, the PACU Officials advanced the following issues and concerns: (1) improving internet connectivity and reliability as well as negotiating special rates or subsidies for students and faculty in private HEIs; (2) extending the autonomous/ deregulated status and COE/CODs of schools; (3) revisiting policies especially for flexible learning which includes adjusting school operations to accommodate EETEAP distance learning and open distance learning; (4) CHED monitoring of the maximum enrollment caps/quotas and seating capacity in SUCs; (5) increasing the TES for private HEIs; (6) addressing accreditation concerns; (7) providing both teaching and non-teaching personnel with access to teacher training and upskilling as part of their continuing education.
Meanwhile, on scholarship matters, an increased need for student and faculty grants is expected, as a result of the economic crisis brought by the pandemic. These scholarships would certainly benefit families seeking to ensure the continued education of their children and also private schools that have experienced a decline in enrollment. In coordination with the CHED, PACU recommended the allocation of funds to the Bayanihan 2 for Higher Education Tulong Program (B2HELP). This grant provides each HEI a Php 5,000 subsidy for 30 students who are not TES recipients; priority is given to 3rd and 4th- year students with high outstanding balances. Furthermore, more than 30,000 students will receive a Php 30,000 one-time grant, to be sourced from the Php 1 billion scholarship fund of DOLE and UniFAST’s Tabang Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) program. This program seeks to assist college students who are dependents of repatriated, displaced, and deceased OFWs. We have also disseminated information regarding the GSIS Educational Loan or the “Study Now, Pay Later Program” available to all GSIS members for their nominated student beneficiaries. The loanable amount is a maximum of Php 100,000.00 per school year or up to Php 500,000 in five years. Applications are likewise open for the Scholarship of Instructors Knowledge Advancement Program (SIKAP) Grant that HEI faculty enrolling in advanced studies in local universities and colleges may avail. Full information on the eligibility requirements and the application process are contained in the CHED Memorandum Order 6, s. 2020 and its implementing guidelines.
We have also met with Atty. Lily Freida Milla, Head of CHED International Affairs, together with presidents of medical schools represented by Dr. Jose Campos, Dr. Carol Enriquez, and Dr. Luz Hammershaimb. One recommendation made during the meeting was to prioritize foreign medical students in the vaccination program so they can help in LGU immunization activities. As for the clerkship program, medical schools will obtain approval for online delivery, reduced clinical rotation hours, and online case simulation. Further, we have also asked CHED to lobby with the Indian Medical Council to extend by a year or two; the latter’s recognition of virtual rotation as practices last school year when the pandemic started.
In addition, we have requested CHED to extend, until May 28, 2021, its deadline of submission of required documents on proposed increases in tuition and other fees. This extension allows us ample time to prepare the documents to be submitted to our respective CHED regional offices.
PACU has also requested the Department of Education (DepEd) for the earlier disbursement of the SHS Voucher payouts to private schools, ahead of the semester to be billed. In doing so, private schools can receive the funds meant to help defray school operation expenses, which are normally covered by tuition fees. Another request made was for DepEd to extend the deadlines for the submission of application for a tuition Fee increase for SY 2021-2022. This request was acted upon and recommended by Planning Director Roger Masapol to the DepEd Executive Committee. Specifically, the recommendation was to extend (1) the consultation period to June 30, 2021; and (2) the submission of documentary requirements and/or application period to August 15, 2021. In another dialogue, this time with the DepEd, we underscored that this school year will be the last year that their department would be issuing vouchers to Grades 11 and 12 and permits to LUCs and SUCs, as part of the program for transitioning to K to 12. In another virtual meeting with the DepEd and COCOPEA officials, PACU encouraged DepEd to study how the excess capacity in private schools can be used to complement the public school system through vouchers and other assistance measures. Here, we underscored the need for increased complementarity between public and private schools.
Moreover, when the COCOPEA board met in December 2020 for a midterm review of its strategic plan, Dr. Vincent Fabella and the PACU representatives emphasized that COCOPEA should focus only on two areas: 1.) Intermediate Result (IR) 2 -“policy environment for private education is improved” especially on policies promoting and protecting a level the playing field between public and private education as well as the harmonization of the education agencies 2.) IR 3 -“increasing funding and support for private education institutions” through approved laws and proposed bills.
We have joined COCOPEA’s collective voice in improving teacher quality in the Philippines through our participation in Senate Bill No.1887 sponsored by Senator Win Gatchalian, Chairman of the Basic Education Committee. The bill seeks to enhance the quality of basic education in the Philippines by improving the quality of teachers and school leaders and strengthening the teacher education council. We have also participated in discussions in the lower house on their counterpart bill, filed by Basic Education Committee Chairman, Representative Roman Romulo. We have also attended, together with COCOPEA, other congressional hearings headed by Representative Romulo, to seek support for the expansion of the E-GATSPE Law to the elementary level. The voucher system will be extended to private elementary school students, particularly those in Grade 4 to 6. The bill also aims to extend the Teacher Salary Subsidy (TSS) to SHS and increase the actual TSS amount.
Furthermore, a productive dialogue ensued between the COCOPEA and the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), regarding the issue of board exam requirements versus the CHED technical working group’s requirements for graduation. There was an effort to reconcile and clarify the requirements of the two groups. Meanwhile, we have also joined COCOPEA in writing a joint letter to the UniFAST board to reinstate PEAC as fund manager of the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES). Furthermore, CHED UniFAst sought legal opinion from DOJ for the renewal of PEAC’s service contract and whether CHED can come into an agreement to cover 2021-2022.
The Membership Committee: Keeping the PACU Community Together
One of the objectives of the “Kamustahan” is to bring our community closer. The Membership Committee, headed by Engr. Bernard Villamor plans to streamline and improve communication among members as well as update the profiles of members. The committee also seeks the assistance of area Vice Presidents in eliciting increased engagement from the general membership or active participation in PACU activities and committees. In this view, we are calling on more members to join the various committees in PACU. Furthermore, the committee also intends to visit provisional accepted members once the situation returns to normal.
Policy Committee: Advocating a Better Normal for Schools through Responsive Government Policy Interventions
The PACU policy committee is led by Dr. Vincent Fabella, together with Dr. Carol Enriquez, Dr. Chito Calingo, Dr. Rey Vea, Mr. Fred Ayala, Dr. Faye Lauraya, Dr. Tina Padolina, Dr. Ester Garcia, Dr. Pat Lagunda, Dr. Karen De Leon, and Atty. Ada Abad as well as COCOPEA Managing Director Atty. Joseph Estrada paved the way for the approval of the CHED and DOH Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) regarding the guidelines on the gradual reopening of HEIs for limited optional face-to-face instruction particularly in the conduct of clinical clerkship, RLE, and practicum for the following allied health programs: Medicine, Nursing, Medical Technology, Physical Therapy, Midwifery, and Public Health. Thank you very much to Dr. Carol Enriquez and the rest of the committee for spearheading and for finally making this plan a reality. We recognize the contributions of the different PACU members in drafting the recommendations on conducting RLE and OJT in the different programs, which we submitted to CHED and thereafter became part of the JMC annexes. Furthermore, we hope that succeeding policy recommendations by the TWG would include the non-allied health programs. Again thank you to the TWG on the flexible learning committee composed of Dr. Cristina Padolina, Mr. Augusto Fabella, Dr. Caroline Enriquez, and Dr. Edizon Fermin for representing PACU and furthering the interest in private education.
Just recently, Dr. Fabella and I participated as key informants in the USAID Science, Technology, Research and Innovation for Development (STRIDE) focus group discussion conducted by senior consultant Prof. Jose Tabbada. The dialogues were about the assessment of its current organizational structure and functions of CHED and structural changes or amendments that can be made for RA 7722.
Programs Committee: Building a Knowledge Sharing Community for Teaching, Learning, and Leading
I would like to congratulate the Programs Committee headed by Ms. Laurice Juarez, chairperson, for the successful hosting of our very first hybrid oath-taking ceremonies and the recent PACU webinar organized in cooperation with the research committee. Through our webinars, PACU can reach out to our member institutions and provide relevant content from expert speakers. At least six webinars are lined up this fiscal year. Our webinars are streamed live on the PACU official Facebook page. Another project of the committee is the PACU Community of Practice, an online learning community designed to support college faculty. It is a platform that allows colleges and universities of the PACU network to exchange ideas and resources. Finally, the committee has established a partnership with the HABI Education Lab, for the learning commons project. It is also exploring other tie-ups with Smart PLDT, Microsoft, and other potential partners.
Research Committee: Learning from the Experts and Exploring Education Paradoxes
On February 9, 2021, the PACU’s Research Committee, led by Fr. Manny Manimtim and the Programs Committee organized a webinar series on “Evidence-based Optimized Learning Before, During and After the Pandemic: The Central Visayan Institute Foundation Dynamic Learning Program (VIF-DLP)” with Drs. Christopher and Marivic Bernido as resource speakers. We hope that our members find the insights shared by the resource persons instructive and informative as they navigate the new normal. The Research Committee, likewise, plans to develop papers and to lobby the DepEd and CHED in drafting policies on Flexible Learning Options (FLO). Possible research topics include Empirical Evidence for FL as a way for the Future; Efficacy of FLOs: evaluation tools for the implementation of FLOs; and Survey on how Institutions implement FL: issues related to the implementation of FLOs – access, equity, relevance. The committee will administer an initial survey to gauge the interest and willingness of members to participate in these studies. Also, the committee has set its sites on conducting a virtual Critical Thinking Congress, which was originally scheduled for March 2020 but postponed due to the COVID lockdown. Finally, the committee will explore the feasibility of the Critical Thinking Test developed by Centro Escolar University, which transforms a pen-and-paper test into an online test.
Legal and Legislative Committee: Linking up with Executives and Legislators
COCOPEA and PACU were invited to attend several hearings in the Senate and Congress. PACU blocked the shortening of the probationary period of teachers and instead pushed for the amendment of the GASTPE law. We also supported Senate Bill No. 1887 -Teacher Education Council Act; and Senate Resolution No. 10, Creation of Congressional Committee on Education.
Atty. Ada Abad, Chairperson of the Legal and Legislative Committee, also shed light on the following: the CHED-DOH guidelines on the reopening of HEIs for optional limited face-to-face classes during the pandemic; Joint Memorandum and guidelines on the provision of cash assistance to displaced personnel; and the intricacies of the CREATE bill.
PACU has also signed a joint statement with COCOPEA on taking a stand against the baseless red-tagging of certain schools. In the said statement, we appealed for circumspection and care in making allegations to shield our educational institutions and our students against any political publicity.
Public Relations (PR) Committee: Inoculating Hope in the New Normal in Education
The PR Committee, headed by Mr. Marco Benitez, will update the PACU website every month and the PACU FB page every week using feature articles. With the new normal, the committee had also decided to create an electronic version of our newsletter that commenced with a compendium in our September publication. In addition, PACU has prepared sponsorship packages for the newsletter. The call for articles is now open for our next issue, which will be released in September 2021.
Industry Academe Linkage Committee: Building Virtual Bridges of Collaboration
The Industry Linkage Committee, headed by Dr. Raymundo Reyes, plans to send out surveys to members about industry issues and concerns. The committee will likewise recommend that the program advisers involve professional organizations in their regular meetings and develop a database of industry partners. Another idea of the committee is to hold industry-academe webinars to help our industry partners find potential prospects among our graduates.
Committee on Institutional Quality Improvement: Leveraging Institutional Strengths and Assuring Quality Education of the Future
The Committee on Institutional Quality and Improvement Chairperson Dr. Patricia Lagunda and her members believe that blended learning is here to stay and that we need to equip ourselves by establishing an internal QA system within our schools. Dr. Vicente Pijano III suggested the idea of building an internal quality assurance system for blended learning and modeling the external QA system outside what is traditional. Dr. Pijano referenced the EU Share program, which conducts capability building on establishing Internal Quality Assurance Systems in schools. PACU intends to pilot this program to member schools.
Being One with Our Communities in Natural Disasters and the COVID-19 Pandemic
PACU, through its member schools, has also extended assistance to schools affected by calamities such as typhoons particularly in the Bicol Region and Cagayan Valley, through close coordination with the Bicol Foundation for Higher Education, Mariners Polytechnic Colleges Foundation Legazpi City, University of Cagayan Valley and Tuguegarao Collective. PACU has also asked the CHED and the DEPED to include private school teachers as priority recipients of the vaccination program. PACU is also preparing an information campaign to emphasize the importance and clarify misconceptions on COVID-19 vaccination. We have also begun exploratory talks with possible vaccine distributors such as United Laboratories (UNILAB).
Before I end, I would like to thank my colleagues in PACU: the board of trustees, committee members, and the presidents of our member schools. I would like to express my gratitude to the execom: Engr. Bernard Villamor, Mr. Marco Benitez, Dr. Ryan Tirol III for organizing our board meetings, Ms. Laurice Juarez for also properly managing our finances and Atty. Ada Abad for likewise serving as our legal counsel. I would also like to acknowledge Executive Director Joyce Samaniego, Ria Lascano, and AiroI Alfiler for their invaluable loyalty, dedication, and service. I am hoping that everyone will continue our different undertakings so our plans will be carried out to full fruition. Let us always stay together and remain hopeful for an even better post-pandemic educational environment.
Finally, let us have faith in the Lord, especially when we face the overwhelming challenges of this pandemic, as Philippians 4:6-7 says “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”