Accreditation provides brighter prospects for graduates in fast-changing world

February 05, 2012

Program accreditation remains an equalizer in the endeavor to ensure quality in the delivery of tertiary level learning by Higher Educational Institutions (HEI) whether they are relatively new in the field or have long established institutional histories.

There is compelling reason for this, according to Victor and Gina Ordonez in their paper "Accreditation in the Philippines: A Case Study." They write that while a "pre-condition for achieving and sustaining advanced levels of development in this globalized, competitive and fast-changing world" is "adequate supply of higher education graduates," volume alone will not suffice.

The Ordonez paper said a premium is given to graduates' quality of learning. This "is a matter of national concern" they said, adding the accreditation system was established in response to the challenge of providing "workplace preparation and quality" that relies on "the right balance between government regulation, private sector-led accreditation, and adaptation to the requirements of the existing work environment."

A simultaneous accreditation of University of the Cordilleras (UC) programs from November 9 to December 9, 2011 undertaken by the Philippine Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU) and the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACUCOA) demonstrates the willingness of the university to deliberately seek external scrutiny as an engine for assuring continuous institutional self-improvement.

The activity which sought the elevation of UC's accredited programs to a higher level indicates that HEIs must continually strive to sustain or even surpass the quality of its instruction, research and community service because "accreditation is not a perpetual recognition," explains UC's Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Cleofas M. Basaen.

The accreditation system provides that the grant is valid for a period of three to five years. Within this period, the HEI submits periodic reports of compliance with the accrediting institution's recommendations. As the HEI applies for re-accreditation, a team shall again evaluate the merit of the HEI's movement to the next accreditation level.

However, a key mandatory process, self-survey, requires unilateral compliance by HEIs with quality standards in nine operational areas even before the accreditation team steps in. These are philosophy and objectives, faculty, instruction, library, laboratory, physical plant and facilities, student and personnel services, social orientation and community involvement as well as organization and administration.

While critics broadly state that accreditation entails expenses, financial allocations only considers necessary and relevant investments along the nine survey areas in the fundamental endeavor to improve quality of learning.

The Ordonez paper explains that accreditation establishes quality standards above the minimum requirements of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED). Aside from having surpassed minimum government standards, accreditation to Level I (out of four) elicits recommendations from the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) for institutional privileges such as deregulation.

The reason for this, the paper further states, is that "the private sector needed to take the initiative in the name of quality improvement and establish another set of standards higher than that of the government."

While UC is accredited as an institution under the CHED Institutional Quality Assurance Monitoring and Evaluation (IQuAME) system which grants the university autonomy to determine programs without the required CHED processes, Dr. Basaen said UC still strives for program-based accreditation to ensure that individual programs are within quality standards.

As UC aspires for re-accreditation to Level III for its Arts and Sciences, Teacher Education, Business Administration and Criminal Justice Education programs, it hopes to establish norms that, according to the accreditation system, "is based on high standard of instruction evidenced by outstanding performance of graduates in licensure examinations, a visible research tradition, strong links with other institutions and agencies, extensive library and learning resource, facilities and a visible community extension program."

UC College of Teacher Education Department of Pedagogy head Dr. Ramir Austria describes the accreditation process as painstaking, since the members of the accreditation panel not only scrutinize documentary evidence, do ocular survey and conduct classroom visits but also organize interviews with students, teaching and non-teaching personnel to validate evidence for accreditation.

PAASCU and PACUCOA's peer evaluation system deploys HEI scholars and experts in the different programs and survey areas as panel of accreditors. Dr. Basaen says the training and selection of panel members is itself stringent and meticulous that only about 15 out of a hundred aspirants are chosen. Their conduct, behavior and competence are periodically assessed by officers of the accrediting institution.

Dr. Basaen says this is done so that accreditation remains credible and reliable. In so doing, the value and quality of transcript of records and diplomas with stamps of accreditation is always assured.

UC's established quality control system is the reason why institutional partners request UC for deployment of graduates in their organization for prospective employment, relates Dr. Austria. This has prompted UC's colleges to adopt tracer systems in order to track the movement of graduates - itself a part of an "integrated outcomes-based quality assurance.

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