Alternative education enhances opportunity for professional growth

February 26, 2012

Today's by-words in education include life-long learning, recognition of prior learning, and outcomes-based education.

These pertain to non-formal, informal or even alternative forms of learning that national educational policies say, should match the privileges of students or graduates in the formal educational system.

As early as 1996, the national government has institutionalized what it deemed as an "integrated system of education" that seeks "to provide individuals with proven competence, access to opportunities that will prepare them for higher value jobs required for achieving global competitiveness."

That "opportunity" comes in the form of the Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) mandated under Executive Order 330 issued on May 10, 1996 by former President Fidel V. Ramos.

The issuance served as the Commission on Higher Education's (CHED) marching orders to initiate a procedure to evaluate the credentials of a candidate seeking an academic degree through the ETEEAP.

The procedure calls on CHED "deputized institutions" such as the University of the Cordilleras (UC) to validate documentary evidence for individual "knowledge and expertise" acquired through actual work experiences coupled with "high level, non-formal training."

The validation process also entails a determination as to whether the candidate requires further "remedial studies" for academic deficiencies in order to "satisfy pertinent requirements for a degree applied for."

While completion of an academic degree through the ETEEAP route provides individuals an opportunity for "high value employment," some, who are established professionals in their own right, merely seek a validation of their professions through a degree and would only aspire for "self-actualization" as a reward. The ETEEAP policy declares support for both aspirations.

Nearly 25 years into his career with the Baguio City aircraft parts manufacturing firm MOOG, Gilbert Rafer said he wanted to earn a degree for self-fulfillment more than career advancement. A ranking official in MOOG, he said he would have wanted to attend a regular university course except a full work schedule kept him from school - until he heard of the ETEEAP.

Rafer, 47, recalls his younger days in the 1980s when he was studying to be a metallurgical engineer. He said an ailment forced him to drop out of school. Upon recovery, he availed of a corporate scholarship to study electrical engineering technology.

The corporation provided him with on-the-job training, until sufficient work experience enabled him to move to other companies. It was here where he met an officer of MOOG who offered him a job as assembly and test technician.

Still a degree was never far from Rafer's mind. He said in 1988 he enrolled as a regular student, "but subjects offered were seasonal, hampered by conflicts in work schedules."

Years worth of credentials were brought to UC in 2010 when Rafer enrolled in Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA) under the ETEEAP. Completing the course with a double major - Human Resource Development Management and Operations Management - Rafer declares the submission of evidence of competence was the easiest part. UC's validation system coupled with prescribed remedial studies was as tedious as any process that regular students go through, he said.

UC's Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Cleofas M. Basaen said there are no quarters given to students in the ETEEAP. "If at all, the only privilege given to them is the opportunity for self-study. The rest, they have to work on."

She said the task of UC's panel of assessors extends as far as undertaking visits to the candidate's employers for validation of submitted documentary evidence. A student who does not complete requirements within the allotted time frame of one school year needs to re-enroll.

"It does take a lot of my time," says Jennifer Patricia A. Cariño, currently enrolled in Bachelor of Arts in English and is in the process of completing her ETEEAP requirements. A web developer, she says she has to do a lot of time management in order to meet university deadlines. She is, however, motivated by a goal to enroll in the UC College of Law as soon as she completes her degree.

Tedious as the process might seem, Rafer who is about to complete his Masters degree in Business Administration at UC said the UC administered ETEEAP lends credibility to the program. He adds this is also the reason why he chose UC over other deputized institutions.

Dr. Basaen said if one of UC's three core result areas aside from "to research" and "to give back" is to engage in the formation of professionals through teaching, then learning opportunities must be encompassing, following the ideals of altruism espoused by UC's founders. She said the ETEEAP approach provides deserving individuals with a viable alternative, if formal education presents some legitimate constraints.She adds the goal of ETEEAP is to professionalize a significant number of the Philippine workforce. When the CHED deputized UC for ETEEAP in 2000, Dr. Basaen said UC's stringent administration of the program has ensured that the ETEEAP yields individuals with genuine professional caliber through the years.

Dr. Basaen reports that a good number of Baguio City professionals have benefited from UC's ETEEAP while some noted local personalities such as Southeast Asian Games 2011 Wushu gold medalist and UC Physical Education teacher Eduard Folayang have earned their degrees through the program.

UC started the ETEEAP with 10 students in 2000. Of late, UC has been qualified to offer ETEEAP in graduate school with Level II accreditation of the Master of Arts in Education and Master of Arts in Teaching programs. UC has 23 ETEEAP students this term including graduate students. About 16 are graduating this school year.

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