Byline: NILO E. COLINARES Ed.D.
ACCREDITATION of educational institutions is akin to a recent management practice called KAISEN, the Japanese term for a concept of quality as a search for continual improvement where responsibility is shared by every worker. This runs counter to what UK Manchester Metropolitan Universitys Phil Hodkinson calls post Fordism or neo Fordism (Ford Motors management principles and practices) which seeks to redefine quality something to be inspected as finished products come off the production line. This results in faulty products being rejected or junked but never addressing the causes of poor quality and inconsistent workmanship. Under Kaisen, end of the line quality inspections are unnecessary and not helpful for everyone is an inspector.
This concept of quality is what accreditation of schools is all about voluntary submission of an educational institution for assessment, evaluation by a team of "inspectors" from similarly-situated schools. The team does not visit an institution for inspection with the end in view of rejecting and junking faulty products but helps to point out the strengths and weaknesses of the system in order to effectively address the causes of poor quality. Accreditation begins with a self-survey, labelled under the improved scheme as Program Performance Profile (PPP), participated in by all members of the organization where everybody becomes an inspector. Many faculty members and non-teaching personnel of schools confess that it is this part of the process which makes their organization more cohesive and united with the members setting aside all animosities and parrying all signs of factionalism for all are focused on the institutional goal.
In many countries all over the world, accreditation, also known as quality assurance, is voluntary in nature. It has been practiced for many years in Russia, Hungary, Poland among others, to combat the explosive growth of commercial institutions in higher education. However, voluntary quality assurance policies in these countries are not set up by educational institutions but are laid down by their government with the aim of guaranteeing quality in higher education. In the United States after which our educational system has been patterned, quality assurance rests on the shoulders of the Department of Education or the Commission On Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) which takes charge of giving recognition to private accreditation organizations.
In the Philippines, accreditation is purely voluntary with the private sector having three agencies the Philippine Accrediting Association for Schools, Colleges and Universities, (PAASCU) the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities Commission On Accreditation (PACUCOA), and the Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities Accrediting Association Inc. (ACSCU-AAI) under the umbrella of the Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP). Now on its 28th year of corporate existence, the federation has for members, a total of 311 higher education institutions with 936 programs at various levels of accreditation. These are led by De La Salle University with 23 programs at Level IV, the first ever in the world of accreditation in the country.
For their part, the government-supported institutions have banded themselves to a National Network of Quality Assurance Agencies (NNQAA) composed of the Accrediting Association of Chartered Colleges and Universities of the Philippines (AACCUP) and the Association of Local Colleges and Universities-Commission On Accreditation (ALCU-COA). Moves have been under way that like the US which is our model in terms of educational practices, the Commission on Higher Education should have a direct hand only in the recognition of accrediting agencies and once recognized, these agencies should be left to operate with full autonomy. Monitoring and supervision may still come in but definitely not through third party organizations. This should be done, it isopined, solely by the CHED or an independent body like the CHEA in the US where no practicing accrediting agencies are members of the commission. This way, objectivity is sustained.
Dr. Manuel T. Corpus, the high priest of accreditation in state institutions today, being the founding President of the AACCUP and Commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Educational Reforms (PCER), writes that "one of the most serious issues in accreditation that is subjected to review today, is the unit of assessment. Shall we stick to accreditation by programs, or shall we explore other models as suggested by the CHED-organized Technical Working Group on Quality Assurance and by Dr. Marian Phelps, a consultant recently commissioned by the Asian Development Bank to study quality assurance programs in the Philippines?"
The veteran educator, a ranking member of the Board of Directors, and Chairman of the Personnel, the Programs and the Oversight committees of the Center for Educational Measurement, (CEM) now incumbent Executive Director of the AACCUP, offers three criteria for the selection of an appropriate unit of assessment to wit: 1) the number and size of the higher education institution 2) the purpose of accreditation 3) the feasibility of using a model.
With these criteria, the AACCUP, led by the incumbent President, Dr. Rosario P. Pimentel, decided to adopt a new and improved scheme of program accreditation and the more sophisticated and comprehensive model of institutional accreditation. This is a first, a breakthrough, a milestone in the history of accreditation of the Philippines. Concurred in by the members of the Board of Trustees and ratified by the general membership, the new model will be formally launched during the 18th Annual Conference of the AACCUP on February 1617, 2005 at the Century Park Hotel in Manila.
Institutional accreditation however will not be an easy scheme to embrace. Not all who wish to apply under this method will qualify. In fact, it is estimated that for the moment, only one or two SUCs may be eligible for institutional accreditation. The new strategy has its own rigid requisites like the number of formally-accredited programs an institution should posses before it may apply for institutional accreditation. Suffice it to say that the AACCUP, the youngest among all accrediting agencies in the country, has embarked on a quality assurance program which will make history in the education annals of the country as far quality education through accreditation is concerned.
Concentrating purely on program accreditation after its recognition by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 1989, the 19-year-old AACCUP has so far reached out to 107 SUCs in the country today. It has accredited a total of 500 programs in 87 SUCs as of December 2004. Elevation to higher levels however is not that fast. The first level III status ever among SUCs was awarded only last June 29, 2004. This was for graduate education. No Level III award has yet been officially approved for teacher education or for any other program for that matter although there are a few prospective candidates for the honor.
With the federation of the AACCUP and the Association of Local Colleges and UniversitiesCommission On Accreditation (ALCU-COA) to form the Network of Quality Assurance Agencies (NNQAA). accreditation among government schools has become a cohesive and more robust activity in statesupported institutions. AACCUP on the other hand is the only active member of the International Network of Quality Assurance Agencies for Higher Education, (INQAAHE) and remains the only accrediting agency in the country which sits at the Board on the Asia Pacific Quality Network.
With these latest developments brought to fruition by the officers and members of the Board of Trustees and the Executive Director, the whole AACCUP membership, specially the rank-and-file accreditors who work with the zeal of missionaries, braving all odds and inconveniences, nay risks of travel all over the country, manifest their justifiable pride in being considered an integral part of the efforts of the CHED to partially address the elusive search for quality assurance and in joining all the stakeholders of education to answer the call for lofty standards of education through accreditation.…