Applicability of 'Charter Schools' in Philippine Tertiary Education

Article excerpt

CHARTER schools are gaining momentum in the United States. These are publicly funded schools which pledge better academic results and unencumbered by many of the regulations governing ordinary public schools. (Muray Thomas 2004)

The objective is to furnish educators with the freedom to create novel ways of organizing teaching in an effort to yield better student performance and greater parent satisfaction than that typically produced by regular public schools. Operators of Charter Schools in the US were granted such freedom by committing themselves in the form of a written charter to a variety of conditions that they predicted would produce superior learning outcomes. (Ibid).

According to Thomas, Ray Budde, a New England educator, is credited with having named and defined the concept of Charter Schools when in the early 1970s he suggested that small groups of teachers be given contracts or charters by their local school boards to explore new approaches to instruction. The president of the second largest educators union in the US, the American Federation of Teachers, took great interest in the concept and gave it great publicity.

Charter Schools are non-sectarian schools. The "Charter" which is the legal instrument behind these schools is a performance contract which openly indicates in detail the schools mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment and ways to measure success. As such, Charter Schools are accountable to their funding source to produce academic results in accordance with the Charter contract.

Underlying the concept of Charter Schools is the fact that they exercise increased autonomy in return for accountability to parents, students and the community at large. Among the intentions of Charter School legislation is to increase opportunities for learning and access to quality education, create choices for parents and students, provide a system of educational accountability, and encourage innovative teaching practices.

The first Charter School law was passed by the Minnesota legislature in 1991. Statistics show that by 2003, forty states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, had adopted Charter School laws. Arizona has 464 Charter Schools, California has 428, Florida has 227, Texas has 221 and Michigan has 196.

In the United States, so far, the success of Charter Schools has reportedly been mixed. There were schools which operated smoothly and reported higher student test scores than those in ordinary public schools. Other schools were found to provide inadequate facilities, poorly prepared teachers and misused funds. When such shortcomings resulted in substandard student performance, it was alleged that Charter Schools became unwilling to accept students with learning problems.

Nonetheless, since the US largest teachers union, the National Education Association, endorsed the concept of Charter Schools, the US Federal government enthusiastically advocated and supported Charter Schools.

In 1997, US President Bill Clinton called for the creation of 3,000 Charter Schools by 2002. That same year, US President George W. Bush proposed $200 million to fund Charter Schools and another $100 million for a new Credit Enhancement for Charter School facilities. With federal support, Charter Schools appear irreversible in the United States.

The quality of tertiary level education in the Philippines appears to be highly strained. In view of national and global needs for certain professions, schools for such professions have proliferated all over the country with or without a college or university base. In theory, all have permits to operate. Parents and students have a wide choice of schools and naturally various factors affect their decisions, e.g. competitive school fees, proximity to residence, curricular programs, and hopefully, quality of training. The outputs of schools are as varied as their numbers.

Likewise, with short-term courses to produce individuals with required expertise in response to demands in various parts of the world. …