Same difference

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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


IF the country’s bigger educational institutions are visibly in a frenzied pace, charge it to the looming Asean Integration in 2015.

Yes, that’s next year.

Meant to create a single competitive market of over 600 million people in all Asean member countries, the move is expected to create a free flow of goods, services, investment capital, skilled labor, tariff reductions, and mutual recognition of professional qualifications.

Naturally, there are concerns about how the newer members--Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam--can bring themselves up to speed with the other six Asean member countries. The results are nevertheless expected to benefit them sooner than later.

Reportedly, many businesses began preparing for this regional integration since three years back for the envisioned Asean Economic Community.

And where businesses go, so should the countries’ workforce component. Thus, the Asean Integration has tremendous impact on the education sector. The changing labor market will demand changing skills in industries and services.

Expectedly, educational institutions will need to prepare work skills that enable the workforce to hit the ground running wherever in the Asean they land.

Schools’ critical roles are various, including the recognition and support of the national vision, determination of content in the curriculums, the delivery of such content, the development of vocational and technical education and training, etcetera.

Still, while integration in 2015 is inevitable, schools must be deliberative and sure-footed in their approaches. Developing the so-called “Asean citizenship” is easier said than done. This, given the broad dimensions already existing within the Asean region-- cultural, political and economic.

While this is happening in the Asean Region, over there in the West, tertiary schools in the U.S. are debating whether the shift to proficiency-based curriculums is boon or bane.

Among the proponents is the University of Maine at Presque Isle. Explaining the bold move, the school’s president said all students must demonstrate competency skills before being allowed to earn a degree in any of its academic programs.

To be fully implemented within four years, the school will start with the faculty’s identification of and agreement on required concepts. The university will start by converting general education requirements, and then move to the majors.

Except for some differences in emphasis, Maine’s change to the proficiency-based curriculum finds resonance with other competency-based programs offered by other universities in New Hampshire and Wisconsin.

As starting point for proficiencies, these universities use the learning outcomes defined by the Association of American Colleges and Universities through its Liberal Education and America’s Promises (Leap) project launched in 2005.

These outcomes surfaced from studies of “authentic” assessments and other research-backed teaching practices identified by hundreds of institutions.

Are their graduates career- or job-ready on Day One after graduation? Integration in the Southeast, proficiencies in the West. Same end, different starting point. Same difference.

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 18, 2014.

Opinion

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