CEBU CITY -- Colleges and universities must collaborate with industries, improve their curriculum and faculty development, and provide opportunities for students to be exposed to international standards and practices if they want their graduates to be competitive in the Asean community.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) across the country were urged to improve the quality of education and comply with local and international standards during the Asean Academic Summit held in Cebu City on Tuesday.
Dr. Nantana Gajaseni, executive director of the Asean University Network (AUN), said the Philippine Government and HEIs in the Philippines are on the right track with their education reforms, highlighting the bold step of implementing the K to 12 basic education program.
The challenge, she said, is to sustain the reforms and speed up implementation to improve the quality of education here, in time for the Asean integration next year. Asean stands for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
“All 10 countries are in the reform process. Some countries may already be done; some are still starting with their reforms. So whoever finishes first, that country will get to benefit most from the regional integration, that’s why we have to speed up our reforms and the way to reform is they have to emphasize on the quality of education,” Gajaseni told Sun.Star Cebu.
During the summit, she reminded some 150 representatives of different HEIs across the country of their role in helping prepare the students face the challenges of integration. They must also produce graduates who are employable wherever they want to work.
Collaboration with industries to identify the skills the latter needs from graduates is crucial in developing a curriculum that will help students land jobs as soon as they graduate, said Gajaseni.
While it is important for the HEIs to focus on competencies that Filipinos excel in, such as English and science and technology, Gajaseni said other competencies must also be developed to equip students to be ready for employment.
Students should also be trained in other competencies and sub-skills, such as linguistics and information technology, and should have an analytical mind and leadership skills. They should also be trained on decision-making.
The AUN also urged HEIs to start implementing student exchange programs that will allow their students to take some subjects or courses abroad, which will widen their perspective and expose them to multi-cultural environments.
“These things will give the graduates added value, and in effect, make them more ready for the job market,” she said.
The AUN is a body formed during the Fourth Asean Summit, whose mandate is to strengthen the existing network of cooperation among universities in the Asean region and beyond. It is a policy-oriented body in higher education in the Asean region.
It has 30 universities in the Asean countries as members, including the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University and the De La Salle University in the Philippines.
For its part, the Commission on Higher Education (Ched) presented on Tuesday the education reforms that were started to improve the quality of education in the HEIs.
Among other things, it has revised the general education curriculum, reviewed graduate and transnational programs and has collaborated with the industries to specify competencies and teacher training.
Lawyer Lily Freida Milla, director of the International Affairs Services of Ched, said that mechanisms for quality assurance are also in place to make sure that the quality of education is at par with those of our neighboring countries.
“It is a continuing process but we believe that with the reforms the commission has undertaken, eventually we will have a more capable, better qualified HEIs whose level of quality would have also improved and therefore we can expect to have graduates who can meet the challenges of regional integration,” she said.
As long as the HEIs comply with the standards set by Ched in terms of curriculum and faculty development, Milla said the schools will be able to produce competitive graduates.
“The quality and the standards, even just in keeping with Ched’s standards, that’s the first challenge… For example, the faculty, we really need to improve on quality and capacity of teachers. A lot still don’t have the required educational background,” she lamented.
She also asked the HEIs to implement and sustain the reforms that the government started and attain the quality assurance set by Ched. (Sun.Star Cebu)