Commission on Higher Education

Consumer info not commandos needed

It was reported a while back that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) would go “commando” on institutions producing sub-standard outcomes for their students. The newly appointed CHED Chairwoman Patricia Licuanan was quoted as saying

(w)hen I [was] appointed to the CHEd, he (referring to President Aquino) said, ‘Dr. Licuanan, close down all these substandard nursing schools,’ …So, how clear can you get, right?

Of particular concern to the chairperson are institutions “that were very, very strong with the previous administration.” As graduation season approaches, many programs that are poorly performing (i.e. have failed to bring at least 30% of their graduating class above the line in board exams) particularly in the nursing field, will be targeted by a “crack team” to be formed by the Commission.

While the operators of such schools are liable for their poor performing students, the Commission by implication is also at fault for issuing permits to them to begin with. Either their criteria for approving these programs must be re-examined or somewhere in the organization, some form of graft and corruption exists and needs to be dealt with.

Which makes the fulfillment of this ‘mandate’ quite doubtful. Promises to close down opportunistic higher education providers have been made in the past. Cases tend to get tied up with the courts as temporary restraining orders (TROs) are issued that maintain the status quo. Operators find their way of ingratiating themselves with the authorities and the powers that be in the mean time. In the end it is a losing battle as agencies suffer more losses than wins.

Rather than waging a costly war in the courts with school operators, why not allow public access to information to bring about informed choice?

As an alternative, it would be more cost-effective and constructive for the CHED to publish information regarding the performance of schools in print and on the internet. Such information is already available, but not readily accessible. Empowering the public with information to make an informed choice would enforce a kind of market discipline.

While they are at it, the CHED should also take the lead role in publishing career information regarding future labor demand for various professions. For this it might have to team up with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). The information should cover occupational and industry data and the qualifications both in higher education and vocational training that will be required to meet the prospective demand. Certain vocations or occupations that are expected to be of high demand among employers should be promoted, while those of low demand should be discouraged. To do this quantitative economic modeling of labor markets as well as consultations with industry and employer groups must first take place.

The CHED could easily get side-tracked with the issue of closing down schools when it should be more focused on the larger picture of matching skills with demand. Rather than waging a costly war in the courts with school operators, why not allow public access to information to bring about informed choice? The tools and information are already at their finger tips.

Rather than taking a ‘shot-gun’ approach to employment, training and higher education policy, the relevant agencies need to work together to work out a long-term, comprehensive solution to our labor market requirements.