Globe, CHED Examine the Future of Higher Education
The disruption brought by the COVID-19 pandemic has given us a glimpse of the ‘new normal’ in the country’s education landscape. Higher education institutions are at the helm of revolutionizing and reshaping their curricula and learning system.
During the latest E-Skwela webinar: “Navigating COVID-19: Reshaping Higher Education in the Philippines,” authorities in the higher education sector agreed that flexible learning and technology-enabled teaching is the future the country is leading to. However, to smoothly transition, our speakers claim that it would require multi-stakeholder collaboration, relevant innovations, and intensive planning and research.
The latest E-skwela episode was hosted by Globe myBusiness in partnership with the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED), and the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA). The webinar stimulated a discussion on ideas and strategies from a panel of experts which included Dr. J. Prospero “Popoy” de Vera, Chairperson of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED); Dr. Caroline Marian “Doc Carol” S. Enriquez, Board member and President of the Philippine Association of Colleges and Universities (PACU); Atty. Joseph Noel “Atty Erap” M. Estrada, Managing Director and Counsel of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (COCOPEA); and Dr. Grace “Gigi” Javier Alfonso, Chancellor of the University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU). Previous E-skwela speaker Mark Arthur Payumo Abalos, Education Industry Lead at Globe myBusiness and Learning Technologies Scholar, returned as moderator.
Overhauling higher education
With more than 28 million students in the Philippines affected by the pandemic, it became necessary to safeguard the education sector through strategies that will ensure the continuity of learning. This includes exploring remote learning options, providing access to essential services for students and faculty, and preparation for the eventual safe reopening of schools.
This is the time where the idea of flexible learning must be fully optimized, said Dr. de Vera. According to the CHED Chairperson, there is much to learn from the schools and universities that have been able to successfully integrate online and offline learning mechanisms.
In the case of PACU, its member schools are opening summer classes to test out hybrid models of technology-enabled teaching and learning to prepare for continuity of school operations such as Learning Management Systems (LMS). “For now, continuing education is about leveraging available technology for a connected learning experience in this disconnected period,” shared Dr. Caroline Enriquez.
Meanwhile, Atty. Estrada emphasized that the new normal must be inclusive and accessible for all. “Offering online classes and open and distance education and learning is a matter of privilege—and all these regulations must now be adjusted. It is the guidelines that should adjust to the times, not the other way around," he added.
Support for the academe
One way to help higher education systems adjust and adopt flexible learning is through reinforcement of existing policies and schemes that can financially and academically assist schools and its stakeholders.
For Atty. Estrada, there is a need to expand application of the law to give further assistance as the education sector is transitioning to its new normal. On the part of COCOPEA, the council has been advocating for the expansion of the Tertiary Education Subsidy Law to include students affected by the ECQ, Teachers Salary Subsidy for higher education teachers, and social amelioration packages for school personnel. Moreover, existing laws such as the Open Distance Learning Act that promotes remote learning to deliver quality tertiary education needs to be further implemented and enhanced.
Another solution is by making funding and subsidy accessible to everyone, said Dr. de Vera. Institutions such as CHED are offering its United Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) that houses a one billion student loan, while other banking institutions also offer loans.
For many colleges and universities, connectivity is still their main issue according to Dr. Enriquez. PACU recommends that telecommunication companies provide prepaid data and special internet kits or give discounted rates for teachers and students for easier adaptation.
Learning solutions and opportunities to leverage on
As for best practices that higher learning institutions can adapt, Dr. Grace Alfonso emphasized that open and distance e-learning (ODeL) has always been an alternative option to the customary classroom-based education. Since 2007, UPOU has been teaching online through ODeL, hinging on access, equity, and sustainability while leveraging on technology and accessible learning tools.
Dr. Alfonso further shared how educators alike have been sharing practices through massive online communities or MOCs to help onboard teachers through sharing of ideas. UPOU is also offering free online classes on distance learning and developing a flexible learning course design.
Moving forward, the higher education sector sees potential in utilizing new technologies to make higher education more accessible & adaptive to emerging landscapes, as well as strengthening the capacity building capabilities of institutions.
“We are issuing a memorandum for proposals from higher education institutions to do capacity building programs for their faculty for flexible learning,” said Dr. de Vera. “The shift to online is not done easily. It requires a change of mindset among schools on how we else can teach our students and the support of other institutions with the capacity to bridge learning and connectivity gaps.”
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