Dr. Benny A. Palma, President of Aklan State University went to China together with two other Commission on Higher Education (CHED) officials to represent the Philippines and as resource persons in the Seminar on China-ASEAN Workshop on Institutions of Higher Education Administration. The seminar was held on August 20 to September 3, 2006 at the Yunnan University in Kunming City, Yunnan Province, China.
The participants were higher education officials, university presidents, and deputy ministers of South East Asian Nations such as Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam and the Philippines. The workshop included studies on Higher Education Administration, discussion and exchange of experiences in managing Higher Education of China and the participants’ respective countries, and visits to universities and other areas of field study in China. He visited the ancient city of Lijiang, Xi’an City on the Yellow River Basin, the cradle of China civilization, and Beijing, the capital city of China where the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and Tianamen Square are located.
Dr. Palma, together with Directors Evelyn V. Mojica and Luisa S. Valencia of CHED presented the paper on Philippine Higher Education System to other participants. Their presentation focused on the initiative of CHED and the ASU in the area of e-Commerce. They gave an overview of how the educational system works, the scope of CHED’s responsibilities, and the present condition of the system including its strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Palma also presented the Sustainable Partnership for Energizing Entrepreneurship Development (SPEED) program, a partnership among government and non-government agencies and seven educational institutions including the ASU. He also highlighted the role of ASU in the implementation of the SPEED-BAC activities in the province of Aklan.
In an interview with Dr. Palma, he said that the curricula of China and South East Asian Nations, although designed to fit the industry, are market driven. "All Higher Education in the Philippines and other ASEAN countries are being corporatized. There is no free lunch, even in China, you have to pay your tuition fee," he added.
"It enriched my experiences that corporatization of the university, is a worldwide phenomenon." The Chinese government is also reducing its subsidy in universities, Palma stressed. It pays the salary of faculty and staff but to operate the university, it needs to have an internally generated income to support its operation. "Whereas in the Philippines, we are applying normative financing and at the moment, in the maintenance and operation, only 50 percent has been removed so far, and yet we are finding difficulties. But this is a process that we have to face."
Dr. Palma emphasized that the Philippines is the only country in the world which lacks two years of basic education and have no Junior and Senior High school. Thus, the two- year general education which should be taught in these years are included in the four-year curriculum for college students. Instead of having four years of professional courses like in China and the ASEAN, the Philippines only have two. So, they are more advance in mathematics, science and technology. Although, Filipinos can compete with them in terms of English competency and fluency, this advantage is fast eroding, a problem the system presently faces. "These are the real issues and concern of the Philippines education system that we have to confront in the global economy were education is market driven. The Philippines will be at the tail end in the future if these problems are not addressed."
Although, the seminar have reminded Dr. Palma of our educational system’s shortcomings and weaknesses in the Philippines, he still prefers our public school administrative system of Higher Education compared with China and other ASEAN countries. In the Philippines, the Board of Regents/Trustees and Administrators are given autonomy in their respective schools as provided by law, while in other ASEAN countries, they have to follow directives directly from their Ministry of Education. They must toe the line.
Palma emphasized the need for reform in our education system. According to him, in China, there are also unemployed university graduates because they are now very competitive. They do not usually hire college graduates, they prefer masters degree holders. Besides, their college graduates themselves felt they are not ready yet so they finish their master’s degree first before they look for work. Whereas, in the Philippines, bachelor’s degree holders felt that it is enough for them to find job. "The thing is, which most of the students would ignore to get master’s degree because they thought with their bachelor’s degree they can find job. This is not quite right. This is due to the lack of two years more of professional education compared with their counterpart in the global labor market. If one really wants to find job in the Philippines which needs immediate employment, get technical courses, that’s my advice."
On September 4, 2006, before he left China, Dr. Palma signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the Yunnan Agriculture University (YAU) represented by its President, Prof. Zhu Youyong and the ASU. The new MOA was based on the principle of mutual respect and development. As stated on their agreement, they envision; to establish inter-institution cooperation linkage; cooperation on institution, extension and scientific research; exchange of teaching materials and publications; organizing mutual visits every two years in order to promote further cooperation between YAU and the ASU; jointly organize short-term training courses or study visit group in both parties; and to do students’ exchange cooperation.
"All that I have observed and learned in China converge into one: that is we are now on utilization of knowledge product," Palma concluded. /MP mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org