By Commissioner Nora S. Ricafort, Ph.D.
(This paper was presented during the First UNESCO Media Breakfast Forum, held at Ristorante La Dolce Fontana on May 17, 2007. Prof. Ricafort is a commissioner of the Commission on Higher Education. Members of the FAP guilds and their families may find this paper of interest.—JC)
These words life-long learning and ladderized education system are so much used nowadays in the field of education. Please allow me to clearly define what life-long learning is vis-à-vis equivalency and ladderization.
t is the sustainable development of a person from womb to tomb: which is from birth (infancy) to maturity (childhood), post maturity (adolescence) and adulthood towards being self-sufficient. As how Ambassador Preciosa Soliven puts it, these are “learning to be, learning to learn, learning to work and learning to live.”
We all would agree that this new millennium has brought many challenging changes by leaps and bounds, most especially in the area of education. As how BillGates described this so called transition, he stated that the 1980s was all about quality; the 1990s was about re-engineering; and the 2000s onwards was all about velocity, i.e. how quickly business will be transacted, how fast we learn, think and do. The rise of a knowledge society brings the most influential changes in the global environment. At present, we at the higher education realize the need to produce graduates who will not only survive but also thrive in borderless economy. These changes require re-thinking of the educational programs and thrusts and the full development of lifelong learning programs. The concept of lifelong learning includes formal education, non-formal education and informal education, which we acquire not from the four corners of a classroom but from the experiences we gather from our day to day work, as we climb the ladder of success.
We are now in a highly competitive world where macro thinking is being utilized with information and communication technology playing a key role in both the economic development and government functions. The scope and depth of information we gather afect the daily decisions we make from the simplest household chore, to the more complex world of governance, academe and business. Indeed, technology has changed for the better the way we work and live. This unprecedented advancement in science and technology has brought significant changes in the landscape of higher education.
In keeping pace with these developments and challenges, higher education is required to play a critical role to directly respond to these emerging realities. These brought about the increasing demand for equiivalency and accreditation of knowledge, skills and competencies with the provision of lifelong learning opportunities. In short, what counts now is what a person knows and what he can do. The school where he/she graduated or trained becomes a secondary element. Multi-skilling and the ability to shift competencies are the requirements of the current times.
With this in mind, the ralization of Executive Order 358—the ladderized education system—and the implementation of Executive Order 330—the expanded tertiary education equivalency and accreditation program (ETEEAP) in all higher education institutions—are the key programs needed in the development of our youth. You must have noticed that these two executive orders were issued at the time when development and identification of human resources was critical and much needed for reegional and national development. These were also in response to the government’s 10 point agenda, more particularly education for all; job generation; and poverty alleviation by creating 6 to 10 million jobs by the year 2010 and expanding opportunities to the youth. While it is true that Filipinos have to find their respective niche in the Asia-Pacific regions and international market of competitive labor, it is equally important that the Filipinos have to possess the necessary qualifications for work and employment to meet these challenges, in order to imporve their quality of life. Executice Order 330, which was issued in1994, is a significant piece of legal intruction allowing qualified undergraduates to earn equivalency and accreditation for credit toward an academic degree (masters or doctorate degree) from authorized higher education institutitons. This is in response to the demand and need to provide individuals with proven competence, access to opportunities that will prepare them fpr higher value jobs required in achieving global competitiveness, CHED has deputized higher education institutions to implement the ETEEAP, conferring degrees to deserving individuals based on demonstratd competence, learnings and competencies gained from experiences. Likewise, CHED has established a mechanism to safeguard the effectiveness of distance education as an alternative learning system (ALS) by requiring that only HEIS with programs accredited at Level II ands III by any CHED-recognized accrediting body can offer distance eeducation, Perhaps the commission could be afforded with some leverage when it demands that whatever gains achieved from extending access should not compromise the prescribed set of standards of quality and excellence.
A sage once said, “Whether we are conscious or not eduation is the force that will, more than any other, shape the world’s future. This statement underscores the great mission placed on every eduational institutions in this century. A constant need for development and progress had characterized the history of civilization. Underdeveloped and developing countries strive for development; and even developed countries seek further development with the aim of attaining even more and greater progress, This has been the tale of human civilication. And we would not have it any other way for there can be no progress without development.
However, now in the first decade of the 21st century and as we proceed fruther in this age of advanced scientific and technological knowledge, there is an urgent need to look at the way development has taken place and is taking place. Development and progress have come at a price and in many cses, the price being paid is too high. The signs have been there and it is time for us to ask if the end justifies the means or whether there are more acceptable means available in the name of development and progress.
The Brundtland Commission of 1987 defined “Sustainable Development” as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The responsibility for sustainable development is not the sole responsibility of just some governments, departments and agencies, certain organizations or committed individuals. It is the responsibilitry of all—governments, private corporations and the ordinary person in the street. It is because of this need for full participation and efforts by the citizens of the world that we, ladies and gentlemen, are here today. And with all these development programs at hand, no Filipino can truly say that he has no hope for employment and a better life or a nore secured future. Lielong learning and ladderized education programs are the hope for our people. CHED and TESDA hve built the ladder for our youth and our people for them to climb on; the rest is up to each individual, depending on their rerspective ability and desire to move up the ladder when they will it.
The world is bustling with opportunities and only the well-prepared can take them. It is therefore important that we give more focus on our human resource development efforts through lifelong learning to upscale the competence of our people and reap the benefits that come. Together in our respective endeavour, let us all meet these challenges at hand as we prepare our people and ourselves for these opportunities. With our concerted efforts, we can all make it. As one would always say, the future lies in our hands! With our forward looking attitude and great determination for success, together let us move forward and grab the opportunities in our midst. Let us be missionaries for progress. Mabuhay! Good day to all!