Originally published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 3, 2016)
FAR EASTERN University (FEU), one of the leading academic institutions in the Philippines, is not just expanding its footprint in the education sector.
It also wants to change the game by pioneering an advanced learning management scheme that complements the visions of the K-12 program.
After acquiring an 80 percent stake in Roosevelt College Inc. (RCI) for P808.48 million this year, the 88-year-old institution is pushing for a reform in the country’s education system through its “learning outcomes approach (LOA),” a brainchild of FEU president Michael Alba.
LOA is a process of improving teaching and learning through an in-depth analysis of the students’ critical thinking, self-directed learning, moral character and civic engagement.
In an interview with INQUIRER, Alba says the holistic approach of the LOA goes hand-in-hand with the K-12 program in fostering competent and skilled members of the workforce since it focuses on students’ soft skills such as critical thinking.
Alba says the new system that has been undergoing field-testing in the university’s primary to tertiary schools since last year is projected to be fully implemented in the coming years.
Alba says he wants to share it with the entire country if proven successful. “We’re sharing it for free. The government should not just rely on the public school system to improve education because the ideas are coming more from the private sector.”
Alba, primarily an economist, also sits as Chair of the Commission on Higher Education’s (CHEd) technical committee for economics and also a member of CHEd’s technical panel for social science and communication.
Through LOA, Alba aspires to reshape education into an “experience good.”
“Education is an experience good … We have to get the students engaged because it makes a world of difference,” he says. Experience good, in economic parlance, means the value of a product is known after it has been consumed.
Far from the existing approaches of the Department of Education (DepEd) and CHEd, the system involves a redesigned curriculum map and regression analysis.
A curriculum map is a tool used for collecting and recording information related to the educational program. Eventually, the teaching and learning processes employed for each subject area and grade level are assessed.
“The mark of quality education is not necessarily technolo- gy, it’s the curriculum map. A curriculum map is really the important thing because it ensures the complete delivery of the curriculum,” he says.
The curriculum map under LOA is classified into four levels: Essential map ( which is based on the DepEd- required structure that is commonly used), consensus map ( contextualized by each school for use in their campuses), projected map ( which contains the schedule of the learning units), and diary map ( which is a monthly documentation where teachers could interact with one another and discuss problems and solutions encountered in teaching specific subjects to student groups).
Under the LOA, a pretest for students at the beginning and a post-test at the end of every academic year are conducted. Results are interpreted immediately thereafter through regression analysis. Regression analysis means factors such as personal, family background, sectioning, teacher’s competency, intelligence quotient (IQ) and demographic variables affecting the performance of each student are identified and addressed so adjustments to the teaching methods can be done.
Alba believes the new scheme is more efficient than the current ones. He wants to do away with the National Achievement Test (NAT) because it “is not standardized and it’s not comparable across years.”
Alba claims the reforms will allow students to learn better since the curriculum will be tweaked accordingly.
“The question is: How do you engage the students? Engagement is very important. You may have the best curriculum but you may not get the interest of the students and it will all be for naught. I’m leaning toward technology,” he says.
To complement the reforms, the university is planning to invest more on technology-based learning.
“The only missing component now [in LOA] is technology. We are actually creating an app (application). I’m asking our tech school to develop a curriculum map app, which I hope we can market to other schools,” he says.
The web-based app will allow teachers to easily access curriculum maps.
“We just don’t follow textbooks. With technology, teachers can deconstruct topics and pick which teaching method is the best,” he says.
Alba admits some teachers resisted the utilization of the maps during field tests last year, insisting to—literally, going by the book [or textbook].
“They had a hard time writing the learning unit. They said, ‘We could have just followed the textbook.’ But following the textbook is not quality education. They have to do more to make a difference. If they don’t see the value in the reform, they have to get out,” he says.
Another problem seen hampering the implementation of LOA is the high cost of technology.
“We’re [still] hesitant about technology because it will [bring up] costs. We have to figure out whether it makes sense to our market and whether parents will say ‘yes’ to it,” he says.
He admits the reforms may not be viable for now. Still, he hopes the Duterte administration will make education its top priority.
He says FEU, which ended 2015 with consolidated assets of around P10 billion and a student population of over 30,000, welcomes partnerships with private companies in developing disruptive technologies through LOA.