Philippine Educational System

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                             By: Commissioner Nona S. Ricafort,Ph.D.
                                 Commission on Higher Education


This paper presents the Philippine higher education system-its current trends and
developments. The following topics are discussed:

       (1) Governance of Philippine Higher Education
                 Classification of Philippine Higher Education
                 Public Universities and Colleges
                 Private Higher Education Institutions

       (2) Strategic Goals for Philippine Higher Education Institutions
                  Quality and Excellence
                  Relevance and Responsiveness
                  Access and Equity
                  Efficiency and Effectiveness

       (3) Current Trends and Reforms in Higher Education
                 From improving access and equity
                 - Ladderized Education Program (LEP)
                 - Expanded Tertiary Education, Equivalency and Accreditation
                 Program (ETEEAP)

                  For improving quality
                  - Centers of Excellence (COEs)/Center of Development (CODs)
                  - Accreditation of Programs
                  - Institutional Monitoring And Evaluation For Quality Assurance
                  - Transnational Education (TNE)
                      * Academic Mobility
                  For improving efficiency and effectiveness
                  - Autonomous and Deregulated Private Higher Education
                        (A/D PHEIs)


Higher education in contemporary Philippines is guided by philosophical orientations that
put primacy on pursuit and formation of knowledge, skills, values and attitudes necessary
to make the Filipino a productive member of the society. It is geared towards the pursuit
of better quality of life for all Filipinos. Philippine higher education also endeavors to
harness productive capacity of the country’s human resource base towards international
competitiveness. Philippine higher education goals include the following:

       Provision of undergraduate and graduate education with international standards of
       quality and excellence;
       Generation and diffusion of knowledge in a broad range of disciplines relevant
       and responsive to the dynamically changing domestic and international
       Provision of educational access for deserving and qualified Filipinos to higher
       education opportunities; and
       Optimization of social, institutional and individual returns and benefits derived
       from the utilization of higher education resources.


Higher education is at the apex of the Philippine educational system. College students
enter higher education normally at the age of 16 to 18 years old. Students come from the
basic education level for about ten years to include six years of elementary education and
four years of secondary education.

The structure of the Philippine educational system is shown in Figure 1.

                                       FIGURE 1

The administration and supervision of the Philippine higher education rests on the
Commission on Higher Education or CHED as mandated by the Higher Education Act of
1994, while basic education is with the Department of Education or DepED as stipulated
in the TechVoc with TESDA and Basic Education Act of 2001.

Classification of Philippine Higher Education Institutions

       Colleges & Universities - as of December 31, 2007 (Main Campus)

       Public [State Universities & Colleges (SUCs),                     196
       Local Colleges & University (LCUs) and Other
       Government Schools]
       Private                                                          1,514
       TOTAL                                                            1,710

                                       FIGURE 2

Higher education institutions in the Philippines numbered one thousand seven hundred
and ten (1,710) distributed as follows: (a) state universities and colleges (SUCs) 110; (b)
local colleges and universities (LCUs) 70; (c) other government schools- 16; and (d)
private colleges and universities (PHEIs)-1,514.

Public Universities and Colleges

State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) are funded by the national government and are
governed by their own charters. There are increasingly rising LCUs, whose funds are
coming from their local government and whose policies and programs are governed by
elected Local government officials.

SUCs charters ensure their autonomy and academic freedom. They are empowered to
develop their own curricula, introduce competitive institutional programs, and award
their own degrees. CHED ensures that SUCs adhere to the Higher Education
Modernization Act (Republic Act 8292), which provides among others, the uniform
composition of Governing Boards of SUCs with CHED as the Chairman.

Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs)

 PHEIs are owned and administered by private individuals, groups or organizations. They
are classified as sectarian and non-sectarian. Sectarian schools are usually non-stock,
non-profit educational institutions owned and operated by religious orders (Catholic and
Christian schools), while non-sectarian refers to those operated by private corporations,
which are not affiliated to any religious organizations. Majority of the non-sectarian
schools are stock corporations and only a few are non-stock, non-profit corporations,
while a number of them are registered as foundations.

Private higher education institutions experience some degree of freedom, only when their
programs are given CHED recognition and when they have attained accreditation by
FAAP. Recognition of academic programs is awarded to PHEIs who complied with the
minimum requirements prescribed by CHED. About eighty (80) PHEIs were granted
autonomous and deregulated status of the Commission.


The Commission on Higher Education is the governing body covering both public and
private higher education institutions as well as degree-granting programs in all tertiary
educational institutions in the Philippines. It was established in May 18, 1994 through
Republic Act 7722 or the Higher Education Act of 1994. The Commission, pursuant to its
Medium Term Higher Education Development and Investment Plan (MTHEDIP) 2001-
2004 and its successor, the Medium-Term Plan for the Development of Philippine Higher
Education (MTDPHE) 2005-2010 had set four (4) strategic goals for higher education in
the country, namely: quality and excellence, relevance and responsiveness, access and
equity, and efficiency and effectiveness.

Access and Equity

1.      Quality and Excellence – Responding to the requirement of the
internationalization of higher education; upgrading of HEI programs and standards
towards global competitiveness; providing a program of assistance to prepare students
entering the higher education system.

Major programs and projects are: international benchmarking to upgrade policies,
standards and guidelines (PSGs), competency-based curricula, centers of excellence
(COEs) and centers of development (CODs), autonomous and deregulated HEIs,
technical panels (technical committees, task forces, technical working groups), regional
quality assessment team (RQAT), CHED-PRC joint efforts, accreditation (FAAP,
NNQAA), faculty development project (FACDEV), institutional quality assurance
though monitoring and evaluation (IQuaME), strengthening proficiency in English of
college teachers (Project SPELL), evaluation of graduate education (Project EGEP).

2.      Relevance and Responsiveness – Responding to the diverse needs of a dynamic
society; ensuring labor market responsiveness of higher education; strengthening the
research and extension functions of HEIs.

Major programs and projects are: national higher education research agenda (NHERA),
Republica Awards, curriculum re-engineering and development, integrated research
utilization program (IRUP), technology commercialization and corporatization, graduate
tracer studies (Project GTS), utilization of information and communication technology,
academe-industry linkages/summits, retooling and lifelong learning.

3.     Access and Equity – Responding to building a just society; improvement of access
of deserving students to quality higher education programs; expanding alternative
modalities of higher education delivery systems.

Major programs and projects are: prebaccalaureate bridging program (Project ENRICH),
strengthening outside learning programs, ladderization program, interfacing of TESDA
and CHED programs (EO 358), Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency and
Accreditation Program (ETEEAP, EO 330), student financial assistance programs
(scholarships, student loan schemes), transnational education.

4.     Efficiency and Effectiveness – Responding to resource constraints; rationalizing of
public HEIs; strengthening MIS and improving labor-market information.

Major programs and projects are: complementation and networking between and among
public and private HEIs, strengthening institutional capability, SUCs income generating
projects; normative financing in budget allocation, typology of HEIs, capability building
of CHED personnel, higher education development center (HEDC)


The Commission on Higher Education, since its establishment, has aspired to make
education in the Philippines global and at par with the educational standards of highly
industrialized countries. This it does by constantly reviewing the curricular offerings in
the various disciplines in an attempt to make these increasingly responsive to national
goals and the international quest for quality and relevance. Cross-border education has
developed recently with the advent of joint degrees, twinning and distance education. The
Commission supports and enhances these initiatives but without sacrificing the value-
dimension involved in these.

Higher education has always had an important international dimension, and all these
scientific and technological advances ushered in new modes of learning, greater mobility
and global competition creating a new world for learning and teaching.


1. Executive Order 358 – Ladderized Education Program (LEP). Executive Order (EO)
358 “Institutionalizing a Ladderized Interface between Technical-Vocational Education
and Training (TVET) and Higher Education (HE)” stipulates that the unified and
articulation mechanism by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority
(TESDA) constitutes the following:

              Credit transfer which involves recognition and carrying forward of credits
              constituting overlapping learning from as tech-voc program to degree
              program or vice versa
              Post TVET bridging program
              System of enhanced equivalency
              Adoption of a Ladderized curricula
              Modularized Program approach
              Competency-based programs
              Network of dual sector Colleges and Universities
              Accreditation of prior learning

In the field of nursing a LADDERIZED education program means two (2) years of Tech-
Voc courses (e.g. care-giving etc) and then two (2) more years of Nursing Proper. In
Engineering, it is two (2) years of Tech-Voc (drafting, surveying) and three to four years
of Engineering Proper. In HRM, it is three years of Tech-Voc and one year to one-and-a-
half years of HRM Proper. Figure 2 presents illustration of ladderized scheme.

                                        FIGURE 3

The Ladderized Education is a mechanism that allows students and workers progression
between technical vocational educational and training (TVET) and higher education (HEI)
or college and vice-versa.

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) and the
Commission on Higher Education (CHED) in consultation with the concerned sectors
and stakeholders shall develop and implement a unified national qualifications
framework that establishes equivalency pathways and access ramps for a ladderized
system allowing for easier transitions and progressions between TVET and HE.

The framework shall include as far as practicable but no limited to, the following unified
qualification and articulation mechanisms: national system of credit transfer, post-TVET
bridging programs, and system of enhanced equivalency. Adoption of ladderized
curricula/programs, modularized program approach, competency-based programs,
network of dual-sector colleges or universities, accreditation recognition of prior learning.

Ladderized education opens opportunities for career and educational advancement to
students and workers. Specifically, it intendeds to create seamless and borderless
education and training system that will allow mobility in terms of flexible entry and exit
into the educational system.

At present, LEP is implemented through one or a combination of the following:
conventional ladderization, transfer credit and embedment.

2. Centers of Excellence (COE) and Centers of Development (COD). CHED is
strengthening the higher education institutions not only by instituting reform and
monitoring quality standards through program accreditation, but also by awarding
incentives and titles of COE and COD. Programs which have consistently exhibited
excellent qualities in instruction, research and extensions are evaluated and rated. For
programs which meet highest level of quality, a Center of Excellence (COE) title is
awarded and a financial assistance is given to further improve the programs and activities
of the field of study. Centers of Development (CODs) are programs that have the
potentials to be the Centers of Excellence. Some selection criteria for COE and CODs
include the following:

       Instructional Quality (Accreditation, faculty qualification and educational

       Research and Development
       Extension, Outreach and Linkages
       Institutional Qualifications

                   Discipline                     COE          COD          TOTAL

  Science and Math Education                        18           22            40

  Business and Management Education                 2            8             10

  Teacher Education                                 14           5             19

  Information Technology Education                  31           9             40

                                       FIGURE 4

At present, there are 109 academic programs awarded as CHED COEs and CODs in the
fields of Science and Mathematics, Business and Management Education, Teacher
Education and Information Technology Education. These programs have proven
excellence in teaching, research and instructions all over the country. CHED has
awarded them with scholarship grants, faculty development programs, laboratory and
library upgrading and support for extension and instructional materials development.

3. Autonomous and Deregulated Status. CHED also recognizes the enormous
contributions of private higher education institutions in the growth and development of
tertiary education in the Philippines in 2001. CHED rationalized supervision of PHEIs
by introducing autonomous and deregulated status. Autonomous institutions are those
with Level III accreditation of programs, outstanding performance of graduates in
licensure examinations, and a long tradition of integrity and untarnished reputation in the
field of higher education. Deregulated status is of a lower category but leading to
autonomous status. Both of these types of institutions are free from normal monitoring
and evaluation of CHED offices. In total, from 2001 to 2003, the Commission has
granted 40 private HEIs with autonomy status and 44 with deregulated status across the

The grant of autonomous and deregulated status to deserving private colleges and
universities is thus aimed at recognizing private HEIs that have consistently shown
exemplary performance in the provision of education, research and extension services, at
the same time rationalizing supervision of private HEIs through progressive deregulation.

4. Expanded Tertiary Education, Equivalency And Accreditation (ETEEAP)

The Expanded Tertiary Education Equivalency And Accreditation Program (ETEEAP) is
an educational assessment scheme which recognizes knowledge, skills and prior learning
obtained by individuals from non-formal and informal education experiences. The
mandate to implement the program is embodied in executive order 330 entitled “adopting
the expanded tertiary education equivalency and accreditation program as an integral part
of the educational system and designating the commission on higher education as the
authority responsible for its implementation” issued by President Fidel V. Ramos on may
13, 1996 as an offshoot of the recommendation of the first employment summit in
September 1995.

By establishing equivalency competence standards and a comprehensive assessment
system employing written test, interview, skills demonstration and other creative
assessment methodologies, higher education institutions may administer competency –
based evaluation. A panel of assessors is convened to determine candidates’ knowledge,
skills, and attitudes relevant to a particular discipline, and the appropriate, convenient
competency enhancement program. The candidate consequently earns the equivalent
credits and the appropriate certificate or degree awarded by the deputized higher
education institutions.

5. Voluntary Accreditation. To attain standards of quality over and above CHED
minimum requirements, CHED supports the voluntary accreditation of programs by
different accrediting bodies. Presently, there are five (5) accrediting bodies namely:
Association of Christian Schools, Colleges and Universities Inc., the Philippine
Accrediting Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities (PAASCU), the Philippine
Association of Colleges and Universities Commission on Accreditation (PACU-COA),
Accrediting Agency of Chartered Colleges and Universities in the Philippines (AACUP)
and the ALCU Commission on Accreditation. The accreditation process involved 4
major steps, namely: 1) Institutional Self-Survey; 2) Preliminary Visit; 3) Formal Survey;
4) Awarding of a decision by the governing board of the accrediting agency concerned,
Federation of Accrediting Agencies of the Philippines (FAAP) for private HEIs and
National Network of Quality Accrediting Agencies (NNQAA) for public HEIs.

Accreditation is a process for assessing and upgrading the educational quality of higher
education programs through self-evaluation and peer judgment. It leads to the grant of
accredited status by an accrediting agency and provides public recognition and
information on educational quality (CMO # 1 Series 2005)

5.1 Accreditation Levels [CHED Memorandum Order (CMO) # 1, Series 2005]

Candidate Status: for programs which have undergone a preliminary survey visit and are
certified by the federation/network as being capable of acquiring accredited status within
two years;

Level I accredited status: for programs which have been granted initial accreditation after
a formal survey by the accrediting agency and duly certified by the accreditation/network,
effective for a period of three years;

Level II re-accredited status: for programs which have been re-accredited by the
accrediting agency and duly certified by the accreditation federation/network, effective
for a period of three or five years based on the appraisal of the accrediting agency;

Level III re-accredited status: for programs which have been re-accredited and have met
the additional criteria/guidelines set by the federation/network for this level.

       Only programs that have been granted “clean” re-accreditation, meaning that no
progress report or interim visit is required within the five-year accreditation period, may
apply for Level III status.

Level IV accredited status: accredited programs which are highly respected as very high
quality academic programs in the Philippines and with prestige and authority comparable
to similar programs in excellent foreign universities.

       These programs must have met the following additional criteria/guidelines:

       Excellent outcomes in-

       Research as seen in the number, scope and impact if scholarly publications in
       referred national and international journals;
       Teaching and learning as proven in excellent performance of graduates and
       continuing assessment of student achievement;
       Community service and the impact of contributions to the economic and social
       upliftment, on both regional and national levels;
       Evidence of international linkages and consortia;
       Well developed planning processes which support quality assurance mechanisms.

6. Institutional Monitoring And Evaluation For Quality Assurance (IQUAME)- CMO
# 15 Series of 2005 on May 25, 2005 institutionalized IQUAME as a monitoring and
assessment mechanism towards quality assurance of higher education institutions in their

Quality assurance is a process through which higher education institution guarantees to
itself and its stakeholders that its teaching, learning and other services consistently reach
a standard of excellence. Such assurance is a necessary goal for the institution itself.
Increasingly, it is also necessary for publicly funded institutions to be accountable, and
provide assurances, to the society and the state that they are delivering the services for
which they are funded, thus ensuring that they are providing value for money. Therefore
quality assurance incorporates all the processes internal to the institution, whereby quality
is evaluated, maintained and improved. (Duff et al 2000).

The UNESCO defines quality assurance as an all-embracing term referring to an ongoing,
continuous process of evaluating (assessing, monitoring, guaranteeing, maintaining and
improving) the quality of a higher education systems, institutions or programmes.

The overall approach to monitoring and evaluation is developmental. CHED will work
with institutions to assist them in strengthening their management of academic and
administrative processes so that they are better able to achieve their educational
objectives. Where there are serious weaknesses, or failures to comply with conditions
attached to permits or recognitions, CHED expects remedial action to be taken by higher
education institutions. Notwithstanding this, review teams will approach their
engagements with institutions in a spirit of cooperation, and with the intention of
supporting developments and strengthening academic management.

CHED adopted IQUAME as an outcome-based approach to evaluation because of its
great potential to increase both the effectiveness of the quality assurance system, and the
quality and efficiency of higher education institutions. Particularly in professional fields,
there is a need to demonstrate the achievement of outcomes that match international
norms. Through IQUAME, HEIs are categorized as A(r), A(t), B and C.

6.1 Categories of Philippine HEIs under IQUAME

Based on the IQUAME assessment higher education institutions in the country may be
categorized into A(r), A(t), B or C.

Category A (r). These are institutions that undertake the full range of higher education
functions, including research. Such institutions undertake advanced and extensive
researches and will normally be evaluated against all the indicators in the framework.

         To be placed in Category A (r) an institution would have to achieve scores of at
least 3 in 75% of the indicators against which it was assessed, no scores less than 2, and a
score of at least 3 in the research indicator.

Category A (t). These are institutions that have teaching as their core business. Although
faculty will keep up to date with developments in their discipline through their personal
study and scholarship. They will undertake other forms of advanced scholarships, the
results of which will often merit publication in refereed journals, in fields such as
professional practice and higher education pedagogy. They may undertake such activities
as extension and networking, and they may house centers of excellence or development.

       Such institutions will be evaluated against all indicators except research capability.

         To be placed in Category A (t) an institution would have to achieve scores of at
least 3 in 75% of the indicators, against which it was assessed, with no scores less than 2.

Category B. This category contains institutions that are in a stage of development, and
which have the potential to be placed in one of the A categories at a future date. Usually,
they will undertake only those activities covered by the core indicators. As they mature,
they are likely to add activities covered by some of the other indicators; as they reach that
stage, they may qualify for one of the A categories. While in Category B, they will
normally be evaluated against the core indicators only.

         To be placed in Category B, following an initial application, an institution must
achieve scores of at least 3 in 50% of the indicators, against which it is assessed, with no
scores less than 2. To remain in the developmental category, an institution must achieve,
at the next following monitoring and evaluation visit, an increase in the number of scores
of at least 3, with no scores less than 2. After successful evaluation in the B category, an
institution should normally apply, at the next monitoring and evaluation visit, for
inclusion in the appropriate A category.

Category C. This category contains all other institutions.

7. Transnational Education - The Commission on Higher Education, through its
Technical Panel for Transnational Education, formulated the new set of Policies,

Standards and Guidelines (PSG) for the Transnational Education (TNE), which was
issued by the Commission through a CMO No. 2, Series 2008. The policies and
guidelines of TNE defined the following: Scope, Extent of regulation, Procedures for
registration, Mechanics of recognizing foreign higher education providers and their
courses/programs offered in the country, and Mechanics of recognizing Philippine higher
education institutions engaged in transnational education.

The Commission on Higher Education determines and specifies the modes of
transnational education programs, subject to appropriate policies, guidelines and

7.1 Categories of Transnational Education:

7.1.a Distance Education – examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

   1.      Partners enter into an equal relationship and deliver programs via distance
           education, with both institutions awarding the credit or degree.
   2.      The program is offered directly by an awarding institution with no local
           agent/franchisee/partner. The institution may be an FHEP with students in the
           Philippines (IB1), or a Philippine HEI with students abroad (IB2).
   3.      A Philippine HEI uses programs/courses owned or created by a FHEP under a
           license agreement. Credit is granted by the local HEI.

7.1.b Face-to-face or Conventional Mode of Education Offered Transnationally –
examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

   1.      Partners enter into an equal relationship and deliver programs face-to-face,
           with both institutions awarding the credit or degree.
   2.      Conventional programs are offered transnationally by a FHEP with a local
           branch in the Philippines, or a Philippine HEI with a foreign branch.
   3.      Conventional programs are offered by a FHEP thru a franchiser or a local
           partner. Credit is granted by the FHEP.

7.1.c Blended Learning – examples include, but are not limited to, the following:

   1.      Partners enter into an equal relationship and deliver programs using blended
           learning techniques, with both institutions awarding the credit or degree.
   2.      Conventional programs are offered transnationally by an FHEP with a local
           branch in the Philippines (IIIB1), or a Philippine HEI with a foreign branch
           (IIIB2), using a mix of face-to-face and distance education.
   3.      Conventional programs are offered by an FHEP thru a franchiser or a local
           partner using a mix of face-to-face and distance education. Credit is granted
           by the FHEP.

8. Academic Mobility - Academic exchanges between Philippines and foreign
universities have steadily increased over the last two decades. Philippine Higher
Education Guide (2000 and 2005) showed that most of the country’s COEs and CODs
participate actively in academic mobility programs. Majority of the students who
participate in exchange programs are in four courses: Science and Mathematics, Business
and Economics, Computer Sciences and Liberal Arts.

Faculty exchange program is also becoming popular. There are initiatives on visiting
professors, fellowships and sabbatical leave abroad. Majority of the college faculty
involved in mobility programs are specialists in International Studies, Science and
Technology, Engineering, Business Administration and Research.

Bilateral and multilateral agreements help facilitate the growth of academic mobility.
Some of these programs include the University Mobility in Asia and the Pacific (UMAP),
the Abroad in Komaba Program of the University of Tokyo, the Asia and the Pacific
Forum, the Global Youth Exchange Program, the ASEAN Ship for Southeast Asia, the
APEC Youth Network, and the Reciprocal Government of Canada Scholarship Program.
Please see Table 1 on Growth of Philippine Academic Mobility Programs in higher


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