Philippines: A Twitter cop-out higher education agency

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) of the Philippines appears to be the proudest “village idiot” in the so-called social networking capital of the world.

No problem with being the “village idiot” and being proud about it. The problem is when an agency such as CHED is it.

For while more and more schools are joining their students on Twitter and Facebook, the CHED willingly chooses to insulate itself from its biggest bulk of constituencies. In so many words and despite pleas from parents and students, its long-time executive director for the National Capital Region does not see any need for Twitter and Facebook for CHED.

Philippine agency overseeing tertiary education refuses to suspend classes even amid inclement weather. Pic: AP.

The problem is not about CHED refusing to use technology. We could be sure they do use computers and the internet. The agency does have a website, albeit looking caught in a time warp when websites were fugly — and irrelevant.

The problem is less about technology but more about policy and priorities. The long-running and current policy on education is deregulation. CHED implements this policy through its hands-off approach in almost all aspects of tertiary or higher education. Deregulation is the policy used by CHED to bless tuition fee increases. Deregulation is what makes “consultations” a mere formality. Behind this policy is the belief that, even in tertiary education, private entities (which student organizations call “capitalist educators”) should be given all the freedom in the world to conduct their business of running schools.

This is the same policy behind CHED guidelines on the suspension of classes in the tertiary level. The guidelines represent a total cop-out on the part of the CHED, with parents and students left at the mercy of another agency (PAGASA) and the schools on whether to leave home for school in the face of inclement weather. Nowhere in the guidelines does it state any condition that will justify its use of its powers to order the suspension of classes. For CHED, even the matter of suspending classes needs to be deregulated.

We could argue that the CHED’s cop-out guidelines represent continuing neglect of duties to protect the rights and welfare of the country’s college and university students. Also, the guidelines seem to be so out of place for a country that is regularly visited by typhoons and that is right smack in the Pacific “ring of fire”.

What is the alternative? The CHED should control its sick infatuation with deregulation and take a second look at its constituencies. It should stop its obsessive approval of whatever school administrators wish to do, and start acting as the supervisor of all colleges and universities. As the government’s top agency covering tertiary education, CHED should be made to understand that its mandate also includes ensuring the safety and welfare of students — and that includes making the right and timely calls to suspend classes amid inclement weather.

Perhaps Kabataan Rep. Mong Palatino (@mongster on Twitter) and ACT Teachers Rep. Tonchi Tinio (@tonchi on Twitter) should drive some sense into the heads of CHED officials when Congress tackles their proposed 2012 budget. I’m almost sure student councils and parents would be able to help them in this task.

If and when the CHED is ready to withdraw from its deregulation syndrome and would want to again serve the country’s college students, its officials just need to ask their friendly reporters for time to air an appeal on TV and radio. Students and parents would only be too happy to tutor CHED on how to use the internet for the social good.