Two things we can do to improve the quality of teachers after the SC ruling on Son et al vs. UST

I first saw the April 2018 jurisprudence from a co-faculty member shared in Facebook. The 19-page decision with Justice Del Castillo as the ponente, denied the petition of 3 former faculty members of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) who were not reappointed in their position for failure to possess a Master’s degree. It was the 3rd case I’ve read on the same subject.[1]

The other two related decisions are: Herrera-Manaois v. St. Scholastica’s College & University of the East v. Pepanio. Both cases were also mentioned in the April 2018 decision.

Why is this an issue for teachers, in general?

The faculty members who were terminated came from the College of Fine Arts & Design (CFAD). [3] I searched one of the petitioners and found out that he is a known artist whose artworks have made it to the international scene. Assuming that these faculty members are so great and famous in their field, fine arts, as artists, would it matter if they do not possess a master’s degree? Would it be fair if the university will hire individuals who have graduate degrees in their field yet don’t have the proven track record and practical experience like those who were fired?

Their petition was denied by the Supreme Court because there were existing memoranda from CHED (CMO 40-08) and DECS (Order 92 Series of 1992) stating that a master’s degree is a prerequisite for tenure and permanency. No school or faculty policy can be created contrary to these laws from government agencies that have jurisdiction to regulate schools. As stated in the ponencia, “CHED Chairman Emmanuel Angeles issued a memorandum addressed to the Presidents of public and private institutions, directing the strict implementation of the minimum qualification for faculty members of undergraduate programs, particularly the Master’s degree and license requirements as mandated by Memorandum Order 40-08, “to ensure the highest qualification of their faculty.” [2]

Unfortunately, earning a graduate degree does not automatically ensure the highest qualification of the faculty. Since time immemorial, getting a graduate degree doesn’t mean you’re giving the highest qualification in some cases. Going to Computer Science or Information Technology, a lot of very good software developers or even network administrators, for instance, are in in the industry, working on big and complex projects or topologies.

This does not mean however that the people in the academe are not good. We also have brilliant people in the academe doing big projects or research as well. However, the exposure in the practical or real-world problems can make the professional better by experiencing it first-hand and resolving it with a lot of constraints and limitations (time, cost, service level agreements etc.) Isn’t hiring these practitioners ensure that schools provide their highest qualification as well?

This is a similar case with these faculty from UST. Probably they are artists whose motivation is to make art. They are outstanding in their work and they probably don’t think that getting a graduate degree will make them better. Should CHED exempt these people?

I’ve experienced and seen first hand on different occasions where faculty members enter the classroom, well-prepared and rehearsed but during the discussions, the contents seemed outdated and out of place when industry students asked innocently tough technology questions.  I’ve witnessed it both in the undergraduate and graduate school setting where the teacher either has Master’s degree or a Doctorate degree.

Unfortunately or fortunately, the requirement to have a graduate degree to teach is a law that must be followed. The Supreme Court already set a precedence with its jurisprudence on the matter.

So, what must be done to ensure that we have faculty members are knowledgeable enough to teach in the higher education if graduate degree alone cannot satisfy it?

I can see two things:

  1. Bridge the gap between the industry and academe. There has to be continuous collaboration (NOT just for compliance) between industry and academe. There is already an initiative from CHED and DOST and I think the industry should reciprocate in the same intensity withthese government agencies. CHED and DOST may have the budget, but the exposure and content will come from the industry. Fortune Top companies can start opening its doors since they too have the budget and resources to do that.
  2. Create more excellent professional graduate programs that can cater to working professionals who eventually would like to teach. There are still few schools who offer worker-friendly graduate programs. Some schools have so many remedial and elective courses (in some cases relevant for the students but in some cases, it’s only milking from the students’ pockets)  that will not motivate the students to finish because of the cost and time to finish the degree. The academe should be more creative on creating suitable yet comprehensive courses that will be beneficial for the working students. That will give these industry professionals to share their knowledge from the industry to students in the university.

In the same jurisprudence, the court ruled that both parties (faculty members and UST) are in pari delicto, or in equal fault. The faculty members knew that a graduate degree is required and UST knew that they should not be hiring them in the first place. Maybe there is a scarcity of faculty members or the nature of these faculty members is sui generis. UST has its own reason but the court will interpret the law as it is.

I taught in college for 5 years as part-timer, without a master’s. The college allowed me to stay after seeing my performance with high rating both from the administration and students’ evaluation. The school even sent me to present research papers locally and abroad. But at the end of the day, I realized that I need to earn that Master’s degree if I would like to teach in the future full-time (since I’m working in the industry full-time) and because no matter what effort I do, there will be no regularization or promotion because I didn’t comply with the requirements by the law.

And so I finished my Master’s. Now, I meet the minimum requirements set by CHED.

References:

[1] http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/pdf/web/viewer.html?file=/jurisprudence/2018/april2018/211273.pdf

[2]  http://ched.gov.ph/cmo-40-s-2008/

[3] http://varsitarian.net/news/20180614/supreme-court-favors-ust-in-faculty-tenureship-dispute

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