MANILA, Philippines—Don’t mess with the new chair of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd). She’ll form a commando team if she has to.
Patricia Licuanan has vowed to crack down hard on poorly performing tertiary schools, admitting that lax regulations and “a lack of overall vision” allowed the proliferation of such substandard institutions in the past.
Licuanan told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the CHEd under her administration would employ stronger political will to shut down substandard colleges and universities “that were very, very strong with the previous administration.”
“I promise you, [with] everything that I can muster, there will be no sacred cows. I consider this part of my job … We have to be strong, we have to face this,” Licuanan said in an interview before she left for an official trip to New York last weekend.
“One tends to avoid the [jobs] that are messier. But now, I said, ‘No, if necessary, we’ll form a commando unit [of people] with the right stomach for this.’ I said, ‘If you’re too timid, if you’re too cautious, [you won’t make it as a] commando unit,’” she said.
Apparently of special concern is the dwindling quality of nursing schools, which President Benigno Aquino III himself expressed to Licuanan upon appointing her to the agency in July 2010.
Nursing is among the “oversubscribed” courses included in a CHEd moratorium that bars the opening of new programs. Only existing nursing programs are allowed to continue.
The latest results of the nursing board exams, which showed a declining number of passers, has put to question the quality of nursing schools that have sprouted like mushrooms in the Philippines over the past decade amid a demand for nurses overseas.
Licuanan said that Mr. Aquino was “serious about quality” and that her “marching orders” were clear.
“When I [was] appointed to the CHEd, he said, ‘Dr. Licuanan, close down all these substandard nursing schools,’” she said. “So, how clear can you get, right?”
Licuanan also said the CHEd should show resolve even as some officials had expressed fears of being harassed with lawsuits by schools forced to shut down, as what had happened in previous efforts to enforce a crackdown.
2 major changes
The CHEd’s technical panel on nursing raised the same concerns at a meeting with Licuanan last week.
“I was a little taken aback because their message was, ‘Thank you for your confidence. We would like to serve and raise standards for nursing, but we have concerns.’ Among these are—you know, the same thing, [harassment] might happen again, [as in] some years back,” Licuanan said, adding:
“But I said, ‘I’m sorry, there are no guarantees. But let’s … see how different we are now and then. For one thing, we’d be foolish if we didn’t study what went wrong. [And then] let’s look at the players. There are two major changes: the President and the head of the CHEd.”