What does the Bologna Process mean for our schools? I shall list some actions that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and our Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) have to take if we want to be in step with the rest of the world.
We have to expand the system of specifying Minimum Learning Competencies or Standards used by DepEd to include HEIs & CHED. Elementary and high school teachers are used to outcomes-based instruction, because they talk about competencies all the time. These competencies are used not just for preparing textbooks and teacher-training sessions, but for preparing lesson plans for individual classes. In contrast, college teachers have general objectives, often not even couched in psychomotor, cognitive, or affective terms, for courses that are usually planned and taught independently of each other. The much-misunderstood constitutional right to academic freedom is often used to justify a lack of clear and articulated focus on what a student is really supposed to learn in a particular lesson or course.
We have to include both content and skills in student learning standards. Falling into the either-or trap of saying that we need either information or process (transmissive versus transformative teaching) is no longer excusable today. There are bits of information that every student needs to memorize (sometimes called Cultural Literacy or Core Knowledge), as well as processes of learning that the student needs to internalize (sometimes misunderstood as the whole of Constructivism).
We have to specify learning outcomes, levels of challenge, competencies, and student workload. DepEd specifies the first three, but not the fourth; CHED needs to start pushing for all four. The most difficult of these is student workload. The Bologna Process is student-centered, and what we call units or credits are computed not according to how many hours the teacher is in the classroom, but how many hours the student takes to study a subject, whether inside or outside the classroom.
We have to include graduates and employers in curriculum and syllabus development. Some HEIs already do this, particularly those run by administrators with business backgrounds, but all HEIs should do this. In the Bologna Process, education is demand-driven; schools have to comply with what the future employers of their graduates require. Administrators and teachers should not determine learning goals; employers should. This is the most controversial issue in Europe today. Many teachers and students do not want education to be “commercialized” or beholden to industry. Unfortunately for traditionalists and purists, most students today do not pay tuition to “push the frontiers of knowledge” or “to challenge received wisdom”; they invest the money of their parents to buy pieces of paper that will get them jobs.
We have to include faculty of other universities when we revise the curriculum and syllabuses of our own university. Cooperation is a major goal of the Bologna Process. Fortunately, we are ahead of Europe in this regard. We have had consortiums of various kinds for some time now. Nevertheless, we still have a lot to do to ensure inter-HEI “comparability” (another key term in the Bologna Process). A student taking Freshman English 1 in one HEI, for example, should be able to do whatever another student can do at the end of the same subject in another HEI. To ensure that outcomes are comparable if not identical, teachers from other HEIs should be included in the curriculum committees of an HEI.
We have to ensure that undergraduates can evaluate recent research and that master’s theses represent original research. The Bologna Process raises the bar on research and education. What we usually require undergraduates to do is to know what is going on in a field, not to criticize the latest developments in a field. We usually require that of master’s students, who have to do a “Review of the Literature” for their theses. The Bologna Process says that our master’s students should be doing what our doctoral students are currently doing, namely, working at the cutting edge of their field. Master’s theses should be what our doctoral dissertations are now.