Bernardo M. Villegas
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Rebalancing Strategy
published: Mar 31, 2017



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The Need for Masteral Degrees

           I am glad that President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte had a change of heart about the K to 12 curriculum.  At first seemingly opposed to it, he reconsidered his position when the regional directors of the Department of Education in the Davao region explained to him the value of adding two more years to our pre-university education so that our knowledge workers in the future will be competitive with their peers in the East Asian region where pre-university training can last anywhere from 12 to 14 years, compared to our 10 years before the introduction of the K to 12 curriculum.  Although I would like to see more of our high school graduates choosing the blue-collar jobs that are going to be in great demand as we finally are able to launch an authentic agro-industrialization program  (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, butchers, electro-mechanical workers,  farm entrepreneurs, etc.), we will need an increasing number of well-prepared knowledge workers (engineers, physicists, chemists, IT professionals, medical doctors, educators, lawyers,  accountants, etc.) if we are to graduate from middle-income to first world status in the coming twenty or more years.  In addition to world-class infrastructures and heavy investments in research and development, countries like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore were able to escape the middle-income trap by achieving a quantum leap in the quality of their university graduates.

          In the digital world in which both theoretical and practical knowledge is growing exponentially, the young people who choose a knowledge-intensive career will have to target as early as possible in their educational itinerary at least a masteral degree, if not a doctorate.  That is why, true to its reputation as a constant innovator of educational programs, the University of Asia and the Pacific (that started as the Center for Research and Communication that was the first educational institution to offer a masteral program without an undergraduate school and was the first in Asia to offer a master of science in industrial economics), is once again using the transition to the K to 12 curriculum as an opportunity  to introduce yet another innovation in the Philippine educational system.  UA&P is offering Senior High School to Grade 10 graduates with the added edge of given them an opportunity to obtain a Master’s degree through the 6-year Integrated University Program, the foundation of which is a strong liberal arts curriculum—one of the hallmarks of a UA&P education.  If industry gives a high premium to graduates of the various specializations in UA&P, it is because of their strong liberal arts formation.  They excel in critical thinking, effective combination both verbally and in writing, and in relating the various disciplines to one another by being exposed to a heavy dose of literature, history, philosophy, the social sciences and the humanities.

          In 1989, I was part of the team in the CRC College of Arts and Science that pioneered an innovative 5-year program that confers a Master’s degree to High School graduates in 5 years:  MA in Communication, MA in Humanities, MA in Political Economy, and MS in Industrial Economics.  Today, the ones leading UA&P are continuing this tradition of innovativeness by developing the 6-year Integrated University Program as a continuation of the K to 12 curriculum.  The Liberal Education curriculum that formed the foundation of UA&P’s programs will now be integrated and aligned with the new General Education curriculum and the new course content to lead to the same Master’s degrees that UA&P has been offering since 1989.    While it is a seamless and integrated program, distinct phases with their own milestones are identified:  the first two years is a Senior High School.  It is a Liberal Arts curriculum designed to support the five Master’s programs being offered.  As such it may be likened to what are known as the HUMSS and GAS strands.  The next three years is the undergraduate program and the final year, if the student qualifies, will complete the Master’s degree.  A student, however, may opt to move or transfer to another university after SHS in UA&P.

          The distinct advantage of this 6-Year Integrated University Program is that it shortens the time needed to acquire a Master’s degree, on top of UA&P’s unique benefits derived by the students from individual mentoring (a la Oxford or Cambridge) and personalized education.  Furthermore, UA&P’s small yet vibrant community allows for greater focus and attention on each student in contrast with the environment of mega universities in which each student is just a name in the class list.  Those who take this program and are able to successfully complete all the academic requirements in six years will have complied with the minimum requirement for excelling in a knowledge-intensive profession in the twenty first century.  After a few years of work experience, some of them may still decide to take a Master of Business Administration (MBA) program or pursue a law degree or a doctorate.    It is possible, however, that the majority of those who obtain their masteral degree through this integrated 6-year program may already become so absorbed in their respective jobs and in building a family that they no longer will have the resources or energy to continue any further formal schooling.  These would be very grateful that they were given the opportunity to target for a masteral degree from the start of their senior high school or junior college.  Those interested in the program may log on to http://www.uap.asia/admissions.   Classes will begin on August 8, 2016.    There will be an exam for admissions scheduled for Sunday, June 19.  Application forms must be submitted by June 15. For comments, my email address is bernardo.villegas@uap.asia