Redefining Academic Excellence

Such a noble dream Ifugao State University (IFSU) has when it envisioned, six years ago, of an institution of Academic Centers of Excellence where educational programs are highly standardized and are at par with globally-recognized universities.

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Even I, myself, am very much ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘inspired’ that it encourages me to work hard on my part as a student and a campus writer. In fact, wanting to share my journalistic skills to the university was one reason that drove me back to enroll here. Yes, it was; and the rest about ‘me’ is already history. Now enough with so much talk, let’s go back.

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With its four major key thrusts—Instruction, Research, Extension & Training, Income Generation—serving as its most fundamental guiding principles in its quest for glory, IFSU continues to make advancements, as they believe, as shown by its increasing national board passing rates and accreditation levels, improving faculty profile, and growing international linkages with other universities.

Wow, that’s very assuring of us, students of the university, knowing that these recognitions show that we are not left behind in terms of educational excellence as compared to national universities. But wait, while the university is moving fast into globalization, in reality, do these advancements really speak for ‘academic excellence’ inside the classroom as it does nationally and globally? I do not have words to put how the university measures academic excellence but it seems that its vocabulary of defining it is out of the real context.

Instruction, the core reason why university existed in the first place, remains to be the less developed, at least I think, among the four key thrusts of the university. While it gives us pride to have high-profiled instructors because of their effectiveness in providing education, on the other hand however, considering numerous factors such as time management, absenteeism, ethics, professionalism, and integrity, do these define ‘academic excellence’? I doubt it, that sometimes, I cannot help myself but to wonder, are office designations or personal agenda already now an alibi to sacrifice students’ education?

Speaking of quality and quantity of education, though it serves as the formal recognition, the accreditation standings do not really spell academic excellence. Accreditation only measures the ‘concept’ of the program, which is only based on papers, and not the ‘term’ (as logic says it) or the applicability of the program in the classroom setting. Well, no matter how many features are imprinted in the curriculum, if these are not practically implemented, it is just as good as a ‘concept’.

On the other hand, while it brags about its external recognitions, the needed developments which could have help facilitate the delivery of instruction are not fully maximized due to lack of infrastructure and instructional materials and ‘ineffectiveness’ of ‘some’ services. Moreover, while programs with board exams are given ‘huge’ priorities, some which are not are getting the least attention. I came to think, perhaps because these do not give the university somewhat ‘national recognition’. So what have these non-board programs existed for? Was it just an ‘outlet’ for those enrollees who could not pass the entrance examination?

A friend of mine once shared how he was unjustly ‘denied’ to enroll in his chosen course due to his poor grades. Instead of getting a chance to prove his worth, he was ‘advised’ to take the infamous ‘testing’ program of the university (oh, what a big slap on the face of those who took that course seriously). Do they now dictate what future one will become? Such a dream of a passionate student denied of academic freedom just to preserve the so called ‘academic excellence’.

At the end, I hold no such motive to paint anything to anyone or to the university. The bottom line here is drawing the ‘concept’ of university’s vision into the applicable ‘term’ of quality education. The right measures for academic excellence are not by external distinctions but it is through the competence of the people who spent years of their life learning. It is the results of enforcing those concepts of excellence through the competitiveness of the students who hold the right words for academic excellence.

Finally, let us reverse the saying, “Ask not what the country can do for you but ask what you can do for your country.” Academic excellence is about “asking what you can do for your students and not what they can do for you.”

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I dare you my fellow IFSUans. If you feel some things are wrong, pick up your pen and write about it. Your voices do matter. You deserve to be heard.#

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(This article was published as Opinion in the August-October 2015 Issue of the Upland Farm, the official student publication of Ifugao State University, Lamut, Ifugao.)

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