3 March 2022

Complementarity, Continuity and Competitiveness — Championing the 3 ‘C’s of Higher Education in the ‘New Normal’

AUN Writer Team

Key points:

  • University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies’ (UP CIDS) Program on Higher Education Research and Policy Reform, in partnership with the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Task Force Nation-Building, and DZUP (campus radio station) organized a webinar themed “Higher Education in the Next Normal: Harmonizing towards Complementarity, Continuity, and Competitiveness.”
  • The webinar was conducted online via Zoom and YouTube livestream on February 3rd, 2022, and was attended by stakeholders in the Philippine education sector. 
  • The webinar examined the impacts of COVID-19 on the education system of the Philippines. Experts highlighted existing and new challenges brought about by the pandemic, as well as solutions for sustainable systemic change to reshape Philippine higher education in the ‘Next Normal’.

By Suthida Chang, AUN Intern

On February 3rd, 2022, University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies’ (UP CIDS) Program on Higher Education Research and Policy Reform, in partnership with the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman Task Force Nation-Building and DZUP organized the sixth online webinar of the #PILIpiLUNAS2022 series via Zoom. The theme of the webinar was “Higher Education in the Next Normal: Harmonizing towards Complementarity, Continuity, and Competitiveness.” The webinar examined the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on higher education, as well as the role of universities and the direction of Philippine higher education in the ‘Next Normal’.    

The topics discussed in the webinar include: 

  • Higher Education Policy presented by Dr. Cynthia Bautista, Vice President for Academic Affairs, UP System.
  • Learning in the ‘Next Normal’ presented by Dr. Patricia Arinto, Dean of UPV Tacloban College and Professor from UP Open University.
  • Continuity from Basic to Higher Education presented by Dr. Dina Ocampo, Professor from UPD College of Education.

The opening speech by Chancellor Fidel Nemenzo introduced the context of the #PILIpiLUNAS2022 webinar series and the University of the Philippines’ rationale for launching the UP Diliman Task Force Nation-Building in 2021. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming national elections, Task Force Nation Building aims to reflect on the state capacity of the Philippines and to present a multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving. 

From the series of discussions, the University aims to draw up a governance agenda that can contribute to the national conversation leading to and beyond the 2022 elections, which represents  UP’s commitment to rebuilding stable, sustainable and equitable socioeconomic and political institutions post-COVID. Chancellor Nemenzo highlighted how the pandemic has hastened educators to transition into more agile and resilient modes of teaching and learning. While disruptions to education are compelling educators to ask new questions about the role of universities and the direction of Philippine higher education in the ‘Next Normal’.


Kicking off the discussion, Dr. Cynthia Bautista’s presentation revolved around the theme of Filipino higher education policy. The presentation sought to answer three questions: 

  1. What is the shape and form of higher education in the ‘Next Normal’? 
  2. What lessons have we learned before and after the pandemic that should inform higher education policies and programs in the ‘Next Normal’? 
  3. What policies and interventions are needed to promote complementarity, inclusivity, continuity and quality in the higher education sector? 

Dr. Bautista went on to highlight several persisting issues in Filipino higher education, including inequitable access, uneven quality, underdeveloped innovation ecosystems, and an increasing lack of complementarity of public and private education. To tackle these issues in the ‘Next Normal’, Dr. Bautista emphasized on the need for a paradigm shift from education to metrics-based learning. There is also a need to develop life-long learning through stackable programs or micro-credentials, and to institutionalize the Philippine Qualifications Framework to standardize higher education. Moreover, to address issues of complementarity, it is critical to specify the roles of the government, public, and private higher education institutions. 

Next, Dr. Patricia Arinto focused on strategies for higher education to survive and thrive in the ‘Next Normal’. Based on the VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) nature of the post-pandemic world, higher education needs to be responsive to changes while being inclusive and increasingly accessible. 


Dr. Arinto elaborated on several modes of teaching and learning, namely blended learning, the flipped classroom model and micro-online courses, that allow institutions to be more flexible and innovative with the curriculum. Additionally, Dr. Arinto accented the advantages of gradeless learning as a way to encourage both teachers and students to be more innovative in the classroom. By uncoupling learning from alphanumeric grades, gradeless learning bolsters students’ intrinsic motivation, whereby the aim of learning shifts from achieving a particular grade to engaging with meaningful feedback and pursuing intellectual interests. 

Following that, Dr. Dina Ocampo presented insights on continuity from education to higher education. The presentation focused on obstacles and disruptors to continuity in Philippine higher education, as well as solutions to the crisis. Dr. Ocampo elaborated on factors that lead to gaps in continuity, such as social injustice, policy discontinuity, operational inconsistencies, lack of coordination, and the unbalanced number of higher education institutions versus senior high schools in the Philippines. 


Dr. Ocampo stressed the importance of private-public partnerships in education and learning where there should be greater incentives for collaboration and innovation. Similarly, there should be greater investment in education to provide every learner with what he or she needs to engage in in learning. Also, with digital technology as a major disruptor, barriers to learning like digital infrastructures and multimedia access should be addressed. 

In addition, the webinar also invited four discussants to share their insights from the speakers’ presentations. Under Secretary Diosdado San Antonio from the Department of Education echoed the importance of flexible learning and optimizing technology in teaching and learning. Subsequently, Executive Director. David Bungallon from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) reaffirmed the need for higher education to adapt to new challenges of a VUCA-driven ‘Next Normal’ in the era of Industry 4.0. 

Next, Chairperson Edicio dela Torre of Education for Life shared insights on how to approach adaptations and innovations in Philippine higher education. Acknowledging the persisting challenges of social inequality and inequity, it is imperative for changes to be sustainable and truly inclusive to bridge continuity gaps in education. Lastly, Dean Christian Bryan Bustamante from the College of Arts and Sciences, San Beda University, raised important points about how continuous training for teachers is needed to adapt and creatively handle teaching and learning in the ‘Next Normal’. 

This was followed by an open forum with questions from the audience moderated by Assistant Professor Nelson Cainghog from the Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines. Questions included how the Philippines can fast-track teacher training to meet new demands for teaching in the ‘Next Normal’, the practicality of gradeless learning for the future of education, and how students can have a smoother transition from senior high school to higher education. 

Towards the end of the webinar, closing remarks were given by Dr. Antoinette Raquiza who concluded the timeliness and relevance of the panel discussions. The pandemic has resulted in teaching and learning, doing research and doing extension work in extraordinary times. Moreover, the pandemic has been a period of disruption that transformed how teachers interact with their students, colleagues, and the public in a virtual world. Nonetheless, the pandemic has also opened a world of opportunities for the higher education sector. This includes shifting paradigms in teaching and learning, experimenting with innovative modes of delivery, and introducing lifelong education as the higher education sector moves into the ‘Next Normal’.