Ateneo de Manila University School of Social Sciences
School of Social Sciences
Ateneo de Manila University
Who's afraid of PAASCU?
Posted by: Roy Tristan Agustin
Date: 2009-07-30

PAASCU.  For most teachers and students, just the mention of the accreditation body’s acronym brings with it winces and sighs.  For teachers, it is a reminder of requirement after requirement which needs to be submitted.  For students, PAASCU is that presence at the back of the classroom, silently taking notes with unnervingly stoic expressions.  For both, PAASCU means pressure.  It is surprising, however, that PAASCU’s very presence should be something welcomed by everyone, because it is a chance to show off everything that the community claims to be.  We talked with Dr. E-yes Gonzales of the Education department on the ongoing PAASCU accreditation process and the upcoming visit and learned that, if anything, PAASCU visits are badges of honor in themselves.

For starters, what does PAASCU mean?  It is an acronym for Private Accreditation Association for Schools, Colleges, and Universities.  PAASCU began as a voluntary accrediting association formed by the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) in the 1950’s.  11 Universities became charter PAASCU members after being judged worthy of accreditation by a separate committee formed by CEAP.  These universities were: Ateneo de Manila, De La Salle University, College of Holy Spirit, Maryknoll College, San Beda College, St. Joseph’s College (Q.C.), St. Paul College of Manila, St. Scholastica’s College, St. Theresa’s College (Cebu and Manila) and the University of San Carlos.  PAASCU was the first accreditation agency in the country, and was the first in the region as well.  Fr James Meany, SJ, is considered one of the key founders of the association, which makes PAASCU part of the heritage of Ateneo. 

PAASCU’s main thrust is the improvement of the quality of education in private schools in the country.  Member schools participate in this by performing self and peer evaluations, which are done periodically to ensure that accredited schools are maintaining the standards that they set for themselves.  Dr. Gonzales stressed that PAASCU evaluations are voluntary; no one is forced to participate in them.  However, PAASCU accreditations have become badges of quality for schools, so much so that schools actually request for accreditation as a means of showcasing their educational standards. 

Dr. Gonzales also clarified that PAASCU never compares any two schools in their evaluations.  PAASCU will evaluate a school based solely on its own criteria, which it submits to the body.  Thus, even if two schools are evaluated and both are accredited for a certain PAASCU level, it does not mean that they were evaluated on exactly the same criteria since PAASCU will always base their accreditation criteria on what each particular school submits, regardless of what was set for other school.  In a nutshell, PAASCU accreditors make sure that schools live up to the claims they make regarding their education.  Thus, if a school emphasizes a certain aspect of their education, such as research, for example, that school will be scrutinized for their research programs more heavily than one who did not place an emphasis on it. 

PAASCU is a private body, not a government one.  While it works closely with DepEd and CHED, who use PAASCU’s evaluation visits to also check if schools are following regulations, it remains independent of these groups and functions separately from them.  PAASCU also only evaluates private schools, with the exception of the University of the Philippines Medical School, who requested for evaluation.   Currently, PAASCU evaluates primary, secondary, and tertiary level schools all over the country and even around the region, where they work with school associations in countries like Indonesia.  PAASCU reaches as far as the Middle East, where they work with the government to ensure the quality of schools put up by the Philippine government for OFW families are giving those enrolled a quality education.

Ateneo has been going through the PAASCU level 4 accreditation process for several months now.  This involves collecting and collating hundreds of documents, all to be shown to PAASCU as proof that the school indeed practices what it preaches.  In addition, PAASCU accreditors will be arriving on August 11 and 12 to visit Ateneo.  This does not only cover classroom observations, but also inspections of facilities and audits of the schools other functions, including how the school manages its finances, what services it has available for students, and even how the managers of the school go about their business.  It will be a very thorough visit; inspectors will look at everything they can, even checking if faucets work in the washrooms. 

Ateneo is looking at renewing its Level 4 accreditation for another 5 years, which is the maximum amount of time a school can keep its accreditation level before going through the entire process again.  Only Ateneo and De La Salle University currently have Level 4 accreditation, which means that the schools are excellent in every aspect of their operations.  It is proof of the quality education Ateneo has always been proud to give its students. 

PAASCU accreditations are very rigorous, but it is a way of ensuring that the school remains on track.  Everyone involved in the process, from staff members through to the administrators of the University have taken the process and the upcoming visits seriously, and Dr. Gonzales remains confident that Ateneo will pass the accreditation.  The community should welcome the upcoming visits as a chance to show Ateneo’s brand of Magis at work in everything the University does.