How a schools alleged incompetence and failure to meet government requirements threaten the future of several of its students, many of whom had finished their course but couldnt graduate.

By Cheryll D. Fiel

An advertisement for ABE featuring popular actress Heart EvangelistaDAVAO CITY (June 3, 2006) — Charo Divinagracia dreamed of becoming a career woman someday. Thanks to a sister who works abroad and who agreed to pay for her college education, she had the opportunity to pursue that dream.

She picked ABE International College of Business and Accountancy (ABE), a school that boasts of excellent e-business courses, because of its promise of a degree in three years time and a diploma that would be recognized not only here but also abroad. ABE, a member of the AMA Educational System, had just opened its branch in Davao City when Divinagracia enrolled in Accountancy in 2001.

When Divinagracia reached third year, however, she and her batchmates were advised by the school to shift to another course. The reason: ABEs accountancy course had not been recognized by the Commission on Higher Education (Ched).

Just so she could graduate, Divinagracia agreed to settle for any Ched-recognized degree offered by the school. She did this out of pity for her sister, who had spent more than 300,000 pesos for her education.

But only the Business Administration course was available. Divinagracia and the rest of her batchmates, who had been enrolled in courses such as Human Resource Management, Tourism, Information Technology, and Information Management, had no choice but shift to Business Administration.

It turned out that Ched had ordered ABE to stop offering all its courses except Business Administration.

Divinagracia only had one more year left; she expected to graduate last March. The school, at least, gave her that assurance. But March came and went and Divinagracia and 31 other students never got their diploma.

Dr. Maricar Casquejo, a Ched education supervisor, told in an interview that ABE had secured a temporary permit when it offered the programs in 2001. The school had secured renewal of the permits in the two succeeding years.

But when the school attempted to get a permit for the third year, Casquejo said Ched found out that ABE failed to comply with even the minimum requirements on faculty, laboratory and school facilities. That was the basis, he said, for the closure order of ABEs programs effective in the summer of 2005-2006.

“They (ABE) were in fact given chances. But it happened that they were really not able to comply with the minimum requirements,” Casquejo emphasized.

Meanwhile, the students sought legal help and filed complaints before the Ched. The commission, however, said they needed more documents, such us enrolment lists and permanent records, to evaluate whether the students had indeed completed the requirements for a degree.

But the students’ academic records, it turned out, were a mess. Records were missing, documents had questionable marks, and there were discrepancies in the implementation of curriculum.

This state of affairs at ABE, which one Ched official described as topsy-turvy, led to a breakdown in the school system. Monitoring of students performance, for instance, stopped.

Divinagracia, like some of her classmates, had problems with her grades. The 74.7 she got in Accountancy 1 had been rounded off to 75, a failing mark. She said this was not fair because the school could have pointed out her deficiency earlier so she could make up for it, instead of just rounding her grade off to a failing mark. The fact that the school advised her, according to her, to proceed to Accountancy II was curious, to say the least.

ABEs representative in Davao, Ernesto Robillo, blamed the students who, according to him, had academic deficiencies. He also blamed the missing documents and records on school officials and faculty who have since left. “There are no officials left. We ourselves are also trying to locate them (records),” Robillo said. learned from a CHDED official that ABE no longer had a registrar by the time the school conducted its last evaluation.

In a hearing at the Ched of the complaint against ABE, the 32 students had expected to be told that they could graduate by the end of May but Robillo said it may take them until June to process the graduation as ABE Davao has yet to send its records to the AMA Educational System in Manila. Councilor Mabel Acosta, chairperson of the City Council Committee on Education, volunteered to go to Manila herself to help make sure that the students can graduate.

The Ched said it was willing to allow the students to graduate provided that ABE complied with the submission of the documents needed. So far, ABE has yet to submit these documents.

Robillo, meanwhile, said that ABE would not close down and that it will re-apply for Ched recognition of its programs.

The case of the ABE students has led Acosta to question the practice of schools offering courses that are not recognized by Ched.

“The practice of offering courses which do not have Ched recognition is misleading, she said. Some students who enroll may think that the operation is legal because there is permit. But the courses would turn out later to be unauthorized. Why are these schools given the permit then?” she said in a recent privilege speech at the council.

Acosta said these schools should be closed. “Why do we encourage these (schools) to sprout in our city? she asked. We do not welcome unscrupulous business practices here especially if we jeopardize the future of our children.

Acosta said she had grown exasperated about this problem, which she said happened regularly. “We cannot have this problems year after year. By now there should be a concrete solution to this,” she said.

She recalled that there had been times in the past when student encountered similar problems with AMA. “It really gave the Ched a lot of heartache and headache. Why are we still not learning?” she said.

Acosta urged the Ched “to be very, very firm and decisive” in preventing anomalies like this. She said she hoped the Ched would coordinate with City Hall in matters such as the closure of schools.

Ched’s Casquejo, however, said that ABE is the only school with this problem. “We can assure you that all the private tertiary schools in the region are obedient and have permits,” Casquejo said.

Acosta, meanwhile, had filed an ordinance that would require schools to post their credentials in conspicuous places during enrollment periods. She said it is the lookout of the Ched and ABE to ensure that the students future is not jeopardized. (Cheryll D. Fiel/

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