A catholic business educationBy Linda B. Bolido
Philippine Daily Inquirer
For many people, a business education is all about making money—for the company and for the graduates who will become highly (even exorbitantly) paid executives.
Ordinary human beings are often just means to achieve the bottom line—workers to make the goods and services the business makes and the consumers of those products.
With the recent financial crises here and abroad that have hit ordinary people harder than corporate types, many questions have been raised about the kind of business education people are getting.
Dr. Peter Steane, associate dean (international) of the Australian Catholic University (ACU), does not believe business education should simply be about teaching students how to make their companies financially successful. The ACU business education curriculum, he says, also teaches values.
This is why, despite the proliferation of business schools in the country, Steane believes there is room for ACU. The university partnered recently with the local Australian Institute for Higher Education (AIHE) to offer Philippine-based students its Bachelor of Commerce (major in accounting) program, which is designed to prepare them for entry-level employment and future managerial positions.
But, despite the name, Steane says the kind of values-education ACU offers is not the Bible-thumping, in-your-face type associated with the religious kind of instruction. ACU, in fact, is a public school, its name derived from its being an amalgamation of small Catholic institutions for teacher and health worker training, among others.
ACU’s instruction is not about theology, Steane says, but it adheres to the catholic intellectual tradition. Catholic, aside from referring to people who are members of the Vatican-based church, has another, often forgotten, definition—open, broad, liberal, universal and comprehensive, rather than exclusionary and intolerant.
Although ACU generally looks for Catholic partners in its host countries, its business course is open to all comers, not just Catholics.
Emphasis on ethics
“ACU offers education that is based on values, not just business,” Steane says. The ACU business course emphasizes, in particular, the common good and social justice. Steane points out, “You do not have to be a Catholic to value the common good and social justice.” The curriculum, he adds, puts a lot of stress on business ethics.
While the fundamentals are the same as in any other accounting program, ACU students are also taught responsibility, not just the skills, and how they can contribute to the common good, among other things. They are taught to be critical thinkers, not merely parts of a corporate mold without discernment.
David Alejandro P. Esteban, director for marketing of the AIHE and affiliate Australian International School, says they expect graduates of the undergraduate program “to articulate their values” in their places of employment.
As for the course itself, Steane points out that what ACU is offering is a full degree program, unlike many of those offered by other foreign institutions currently in the Philippines.
Antonio P. Esteban, David’s brother and executive director of AIHE and AIS, explains that some institutions offer diploma programs but the document is not always equivalent to a full program.
Because the degree is awarded by an Australian university, David says, “The accounting qualifications (students) will earn from the course will allow graduates to practice in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, etc.”
Of course, as in the Philippines, they will have to comply with legal requirements to practice as certified public accountants (CPA), like passing a board examination.
Antonio says the ACU course offered by AIHE will be exactly the same, in terms of content and learning materials, as the one offered on the university’s campuses in Australia. This, according to Steane, allows for “international accreditation and recognition across jurisdictions.”
Antonio says the ACU course, which will be conducted in English, gives students a global, outward-looking perspective. “Australia tends to look outwards,” he says, “while local schools tend to be inward-looking.” The local faculty that will handle the course, he adds, will give students a global perspective anchored on the local setting.
Steane says students will be drilled on local law and taxation matters so they can practice in their native environment, even as they are prepared to venture into the bigger world.
And students who enroll in the ACU program here can easily move to its other campuses as they will be earning the same credits as those given in other branches. Units earned in the first year of the accounting program are also fully transferable to any ACU Bachelor of Commerce major, like Marketing, Human Resource Management, Commercial Law and Financial Services.
For the ACU program, the school year is divided into trimesters that begin in January, May and September. The estimated annual fee is the equivalent of A$5,200 (about P240,000), at a unit fee of A$650.
Applicants should have Philippine high school diplomas but must have completed 11-12 years of studies, a Western Australian Certificate of Education or its equivalent, and a majority of the subjects taken in the final two years of secondary schooling must have been taught in English or they should have a score of 6 in the IELTS (International English Language Testing System).
For more information on ACU’s undergraduate Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting), call 5019347 or 7594091. AIHE is on the ground floor of the Makati Stock Exchange Building, 6767 Ayala Avenue, Makati City.