The Supreme Court has upheld the policy of the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) requiring teachers of tertiary schools to acquire postgraduate degrees to become tenured or regular employees.
In an eight-page decision dated Jan. 23, the court’s Third Division junked the suit of two University of the East professors who charged the school with illegal dismissal after their dean repeatedly extended their probationary status as professors for not having master’s degrees.
The justices, pointing out that the operation of educational institutions involved the public interest, said the requirement of a master’s degree for college teachers was “not unreasonable.”
“The government has a right to ensure that only qualified persons in possession of sufficient academic knowledge and teaching skills are allowed to teach in such institutions. Government regulation in this field of human activity is desirable for protecting, not only the students, but the public as well from ill-prepared teachers lacking in the required scientific or technical knowledge. They may be required to take an examination or to possess postgraduate degrees as a prerequisite to employment,” the court said in the decision penned by Justice Roberto Abad.
Concurring with Abad were the division chairman, Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., and members Diosdado Peralta, Jose Mendoza and Marvic Leonen.
The petitioners, UE professors Analiza Pepanio and Mariti Bueno, who were hired in 2000 and 1997, respectively, filed a labor case against then UE dean Eleanor Javier, contesting the school’s policy that obligated them to acquire master’s degrees as a condition for tenureship.
Pepanio and Bueno said the 1994-1999 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between UE management and its faculty provided that the school shall extend semester-to-semester appointments to college faculty staff like themselves who did not possess the minimum qualifications such as a master’s degree.
In 2001, the new CBA extended probationary full-time appointments to full-time faculty members who did not yet have the required postgraduate degrees provided that the latter complied with the requirement within their probationary period.
In 2003, Javier reminded Pepanio and Bueno of the expiration of their probationary status. The two, however, demanded that they be placed on regular status given the years of service they had rendered.
The labor arbiter, in 2004, ruled in favor of the professors and ordered their reinstatement. UE, however, appealed to the National Labor Relations Commission, which reversed the arbiter’s decision in 2006.
The professors ran to the Court of Appeals and in 2010 secured a reversal of the NLRC decision. The UE management then elevated the case to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court noted that as early as 1992, the then Department of Education, Culture and Sports had issued a revised manual of regulations for private schools which required college faculty members to have a master’s degree as a minimum educational qualification for acquiring regular status. The CHEd, created in 1994 to supervise tertiary schools, upheld the requirement.