Pia weighs in on the free tertiary education debate
As senior vice chair for five years of the Senate finance committee handling education and health, and as a member of the Education Commission II, I find merit in the positions of both Finance Secretary Ben Diokno and CHEd Chairman Prospero De Vera in the ongoing debate about revisiting our free tertiary education program.
It is true that we have to allocate our limited public funds judiciously, and that we must also support deserving students with academic potential and those with no financial means. It is also a fact that education is considered the ‘great enabler.’ But what must be done is for us to identify the priority courses that will spur economic and social growth.
For instance, it is a fact that we have a shortage of healthcare professionals. Not just doctors and nurses, but the entire range of allied medical professions, such as pharmacists, physical therapists, radiologic technologists, and others.
But beyond scholarships and financial assistance, we also need to provide funding for State Universities and Colleges to expand and upgrade their facilities and ensure the development of their faculty members. In the same vein, we have to support education courses to enable us to produce quality teachers in different areas of study, including STEM, as well as para teachers to complement our pool of teaching personnel. We also need more mental health associates and specialists in the basic education sector as defined in the new bill we just passed in the Senate.
In summary, for me it’s quite simple. We will continue supporting the financial assistance to students, but we need to prioritize the courses that would have a direct contribution to economic and social development. I believe that this is the most sensible, cost-efficient, and sustainable development model for our state tertiary education program. #