PEOPLE POWWOW | A lament on higher cost of college education

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

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SCHOOL year 2017-2018 has opened with an unpleasant bang: the tuition hike that the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has granted to 268 private colleges and universities. As in the past, the inept regulatory body has approved tuition hikes ranging from seven to 10 percent.

In other words, the longer a student burns time in school – compounded by the additional two years of high school mandated by the so-called “K to12” or the Enhanced Education Act of 2013 – the longer his parents’ pockets hurt.

Ask a poor school dropout. He does not have to go back to school to know that higher cost of education will aggravate, rather than solve, the “idiotization” of the youth. Each peso added to the cost of education is also added burden to the poor parents who could hardly feed their kids three meals a day.  

Added years of school and added tuition expenses will further drive away low-income professionals abroad. There they “demote” themselves into gasoline boys, security guards or domestic helpers for higher pay, if only to see their children through college.

If our teachers go to Hong Kong to work as domestic helpers, it’s not because they have fallen short of two years in high-school. It’s because Hong Kong has no need for Filipino teachers.

Such a parental “sacrifice” that replicates itself in the next generation diminishes the value of college diploma, in effect achieving the opposite of what K-2 is here for.

Its purpose, according to the Department of Education, is “to keep up with global standard.”  It has removed the image of the Philippines as one of the two countries – the other being Myanmar – that still make do with only 10 years of elementary-to-secondary education.

Okay, Myanmar may have lagged behind producing intelligent graduates within 10 years, but the Philippines has not. Otherwise, the brain behind K-12, former Education secretary Armin Luistro, would not have hit the peak of professional success.

Seen from an optimist’s standpoint, we would be proud to shout to the whole world that what other countries successfully accomplished in 12 years, we did in only 10.

Before World War II, according to our parents and grandparents, elementary-school graduates were allowed to teach primary pupils.

Until the late 1940s, a two-year course in Elementary Teachers’ Certificate (ETC) was all it took to qualify for a teaching job. My late mother Alicia finished that course at the Iloilo Normal School (what is now West Visayas State University) and taught at the elementary school until her retirement age.

The job market does not only look for graduates who have spent more years in high school but for those who have learned knowledge and skills in or outside school. Filipino nurses and seamen, for instance, are in demand abroad because they work better than other nationals.

As this column has repeatedly stressed, extending years and increasing cost of education will worsen statistics. The records at the Department of Education show that, out of every 100 students who enroll in elementary school, only 58 make it to high school. Of these 58, only 33 enroll in college. And of these 33, only 14 finally graduate – an indication of “surrender” on the part of their parents.

The same thought must have crossed the mind of Director General Guiling Mamondiong of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), who has refused to deprive grade 10 (4th year high school) completers of the right to proceed to any TESDA training center or any technical-vocational school where scholarships are always available to children of the less fortunate.

According to TESDA regional director Toni June Tamayo, the skyrocketing demand for skilled workers here and abroad has prompted Rep. Raul “Boboy” Tupas (5th District, Iloilo) to file a bill converting TESDA into a full-fledged department on equal footing with the Department of Education. May that bill ripen into law. ([email protected] /PN)





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