The law for free college education PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 August 2017 13:52

By Remedios F. Marmoleño

The Manila newspaper referred to it by two names: RA No. 10931 or The Free Tuition Law; the other name was Universal Access to Quality Education Act. I am referring to the law that PRRD signed  in the past week which guarantees free tuition in all the SUCs and LUCs. The law  provides not only free tuition but also miscellaneous fees, and other expenses like room and board, books and “transactions”. I have put the last word in quotes because I do not know what it refers to.

The news item specified that the law will be implemented  in SY 2018-2019, or in June 2018 which is the usual opening of  the school year for the majority of educational institutions in the country. The cost for implementing the law  ranges from P40 billion to P100 billion (a year?)  with the estimate on the high side being made by the country’s economic managers.

This move of the government is surely going to be a popular one. Most likely I will be one of only a few mavericks.

As a disclaimer for being “Mary quite contrary” on this matter I would like to state that I do not believe everyone should get a college degree.

I spent a little more than 4 decades in tertiary education and for many years during this same period I was involved in national testing programs that sought what high school students’ achievements have been in the core areas of English, science and math.  My experience teaching college freshmen and my observations of testing results pointed out to me one thing: we need to strengthen  education in both elementary and high school levels. And this observation was reinforced by another observation: In spite of the   requirement  that a student should meet the cut-off of the admission tests  many who did pass were far from being prepared for college work. Anyone who has taught college freshmen, except perhaps those in the most exclusive colleges, will agree with me that so many were deficient in those skills that we would presume present in someone who has passed high school. Many of the college freshmen had the  reading levels of elementary students. How are they expected to understand their reading requirements in, say,  philosophy?

Some Japanese volunteers I have met have data showing that many  teachers in both elementary and high schools in the Philippines do not even  have math competency that is equivalent to a Japanese student at the 8th grade. Can you imagine what the math competency will be of the students these  teachers teach?

So what do I want to see in place of free tuition in SUCs and LUCs? I would like to see  all the billions in public funds spent instead on upgrading facilities and improving teaching in both the elementary and high school levels.

( To be continued.)