Press Release
August 5, 2020

Senator Joel Villanueva

At this point, I know that our education and training system is already under stress. But given the nature of the pandemic, I believe that all hands should be on deck. I think we need more consortium, more "bayanihan", if I may say, more sharing of resources and information, more Mbps, more subsidies.

Our experience in the Senate as we transitioned to online hearings has shown that the shift is difficult and presents a lot of challenges. Paano pa kaya ang hirap ng ating mga students and faculty?

The bottomline here is that we all need to be more creative and be more concerned with the plight of the more vulnerable and high-risk stakeholders: our students, teachers, and most especially, small private colleges and TVIs that are tuition-dependent.

That's why the presence of COTESCUP, with Sir Rene here, in this consultation is very crucial because teachers are the most important factor for the success of any learning modality. Sa akin po, number 1 ang competency ng mga teachers natin. Kahit problematic ang internet connectivity basta magaling ang mga teachers - may maayos training, may adequate support, mairaraos po natin ito. Kaso, karamihan po sa kanila nasa "floating status" at nakakaranas pa ng wage reduction. Kung ganyan po, babagsak din ang motivation nila kagaya ng ating narinig.

So, Tama po, hindi natin kailangang mamili sa pagitan ng buhay at edukasyon. Learning must continue but with careful consideration of the new realities brought by the pandemic.

I think we've covered a lot of issues today regarding the implementation of the ODL, the status of DICT's support to SUCs, the readiness of our HEIs to implement flexible learning and the financial challenges posed by the pandemic to private HEIs.

Before we end, allow me to highlight significant points that can help us in crafting legislation and help prepare higher education institutions and techvoc sector as we approach the opening of the academic year.

  •  First, we really need to strengthen the ODL Act. To date, there are only 22 higher education institutions (HEIs) implementing open distance learning, and the number of students enrolled in open distance learning is only 0.34% in 10 SUCs surveyed for Academic Year 2019-2020 by PASUC. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, very few HEIs offer distance education programs after more than 5 years since the enactment of this law.

  •  Second, according to CHED, a total of 525,000 students are enrolled in small private institutions that are likely facing difficulty in implementing flexible learning. There are more or less 1,900 colleges and universities in the country and while there are big universities like UP, DLSU, UST, and Mapua that have the capacity to offer distance learning courses and flexible learning, there are more small and medium private colleges that don't have this capacity. In this regard, we really need the support of big universities to enter into consortium or collaborate with small colleges most especially those which are on the verge of closing down operations due to losses.

  • Third, as you are already aware, we put P3 billion under "Bayanihan 2" for the development of "smart campuses". However, we really need to find a way to help small and medium colleges for their connectivity because the DICT only provide support to SUCs and kailangan po maimprove natin ito.

  • Fourth, the government should provide subsidies and loan programs and not only learning vouchers to private HEIs to ensure learning continuity most especially to the 525,000 students enrolled in small colleges. We note the estimate of PASUC that while 99% of faculty members have access to internet at home, only 31% of students have.

  • Fifth, placing a moratorium on student loans will be incredibly helpful for students who are financially affected during these trying times. However, we need to ensure transparency in terms of providing students with how rebates are computed. In connection to this, HEIs should also justify or explain how miscellaneous fees will be used for flexible learning. The wellness and mental health of our students should also be prioritized.

  • Last but not the least, a TWG in the PQF - NCC, the council should be formed to ensure the alignment and concurrence in the Philippines educational framework whether traditional face-to-face or flexible and distance modalities.

I should like to end on a more positive note and this is my personal belief: when it comes to digital skills or technological proficiency, malaki po ang advantage nating mga Pilipino d'yan.

You know, I served TESDA for more than 5 years and in those years, and in those years I was convinced that training is the key to help our people get back on their feet. Let's continue to learn on what can be done because we can't stop our movement now and we can't avoid new ways of learning but certainly we can only approach these challenges in the best possible way. And the choice is ours.

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