Valenzuela City Congressman Win Gatchalian strongly opposed Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Chair Patricia Licuanan’s remarks downplaying the need for students to go to college.
“It is difficult for me to believe that the government’s chief minister for higher education would act as a saleswoman for tech-voc and blue collar jobs as shining alternatives to a college education. Considering the research on education and poverty alleviation, these comments are nothing less than anti-poor,” said Gatchalian, a member of the House Committee on Higher and Technical Education.
Licuanan reportedly said: “We don’t think that every student really should go to college. There are very good programs in the technical and vocational areas or in the area of middle-level skills, and you get jobs when you finish these programs … That option of going into technical-vocational and middle-level jobs is attractive, but in our culture, we have that notion that everyone should get a college diploma. I don’t think that’s necessary.”
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In the 2011 Labor Force Survey study on educational attainment and basic daily pay, a college undergraduate – an equivalent educational attainment level to a tech-voc graduate – earned daily P333.94 on average.
This wage did not even meet the daily minimum of P367 to P404 as mandated at the time by the Department of Labor and Employment for workers in the National Capital Region.
The average income of a college graduate, meanwhile, has been pegged at P606.93, a 55 percent increase compared to the tech-voc graduate.
“While individuals with lower educational attainment struggle to make ends meet, college graduates have exponentially more opportunities to provide for themselves and their families. Expanded access to college education, especially for poor students, is a powerful weapon to wield in the fight against poverty. Instead of complaining about our society’s college-oriented culture, CHED should work on finding ways to help struggling Filipinos achieve the dream of earning a college degree,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian pointed to the high cost shouldered by families in sending their children to college, recalling the 2013 Annual Poverty Indicators Survey, which showed that more than half of college-aged out-of-school youth said they did not attend college because of the need for employment or the inability to pay for college costs.
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“A sad and angering reality of our society is that the people who would benefit most from a college education often cannot afford one. The intergenerational problem of poverty continues because the state has not fulfilled its constitutionally-mandated duty to ensure access to education at all levels, including tertiary education,” said Gatchalian.
In response to this problem, Gatchalian has launched a nationwide Karapatan sa Edukasyon caravan to build grassroots support for his proposed measure, House Bill No. 5905, to be known as the “Free Higher Education Act”.
Under the bill, Filipino students pursuing their first undergraduate degree would be entitled to a full tuition subsidy at all state universities and colleges (SUCs).
“My conversations with students and parents during this caravan have convinced me that free SUC tuition is a step in the right direction. I have met so many bright and ambitious students who are truly driven to graduate from college in order to pull their families out of poverty and contribute to nation-building, but financial difficulties are threatening their ability to accomplish this. We need to do something more to help them realize these admirable dreams,” said Gatchalian.
Gatchalian is set to continue advocating for his bill at consultations scheduled for this week in Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga, Cagayan, and Isabela, following his consultations at SUCs in Southern Luzon and Visayas over the past two weeks. (Aureli Sinsuat)