This Special Report on education is reprinted from the latest issue of Development and Cooperation (D+C), an international development magazine funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
Top tier schools and diploma mills
By Alan C. Robles
It is a cruel paradox that a college education helps to escape poverty, but Filipinos have to be rich to afford one. Furthermore, those who do manage to go to college run the risk that the education they pay for may turn out to be sub-standard or defective.
Critics say the root of the problem is that Philippines’ system of higher education follows the American model. Most universities and colleges are private and profit-driven. JC Tejano, the national spokesperson of the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP), says: “All schools want to do is earn money.” In the SCAP’s view, they do far too little to ensure quality.
According to government data, there are 2,247 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the Philippines, and 88?% of them are private colleges and universities. Of the country’s 2.9 million higher education students, 1.74 million (60?%) are enrolled in private schools. Though they are smaller in number, public HEIs tend to be crowded, underfunded and overstretched.
Education cost issues
The government’s Council on Higher Education (CHED) currently estimates that, on the average, a student in a private school will pay 237,600 pesos (€4,200) for a four year course. On average, however, public schools, are not much cheaper. The CHED reckons that tuition for a complete four-year course will cost 233,600 pesos.
At a top tier university, however, the costs will amount to 400,000 pesos. The best and most expensive schools are in the private sector – but that is equally true for the worst and cheapest ones.
Compared with what a typical Filipino household earns, the costs of higher education are stiff. According to the official Philippines’ 2009 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, the average family’s annual income is a mere 206,000 pesos. The survey notes that for the families in the bottom 30?% the average is only 62,000 pesos.
HEIs tend to increase tuition every year. In the Philippines, college subjects are taught in small “units”. In 2005, according to the online magazine Bulatlat, the average cost per unit was more than 330 pesos. By 2011, the average tuition per unit had risen to more than 500 pesos.
Tuition isn’t the only financial worry of college students of course. The CHED figures do not include board, lodging, transportation and other expenses. These are not trifling outlays. For example, professors tell stories of students skipping classes because they cannot pay for transportation to go to school; there have also been reports of students who can’t focus because they’re weak from not having eaten properly.
Aggravating matters, HEIs are creative in devising ways of padding their bills. Among other things, they levy fees for “laboratories”, “energy” and “development”. Last year, Antonio Pascua Jr., an official of the youth group Anakbayan, claimed one school was charging a “restricted fee”, the purpose of which was not clear to students. He says this is “completely baffling”.
Patricia Licuanan, the CHED chairperson, wants “all HEIs to carefully study their tuition and fee increases each year”. On behalf of the government, she insists that every HEI should “spend wisely and judiciously in order to lessen the costs to its most important stakeholders – its students”.
The sad truth, however, is that many students discover at some point or another that they are no longer able to afford tuition and drop out of the HEI they have been attending. They either stop studying altogether or transfer to a cheaper HEI. The new schools are worse, of course, but they are also in the habit of increasing fees.
In 2005, the Bulatlat report stated the dropout rate was as high as 73?%. Today, student leader Tejano demands a freeze on tuition and other fees. His organisation wants the burden on ordinary people to decrease. It also wants to ensure that more youngsters get a good education.
Private HEIs respond by saying they have to raise tuition fees or go bankrupt. CHED’s Licuana agrees and says that “quality education has a price”. She points out costs for faculty salaries, laboratories, equipment et cetera. Therefore, she argues, tuition hikes are “necessary”. At the same time she wants them to be “justified, reasonable and transparent”.
Apart from the cost of education there is also the matter of quality. Among the private HEIs, there is a handful of top tier universities. Their graduates can probably compete with those of other elite schools around the world. Most other private-sector HEIs, however, basically seem to seek profits at the expense of substance.
A university faculty member, who asks not to be identified, says: “Some of them shouldn’t even be schools at all – there’s a proliferation of HEIs which are not qualified.” This educator speaks of fly-by-night operations” and “diploma mills”. While some do not charge high tuition, their quality is below standard.
Other teachers, who decline to be identified, tell disturbing stories too. One school, for instance, does not stock books in its library because its president argues that books are obsolete and everything can be downloaded from the Internet. A few semesters ago, another HEI was still using a textbook on international studies dated 1976. The world has changed since. 1976 was one year after the Vietnam War, 13 years before the fall of the Berlin wall and 25 years before September 11.
Another professor tells of a school that refuses to give faculty members money for photocopying exam papers. They either have to pay for copying themselves or write everything out on a blackboard.
The government of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is not blind to the problem of low standards in higher education. In fact, it has ambitious reform plans for the education sector. They include adding extra years to primary and secondary schooling (see K+12 below).
There is indeed room for improvement, as CHED Chairperson Licuanan says: “The Aquino administration inherited a chaotic higher education system.” In her view it is marked by too many higher-education institutions and programmes, a job-skills mismatch, oversubscribed and undersubscribed programmes, deteriorating quality and limited access to quality higher education.
For these reasons, the CHED is pursuing a Higher Education Reform Agenda. Among other things, it aims to improve standards and expand access.
At the same time, the commission’s political clout is being tested at the ground level. For some time, it has been trying to close down a Manila school called the International Academy of Management and Economics. This school uses the acronym IAME, which sounds a bit like the vastly more prestigious Asian Institute of Management (AIM). The CHED accuses the IAME of “gross and serious violations, continued defiance and failure to comply with existing laws, rules and regulations”. Nonetheless, IAME is still in business. It claims to have close ties to President Aquino himself.
Shady schools, however, are not the only challenge. Because secondary education tends to be poor in the Philippines, HEIs take off from a rather low level. The writer and scholar Isagani Cruz, who is a visiting fellow at Oxford University and has taught at various top-tier HEIs in the Philippines, asserts that first year college in the Philippines is really only equivalent to high school in other countries in academic terms.
All these issues prevent education from effectively contributing to economic growth and national development. The issue is well understood. Bill Luz of the National Competitiveness Council states: “Many in the business community have complained about our state of education. Indeed in global competitive indices, we have been rated poorly in terms of quality of basic education, quality of science and math education.” He points out that cooperation between industry and academia must improve.
Indeed, many graduates lack the kind of skills and knowledge that employers expect of professionals. “A large number of college graduates are taking low productivity jobs,” was the assessment of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in a country study of the Philippines in 2007. In the same document, the ADB bemoaned a “scarcity of skilled workers in industries such as information technology and business process outsourcing”.
Earlier this year, the World Bank made basically the same point about the Philippines in a report on higher education in Asia. It argued that there was a disconnect between the education system, government programmes and private sector needs. Unsurprisingly, the report recommended improving the quality of higher education in order to boost the professional competence of graduates.
One way the administration of President Noynoy Aquino wants to improve higher education is by intervening farther upstream. Primary and secondary schools are not doing enough to prepare Filipinos for college. So far, most Filipinos spend ten years in elementary and high school. The government is implementing what it calls the “K+12” programme to add two years of schooling (“K” stands for “kindergarten”).
According to math professor Queena Lee-Chua, the idea is to “protect the rights of Filipino children who, at 18, are legally and emotionally still kids, unprepared for work or university”. She says programme aims “to do away with college remedial classes, by improving the quality of high-school instruction”. One year of pre-school kindergarten will lay the base, followed by six years of elementary school (grades one to six), four years of junior high school (grades seven to 10), and two years of senior high school (grades 11 to 12).“
The programme is controversial. Some critics argue public education is suffering from issues such as teacher incompetence, corruption, insufficient funding and debates over what language to use. They say that K+12 does not address these problems.
Parents, on the other hand, worry about the added costs of two more years of school. As basic education is free in public schools, the government’s approach does not put as much stress on parents’ budgets as it would be expanding college classes. There has also been confusion about implementation, with each school given discretion on how and when to add the years. (ar)
One month after this piece of Alan came out, U.P. Sociology Professor Randy David, in his Inq column today, expressed his personal insights on the K+12 and the state of Philippine Education in general –
“The K to 12 program is definitely a step in the right direction, but its promise is vitiated by the basic problems of classroom lack, inadequately trained teachers, and insufficient teaching materials. The level of preparation required for this momentous shift cannot be underestimated. No less pressing is educational reform at the tertiary level, where schools that have no business offering college courses and certificates proliferated over the last two decades. Closing these diploma mills will be hard, but the government must show resolve if it wants to restore the standing of our graduates in the labor market.”
In this regard I hope President Noynoy addresses the above enumerated issues when, I’m sure he will, he talks about, in his SONA tomorrow, spending an additional 60 billion pesos next year preparatory to implementing the K+12 . By doing so I think PNoy will gain even more trust among the overwhelming majority of Pinoys who, as pointed out in the column of Prof. David, are truly grateful that for once we have a president who is honest.
The Dentists produced by CEU & De Ocampo are excellent and they thrive in their practice in San Diego, CA. The value added is their higher regard of patients’s care. So, I’m not sure if they are professionaly inferior to their world-wide counterpart. As I understood from my daughter’s feedback, the CEU’s methodolody, instructions stardards, etc, is equally close to University of San Diego where she graduated her Bachelor. The USD tuition for 1 semester is around $20K compare to CEU of $1K. It may seem expensive to local Filipinos but it is not really. Imagine how high the tuition fees will be if CEU will upgrade their dental machines, lab, and recruit foreign professors. She bought american dental books to bring it there.
gab gab says
this bill is our governments act of adding insult to injury. wake up! Philippines is a poor country, many filipinos cannot even finish high school due to financial burdens despite the existence of our so called “Public Schools”. This government is fooling the filipino people with so many propaganda, there scheme of advertising the existence of free education, does not relieve the public of incurring additional expenses in sending our children to school. Our government does not provide our children with daily transportation and meal allowance. This government does not even pay or provide for the notebooks, pens, pencils, and crayons. Books in public schools are not even free at times, I even paid P800 for the books of my little brother in a public kindergarten school. Hence, with all due respect, our Government Officials, most specially those that belong to the legislature department does not have the right to call this “public schools” , as an alibi, a free education, because “ITS NOT FREE AT ALL”.
Moreover, comparing this country to other countries in Asia and that of the United States is utterly baseless. The fact that we have less years in education is something that this country should be proud of. Our people is not dumb, Filipinos are smart, hardworking, skilled and talented individuals. We do not need these additional years in school. We have less years, but lets face it, we have one of the best graduates the world could offer. Hence, as a living visible proof is the fact that BPO or call center industry is booming nation wide, the existence of numerous Export Processing Zones, and the existence of foreign businesses who chosed to have there products or goods manufactured, assembled, or crafted here. these foreign business man are flocking in the country to take advantage of the lowly paid yet equally or more skilled filipinos.
Furthermore, stating that this country needs this additional years to produce more competitive and skillful OFW or OCW is not that convincing. Going abroad, or working abroad is an option which each individual filipino should decide on. This government cannot and should not lamely generalize. Hello! Not all the filipinos here in the country is likely to go abroad. The top priority of Filipino parents is to send their children to school and not to send them abroad or elsewhere to work for the benefit of our pitifully corrupt, selfish, and naive government. PLEASE cant this government just leave and reserve this additional burdens for filipinos who wants to try there luck abroad. Filipinos who wants to go abroad can always take additional courses for this, hence we have courses offered in TESDA.
most respectfully, his excellency, our president should not be acting on this, if he has the earnest, and true desire to help the filipino people. Bills of this kind is of a very sensitive character, and is necessarily of public interest. If this bill should be approved and enforced into a law, THE BEST FORUM TO DECIDE AND VOTE FOR THIS IS THE FILIPINO PEOPLE, AND NOT THE GOVERNMENT OR ANY OF ITS OFFICIALS.
the government’s act of rushing the enforcement of this bill is undoubtedly all for the benefit of our private school’s, at the expense of the poverty stricken filipinos. The legislative and executive department should stop drafting and enforcing laws which are designed to enrich their individual pockets.
The Philippines’ 9 best universities…
9. University of the Cordilleras
8. Central Mindanao University
7. MSU – Iligan Institute of Technology
6. Central Luzon State University
Ella Tovara says
I have questions to Raissa and to anyone of the CPMs. Why can’t Binay get away from Erap? Why can’t Binay and Erap get away from Zubiri and even willing to drop Pimentel in their line-up? Why, why, why?
Will answer that later.
Ella Tovara says
Thank Raissa …I am sure there is something going on. I think Binay no longer upholds any principle except winnability. Too bad.
rafael l. vidal says
I’m also baffled by binay’s uncharacteristic silence while erap is doing all the noise about koko and migz.
In yesterday’s night news showing the oath-taking of new UNA members in Manila, migz was shown trying to insert himself between isko moreno and erap. Nene Pimentel said erap accepted migz in exchange for logistics, which erap vehemently denied.
Erap is now calling the shots in UNA and binay has relegated himself to second-in-command.
It’s a mystery that’s deepening everyday.
@ rafael l. vidal,
“’m also baffled by binay’s uncharacteristic silence while erap is doing all the noise about koko and migz”.
Iyan ang tunay na kulay ni Jojemar Binay….isa siyang ‘BANGKERO’ namamangka sa dalawang ilog…..
Ginaya lang niya si dating Sen Gene Magsaysay……”less talk….less mistakes” hindi tulad ng pamangkin niya na…”dada nang dada” …wala naman sinasabi….
Victin luz says
Yes BANGKERO sya he he @eestana but I dis agree with you ’cause namamangka sya sa napakaraming ilog at sana wala syang mahuling isda/matalo sana sya next election na papasukan nya, ………Hindi lang dalawang ilog eestana ha ha….. gulang sya ano…. Sana mapurnada ang style Nya na buluk.
rafael l. vidal says
I overheard from the koko camp that erap and binay won big time in migz’s turf because of the largesse given by his father which allegedly came from Sen. Villar. You can verify this from the senator’s campaign manager in 2010
Victin luz says
Nagpapaampon si Zubiri kina ERAP, BINAY at ENRILE. Gusto at akala nya ,mabubura sa ISIPAN nang mga BOTANTING PILIPINO ang nagawa nyang PAGDEDEPENSA sa mga KATIWALIAAN at KASALANAN NI GLORYA.
At gusto nya na mawala sa isip natin na KASANGKOT SYA sa PANDARAYA sa 2004 at 2007 election . MALI SI ZUBIRI Hindi sya mananalo sa susunod na election billang senador.
Johnny lin says
Pimentel left UNA coalition after talking to Estrada.
This is the third principled decision made by Pimentel in a span of two months:
1. He convicted Corona
2. Refused to join Zubiri in same party who was an accomplice in robbing 4 years of his Senate position
3. Rejected Estrada and Binay who are collecting shenanigans and trapos in their UNA coalition.
Pimentel for Senator, principled man, lawyer, competent and knowledgeable.
already have 2 senators in my list:
Farinas and Pimentel
so far from UNA: Zubiri, Magsaysay, Ejercito, Enrile, Maceda, Tatad. They are all Opportunists, unprincipled, unqualified and rotten balimbings.
So what if Enrile trailblazed the impeachment of Corona. His son Jackie is a different story, unqualified in every sense. Do we really need another Ejercito in Senate? What is his qualification except being the son of DISGRACED Erap, like Jinggoy?
We the voters should start saying, Enough is enough!
He he he
@ Johnny lin,
I will definitely vote and even campaign for Koko. He is a principled man. Btw, the same goes for the Palusot King….Rudy Farinas…..
Andy Doyen says
@Johny lin; Sen Gaudencio Antonino according to my father was also a principled man who won a senate seat as an Independent when the Liberal Party and the Nacionalista Party ruled the country’s only 2 political machines in the 1960s. I’d sure vote for Koko… and the charming Ilocano, Rudy Farinas also!
Victin luz says
That’s true @Andy doyen……….we shall re-elect KOKO and elect FARINAS if he is going to run for senator. No to another ejercito,at ang sampid sa Magsaysay family at iba pa….. Just a reminder Sen. Antonino when he ran as an independent senatorial candidate, he is a multi millionaire and campaigning already at that time with his HELICOPTER from place to place and he died in a helicopter crashed . ……so it would be better if KOKO will be adopted and be adopted by the liberal party of PINOY to be benefited by the political machineriies of the later. My opinion.
NAPAKAraming kasalanan si Enrile.Nothing yet to show that he is a reformed person.
Victin luz says
@Rolly ,……that’s true …. For the senate president, on my own opinion pwedi nang patawarin but for Jackie, is he already a reformed person? We hope to hear cpemr’s who are from Cagayan/district , to give us updates about the Enriles.
vander anievas says
erap have the masa. zubiri have gma and cohorts. masa + money = winnability.
vander anievas says
hahaha, diverted pala ang topic na ito. tag-ulan na, halu-halo pa rin. kape na lang…
Ella Tovara says
no principle whatsoever ha? very bad for the country and too sad and too destructive for the daang matuwid.
common, please wake-up voters
Johnny lin says
Rudy Farinas for Senator
Better than many Proposed candidates floating in the news lately
rafael l. vidal says
Rudy will be an indispensable asset to the legislative work of the senate. He is brilliant and knowledgeable on legal matters, being a bar topnotcher, and a likely successor to Manong Johnny.
I hope PNoy will consider rudy for his senatorial candidates come October.
i second the motion.
Anton Mendoza says
I second the motion too!
Ella Tovara says
He should really be. He has the capability of making things so simple for the common Filipinos. It is time we have a senator who knows what he is talking about, when to talk about these, and knows how to impart that knowledge to common Filipinos.
jorge bernas says
Tama ka pare, l’ll rather VOTE for SENATOR a man/ a congresman/ a father who help a lot to convict a thief justice nato corona with his PALUSOT conviction.
Congressman Rudy Fariñas for SENATOR…